Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HAIR, n., v.1 Also hare, and dims. har(e)in Cld. 1880 Jam.), hair(e)y (Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 147, hairy).

Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. The most minute portion or quantity of anything, a whit, iota, trifle, trace. Gen.Sc.; hence applied to a very small amount of whisky (Ags. 1879 Arbroath Guide (12 April) 3). Ayr. 1785  Burns 3rd Ep. J. Lapraik iv.:
While deil a hair yoursel ye're better, But mair profane.
Ayr. 1833  J. Kennedy Geordie Chalmers 11:
It's no a wee hue o' this sort o' lear, an' a hairin' o' that, that makes a faithfu' minister.
Rnf. 1852  J. Mitchell Grey Goose Quill 111:
Thae twa winnocks there wadna be the waur o' a wee hair o' sorting.
s.Sc. 1873  Murray D.S.C.S. 178:
Hae ye a lock meal at ye could spare? Eh, na! lass, A haena a hair i' the hoose.
Ags. 1885  Brechin Advertiser (8 Dec.) 3:
A rump steak o't — season'd wi' a hamegrown ingan an' a hairey o' spice wid gar ye smack yer lips.
Knr. 1886  “H. Haliburton” Horace 56:
A' haill, an' scarce a hair the waur, An' pipin' yet!
Cai. 1891  D. Stephen Gleanings 63:
I like my neighbour weel eneuch, but I like mysel' a hairey better.
Sh. 1928  Manson's Shet. Almanac 185:
An' I widna 'a' cared, bit no a hair o' da aaly lamb am I seen.
Abd. 1929  J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 1:
“An' did yer girdle men'?” “Na, nae a hair o' 't.”

2. Phrs.: (1) hair and hoof, every particle (Sh., Ags. 1956); (2) a hair in one's (the) neck, a handle or hold over someone, gen. arising from a mistake or shortcoming which can be used against one's reputation, etc. (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags., Gsw., Ayr. 1956), from the notion of a lock in the neck of a sheep, horse etc. that can be grasped; (3) a hair to make a tether, a fuss about nothing, a trifle used as an excuse (Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 151; Sh., Arg. 1956); (4) hide or hair, in neg. expressions, not . . . a particle, a whit (Sh., Ags. 1956); cf. (1); (5) hilt and hair, hilt or hair, see Hilt; (6) hu(e) and (nor) hair, see Hue, 3.; (7) in hairs, ?; (8) the hair in the crook, a time of scarcity in spring when the boats cannot go to sea (Crm. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.), the notion being that the supply of food (esp. fish) had been bewitched by the magic properties of hair; cf. quots. under 3. (4) hair-tether, esp. s.Sc. c.1830; (9) to have hair on one's head, to be clever, cautious or wise (Fif. 1825 Jam.; Arg., Ayr. 1956); (10) to have hair on one's wrist, to be strong (Kcb.10 1956); (11) to lay one's hairs in the water, to take steps, to contrive (to do something), from the boyish practice of catching minnows or small trout with a horse-hair noose; (12) to rub again(st) the hair, fig “to rub up the wrong way” (Sh., Arg. 1956). Obs. in Eng. (1) Dmf. 1705  J. Irvine in Collect. Dying Test. (1806) 57:
Poor people that would fain have strength to stand by hair and hoof of the truths of God.
Sc. 1724  P. Walker Life Peden (1725) Pref. xxviii.:
Few or none contending earnestly for Substance and Circumstances, Hair and Hoof of that dear bought Testimony, that they handed down to us.
(2) Sc. 1818  Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
An Baillie Grahame were to get word o' this night's job, it wad be a sair hair in my neck.
s.Sc. 1836  Wilson's Tales of the Borders III. 67:
Your deceased husband was a maist worthy man. Though a barber, nae man ever fand a hair i' his neck.
Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 73:
A fine hair in my neck it wad ha' been to him, gin I had speeled doun at the first biddin efter settin mysel sae hie abüne him!
Ags. 1894  J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 23:
I widna care a tinkler's fardin' for the siller, if that body Chattertin hidna gottin sic a hair in my neck.
(3) Sc. 1727  P. Walker Remark. Passages 65:
Since that national Defection of taking that Bundle of unhappy Oaths . . . the Swearers have sought but a Hair to make a Teather of, against that small Handful of Non-swearers.
Sc. 1809  Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) II. 268:
According to our Scottish proverb, “a hair to make a tether of.”
Slk. 1818  Hogg B. of Bodsbeck ii.:
Donald . . . wanted only a hair to make a tether of.
Lnk. 1902  A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 142:
For a' he wanted was a hair To mak' a tether.
Abd. 1934  M. Watt Visitors at Birkenbrae 6:
Jist gie you weemin fowk a hair an' ye'll seen mak' a tether.
(4) Sh. 1928  Manson's Shet. Almanac 196:
It's been going on aroond here noo for a while, first dis ene, an' dan da next ene missin sheep oot o' da hill, an' never seein' hide or hair o' dem mair.
(7) Gsw. c.1780  Gsw. Past & Pres. (1884) III. 149:
Here was the chosen field when a pitched battle took place between the youthful combatants, either “in hairs.” or “over the napkin.”
(11) Ayr. 1822  Galt Provost xlvi.:
See them on the subject, and if ye find them willing, lay your hairs in the water to bring the business to a bearing.
(12) Hdg. 1797  J. Miller Lamp Lth. (1900) 154:
The best way to manage the colliers, is not to rub them against the hair!
Sc. 1827  Scott Croftangry iii.:
He was a wee toustie when you rubbed him again the hair — but a kind weel-meaning man.

3. Combs.: (1) hair-kaimer. a hairdresser; (2) hair-search, a hair sieve. See Search; (3) hair-sile, id. (Kcb.10 1956). See Sile; (4) hair-tether, “a tether made of hair, supposed to be employed in witch-craft” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1956). (1) Sc. 1773  Fergusson Poems (1925) 49:
Hair-kaimers, crieshy gezy-makers.
(4) Kcb. 1696  True Relation of an Apparition in Rerrick 7:
One of them was bound with a Hair-tedder to the balk of the house, so strait that the feet of the Beast only touched the ground.
s.Sc. c.1830  Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 63:
He [Wag-at-the-wa', a kind of brownie] had a long tail by which he fastened himself on the crook to a fragment of a hair-tether, which he held at arm's length when in the attitude of swinging the crook.
Cai. 1921  Old-Lore Misc. IX. i. 21:
The method generally adopted in Caithness to charm away the produce of a neighbour's dairy was the trailing of a hair tether or simmon over their grazing pasture between sun and day, when the dew lay wet and heavy.

II. v. 1. Found as ppl.adj. hair(e)d, -hair't, having hair, †(1) of an animal: having a mixture of white and red or white and black hair (Fif. 1825 Jam.), roan; (2) used fig. in comb. ill-hair(e)d, -hair't, ill-tempered, cross-grained, surly (Cld. 1825 Jam., -hair't). (1) Sc. 1704  Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 357:
Oct. 3: to ratho for a fat ox at Calder fair, a haird ox cowed . . . . . . . . . 26. 0. 0
(2) Sc. 1706  Short Survey Married Life 13:
Mizle-kyted, Lap-lugged, Ill-hair'd.
Gsw. 1807  J. Chirrey Misc. Poetry 144:
The critics, on the tither hand, An ill bred, ill-hair'd, selfish band.
Dmf. 1836  Carlyle New Letters (1904) I. 47:
I mean to speak the Lectures (having grown ill-haired, and impudent enough for that).
Fif. 1882  J. Simson Inverkeithing 9:
He was considered an “ill-haired auld loon.”
Dmf. 1921  J. L. Waugh Heroes 50:
But nane o' us Shinnel fouk ken for certain, as he's an inbrocht, an' a forby, queer, ill-hair't inbrocht at that.

2. Phr.: to hair butter, to free butter from impurities, hairs, etc. by passing a knife through it in all directions (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ork. 1956). Peb. 1802  C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 81:
About 30 years ago, very little attention was paid to cleanliness; and, after the butter was taken from the churn, a large knife, hacked saw-ways on the edge, was repeatedly passed through it in all directions, that hairs and other impurities might be removed, by their adhering to the ragged edge; this practice, then universal, was called hairin the butter.

Hence hair(ing)-knife, a knife used for this purpose (Sc. 1825 Jam., hair-). Sc. 1808  E. Hamilton Glenburnie ix.:
“She sal get a dad o' butter to her bread.” “But I winna hae't frae the hairin' knife,” said Jean, “for the last I got stack i' my throat.”

[O.Sc. has harit, 1546–83, and haird, 1621, in sense 1. (1) of v.]

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"Hair n., v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Dec 2018 <>



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