Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KING, n. Also keeng (Abd. 1914 J. Leatham Daavit 54; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; wm.Sc. 1932 J. Corrie A Man o' War 5; Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 19. 44; Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick i.).

Sc. usages. [Now gen. kɪŋ, but orig. ki(:)ŋ]

1. A person or thing holding precedence or pre-eminence, in various specif. usages: †(1) the member of a school class who gave the largest money present to the teacher at Candlemas at the payment of fees. Cf. Candlemas king s.v. Can'lemas; †(2) in cock-fighting: the winning cock; its owner (Slk. 1886 T. Craig-Brown Hist. Slk. II. 175). Also phr. king of the school, the boy who owned the victorious cock at the school cock-fight on Handsel Monday or Shrove Tuesday (Kcd. 1899 A. C. Cameron Fettercairn 219); (3) the leader in certain children's games (see quot.); (4) the chief or most honoured male dancer at a ball; (5) the person elected as the ruler of the Halloween festivities; †(6) the chief personage in a Trades or similar pageant; (7) the so-called leader of a shoal of herring (w.Sc. 1703 M. Martin Descr. W. Isles 143); (8) in the game of nine-pins: the main nine-pin; (9) the largest stack in a corn-yard. (1) Sc. 1710  Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. 118:
When I was in the School [at Perth] this forenoon there was a Grandsone of Lady Rollo's who was whipt, and I, by the privaledge I received at Candlemis, went to protect him, but the School Master would not allow me, and when I asked him why I might not doe it as well as formour Kings, he answered that it was he gave the privaledg and he could take it away again.
Fif. 1795  Stat Acc.1 XIII. 211:
The scholars, in general, pay at least 5s. a-quarter, and a Candlemas gratuity . . . from 5s. even as far as 5 guineas, when there is a keen competition for the Candlemas crown. The king, i.e. He who pays most, reigns for 6 weeks.
Rxb. 1885  E. Guthrie Old Sc. Customs 92:
It was a long-established practice for the Rector of Kelso Grammar School and the other teachers to present “the king”, that is the boy who made the most liberal Candlemas offering, with a football.
Rxb. 1918  Jedburgh Gaz. (8 Feb.) 2:
Mr Halliburton is the last “king” of the Grammar School, and for some thirty years or more — since the formal connection of the school with the opening ceremony at Candlemas was dissolved — he has maintained his original prerogative every year.
(2) Abd. a.1897  W. Gregor in
M. M. Banks Cal. Customs I. 12:
The cock that gained most victories, or that “keepit the fleer langist” was named “King”, the one next to him “Queen”, and the third one “Knicht”. The owner of “King” cock bore the name of “King” for the year.
Kcd. 1899  A. C. Cameron Fettercairn 219:
The boy who owned the victorious cock was rewarded, “dubbed king of the school,” and allowed for a time to do very much as he pleased.
Abd. 1905  Folk-Lore xvi. 204:
An old man from the Highlands of Aberdeenshire . . . and now (1902) over eighty years of age, tells us that Cock-fighting as a school ploy at Shrovetide was well within his recollection . . . “I hae seen as mony as a score tae'n tae the skule that day . . . The yin that had the cock that focht best wus “King”.
(3) Sh. 1863  Sh. Folk Bk. (1957) 12:
When a King had to be chosen in the games of “King Kum, ali” or “Katyi milyi skru”, the children stand in a ring while one of them says: — Itim pitim peni pay, Jinkim jurim jini ja, White fish, blak trut, Gjebi Gaut du's ut.
(4) Inv. 1741  Trans. Gael. Soc. Inv. XIV. 274:
It is not sure that he was to be King of the ball.
Sc. a.1771  Letters Mrs Cockburn (1900) 82:
Captain Bob Dalrymple was king of the ball, as it was his bespeaking.
(5) Sc. 1822  R. M'Chronicle Legends Scot. III. 138, 140–1:
In another part of the room, some young people were forming a throne for the king and queen. . . . Unhappily for the laird, the queen happened to be a pretty-looking girl, and without hesitation he bent his knee to the fair, who, most condescendingly, raised him, and proferred him a seat between herself and the king; but no sooner did Wurdywa's avail himself of her kindness, that he found the precariousness of a throne, by plumping into a large tub of water, which had been placed to receive him.
(6) Sc. 1771  Weekly Mag. (7 Nov.) 160:
Same day being the anniversary of St. Crispin, the journeymen shoe-makers of this city and suburbs [Edinburgh] made a grand procession through the streets in honour of their patron. Their King appeared in great state.
w.Lth. 1906  A. Porteous Town Council Seals 254:
Sometimes two persons dressed in flannel with burrs and led about were called the “King” and “Queen”.
(7) Sc. 1785  J. Anderson Acct. Hebrides 364:
Some fanciful people, in order to make the history of their [herring] migrations complete, describe them as being led forward by a leader who directs their course, who has been called their king. No such thing is even believed by any of the fishermen.
(8) Ayr. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 V. 223:
One of these [kyles] is rather thicker and two inches longer than the rest, and is denominated the king.
(9) Knr. 1887  H. Haliburton Puir Auld Scot. 152:
On big farms there was usually one enormous stack or rick on which the foreman expended all the resources of his architectural art, and by which he established his claim to foremanship; it was . . . known as the king.

2. The ladybird, a brightly-coloured beetle of the family Coccinellidæ (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 226). See also under 3.

3. Phrs. and Combs.: (1) king (a)cross the ditchie, a game, = (4) (Cai., Ags. 1960); (2) King's Advocate, the Lord Advocate, the chief law-officer of the Crown in Scotland, = Eng. Attorney General (Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 28). See Advocate, n., Lord; (3) king alison, = 2. (Mearns c.1850). Cf. Doctor. 3.; (4) king and queen o' Cantelon, a children's game in which two boys, stationed each at a goal, endeavour to catch the rest of the company as they run between the goals, those caught helping to catch the others. The side with the greatest number of “prisoners” wins (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 300); (5) king ball, king's ba (Ags. 1960), a game in which one member of a group holds a ball between clenched fists and throws it to another. It must be caught and thrown again between clenched fists, but if dropped, the player is “out”, and may throw in the ordinary way, trying to strike others below the knee, in which case they too are “out”. The ball may be fended off with the fists only. The person remaining not “out” is the “king” (Fif. 1954). Also kingie (Rnf. 1960); (6) king-cairy, a game played by two children, in which one grasps his own left wrist with his right hand, and the other's right wrist with his left hand, so as to form a seat (Sc. 1894 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games I. 304). Cf. (7) and Cairry; (7) king's chair(ie), the seat formed as in (6) (Abd., Ags. 1960); (8) king chairlie, = 2. (Mry. 1955 Scotsman (24 Dec.) 6); †(9) king's claver, melilot, a kind of clover, Melilotus officinalis (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Cf. whuttle-grass s.v. Whittle; (10) king-coll-awa, -collie, = 2. (Sc. 1902 E.D.D.; ‡Kcd. 1960); (11) king-come-a-lay, — kum ali, keeng kumalay, = (4) (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1960). Also kingdom-o-lee (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1960); (12) king('s) covenanter, a game, gen. resembling (4) (Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), a phr. from the rhyme sung in the game; (13) king's cushion, = (6) and (7) (Lth. 1825 Jam.; Fif.10 1941; Uls. 1953 Traynor); (14) king('s) doctor ellison, = (3) (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); †(15) king's ease, Sc. Law: in certain valuations of teinds, a fifth part deducted from the proved teind as an abatement to the proprietor (Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 980); (16) king's ellwand, see Ellwan(d); (17) king('s) fisher, the dipper, Cinclus cinclus (Highl. 1885 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. & Arch. Soc. 61), phs. from its resemblance in flight and habitat to the kingfisher; (18) king-fleuk, the turbot, Scophthalmus maximus (Sc. 1895 J. Bickerdyke Sea-Fishing 367). See Fleuk, n.1, 2.; †(19) king's freemen, a name for certain persons who, by virtue of services rendered by themselves or their fathers or husbands in the army, navy, etc., had a statutory right to exercise trades as freemen without entering with the corporation of their particular trade (Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 569). Also in Eng.; †(20) king gollowa, = 2. (Kcd. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 201); (21) king's hat, the second of the four stomachs of a ruminating animal (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 95). Cf. (24) (a); (22) king Henry, the name of a boys' game variously described; (23) king herring, see 1. (7), and (34) below; (24) king's hood, -head (Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 115), -heed (ne.Sc. 1960), (a) = (21) (Sh., Edb., Rxb. 1960). See Huid and cf. Dan. kongehœtte, id. Also jocularly of the human stomach; (b) wood crane's bill, Geranium sylvaticum (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 48); (25) king-i-carlin = (3) (Mry. 1955 Scotsman (24 Dec.) 6). Also corrupt forms keenie-, keelie- (Ib.); ¶(26) King James's-skate, a fish of the family Rajidae, ? cf. (18) (Ags. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XI. 256); †(27) king's keys, the crowbars and other instruments used to force entry in execution of the king's warrant; that part of the warrant which authorises their use (Sc. 1825 Jam.), Hence to make king's keys, to force entry under a court warrant (Id.); †(28) king's land, lands in Orkney and Shetland formerly in the possession of the Crown (I.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); †(29) king's land-tax, a tax payable by royal burghs to the Crown. See quot. and cf. (30); †(30) king's mail(l)s, appar. in 1728 quot. = Cess, n., (1); also a tax payable to the Crown esp. one by royal burghs. See 1896 quot. and cf. Mail, n.1; (31) king's man, a customs officer, an exciseman; (32) king's men, a game in which three large stones are set on end near each other and a player, using another stone, tries to knock down as many as he can (Abd.13 1910); †(33) king of Cantland, = (4) (Dmf. 1825 Jam.); (34) king of the herrings, the Arctic chimaera, Chimaera monstrosa (Sh. 1880–4 F. Day Fishes II. 287; ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna of Dee 268); the Allis shad (Sc. 1880–4 F. Day Fishes II. 235); (35) king's steward, see Steward; (36) king's unlaw, see Unlaw; ‡(37) king's weather, “a name given to the exhalations seen to rise from the earth in a warm day” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; m.Lth. 1960); (38) King William's dear years, a period of distress resulting from the failure of the crops, covering the last seven years of the 17th c. (Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 42). Cf. ill years s.v. Ill; (39) the King and a' his men, see quot.; (40) to be a king tae (til), to surpass, excel (I., n. and m.Sc., Slk. 1960). Also in Eng. dial. (1) Cai. 1957  Div ye mind 16:
The shrill cries that proclaimed the playing of “King Cross the Ditchie.”
(3) Kcd. 1911  T.S.D.C.:
King Alison, King Alison, Pit oot yer wings and flee awa'.
(4) Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 300:
Two fleet youths come forward, and address them [the other players] with this rhyme — King and Queen o' Cantelon, How mony mile to Babylon; Six or seven, or a lang eight, Try to win there by candlelight.
(7) Sc. 1863  R. Chambers Book of Days I. 214:
The children, being then dismissed for a holiday [at Candlemas], proceed along the streets in a confused procession, carrying the King and Queen in state, exalted upon that seat formed of crossed hands, which, probably from this circumstance, is called the King's Chair.
Mry. 1894 ,
A. B. Gomme Trad. Games I. 304:
King, King Cairy London lairy, Milk an bread, In the King's chairie.
(10) Kcd. 1880  Jam.:
King, King-Coll-Awa, Tak up yer wings an' flee awa'.
(11) Ork. 1929  Marw.:
One player (sometimes termed the king) goes over to one base line or “hels” or goal, and cries “King!” or “Come-a-lee-a-laulie,” or “Lee-lo-ley,” etc. Thereupon, the others try to reach the king's base-line without being caught by him. Those he succeeds in catching go with him over to the other base and, after calling out again, try to capture as many as possible on their way across the field of play. This goes on until all are caught.
Sh. 1958  Shetland News (9 Dec.) 3:
Street games as “Keek da block”; “Hyste da Flag”; . . . “Keeng Kumalay”; “Cripple Kirsie ower da Waatter.”
(12) s.Sc. 1903  R. Ford Children's Rhymes 77:
At Hawick, where this legendary mimicry of old Border warfare peculiarly flourishes, the boys are accustomed to use the following lines of defiance: — King Covenanter, come out if ye daur venture! Set your feet on Scots ground, English, if ye daur!
(13) Lth. 1813  “Edinias” John Jorum 19:
They took him as hostage, and on the King's cushion They set him, which set the poor falla a blushin'.
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian vii.:
He was now mounted on the hands of two of the rioters, clasped together, so as to form what is called in Scotland, “The King's Cushion.”
(14) ne.Sc. 1881  W. Gregor Folk-Lore 147:
Kings Doctor Ellison, Fahr ill I be mairrt till, East or Wast, or Norowa, Tack up yir wings and flee awa.
(17) Sth. 1834  J. Ritchie Animal Life (1920) 182:
From March 1831 to March 1834 “548 King's Fishers” were slaughtered, “King Fisher” being a local name for the Water Ouzel.
(19) Sc. 1819  Faculty Decisions (1815–19) 641:
The Court were unanimously of opinion that kings freemen, carrying on trades, are bound by the regulations, as to the mode of carrying them on, which are applicable to freemen of corporations.
Sc. 1838  W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 565:
King's freemen are not limited in the exercise of their trade to the bounds of the corporation where they reside. . . . A King's freeman may be assumed as a partner by a member of an incorporation who has become bound not to pack and peel with unfreemen.
Hdg. 1883  J. Martine Reminisc. 135:
By the old rule of the burgh and Dean of Guild Court, no persons could carry on business in the town unless they were entered burgesses and guild-brethern; old sailors and soldiers excepted, who were called “King's Freemen.” This grant was a bounty for their services to the country.
(21) Abd. 1915  H. Beaton Benachie 126:
The entrails, consisting of the “muckle wime,” “the king's hat,” and the “mony-plies,” and bowels or tripe, were taken to the nearest burn to be well washed.
(22) Lnk. 1899  Gsw. Herald (23 Dec.):
There were two games 1 can remember were great favourites, “Heckery-peckery”, and “King Henry”, played in summer, the latter having as penalties the discarding of portions of our apparel, till some unlucky individual would be almost in a state of nature.
Arg. 1901  R. C. Maclagan Games Arg. 216:
The boy in the centre walks round repeating “King Henry, King Henry, run, boys, run, You with the red coat follow the drum”. As he says “drum”, he suddenly throws his bonnet at some boy, and the game proceeds.
(23) Sc. 1905  A. R. Forbes Gael. Names 367:
A certain big herring which is said to lead the shoal, and is then called “ceann snaoth” or sgaoth, also king-herring.
Sc. 1949  People's Jnl. (9 July):
A king herring should be taken from the net and given to the oldest member of the crew. He at once passes it round the “skudding-pole” while his colleagues petition Providence for good catches.
(24) Ayr. 1787  Burns Dr Hornbook xiv.:
Deil mak his king's-hood in a spleuchan!
Kcb. 1789  D. Davidson Seasons 3:
Right o'er the steep he leans, When his well-plenished king-hood voiding needs.
Edb. 1792  “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 48:
Wi's kingshood rax'd frae neuk to neuk, On guid Scotch brose.
Peb. 1829  Trans. Highl. Soc. I. 46:
[The food] is now sent into the second division, denominated the King's-hood.
Lnk. a.1832  W. Watt Poems (1860) 240:
The cow's-tongue, and the fat king's-head, And beef and bacon ham.
Sc. 1903  E. W. Kirk Tried Favourites Cookery Bk. 51:
Procure the large stomach bag of a sheep, also one of the smaller bags called “King's Hood,” together with the pluck, which is the lights, liver, and heart.
Sh. 1949  J. Gray Lowrie 20:
Da faa, da faa, ye ken, da lackie, da lungie, an' da king's hood.
(27) Sc. 1769  Morison Decisions 10540:
The messenger, if he found them locked, should not be at liberty, by his own authority, to break open the same, but to borrow the King's Keys, by letters for making open doors.
Sc. 1821  Justiciary Reports (1819–31) 41:
The constant practice in the sheriff-courts in cases of obstructions of the executions of ejections, in consequence of lockfast doors, is for the officer to make a return to the sheriff of such obstruction, and thereupon to obtain a warrant for using the king's keys to make open doors.
Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet xix.:
The door, framed to withstand attacks from excisemen, constables, and other personages, considered as worthy to use what are called the King's keys, . . . set his efforts at defiance.
Sc. 1948  A. D. Gibb Legal Terms 61:
Letters of Open Doors. A warrant granted in order to permit of poinding property contained in locked places. Opening doors with such warrant was called “Using the King's keys.”
(28) Ork. 1801  J. Brand Descr. Ork. 40:
Each [of the Taxmen] endeavours to gather in his Rents, and that as soon as may be, which many of the poor People cannot get so quickly given, whereupon several of them are put to doors, and all taken from them, which hath occasioned much of the King's Land now to be lying waste and lee.
(29) Sc. 1831  Fife Herald (21 July):
Mr Irving, the agent for the royal burghs, explained that the sum payable by Greenock and Paisley . . . was the King's land-tax — that a certain proportion, about a sixth of the whole land-tax, was apportioned by the treaty of Union on the royal burghs, chiefly in consequence of their enjoying the exclusive right of foreign trade; that by an act of Parliament they were authorised to communicate the benefits of this unfree trade upon burghs of barony, upon their relieving the royal burghs of part of their burdens.
(30) Inv. 1728  Trans. Gael. Soc. Inv. XIV. 67:
Donald Macdonald binds himself to make due and thankful payment to Sir Alexander Macdonald . . . of the yearly tack duly underwritten, viz., the sum of five hundred and seventy-seven marks six shillings and eight pennies Scots money in full, not only of the money rent and King's Mails, but also of the Farm Bolls, butter, cheese, sheep, and wedders.
Sc. 1896  Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) X. 47:
Besides the land tax levied on the royal burghs in Scotland, there is a small impost designated King's Maills. . . . They are annual payments made to the Crown in respect of privileges granted to certain royal burghs, and are consequently totally different from the land tax . . . King's Maills are paid direct to the receiver of Crown rents.
(31) Sc. 1814  Lockhart Scott xxxi.:
We observed a hurry among the inhabitants, owing to our being as usual suspected for king's men.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 362:
He was one of the greatest smugglers on . . . the Solway, and outwitted the most sagacious kings men.
(39) Rnf. 1930  A. M. Stewart Stickleback Club 323:
Had you returned a few minutes later you would have found the pluffs abandoned, and the whole crowd busy with “The King and a' his men.” This was practised on the “blin' wondy,” a window which had been built up . . . someone stuck up a king — a long, pointed cone of clay. The players stepped back to the kerb. Each marksman in turn took aim with a ball of clay about the size of a walnut to strike the king. The competition was keen, more especially when the wall got littered with misses, for he who struck the king cleaned off all the others. Some were almost touchers; others wide of the mark. Then one would go squash right on the king's nose, and the successful marksman “scooped the pool.”
(40) Sh. 1899  Shetland News (13 May):
William is kass'n wi' ane 'at dy ane is a king til.
Bnff. 1942 2 :
Nae like sowans! I'm sure it's a king tae porridge.
Kcb. 1952 10 :
We thocht we were bad wi' the last lot o' coals, but they were a king tae this lot.

[O.Sc. kingis keys, 1577, -landis, 1508. -malis, 1483.]

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"King n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Dec 2017 <>



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