Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

PAIR, n. Also perr (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 12), par (Abd. 1738 Monymusk Papers (S.H.S.) 15). Sc. forms and usages:

1. As in Eng. Adj. ¶pairless, unpaired, not having a companion, alone, solitary. Lnk. 1853  W. Watson Poems 74:
Pairless I stray by mysel'.

2. Specif.: a team of two horses for ploughing, etc. Gen.Sc. Also fig. as in 1923 quot. Farms are described as being a(n) ae pair (horse), twa pair, three pair, etc. place according to the number of two-horse-teams (ne.Sc. 1965). See Place. Hdg. 1892  J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 261:
“What!” he furiously interjected, “eight hundred pounds for a muckle fowre-pair-horse ferm.”
Abd. 1916  A. Gibson Under the Cruisie 135:
But “whaur's the pair?” said Job to John; “I doot,” said John, “they've pu'd their tether.”
Abd. 1923  Swatches o' Hamespun 86:
“An ill-gyaun pair” sums up a matrimonial misfit.
Abd. 1924  Ib. 49:
'Er man dee't, an' leeft 'er wi' a pair-placie an' a loonie only sax munth aul.
Abd. 1929  J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 143:
I cuttit ma first hairst fin aw wis seyventeen on a sax-pair toon.
Sc. 1935  I. Bennett Fishermen viii.:
Their men were watering their “pairs” in the burn, ere they proceeded to have their own meal.
ne.Sc. 1955 ,
“I've gotten the first pair” (at such-and-such a farm) is the same thing as saying “I've got the foreman's place.” The foreman works the first (best) pair of horses. Or one may start with e.g. the fourth pair and work one's way up. (And the oddman has the odd horse and does oddwork with it).
Abd. 1959 16 :
Until the coming of tractor cultivation, the usual colloquial way of indicating the size of a farm in north-east Scotland was by the number of pairs of horse which it employed. Farms were described as pair-horse, two-pair, three-pair, etc., places.

3. Applied (1) to a set, not limited to two, of related objects, where Eng. now uses a distinctive collective n., esp. in n.phrs.: pair of arrows, a set of three. Cf. Eng. pair-royal; pair of (bag)pipes, a set of bagpipes (Sh., Ags. 1965); pair of beads, a string or rope of beads (Crm., m. and s.Sc., Uls. 1965); pair of cards, a pack of cards (ne. and wm.Sc., Slk. 1965). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. Fif. 1713  Two Students (Dickinson 1952) 81:
For a pair of Arrows to him — ¥00 10 00.
Sc. 1822  J. B. Paul Hist. Royal Co. Archers (1875) 148:
He [Earl of Hopetoun] presented them to his Majesty, stating that, by royal charter in favour of the Company, they held their privileges from the Crown for the service of a pair of barbed arrows, which, on the part of the Royal Company, he now humbly offered to his Majesty.
Sc. 1825  R. Mudie Modern Athens 213:
The said provosts, bailies, counsellors, and deacons, are little else than a pair of bagpipes.
Sc. 1836  Lockhart Scott lix.:
I once heard Sir Walter say that he believed there was a “pair” of cards (such was his antiquated expression) somewhere in the house.
Sc. 1886  Stevenson Kidnapped xxv.:
Duncan Dhu made haste to bring out the pair of pipes that was his principal possession.
Sc. 1937  Scotsman (5 July):
The “pair of barbed arrows” presented to the Sovereign by his faithful Archers consist not of two arrows but of three.

(2) to a single object viewed as a collection of its component parts (Sc. 1825 Jam.), obs. in Eng. Hence pair of blankets, one large blanket, used doubled on itself (Sc. 1798 Monthly Mag. II. 436). Gen.Sc.; pair of Bibles, a Bible, sc. a collection of scriptures. The Bible was sometimes issued in two volumes; pair of Carritches, the Shorter Catechism; pair o' drawers, a small chest of drawers (Bnff. 1900); pair of grains, a pronged implement, a fork or Leister; pair o' questions, the Shorter Catechism (Mry., Kcd., Ags., wm.Sc. 1965); pair o' Proverbs, the book of Proverbs; pair o' pullisees, a pulley; pair o' taws(e), a schoolmaster's strap, having several thongs (Sh., Ags., Kcb. 1965); pair of whips, a whip. Sc. 1709  Ho. Bk. Lady G. Baillie (S.H.S.) 251:
For 3 rackes, a howe, a pairin iron, a staek for a line threed, and a pair of fork grains . . . ¥2. 2. 0.
Bnff. 1770  Innes Review (Aut. 1963) 112:
They must bring two pair of Blankets with them for their own use.
Edb. 1801  J. Thomson Poems 6:
A pair o' tawse, to gie them paiks, For he cou'd use them weel.
Ags. 1819  A. Balfour Campbell I. xviii.:
Fient ane o' them's ha'en a pair o' carriches i' their hand, sin that unchancy day that ye left it.
Sc. 1825  Jam.:
This word is used in Scotland often in regard to a single article, especially if complete in itself. “A pair o' Carritches,” a Catechism; “a pair o' Proverbs,” a copy of the Proverbs, used as a school-book; “a pair o' pullisees,” a complete tackle of pulleys.
Sc. 1858  J. Brown Horae Subs. (1882) 231:
I take this from her Bibles. Note. Her Bible is before me; a pair, as then called.
Ags. 1861  Arbroath Guide (6 April) 4:
A wabster and a dominie, wha had naething but a pair o' taws and a shuttle.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxi.:
If they would take a pair ov whips to his back, wouldn't I have sent for the police?
Edb. 1898  J. Baillie W. Crichton xii.:
He kept a pair of tawse like the other teachers, and used them too.

4. In pl.: “a rustic game at cards”. Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 458:
The chief Galloway games at cards are, Catch the Ten, . . . Lent for Beans, Brag and Pairs for Slaes, Beggar my Neebour.

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Pair n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Dec 2017 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down