Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MIDDEN, n., v. Also miden; middin(g); middan; medding.

I. n. 1. A dunghill, the place where a farmer piles his farmyard manure; a refuse-heap in gen., a compost-heap; a domestic ash-pit or dusthold (Sc. 1946 Spons' Practical Builders' Pocket-Bk. 441); a refuse-bin or its contents, the domestic rubbish put out for disposal by the local authority (m.Sc. 1962). Also fig. Now only arch. or dial. in Eng. Dmf. 1717  Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1891) 109:
The said day they enacted and ordained that the hail middens with the turf and peat stacks be removed off the town streets.
Rs. 1722  W. MacGill Old Ross. (1909) 213:
By adjacent heretors cutting earth and feall for their middins.
Sc. 1725  Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
A snug Thack-house, before the Door a Green; Hens on the Midding, Ducks in Dubs are seen.
Lnk. a.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 11:
I sall marry you an yence my father's muck were out, my mither downa wirk at the midden.
Sc. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 240:
Laying these ingredients upon one another, stratum above stratum . . . they make up a mound which forms a compost midding or dunghill.
Dmf. 1817  W. Caesar Poems 127:
Now I commit thee to the midden. To rot 'mang ither kindred duddin.
Ayr. 1821  Galt Annals. viii.:
The king's highway, . . . ran through the Vennel, which was a narrow and a crooked street, with many big stones here and there, and every now and then, both in the spring and the fall, a gathering of middens for the fields.
Sh. 1822  S. Hibbert Descr. Sh. 201:
The manure . . . is a midden, consisting of dung, of heather that has been cut for litter, of sea-weed, and of earth, or dry decomposed moss, named Duff-mould.
ne.Sc. 1874  W. Gregor Olden Time 15:
There was but one door; and a few yards, or it might be a few feet only, in front of it lay the midden.
Sc. 1884  Scottish Reader (30 Aug.) 204:
A' through makin' a midden o' his wame at nicht.
m.Sc. 1906  J. A. Harvie-Brown Fauna Tay Basin 42:
Probably from a “midden”, or refuse-heap, of an old tannery.
Ork. 1920  J. Firth Reminisc. 15:
Closely adjoining them in front of the stable and byre was the midden.
Uls. 1923  J. Logan Uls. in X-Rays 85:
The manure-heap or “midden” was, and is, frequently right in front of the farmhouse for “convanience”.
Fif. 1926  I. Farquhar Pickletillie 160:
He's seen ongvelopes wi' an Edinburgh lawyer's name on them — lyin' in the manse midden — I mean the ashpit.
Gsw. 1958  C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 42:
What we called middens, upper-class people described as dustbins.

2. Combs.: (1) a knacker's midden, a nauseating mess, a “shambles” (m. and s.Sc. 1962); a gluttonous person (Ib.); (2) ase-midden, an ash-pit (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc., Per. 1962). See Ass, n., 3. (4); †(3) marl midden, a compost heap, with marl as the principal ingredient, used as a fertilizer (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (4) midden-böl, -bül, a dunghill (Sh. 1962). See Böl, n.4; (5) midden boy, a boy who wandered around city refuse heaps collecting scraps and rags, a street arab in gen. Cf. (29); (6) midden breard, the sprouting of young green shoots of herbage on top of a dunghill or its site. See Breard; (7) midden bree, the effluent from a midden (ne.Sc. 1962); (8) midden claut, a dung-rake. See Claut, 1. (4); (9) midden cock, a barnyard cock (Sc. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 201; Kcb., Uls. 1962); also fig. of a man. Cf. (18) and (22); †(10) midden-creel, a pannier or basket for carrying dung to the fields; (11) midden-croun, the top of a dunghill (Per. 1962). Cf. (20) and (41); (12) midden day, the day of the week on which domestic refuse is collected by the local authority (wm.Sc. 1962). Cf (31); (13) midden dub, the pool of seepage from a dunghill (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.), occas. found as a place-name. Cf. (39); (14) midden-dung, dung matured in a dunghill and ready for use as manure; (15) midden-dyke, -daek, a wall encircling a dunghill. Gen.Sc.; (16) midding feals, turfs or sods laid on top of a dunghill to prevent evaporation and allow the dung to mature (Ork. 1962). See Fail, n.1; (17) midden flee, a dung-fly of the genus Scatophaga (Per., Rxb. 1962); (18) midden fool, a barnyard fowl. Cf. (9); (19) midden-heap, a domestic ash-pit or refuse heap (Cai., m.Sc. 1962). Also in Eng. dial.; (20) midden heid, the topmost or middle part of a dunghill, freq. regarded as the domain or stamping ground of the farmyard cock. Cf. (11) and (41); also fig. of one's familiar environment, one's home. Gen.Sc. Phr. to be heard upo the midden-head, to quarrel noisily and publicly (Kcd. 1962); (21) midden-heigh, on the topmost point of the dunghill; (22) midden-hen, a barnyard hen (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Cf. (9); (23) midden-hole, the hollowed-out foundation of a dunghill (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.; Cai., Abd., sm.Sc. 1962); a pool of moisture drained from the dung (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial.; †(24) midden-ill, a disease of sheep; (25) midden lachter, the site of a dunghill, esp. one built on a field for convenience (Abd. 1962). See Lachter, n.1, 3.; (26) midden lair, id. See Lair, n.1, 2.; (27) midden la(i)rach, id. (Bnff. 1825 Jam. s.v. Lerroch; Abd.6 1913). See Larach, n., 2.; (28) middin makin, the preparing of a dunghill for manure; (29) midden mavis, a jocular term for a woman or girl who searches refuse-heaps and dust-bins in the early mornings for odds and ends. Cf. (5); ¶(30) midden-monarch, a barnyard cock; (31) midden mornin, one of the mornings of the week on which domestic refuse is collected (Gsw. 1962); (32) midden myles, -mylies, the goosefoot, a plant of the genus Chenopodium, esp. Chenopodium album (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.), commonly found growing on dunghills. See Myles and cf. (42); (33) midden-peel, a pool of stagnant water and juices from a dunghill (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.); (34) midden pow, id. (I.Sc. 1962). See Pow; (35) midden-raker, one who searches waste-heaps for rags or refuse (Sc. 1887 Jam.; wm.Sc. 1962); (36) midden rigs, the backbones of fish used as manure (Sh. 1962). See Rig; (37) midden-scarter, a hen. See Scart; (38) midden-stance, the corner of a field where dung has been piled before spreading (Sh. 1962). Cf. (25); (39) midden-stank, a ditch of stagnant liquid drained from a dunghill. See Stank and cf. (13); (40) midden-stead, -stedd, -steid, -steeth (Ork., Cai.), the site of a dunghill or refuse heap (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.; I.Sc., Lth., Kcb., Dmf. 1962); used fig. and ironically = a domain, stamping-ground, property. Cf. (20). Also in n.Eng. dial.; (41) midden tap, = (11) (Ags. 1962). Cf. (20); (42) midden weed, the white goosefoot, Chenopodium album, freq. found growing on dunghills (Lth., Rxb. 1962); knot-grass, Polygonum (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M 44). Cf. (32); (43) muck-midden, a dunghill, a refuse heap (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. (1) Edb. 1959  :
There's the Knacker's midden at it again. Said of a person who is voracious.
(4) Sh. 1897  Shetland News (22 May):
Dis am fun i' da midden bül oot by da hoose.
Sh. 1898  Ib. (6 Aug.):
Doo sood a tought afore doo shiv'd ony body i' da midden böl wi' naethin apo' dae feet bit bits o' auld sukkalegs.
(5) Abd. c.1810  Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 2) VII. 55:
They enjoyed themselves at their own bonfire as much as the barest-legged “midden boy” or “Green Lintie”, a clan of city arabs who were never known to be absent from stirring scenes such as these.
(6) Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 328:
There is no Breard like Midding Breard. . . . Spoken when we see People of mean Birth rise suddenly to Wealth and Honour.
(8) Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems 240:
Her finger-nails like midden clauts.
(9) Rnf. 1813  E. Picken Poems I. 120:
Our middin cock Craw'd i' the night at Twall o'clock.
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xliii.:
Certainly the Gudeman of St. Leonard's had some grand news to tell him, for he was as uplifted as a midden-cock upon pattens.
Dmf. 1826  A. Cunningham Paul Jones II. 270:
Dinna spare him; pluck the gowk weel for trying to soar like the eagle. Mind that he's a midden-cock, and claps his wings, but canna craw.
Ayr. 1890  J. Service Notandums 77:
His wee three-cornered hat sittin' on three hairs like a bit midden cock on his heid.
(10) Ayr. 1792  Burns Willie Wastle iv.:
Her walie nieves like midden-creels.
(11) Ags. 1867  G. W. Donald Poems 45:
Richt ower the midden-croun.
(13) Sc. 1781  Caled. Mercury (5 Nov.):
Newbyre, and part of Middendub south of the road from Galston to Ayr.
Ayr. 1811  W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 115:
A pond of putrid water, termed the midden dub, into which the juices of the dung were collected, and dead dogs, cats, etc. were thrown.
Ayr. 1826  Galt Lairds xi.:
He was . . . harlt through mire and midden dub.
(14) Sc. 1743  R. Maxwell Sel. Trans. 200:
Midding-dung either unmixed or compounded with earth; . . . if it be designed for grain, it should be plowed into the ground as soon as possible after it is laid on it to prevent waste by exhalation.
(15) Sc. 1884  A. S. Swan Carlowrie x.:
Ye'll find him [peacock] sittin' on Robbie Blair's midden dyke.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (6 Aug.):
Shü clappid her apon a muckle stane i' da midden daek.
(16) Cai. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 X. 17:
Cutting and leading midding feals.
(17) Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems (1877) II. 353:
Before her hive, a paughty Bee Observ'd a humble midding flie.
(18) Sc. 1826  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 118:
The chiel wi' the skraigh makes a soun' . . . like a great big midden pootry fool purshued by a ggem-cock.
Sc. 1901  H. G. Graham Social Life I. 6:
In the open space stood the midden in which the midden-fowls feasted and nursed their broods among nettles and docks.
(19) Ags. 1887  A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 129:
Daudin' oot the ase an' dried gutters that had adhered to their claes while rowin' owre an' owre ane anither in the parental midden-heap.
(20) Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 91:
Had o' the bargain we made an outred, We's nae be heard upo' the midden head.
Lnk. a.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 143:
So senseless, that he was thought dead, As he lay on a midden-head.
Ayr. 1823  Galt R. Gilhaize II. x.:
Its roots of rankness are in the midden-head of Arminianism.
Sc. 1832  A. Henderson Proverbs 8:
The cock's aye crouse on his ain midden head.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxv.:
He . . . marches roon to the midden-head wi't [horn], an' frae that vantage grund blaws a blast.
Kcb. 1896  Crockett Grey Man ix.:
Fetch with him every swineherd Kennedy from every midden-head betwixt Cassilis and the Inch.
Sh. 1898  J. Burgess Tang 30:
He keepit wis a whole winter sittin wi Job upun his middenhead.
Bch. 1932  Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 109:
The gypit trash think 'at fat they dinna ken 's nae worth kennin' an' may as weel be flung i' the fire or o' the middenheid.
Abd. 1960  Fraserburgh Herald (29 Nov.):
I am on my own “midden” head and I fear no contradiction.
(21) Ags. 1819  J. Ross Ags. Chaplet 30:
Thus midden-heigh, at game abeigh, A Bantin crouse will craw, man.
(23) Ayr. 1786  Burns Halloween xxii.:
An' she cry'd, Lord preserve her! An' ran thro' midden-hole an' a'.
Per. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 331:
What adds considerably to their miserable state is the abominable but too general practise of placing the dung-hill (midden-hole, vulgarly) before the doors of their dwelling-houses.
Edb. 1822  R. Wilson Poems 14:
Like droukit flees frae the milk cap, Out o' the midden-hole they crap.
Abd. 1826  D. Anderson Poems 10:
And at your market cross huge standin' pools, And ditches deep, and stinkin' middin holes.
Sc. 1829  Ballad in
Scott Waverley Pref.:
Caus'd Maggy bann, Lap o'er the midden and midden-hole, And aff he ran.
Ags. 1879  G. W. Donald Poems 15:
The auld ane t' the midden hole Was flung to bed the swine.
(24) Sc. 1802  A. Campbell Journey (1811) I. 227:
The diseases (of sheep) are the braxy . . . the midden-ill, the red-water, the black-water and the rot.
(25) Abd. 1868  G. Gall MS. Diary (16 Sept.):
Filling up the holes in the midden laghter.
(26) Abd. 1708  Abd. Council Registers LVIII. 135:
Ther was a piece of waste ground at the west end of the college croft, forgainst the Denburne, which wes presently midden lairs.
(28) Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 28:
A new set o' folk is coming about me athegether now, wha talk about plowin and middinmakin.
(29) wm.Sc. 1854  Laird of Logan 519:
My friends, every midden mavis (bone gatherer) will now be singing wi' a gold watch at her side.
Edb. 1856  J. Ballantine Poems 68:
Ilk tree-legg'd man, ilk club-taed laddie, . . . Ilk midden mavis, wee black jaudie.
Bwk. 1856  G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 83:
Clarty Kirstan, midden mavis! Rub your gruntle wi' a docken.
(30) Fif. 1894  J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 116:
Next mornin' , the craw o' the cock, for ye maun ken a wheen o' thae indispensable midden-monarchs hae their abode in a yaird at the back o' my auld cronie's hoose, waukened him at four.
(34) Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 120:
Like snawdraps on a middan pow.
Ork. 1909  Old-Lore Misc. II. i. 29:
Neist day Aidam tuik his wings, geid on de tap o' the kil, spred dem oot, jumped aff an cam doon plirt ih the midenpow.
(36) Sh. 1956  U. Venables Life in Shet. vii.:
Folk still say of a hard taskmaster, “He'd have you chop up the midden rigs (backbones) by inches”.
(37) Per. 1857  J. Stewart Sketches 189:
Wi' loads o' produce o' the midden-scarters.
(38) Sc. 1849  H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 467:
The oozings, after all, are not entirely lost, as the midden-stance requires no more manure.
(39) Rxb. 1847  J. Halliday Rustic Bard 256:
But the hypocrite weed Grew rank in its stead, Frae a heart vile as yon midden-stank.
(40) Fif. 1705  L. Macbean Kirkcaldy Burgh Rec. (1908) 223:
Considering that a great part of the Loan is taken up with midden steads, whereby the toun's tenants are greatly prejudiced by and through a great many people making midden steads there who have no right thereto.
Rxb. 1767  Craig & Laing Hawick Tradition (1898) 219:
Then along that house side, turning south-east thro' a middenstead, and over the middle of the stance of a house in the midst of the town.
Sc. 1800  Edb. Advertiser (7 Jan.) 10:
Alongst with this Inn and offices will also be sold . . . two small stables, a midden stead and hay loft above.
Sc. 1816  Scott Antiquary ix.:
Old Sir Peter Pepperbrand . . . would have sticked you like a paddock, on his own baronial midden-stead.
Mry. 1828  J. Ruddiman Tales 67:
The destroyer . . . was permitted to flaff his wings, and to craw on the midden-stead of carnal victory.
Ayr. 1846  Justiciary Reports (1849) 129:
I saw lumps of congealed blood on the middenstead which the Friths use.
m.Lth. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 89:
“Has Tod-Lowrie ony property in land o' his ain”, says he, “forby the bit midden-steid that gies him a vote in his ain coonty?”
Kcb. 1895  Crockett Moss-Hags v.:
The young cock could craw crouser than the old upon the same middenstead.
(41) Kcb. 1789  D. Davidson Seasons 95:
This morning bodes us ill, . . . For the gray crow flew o'er our midden tap.
Lnk. 1890  J. Coghill Poems 65:
Like flees on stinkin' midden-tap.
(43) Lnk. 1703  D. Ure Rutherglen (1793) 69:
The council 1703, ratifies ane old act, ordering the inhabitants, that nane of them sell, on any pretence, muckmiddins, or foulyie, to any persone not a burgess or inhabitant of the toun's territorie.
Sc. c.1760  Mem. W. Smellie (Kerr 1811) I. 178:
As I was one day marching over a muck-midden.

3. Phrs.: (1) either (in) the mune or the midden, (in) one of two extremes, mercurial, depressed and elated by turns (m. and s.Sc. 1962); (2) to be (on her back) in the midden, of the moon: to be closely surrounded by a lunar bow, foretelling a coming storm (ne.Sc. 1962); (3) to craw on one's ain midden, to be boastful and self-confident in one's own environment. Gen.Sc. Cf. 2. (20) and (40); (4) to glower, keep one's ee on, or look at the mune and fa or till one fas in (on) the midden, to be so lost in one's dreams and aspirations that one fails to notice practical pitfalls and comes to failure (I. and ne.Sc., Ags., Uls. 1962); (5) to marry a midden for (its) muck, to marry for money irrespective of the character of one's future partner (Abd. 1962). Also in Eng. dial.; (6) to step oure the midden wi somebody, to escort someone no farther than the bounds of one's own property. Also fig. (1) Kcb. 1911  Crockett Rose of the Wilderness xxviii.:
About this time Selina's affection for her husband was of the “in-the-moon-or-the-midden” sort, as Nan told her very plainly. That is, either Selina would not speak to Tamson for a fortnight, or she would follow him about until some herd got his head broken for laughing at her for so doing.
Wgt. 1946  :
It's either the mune or the midden with so-and-so.
(2) Abd. 1928  N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xv.:
“I cud 'a' tell't ye last nicht there was a storm on the road. The moon was in the midden.” “Yes”, Martha answered, “she had a halo round her”.
Abd. 1959 30 :
There's a broch roon the meen the nicht. She'll be on her back i' the midden ere mornin'.
(3) Ayr. 1816  A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 165:
Let your proud Baron croosely craw On his ain midden, days but twa.
m.Sc. 1917  J. Buchan Poems 26:
Crouse birds that on their midden craw Nor think o' scaith.
(4) Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 377:
You look'd at the Moon, and fell on the Midding. Spoken to them who pretended and design'd great things, but afterwards took up with less.
Sc. 1921  G. Woden Money's The Thing 19:
He'll look at the moon till he falls i' the midden.
Bnff. 1937  E. S. Rae Light in the Window 24:
Humph! she'll glower at the meen till she fa' in the midden.
(6) Ayr. 1838  J. Morrison M'Ilwham Papers 13:
Ither folk thinks they're moaderat because they'll gie ye a kin o' Scotch convoy i' the wark o' improvement, that's just step owre the midden wi' ye, but no a bit farther frae the door.

4. In place-names in sm. and s.Sc.: a boggy place, e.g. Blackmiddens.

5. A privy, lavatory (Abd., Uls. 1962).

6. A mess, a muddle, a “shambles” (Sh., Abd., Ags., Per. 1962).

7. A contemptuous term for a dirty, slovenly person (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1827  C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce II. x.:
If there was an object on earth which Monkshaugh loathed more than another, excepting always his old agent, it was a slatternly dirty woman . . . “What's to be done with that rampallion midden, 'Lizbeth?” said he, reddening.
Gsw. 1958  C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 42:
The insult that comes most easily to the tongue is even midden, or sometimes durty wee midden.

8. A fat gluttonous person or animal, considered as a refuse heap for all kinds of food. Phrs.: an eating midden, id. (Ags. 1825 Jam.); a midden o' beef, id. (ne.Sc. 1962). Cf. 2. (1). Bnff. 1949 2 :
The aal meer's jist a midden o' beef.

II. v. To form into a dunghill. Rare. Sc. 1807  Farmer's Mag. VIII. 206:
The dung, which was middened as carried out in winter.

[O.Sc. medynge, a dunghill, from a.1400; midding lair, from 1692, midinge sted, from 1583, Mid.Eng. myddyng; from O.N. *myki-dyngja, “muck-heap”. Cf. O.Dan. møgdynge, Dan. mødding, Norw. dial. mykjadyngja, id.]

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"Midden n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Dec 2017 <>



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