Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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PORT, n.2Also porte. A tune, catch, theme, esp. one played on the bagpipes (Sc. 1808 Jam.). [port; Gael. porʃt] Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 397:
What the English call a Catch, the Scotish call a Port; as Carnagies Port, Port Arlington, Port Athol, etc.
Sc. 1783  W. Tytler Poet. Remains James I. 223:
Almost every great family had a Port that went by the name of the family. Of the few that are still preserved are, Port Lennox, Port Gordon, Port Seton, and Port Athole . . . The Port is not of the martial strain of the march . . . , those above named being all in the plaintive strain, and modulated for the harp.
Sc. 1792  Sc. Mus. Museum IV. 358:
Ae fond kiss, etc. Written for this Work by Robert Burns. Tune, Rory Dall's Port.
Sc. 1805  Scott Last Minstrel v. xiv.:
The pipe's shrill port aroused each clan.
Arg. 1896  N. Munro Lost Pibroch 16:
Here's “Raasay's Lament,” the best port Padruig Mor ever put together.
Abd. 1917  C. Murray Sough o' War 45:
Wi' some brisk port upo' the chanter reed.
Highl. 1961  I. F. Grant Folk Ways 351:
By the seventeenth century the Strathspeys, the tunes in a slower tempo played for the foursome reel were evolving. Tunes of this type called “ports” are written down in the Skene and Straloch Manuscripts.

Combs.: 1. port-a-beul, puirt- [′porʃtɑ-′biəl], in Gael. lit. “music from mouth”, a quick tune, gen. a reel-tune or the like, of Lowland Sc. orig. to which Gael. words of a quick repetitive nature have been added to make it easier to sing, now occasionally used as an accompaniment to dancing in the absence of instrumental music. The form puirt is the pl., freq. erroneously used for the sing. Also transf. Cf. Diddle, v.2; 2. port-youl, -yeull, portule, pert-, ¶portuale, a sad outcry, a doleful moan, a howl, gen. in phrs. to sing port-youl, to cry, make moan, lament (Sc. 1808 Jam.), hoh, portule!, oh, alas, woe is me! 1. Sc. 1901  K. N. MacDonald Puirt-a-Beul 3:
Puirt-a-beul, “mouth-tunes”, or “tunes for dancing”.
Ayr. 1945  B. Fergusson Lowland Soldier 12:
The burn's making ever its own port-a-beul.
Arg. 1952  N. Mitchison Lobsters on the Agenda viii.:
The three from the Glen, Janet, Sheila and young Mrs Macrae, were trying over a port a beul, very lightly, a living breath of humming.
Sc. 1957  Scottish Studies I. 133:
The Puirt-a-beul are popularly supposed to have originated as a result of the religious opposition to musical instruments such as the bagpipes and the fiddle, which was at its strongest in the middle of the nineteenth century.
2. Sc. 1722  W. Hamilton Wallace vii. iii.:
I'll make them know they have no Right to rule, And cause them shortly all Sing up Port-yeull.
Sc. a.1758  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 335:
While some illfated wandring bird must fa With ruefull cheeps in his dead griping Claw Oer late it then its last portyoul may sing.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 81:
Af gangs his stane, and ay it clamps, But hoh, portule, a hog — It grunts that day.
Uls. 1892  Ballymena Obs. (E.D.D.):
A'll mak' you sing portule wi' the wrang side o' your lip oot.

[Gael., Ir. port, a tune played on a musical instrument. The second element in port yule, is appar. yowl, to howl. O.Sc. port-youl, 1672.]

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"Port n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Mar 2018 <>



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