Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HORSE, n., v. Also ¶hoerse (Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 20). Pl. horses; horse (O.E. hors, id.). Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. As pl., now only of cavalry in Eng. (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scotticisms 45). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1707  Acts Parl. Scot. XI. 483:
The continuall passing of carts and loaded horse.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 10:
Blind horse they say ride hardy to the fight.
Sc. 1822  Scott Pirate xv.:
Twa stately owsen, and as many broad-breasted horse in the traces.
Gsw. 1860  J. Young Poorhouse Lays 20:
Horse dee'd wi' the batts.
Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vii.:
Ae pair o' horse micht sair half a dizzen sma' fairms.
Bnff. 1939  J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 23:
The horse, honest craturs, 'll earn a' their pey.

2. Combs. and attrib. usages: (1) horse-beast, a horse. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Obs. in Eng. since late 16th c.; (2) horse-brat, a cloth or sheet for covering a horse. See Brat; (3) horse-buckie, the large whelk, genus Buccinum (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Mry. 1854 Zoologist XII. 4428). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Cf. Buckie, n.1; (4) horse-cock, the dunlin, Erolia alpina, “a small kind of snipe” (Lth. 1825 Jam.). Cf. (21); (5) horse-coorse, = (15) (b) (Ork. 1957); (6) horse-couper, -cowper, -cooper, a horse-dealer (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. See also Couper, n.1; (7) horse-coupin(g), -cowpin', horse-dealing. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Also used fig. and attrib. See Coup, v.2; †(8) horse creesh, fat surrounding the entrails of a horse formerly used for curing sprains (Abd., m.Lth. c.1931). Cf. Creesh, n.1; (9) horse-cripple, ? a person who has been crippled by a horse; (10) 'orse e'e, a jocular name for a watch (Abd. (coast) 1932 J. Leatham Fisherfolk N.-E. 23); †(11) horse-feast, a meal taken without water or any other drink (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also found in n.Yks. dial. Cf. (33); (12) horse-fiddle, see quot.; (13) horsefish, (a) the fifteen-spined stickle-back, Spinachia spinachia (Cai. 1887 Harvie-Brown & Buckley Fauna Cai. 270, 1907 J. Horne County of Cai. 405); (b) the otter shell, Lutraria elliptica (Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56); also the carpet shell, Venerupis pullastra (Ib.); (14) horseflour, the dandelion (Sh. 1913 J. M. Hutcheson W.-L., Sh. 1957); (15) horse-gang, (a) in land measurement: the fourth part of a Plough-gate, q.v., the land occupied by one of four persons sharing a plough worked by their four horses (Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 86; n.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Now hist. Cf. Oxgang; †(b) the circular path trodden by the horses in driving a threshing mill, hence the driving apparatus itself. Cf. mill-gang s.v. Mill; (16) horse-gell(y), -gail, a horse-leech, Haemopis gullo; †(17) horse-gladdening, the gladden or yellow water iris, Iris pseudacorus, used as a purgative [O.Sc. glaidin, 1602]; (18) horse-gollan, the ox-eye daisy (Cai.1 c.1920, Cai. 1957). Cf. Horse-gowan s.v. Gowan and Gollan; (19) horse-gornick, a kind of large gurnard (Ork. 1929 Marw.), one of the genus Triglidae; (20) horse-gowan, see Gowan; (21) horse-gowk, -gouk, -go(c)k, -gauk, -gook (I.Sc. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Sh. 1957), -guk (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), an I.Sc. name for the snipe, Capella gallinago, so called from its neighing cry (Ork. a.1795 G. Low Fauna Ork. (1813) 81; I.Sc., Cai. 1957). See also Gowk, n.1, 1. [Norw. horsegøg, Sw. horsgök, O.N. hrossagaukr, the snipe]; given also as the green sandpiper, Tringa ochropus (Sh. 1808 Jam.) but this is doubtful; (22) horse-heid, a large unbroken lump of earth, a clod (Abd., Ags. 1957), fig. in phr. as thick as horse heids, “as thick as thieves”; also horse's head, in dry-stone walling: a round stone which will not lie securely (Dmf. 1957 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 99); (23) horse herring, the shad, Alosa alosa (Wgt. 1926 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 33; Cai. 1957); (24) horse hoof, (a) coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 103). Now only dial. in Eng. Cf. Norw. hestehov, id.; (b) the marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), -høv, 1947 Shet. Folk Bk. (Tait) I. 82, Sh. 1957); †(25) horse-kirn, a churn worked by a horse (m.Lth., Rxb. c.1900); (26) horse klok, a species of flying beetle (Cai. 1957). See Clock, n.2; (27) horse('s) knot, -knop, the black knapweed, Centaurea nigra (s.Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 498; Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 111, -knop; sw.Sc. 1896 Garden Work No. cxiv. 112; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -knot, -knop; Dmf. 1950). Also in Eng. dial.; †(28) horse-leg-been, see quot.; (29) horse-lok, a wisp of straw for giving to horses. See quot. and Lock; †(30) horse-magog, ? a boisterous clown. Also found in e.An. dial.; .†(31) horse-malison, a person extremely cruel to horses (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Cf. similar application of malison in Lake District to one cruel to animals; (32) horseman, a farm servant who looks after and works a pair of horses, ranked acc. to seniority on larger farms as first, second, etc. horseman. Gen.Sc. Freq. in regard to a fraternity of horsemen with initiation ceremonies for novices, pass-words, etc., gen. held to be a relic of Devil-worship, esp. in combs.: horseman('s) knock, the knock by which admission to the initiation is gained (Mry., Abd. 1957), horseman's meetin, the initiation ceremony, horseman's scent, see Ork. 1957 quot., horseman('s) toast, — toss, a toast drunk at this ceremony (Abd.30 c.1910), horseman's word, a secret word given to the initiate as part of his contract with the Devil by which he gains complete control over his horses (Cai., ne.Sc., m.Lth., Lnk. 1957); †(33) horse-meal = (11) (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Obs. in Eng.; (34) horse-mogral, a coarse variety of mackerel, in Eng. horse-mackerel; (35) horse-mussel, -muscle, a large freshwater mussel, Mytilus modiolus (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ant. 1902 E.D.D.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249; Sh., Cai., Kcd. 1957). Now obs. in Eng.; †(36) horse-nail, in phr. to make a horse-nail of a thing, to make a botch of a thing (Fif. 1825 Jam.); †(37) horse-orts,,. horse-dung (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. Add.). See Orts; †(38) horse-pease, the common vetch, Vicia sativa (Cai. 1957); (39) horse-paet, the centre peat which supports the other two in the small stack set up to dry (Sh. 1957); †(40) horse potato, a coarse variety of potato. Cf. Yam, id.; (41) horse protestant, a person whose religious practice fails to square with his profession (Ork.5 1957); †(42) horse-race, in phr. at a horse-race, at break-neck speed; †(43) horse-setter, one who has horses for hire (Sc. 1825 Jam.); †(44) horse's-foot, in land measurement, the sixteenth part of a plough-gate (Sc. 1813 N. Carlisle Topogr. Dict. Scot. Gl.), the idea being that the owner of this amount of land contributed one horse's hoof, sc. the sixteenth part of the price of the four-horse team necessary to work the plough-gate. Cf. horse-gang above; †(45) horse-stang, the dragonfly (Cld. 1825 Jam.). See Stang and cf. Eng. dial. horse-stinger, id.; (46) horse-supper, see Supper, v.; †(47) horse-tailor, a jocular term for a saddler; (48) horse-thristle, the spear thistle. See Thrissel; (49) horse-tree, the swingletree of a plough or harrow (m.Lth., Kcb. 1957). Also found in e.An. dial.; ¶(50) horse-wand, a switch for urging on a horse; †(51) horse-well-grass, brooklime, Veronica beccabunga (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (52) horse-wulk, = (3) (Kcb. 1957). See Wilk. (1) Ayr. 1822  H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 201:
He has a bit grun' that keeps a horse beast, whilk he works.
Abd. 1879  G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xxxiii.:
Weel, gien ye hae nae mercy upo' yer whusky, ye sud hae some upo' yer horse-beasts, ony gait.
Kcb. 1898  Crockett Standard Bearer xv.:
The kye and the horse-beasts within the bounds of my parish.
(2) Rnf. 1827  Kempy Kay in
Child Ballads (1882) I. 302:
He gied to her a braw silk napkin Was made o' an auld horse-brat.
(3) Bnff. 1876  S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist (1901) 361:
He found the Periwinkle . . . the Horse Buckie (in some places called the Dog Periwinkle), the Mussel.
(4) Lnk. 1866  Zoologist 513:
[Dunlin]. Last year a very intelligent and observant shepherd just told me of these birds; he called them “horse-cocks,” a curious epithet, probably allied to “hoarse-gouk” or “horse-gawk,” which Montagu gives as local names for the common snipe.
(6) Ayr. 1702  Arch. & Hist. Coll. Ayr. & Wgt. IV. 199:
Six dolleris quhich wes dew be the defender to Mathew Wallace horse-couper.
Ork. 1757  Session Papers, Galloway v. Morton (12 Nov.) 155:
He does not know him to be a common Horse-jockey or Horse-couper, but knows that he has sold Horses sometimes.
Edb. 1772  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 90:
Heh, Sirs! what cairds and tinklers come, An' ne'er-do-weel horse-coupers.
Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet v.:
I know it — I have heard of your father — as honest as any horse-couper of them all.
Lth. 1920  A. Dodds Songs 27:
The name o' some horse-couper that wadna tell a lie.
(7) Edb. 1757  A. Carlyle Argument . . . Tragedy of Douglas:
Had he . . . dealt in the gentlemany trade of horse-couping, he might have been tolerated.
Abd. 1877  G. Macdonald M. of Lossie i.:
I ken mair aboot that nor the horse-coupin', and it's full cleaner.
Lnk. 1922  T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 44:
Ay, and for honest horse-coupin' And a gude beast or fat coo.
(9) Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 311:
“Wha has Mary gotten?” . . . “a braw horsecripple,” answered the mither.
(12) Ork. 1957 5 :
A horse fiddle is an empty box, with a rough edged board drawn forcibly across it, usually for the purposes of disturbing somebody's slumbers about midnight.
(15) (a) Sc. 1720  Grievances of the poor Commonality 31:
This way of dividing of Rooms of Land with Half ploughs, Horse-gangs and Cottaries.
Per. 1769  Survey Lochtayside (S.H.S.) 18:
Possess'd by Archd McIntyre, Pat. Ditto, . . . each a horsegang.
Arg. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 VIII. 97 note:
The fourth part of a farm, or what is called here, a horse-gang.
Ags. 1875  Arbroath Guide (18 Dec.) 3:
Our fathers lived fu' weel, John, on twa horse-gang o' land.
Lnk. 1880  W. Grossart Shotts 108:
Ninety-nine plough-gates and two horse-gang. A plough-gate was equal to four horsegang.
Sc. 1943  Gsw. Herald (13 Dec.):
During the study of between 400 and 500 documents of the years 1400–1600 the Marquis [of Bute] came across one charter which seemed to give the meaning of the term “horse-gang.” . . . It appeared from the charter that a “horse-gang” was an eight-and-fourpenny (8s 4d) land, which suggested an extent of about 21 acres.
(b) Sc. 1807  Farmer's Mag. (Aug.) 272:
Your correspondent's threshing mill is . . . misplaced. . . . if the horse-gang (or track) had been placed at the north-west end . . . the horses would perform their work with less detriment to themselves.
Bwk. 1809  R. Kerr Agric. Bwk. pl. to 97:
Horse Gang or Wind Mill for Threshing Machine.
Sc. 1933  E. S. Haldane Scotland of our Fathers 114:
In old days most Scottish farmers had a “dam” to provide water power to drive the great wheel of the threshing mill, or failing that, a mill driven more slowly by horses circling round a “horse-gang,” as it is still called.
(16) Ags. 1803  Scott Minstrelsy III. 358:
Of filthy gar his e'e-brees war, With esks and horse-gells lin'd.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin x.:
He clappit his mooth to the gimlet hole, an' sookit like a horse-gelly.
Ags. 1894  J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) xiii.:
He put his hand roond to his coat tails an' brocht oot a handfu' o' stuff like horse-gails.
(17) Per. 1836  G. Penny Traditions 32:
A strong purgative plant, called horse gladdening, formerly used as a medicine for cattle.
(21) Sh. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 V. 189:
The wild land fowls are . . . wrens, horse-gauks, corncraiks, land-larks, and stone-chatters.
Ork. 1805  G. Barry Hist. Ork. 307:
The Snipe, . . . which is here named the hoarsgouk.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (29 Jan.):
Da nicht whin I wis maetin' da lambs da horse-gouk wis cryin' up i' da lift.
Ork. 1911  Old-Lore Misc. IV. iv. 185:
I tha bonnie voar eenings, whit wi tha teeauws and horse-goks an' mony anither burd.
Sh. 1948  New Shetlander (Aug. — Sept.) 8:
The horse-gock (“heather-bleater” to you!) wheels over the loch and the meadows by the burnside uttering its peculiar drumming noise.
Ork. 1957 5 :
A horse gowk, a water pleep an a snipe a' rin on the same twa feet, i.e. they are all the same bird.
(22) Ork. 1908  Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 319:
Da Ald Chiel an' Pontius warna jeust yamals bit dey waar seek cronies an' as tick as horse heds.
Bnff. 1923  Banffshire Jnl. (24 July) 2:
Aw wis like t' brak' ma neck ower horse-heids in the vera happin' in.
(25) Edb. 1900  E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 16:
To do ony good wi' butter I needed a horse-kirn.
m.Lth. 1957 1 :
Ma granfaither's last horse-kirn was made by his brither Wullie, a weel-kent Leith jiner. A kirnin produced 60/65 lbs of butter and 250 gals. soor dook.
(27) s.Sc. c.1830  Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 39:
If an unmarried person pull from the stalk the flower of the horse-knot . . . and with a pair of scissors cut the tops off the stamens, and lay it by in a secret place . . . and next morning you will find the stamina shot out to their former length, if you are to be successful in love.
(28) Ork. 1929  Marw.:
This term was formerly employed by fishermen when referring to the right-hand oar in a boat. The left oar was keel-root. Thus if the skipper wished the right oar to pull harder he said, “Up, horse-leg-been!” Evid. a taboo term.
(29) Ork. 1930  Orcadian (13 Feb.):
A “horse-lok” again, was a wisp with ends folded in, and laid by untied for giving to horses.
(30) Ayr. 1830  Galt Lawrie Todd I. iii.:
We approached towards the rampant horsemagog.
(32) Cai. 1869  M. Maclennan Peasant Life Intro. x.:
Insensitive to the pungent odours, seeds of disease, which steam in the bothies of their “horse-men.”
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xiv.:
Weel, the only bargain 't I cud say 't aw saw was Mains o' Yawal feein' a third horseman . . . he bargain't wi' 'im for a croon oot o' seyven poun' to ca' 's third pair.
Abd. 1879  J. Taylor 11 Years Farm Wk. 75:
It is at the “horsemen's meetin's” that the “word” is given to the young novice, and the “horsemen's meetin'” is generally held at midnight in the barn or stable. The young horsemen who are to have the “word” imparted to them, are strictly sworn that they will tell it to none but sworn horsemen.
Bnff. 1885  N. Roy Horseman's Word xxi.:
The Horseman's Word! . . . It's some kind o' ploughman's masonry, to mak lads real ploughmen, and gie them skill to guide their horse.
ne.Sc. 1902  Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 2) III. 143:
The password, or more correctly, “The horseman word” was “Both as one,” meaning that there was to be complete concord between the man and the horse that he was working.
Ags. 1922  V. Jacob Tales 17:
A pair of huge, patient Clydesdales were in process of being shod. A young “horseman” was standing by, his hands in his pockets.
Sc. 1933  H. Sutherland Arches of the Years 18:
A lesser bargain could be made with the devil to obtain the Horseman's Word. This is a magic word, and, if spoken aloud, you can bring down a horse ridden by your enemy in any part of Scotland. To obtain this word you must sit up alone all night in an empty house or loft. No other person must be within call. You must eat half a loaf of bread and drink a bottle of whisky. Then the devil appears, points to the hour on his watch, and gives you the word. The mark on his watch is the number of years you will serve in hell in return for knowing the word.
ne.Sc. 1952  H. Henderson in New Statesman (14 June) 698:
Although it seems to have developed out of two earlier cults called the Ploughman's Word and the Miller's Word, which were also custodians of diabolism, the Horseman's Word corresponds to a definite period in the social history of the north-east countryside, the so-called “bothy” period. . . . After the turn of the century the cult began to wither, and with the coming of the tractor it became a museum piece. . . . When the horsemen got to the door of the barn, they gave the “Horseman's Knock,” pawed three times on the door with hands or feet, and whinnied like horses.
Ork. 1957 5 :
There was also “horseman's scent” which was supposed to have a taming influence on horses. I have seen a formula for this in a chemist's book. It was mostly copaiba balsam, with a little oil of roses. Oil of rhodium was another horseman's scent. It is a scarce chemical, probably unobtainable nowadays. This scent was believed to attract the girls too which made the secret all the more desirable to the young fellows!
(34) Ags. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 XI. 256:
Horse-mogral, camper-fish, gray-fish, stone-fish, and maiden-fish.
(35) Sc. 1700  R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 76:
In the said river are black shells or musles named here horse musles.
Per. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 532:
Besides salmon, the rivers in this parish produce also a number of horse or pearl mussels.
Lnk. 1795  Ib. II. 179:
In deep still pools, are found a large bivalvular shell-fish, known here by the name of the horse muscle. They are not used as food, but in some of them are found small pearls; so rarely, however, that they are scarcely thought worth the fishing for.
(36) Abd. 1777  J. Anderson Essays II. 276:
It is often found growing among the corn in stiff soils badly dressed, where its roots are allowed to remain; and is known in some parts of Scotland by the name of horsepease.
Lnl. c.1800  A. Dawson Rambling Recoll. (1868) 11:
The materials which constituted our own dinner alimented with horse peas and field turnips when in season.
(40) Sc. 1803  Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 478:
The properties of the yams or horse potatoes are generally known.
Peb. 1817  R. Brown Lintoun Green 8:
Like horse-potatoes, sutors'-clods In Selkirk town were rife.
(42) Sc. 1835  Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 292:
Will ye really rush upon ruin at a horse-race?
(43) Gsw. 1748  Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 285:
Each horse setter shall be obliged to hyre out and exact no more from the person who hyres his horse than as is aftermentioned.
Ayr. 1823  Galt R. Gilhaize ii.:
“If that's your errand,” said the horse-setter, “Ye s'all hae the swiftest foot in my aught to help you on.”
Edb. 1897  P. H. Hunter J. Armiger's Revenge 58:
The recent nefarious attempt of one Archie Dodds, the “horse-setter” in Kilpallat, to palm off an inferior animal upon him.
(44) Per. 1794  J. Robertson Agric. s.Per. 118:
By the policy of the feudal times these diminutive possessions were carried to such a length, that in some places of Scotland, the phrase, a horse's-foot of land is not entirely laid aside.
(47) Lnk. 1816  G. Muir Cld. Minstrelsy 8:
Horse tailors, smiths, an' clockies, under-takers.
(49) Ayr. 1790  J. Fisher Poems 133:
Weel yoket in a twa horse tree.
(50) Sc. 1733  Orpheus Caled. (Thomson) II. 100:
A Gullie-knife, and a Horse-wand.

3. Phrs.: (1) horse and hattock, see Hattock; (2) to be sic mannie, sic horsie, to be all of one kind, birds of a feather (Abd. 1900; Bnff.12 1931; ne.Sc. 1957), gen. used contemptuously.

4. ? The otter shell, Lutraria elliptica (Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56). Cf. 2. (13) (b).

5. (1) As in Eng., a trestle or support, specif. one used by masons to support scaffolding (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1902 E.D.D.; n.Sc., Edb., Kcb., Slk. 1957), or by wood-cutters for drying bark or wood (Lth. 1825 Jam.); (2) a mason's hod (Dmf. 1825 Jam.). This meaning is somewhat doubtful. (1) Sc. 1831  J. C. Loudon Encycl. Agric. 4051:
Forked pieces of the loppings [of trees], called horses.

6. A wooden faucet used to draw off liquor from a cask (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.).

II. v. Of a person: “to punish by striking his buttocks on a stone” (Sc. 1825 Jam.), as if being roughly bumped along on horseback.

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"Horse n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Dec 2017 <>



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