Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MUIR, n. Also muire (Sc. 1716 S.C. Misc. (1842) 97), mure (Ayr. 1710 Arch. and Hist. Coll. Ayr and Wgt. IV. 244), m(o)ur, meur(e) (Sc. 1788 Invercauld Rec. (S.C.) 103), mör(e) (Sh.); mair (Rnf. 1856 Greenock Advert. (24 June); Lnk. 1923 G. Rae Langsyne in Braefoot i.); meer (ne.Sc.), mier (Per. 1773 in Fergusson Poems (Grosart 1879) 73). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. moor. Adjs. muirish (Sc. 1726 Rec. Conv. Burghs (1885) 430, 1845 Sc. Farmer (Dec.) 325), muiry (Sc. 1794 W. Marshall Agric. Cent. Highl. 12, 1875 Encycl. Brit. I. 360), moorie, möry (Sh.), †moary (Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 92), of a moorland nature. [Sc. mø:r, my:r, me:r, ne.Sc. mi:r; Gen.Sc. + mjur]

1. Sc. combs.: (1) muir-band, ¶-b(o)und, a hard subsoil of sand and clay with embedded stone which is impervious to water (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Rxb. 1963). Also attrib. and comb. muir-band pan, id.; (2) muir bird, a bird of one of the species which nest on moorland, specif. the red grouse, Lagopus scoticus. Cf. (10) and (16); (3) moor blackbird, the ring ouzel, Turdus torquatus (Sc. 1839 W. MacGillivray Brit. Birds II. 100; Gall. 1963); (4) meer-bon, see (7); (5) muir-b(o)und, see (1); (6) muirbreak, a heavy fall of rain on moorland, a cloud-burst, deluge, a torrent. Cf. Brak, n., 4.; (7) muirburn, ¶meer-bon (Abd. 1933 Abd. Press & Jnl. (13 April)), the controlled burning of old heather and rough grass on moorland to clear the way for new growth (Gen.Sc.), also as vbl.n. muir-burning, id., and in phr. to make muirburn. Freq. in similes of some excitement which flares up and spreads rapidly, hence a violent row, an outburst of temper. In 1854 quot. there is a pun with Burn, a rushing stream; (8) moorcheeper, the meadow pipit, Anthus pratensis (Ayr., Rxb. 1919 T.S.D.C.; Per., wm. Sc. 1963). Cf. Moss, n., 3. (11), Heather, n., 7. (3), Cheepart, n., 1., Cheeper, n., 1.; (9) muir-clod, = (12); (10) muir-cock, maircock (w.Fif.1 1930), meercock, the male of the red grouse, Lagopus scoticus. Gen.Sc. Cf. (21); (11) muir-crops, the hare-tail cotton grass, Eriophorum vaginatum (se.Sc. 1886 B. & H. Plant Names 346). Cf. moss-crops s.v. Moss, n., 3. (13); (12) moor-delf-clod, the turf formed by the marsh bent-grass, Agrostis alba. Cf. (9) and see also Delf, n., 2. (1); (13) muir duck, the wild duck or mallard, Anas platyrhyncha (Bnff., Kcb. 1963); (14) muir-edder, the adder, Vipera berus (Rxb. 1963); (15) muir-eel, id. (Peb., Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 121); (16) muir farm, a farm on moorland (Ayr. 1963); (17) muirfo(l)k, inhabitants of moorland country. Cf. (25); (18) muirfowl, -fool, the red grouse, Lagopus scoticus. Gen.Sc. Combs. moorfowl berry, the cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos (Bwk. 1857 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club 214); muirfowl egg, a variety of cultivated pear, from its markings; (19) moor grass, the silver-weed, Potentilla anserina (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 268, 1808 Jam.); (20) muirhag, a water-filled hole in a peat-moss from which peats have been dug. See Hag, n.1, 3. (1); (21) muirhen, muiran (Cai. 1919 T.S.D.C.), the (female of the) red grouse, Lagopus scoticus. Gen.Sc. Cf. (10); also fig. of a girl. Comb. moor-hen's foot, club moss, from its appearance (Ant. 1903 E.D.D.); (22) muir-ill, a disease of cattle once freq. among those which grazed on rough heathery pastures, red-water (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (23) muirland, moorland (Sc. 1825 Jam.), freq. used attrib. = moorland-bred or -grown, hence rustic, uncouth. Deriv. moorlander, one from a moorland region (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (24) moor linnet,? the green-finch, Chloris chloris, or, perhaps more likely, the twite, Acanthis flavirostris; (25) muir-man, an inhabitant of wild, moorland country (Cld. 1825 Jam.), specif. of the borders of Scotland and England; †(26) muir-master, a keeper of the common grazing-ground of an estate; (27) muir-poot, a young red grouse, Lagopus scoticus (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also fig. as a term of endearment. See Pout; (28) muir road, a road leading through moorland (ne.Sc., Ayr. 1963); (29) muir sheep, the black-faced sheep; (30) muir side, the edge of a moor or heath; (31) moorstone, the stone from outcrop rock on moorland, varying with the type of rock thus found, but granite is most commonly referred to (Bnff. 1963); (32) muir-tack, a moorland farm held on lease. See Tack. (1) Bwk. 1809  Farmer's Mag. (Dec.) 529:
In every quarter of the country, moors occur. . . . They are composed of various kinds of soil; for the term moor is extremely vague. . . . Some are of a thin poor clay, upon a bad till bottom; others of a thin surface of peat moss wasted to a kind of black light earth, often mixed with sand, upon a subsoil of impervious till, or a compacted clayey sand, apparently ferruginous, like a bad species of sandstone not perfectly lapidified. This peculiar species of subsoil is provincially called Moor-band, and . . . is absolutely impervious to water.
Sc. 1844  H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 670:
Moor-band pan belongs to a class of bodies known to chemists under the name of ochrey deposites.
Sc. 1869  J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 500:
Probably the most incurably sterile soils for oats are those lying on what is termed moor-band.
Rxb. 1915  Kelso Chron. (1 Jan.) 3:
You couldna' keep your plough a half a dozen yards straight on account of setfast stones, and lots of it was moorbound.
(2) Inv. 1884  Crofters' Comm. Evid. I. 297:
They [deer] consume our corn quite as much as if it were consumed by the muir bird.
Kcb. 1898  Crockett Standard Bearer i.:
The moor-birds, whaup and snipe, plover and wild duck, cheeping and chummering in their nests.
(6) Dmf. 1833  Carlyle in
Froude Early Life (1882) II. 327:
One day I will quit it, either quietly or like a muir-break.
(7) Rnf. 1706  W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876) 200:
The raisers of Muirburn are finable.
Sc. 1716  Analecta Scot. (Maidment 1837) H. 176:
No formall battles but mobs, or as he termed them Tyke Tullyes, which spread through England like a moor burne.
Sc. 1728  Six Saints (Fleming 1901) 1. 13:
All this moor-burn flowed from Mr. Webster's ill-humour and hot contentious temper.
Mry. 1764  Caled. Mercury (26 March):
They were unanimously of opinion, that the numberless instances of houses, corns, woods, etc. destroyed by moor-burn, in this and many counties of Scotland, discover the necessity of having some prudent regulations to restrain that practice.
Sc. 1773  Acts 13 Geo. III. c. 54. § 4:
Every Person who shall make Muirburn, or set fire to any Heath or Muir, in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, from the Eleventh Day of April to the First Day of November in any Year, shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Forty Shillings Sterling.
Sc. 1808  Jam.:
In describing the rapid diffusion of opinion, or influence of example, an allusion is often made to the progress of fire through dry heath; It spreads like mure-burn.
Slk. 1824  Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xii.:
The first thing I saw was the auld Tod toving out tobacco-reek like a moorburn.
Sc. 1826  Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) X. 19:
Henry Scott gets on like a Moorburn.
Bnff. 1835  Trans. Highl. Soc. 333:
The season then being very dry, the moss was set fire to, and it burned like a muir burn, and left five or six inches deep of ashes.
Dmb. 1844  W. Cross Disruption ii.:
Everybody aboot the hoose kens o' the muirburn that the mistress raised on you yestreen for takin' up wi' Miss Migummery.
Sc. 1849  H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 161:
As heath constitutes a principal food of the mountain sheep, muir-burning improves the heath for food.
wm.Sc. 1854  Laird of Logan 159:
There's a dub afore every body's door, but I think there's a muirburn aye afore mine.
Kcb. 1893  Crockett Raiders i.:
The moon . . . of March, dun with the mist of muirburn among the heather.
Abd. 1931  I. Burnett The Ravens II. i.:
Indeed, now it seemed they were heading for open war. War — it spread like muirburn.
Sc. 1953  Scotsman (5 Feb.):
About 3 p.m. Mr Cameron started muir-burning on the ground tenanted by him at a point less than 100 yards from the Ballochyle march fence.
Sc. 1956  Abd. Press & Jnl. (13 June):
They made muirburn contrary to the Hill Farming Act, 1946, Section 23; made muirburn and failed to provide sufficient staff and equipment to control and regulate it; made muirburn without due care, whereby damage was caused to woodlands, adjoining lands and fences.
(9) em.Sc. 1962  (b) :
This turf is never effectively broken up by ploughing. I first saw muir-clod at Noblehall, Romanno Bridge, Peeblesshire, in 1948 and at first sight it looked like “wrack”, and I was all for carting it off the fields, but was advised to leave the muir-clod where it was as it was beneficial to the crop.
(10) Rnf. 1706  W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876) 200:
It is statute that . . . gray-hens, muir-cocks, nor sich foulls, be taken with any manner of instrument.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 186:
Our Johnny's nae sma' drink, you'll guess; He's trig as ony muir-cock.
Sc. 1786  Burns Twa Dogs 183–4:
Except for . . . shootin' o' a hare or moorcock, The ne'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk.
Sc. 1820  Scott Monastery iv.:
“But what saw she in the bog, then,” said Dame Glendinning, “forby moor-cocks and heather-blutters?”
Sc. 1887  Stevenson Underwoods (1914) 62:
The muircock an' the barefit bairn Are happy there.
Rxb. 1901  W. Laidlaw Poetry & Prose 22:
There rose from 'midst the blooming heather The whaup, the muircock, and the plover.
Abd. 1933  Sc. N. & Q. (Jan.) 16:
Fa' echts th' reed deer in his biel; Th' chirrin' meercock?
(12) Bwk. 1853  G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 211:
A[grostis] Alba. . . . In moory soil this grass forms a matted turf to the exclusion of other grasses, much deprecated by farmers under the term of the Moor-delf-clod, or Felty-clod.
(13) Slg. 1868  Zoologist (Ser. 2) III. 1455:
July 18. Keeper brought in a wild duck, a small specimen, calling it the “muir duck”. All the common people here distinguish between the two sizes, calling the larger the “wild duck” and the smaller the “muir duck”.
(14) Rxb. 1826  R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 185:
A hideous monster in the form of a worm . . . somewhat bigger than an ordinary man's leg, with a head more proportionable to its length than greatness, in form and colour to our common muir-edders.
(16) Dmf. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XI. 386:
Sometime ago' a plan was adopted by some of the heritors, of rouping their muir farms annually; whereby they were more thinly inhabited, and frequently possessed by the proprietors themselves. Fortunately this cause of depopulation is removed, the farms being now let on lease.
(17) Ayr. 1818  Kilmarnock Mirror 111:
I've seen some o' our muirfolk keep up an argument wi' mony a fallow that's been at the college.
(18) Edb. 1703  Edb. Mag. (July 1795) 54:
For a learge dish of willd fowles, consisting of blak coaks, and hath hen, and mur foules, and pertrags, and wood coaks . . . ¥16 Sc.
Rnf. 1705  W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876) 44:
That peir tree called the muir fuill egg.
n.Sc. c.1730  E. Burt Letters (1815) I. 17:
He stood waiting to know what we would have for supper, and mentioned . . . among the rest . . . a meer-fool.
Sc. 1773  Boswell Tour (1785) 38:
Our Scots muir-fowl, or growse, were then abundant, and quite in season.
Inv. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 514:
This parish abounds much more with moor-fowl and black game than Kirkhill.
Sc. 1814  J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot. App. I. 442:
Muirfowl egg. Often placed against walls in Scotland, but the standard fruit much higher flavoured. It is a well-known autumn pear, and keeps well. It is said to be originally Scottish.
Sc. 1816  Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) IV. 291:
Walter as tall nearly as I am, fishing salmon and shooting moor-fowl and black-cock, in good style.
Per. 1851  Scotsman (23 Aug.):
A farm-servant in Strathearn was convicted before Sheriff Barclay, Perth, of having had nine muirfowl in his possession on the 25th of July.
Per. 1895  L. Maclaren Brier Bush 151:
The muirfowl will be crying to each other.
Lnk. 1928  W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane 175:
That brings to my min' a ploy I had aboot muirfowl.
(20) Kcb. 1814  W. Nicholson Poet. Wks. 241:
The moor-hags were wide — but he sten'd them.
Sc. 1867  N. Macleod Starling i.:
Lyin' amang the muir-hags, and nickin' a brace or twa.
(21) ne.Sc. 1714  R. Smith Poems 99:
And use his utmost witt and skill, Red Deer, Murchens [sic], and Tods to kill.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 35:
Syn auntie crys her dather Betty ben; Says, “See, your cousin's ta'en a bra' muir hen.”
Ayr. 1788  Burns Bonie Moor-hen i.:
Our lads gaed a-hunting ae day at the dawn, O'er moors and o'er mosses, and mony a glen. At length they discover'd a bonie moor-hen.
e.Lth. 1880  W. Chisholm Poems 62:
An' the muircock aneath the bright cover Makes love to the bonnie muirhen.
(22) Arg. 1794  J. Robson Agric. Arg. 14:
Their natural pasture, seems to have exempted them from that destructive distemper, the moor-ill or bloody water.
Sc. 1803  Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 216:
The muir-ill is supposed to be caused by eating a poisonous vegetable or a small insect common in muir grounds.
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xxviii.:
I learned from a decent woman, a grazier's widow, that they hae a cure for the muir-ill in Cumberland.
Ayr. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 V. 366:
Pennyglen's Cross Well also enjoyed great reputation for the cure of cows “taken with mure-ill”.
(23) Sc. 1699  Edb. Gazette (2–6 March):
Oats 12 l. Muirland Oats 9 l. Rough Bear 11 l. per Boll.
Sc. 1724  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 7:
Harken, and I will tell you how Young muirland Willie came to woo. Ayr, 1785 Burns To W. Simpson xviii.: While moorlan' herds like guid, fat braxies.
Per. 1816  J. Duff Poems 11:
Heal be yere heart, my muirlan' chield, May peace an' health lang bless yere bield.
Bwk. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 II. 343:
Part of the lands of Lamberton, which, though generally spoken of as “muir land” , consist to a very great extent of most profitable pasture ground.
Kcb. 1897  T. Murray Frae the Heather 87:
Say, can I no praise my Creator Alane where the muirlan' streams glide.
Sc. 1910  L. M. Watt Poet's Corner 102:
Far owre the blue hills mony a mile, Owre mony a muirland burn and stile.
Lnk. 1923  G. Rae Lowland Hills 23:
This nicht, enoo' the wund ower the muirlan' places, Blaws saft an' sweet frae Love's surroondin' sea.
m.Sc. 1961  T. T. Kilbucho Shepherd's Years 9:
There's aye the tunefu' croonin' O' the wee-bit mairlan' rill.
(24) Slg. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 243:
The snipe, the sparrow, the redbreast and wood-pecker, the bat, the common green moor, and red breasted or rose linnet . . . are common here.
(25) Sc. c.1800  Battle of Otterburn in
Child Ballads No. 161. C. i.:
It fell about the Lammas time, When the muir-men won their hay.
s.Sc. 1936  A. Hepple Heydays xvi.:
Aye, aye, the muir men will be oot the morn, they'll soon dig a road to Corbieshiel.
(26) Rnf. 1762  Session Papers, Syme v. Pollok (10 Dec.) 11:
He has seen the muir drawn by the muir-masters, in order to discover if there was any outentown beasts pasturing in the muir.
(27) Sc. 1726  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 130:
To whost and hirple o'er my tree, My bonny moor powt, is a' I may do.
Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 155:
Peartricks, Feals, Moor-powts, and Plivers.
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xxx.:
Thae English churls think as muckle about a blade of wheat or grass, as a Scots laird does about his maukens and his muir-poots.
Slk. 1822  Hogg Tales (1874) 622:
My three brethren and I will tak' the tother side, an' smoor the transgressors like as mony moor-poots.
(28) Lth. 1918  A. Dodds Lothian Land 58:
The fair road, the muir road, The road the men come hame.
(29) Kcb. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XI. 38:
The Cheviot fine-woolled sheep brought from the shire of Galloway; the common muir or black faced sheep, the mug, and the Bakewell breeds.
(30) Ags. 1911  V. Jacob Flemington xvi.:
A' gar'd a clatterin' auld wife at the muir side gie's a shelter yon nicht.
(31) Abd. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 III. 132:
There are no mineral springs nor grottos in the parish, nor any kind of stone but the common moor-stone, which is very good for building.
w.Lth. 1795  Ib. I. 237:
There is whin-stone rock, and also abundance of that species of grey granite called moor-stone.
(32) Abd. 1761  Edb. Mag. (Jan.) 12:
A description of the parish of Forgue. . . . It may be divided into two parts; that is, Hilly, or what the country people term Muir-tacks, and the Low-land, or more improven grounds.

2. Phrs.: (1) throu the muir, — meer, n., a dressing-down, a severe rating, a “rough passage” (Abd., Ags., Per. 1963); a row, a violent quarrel (Abd. 1963). Hence to gae through the meer, to quarrel violently; (2) to tak the muir(s), to take to the hills, to take refuge in the moors. Cf. Hill, n., 3. (4). (1) Bch. 1832  W. Scott Poems 26:
For Geordy maun be o'er to feight wi' Jean, An' through the meer they'l gae ere a' be deen.
Abd. 1905  W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 159:
Hilly an' me's hed a gey throu' the meer, a'm thinkin'. Lord ye never saw siccan a niz as he hez.
(2) Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality x.:
See if Cuddie winna hae a lang shot at you ane o' thae days, if ye gar him tak the muir wi' sae mony honest folk.
Ayr. 1823  Galt R. Gilhaize II. xxxii.:
By which I discernt, that he had purposely egget her on to urge her gudeman to take the moors for the advantage of me.

3. The tract of unenclosed common land held by a town or village; in later usage often = the market green. Gen.(exc. I).Sc. Also used attrib. Freq. in place-names as Burghmuir, Stockiemuir. Comb. muir meal, rent paid for the use of the common pasture land of a town. See Mail, n.1 Fif. 1702  D. Beveridge Culross (1885) II. 45:
Ane horse-race to be riddine in the common mure of the burgh.
Dmf. 1717  Rec. Conv. Burghs (1885) 174:
Allowed the burgh of Annan to feu a part of their muir.
Gsw. 1725  Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 232:
The petition given in be Robert Dreghorn, wright, tacksman of the coal in the Muir of Gorballs, craving a rood of ground in the gallowmuir quhich is not arable nor set to any, for building a house upon.
Fif. 1725  Rec. Conv. Burghs (1885) 372:
The magistrates were disposing of the common muir and revenues to the hurt of the community.
Ags. 1733  Caled. Mercury (20 March):
10 Merks to the Town of Forfar for Muir Meal, in case the Master incline the Tenants should pasture Cattle on the Muir.
Abd. 1759  F. Douglas Rural Love 12:
Till ae day on the muir of Affort He got a maist uncanny sclaffort.
Sc. 1829  G. Robertson Recollections 20:
Every town or large village had then its own particular tract of ground in common, on which a plough never entered: this, in all landward towns, was called the Muir, and in towns by the sea-side, was called the Links.
Ags. 1889  Barrie W. in Thrums xxii.:
He carried his box ower the market muir, an' sat on't at Zoar, waitin' for me to catch 'im up.
Fif. 1957  :
The mair in St. Monance is a bit of common ground used for drying-greens and football pitches.

4. Peat; peaty soil; a layer of peat in peat-cutting (I.Sc. 1963). Deriv.: muiry, möry, moorie, peaty. Combs.: muir feal, mör fael, muir flaein, a turf removed from the surface soil to expose peat for cutting (Ork.5 1963). See Fail, n.1, Flae, v., 2.; muir spade, -spedd, a spade for this purpose, a Flauchter spade (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; I.Sc. 1963). See Folk Life (1964) II. 8. Mry. 1765  Session Papers, Petition Sir R. Gordon (31 Jan.) 15:
Her husband had carried out fire to burn muiry feal.
Per. 1799  J. Robertson Agric. Per. 25:
A thin stratum of moss where the subsoil is gravel or sand, is called Moor.
Sh. 1815  Shetland Advert. (6 Jan. 1862):
Toilin wi' a mure spedd or a tushker in his haand fae d' swaar o' d' dim t' sinsett.
m.Lth. 1843–5  Trans. Highl. Soc. 33:
The soil is thin blackish muir — subsoil, a muirband pan, nearly impenetrable.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (7 May):
Geordie wis up an' cleestr'd da side o' Aandrew's heid wi' da weet muir.
Sh. 1900  Ib. (15 Dec.):
Four or five miles o' gaet, fou o' möry yarfs, ert byles, an' coorse hedder.
Ork. 1930  Orcadian (13 Feb.):
All toon dikes were built of yarpha or moor faels.
Sh. 1953  New Shetlander No. 35. 8:
Makkin' twa peerie things lek dolls. da shape o men, oot o a lump o paet moor.
Ork. 1963 5 :
About 40 or 50 years ago the muir spade used to be taken to the hill along with the tusker. The muir spade, sometimes called the flauchter spade, was needed when yarfa peats were cut. These are not now needed in modern stoves and the muir spade has been succeeded by the ordinary garden spade.

[O.Sc. mur, moor, in place-names from 1137, as a common n., 1375, more, peat, 1596, mur byrn, heather burning, 1424, mur cock, male red grouse, 1427, muir-hen, female, 1512, moor-fowl, 1504, muir-ill, 1692, morlandis, living on the moors, c.1500, mure powt, young grouse, 1506, O.E. mōr, a moor. The muir [mør] form represents the normal development from O.E. ō (see P.L.D. § 35.4), later unrounding in e. and wm.Sc. to give mair [mer] (see P.L.D. § 35), and ne.Sc. normal development meer [mir]. The alternative form muir [mjur] is explained in n.Sc. in P.L.D. §§ 142, 146, 157, but its presence as a Gen.Sc. form is irregular and is prob. due to the influence of spelling.]

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