Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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RIG, n.1, v.1 Also rigg, ryg, rige; rieg (Sh.), reeg (Cai.); and dim. forms riggie, ¶regi. [rig; Sh., Cai. rig]

I. n. 1. The back(bone) of a person or animal, the spine (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., Cai. 1968). Also in n.Eng. dial. Sc. 1718  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 78:
To try the Pith o's Rigg and Reins, They gart him cadge this Pack.
Gsw. 1740  Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 47:
When they bring over the cattle from their slaughter house to the mercat that they fold in the bellys of each hyde over the rig therof.
Slk. 1769  Caled. Mercury (3 May):
About Forty Ewes, tarred on the near side of the rig, or the far haunch.
Rs. 1770  Pitcalnie MSS.:
[From a butcher's account] Feb. 9th. To a rige filet . . . . . 9d.
Sh. 1822  S. Hibbert Descr. Sh. 507:
The rig or back-bone of cod or ling, which had been separated in the process of curing.
Sh. 1886  J. Burgess Sketches 91:
We'se gaase dem rex dir rigs afore dey geng hem again.
Cai. 1911  John o' Groat Jnl. (17 March):
One who could smartly split cod without flyping the fish, and take out the “rig” or backbone with four cuts to the knife.
Sh. a.1936  Sh. Folk Bk. (1957) 7:
An mani a hevi stin Wez layin on hez regi.
Sh. 1967  New Shetlander No. 83. 24:
Up güd me sark agenn an da doctor begüde ta trivvel me riggy-benn.

Hence combs. and derivs.: (1) fish-rig, the backbone of a fish, freq. used in Sh. for manure (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (2) rig-back, the backbone, spine (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Sh. 1968); (3) rig-bane, id., lit. and fig. (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh., m.Lth. 1968); (4) rig-body, -buddy, see Rig-widdie; (5) rig-end, the foot of the back, the backside; (6) rig-fidge, (i) a gentle blow on the back (Ags. 1825 Jam.); (ii) an itchiness on the back. See Fidge; (7) rig-fish, = (1) (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (8) rig-widdie, -y, -woodie, -y, see sep. art. (2) Gall. 1796  J. Lauderdale Poems 62:
An' help to lay Britannia flat, On her rig back.
Slk. 1822  Hogg Tales (1874) 632:
He struck a third on the rigback, where no leister can pierce a fish.
Bnff. 1871  Trans. Bnff. Field Club (1939) 57:
The Ball hit him in the privey part and out at his rigback.
(3) m.Lth. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 183:
It was men like me wha were the rig-bane o' the Leeberal pairty.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (19 Feb.):
In case doo gits dee rig-bane bent.
Edb. 1928  A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 35:
That'll ride wi' the Warld Till his rig-banes gnarled.
(5) Sh. 1901  T. Ollason Mareel 61:
Dey never rest lang enouch apo dir rig-ends ta draw a sillock oot o' da water.
(6) (ii) Fif. c.1850  R. Peattie MS.:
Rig-fidge. An itchiness of the skin of the back, and chiefly the shoulder-blade, understood to be due to biliousness.

2. A stripe of a different colour from the rest of the body down the back of an animal, gen. a white stripe running along the spine (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., rieg; Uls.2 1929; Sh. 1968). Hence rigga, riggie, -y, a name given to a cow with such markings (n. and w.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1857 N. & Q. (Ser. 2) IV. 154; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), rigga; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh. 1968). Lnk. a.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 9:
Our meikle Riggy is sic a rumbling royte, she rins ay thro' the byre, and sticks a' the bits a couties.
Uls. 1804  J. Orr Poems (1936) 61:
When Riggie's yell, an' kitchen dear.
Sh. 1897  Shetland News (4 Sept.):
Mam tought rigga hed da lungasüt.

3. A ridge of high ground, a long narrow hill, a hill-crest (Uls.2 1929; Sh., Ags., Fif., Lth., Lnk., Wgt., s.Sc. 1968). Peb. 1775  M. Armstrong Tweedale 49:
Hills are variously named, according to their magnitude; as Watch, Rig, Edge, Know.
Sc. 1817  Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
I hae taen the bent ower the Otterscape-rigg a hundred times.
Slk. 1828  Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xv.:
“Do you ca' the road up the Kirk Rigg the braid way to destruction”. “Ay, up the rigg or doun the rigg, cross the rigg or round. the rigg, all is the same for you”.
m.Sc. 1906  J. A. Harvie-Brown Fauna of Tay 133:
Running on the “riggs” on the tops of the hills.

4. (1) A strip of ploughed land raised in the middle and sloping gradually to a furrow on either side, in the pre-agrarian revolution system of agriculture, usu. bounded by patches of uncultivated grazing ground; in modern practice, one of the divisions of a field ploughed in one operation, the inner furrows in one direction and the outer in the reverse. Gen.Sc. Abd. 1710  Abd. Council Registers LVIII. 195:
Alongst the ends of the riggs belonging to the saids lands of Gilcomstown.
Bnff. 1739  W. Cramond Ch. Deskford (1885) 13:
The gleib consists of 12 riggs, with a small head rigg and end rigg.
Cai. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XI. 266:
So far to blacken a rig (raise a furrow), as to cover the seed.
Ayr. 1821  Galt Annals vii.:
Nothing could surpass the regularity of his rigs and furrows.
Ayr. 1866  Trans. Highl. Soc. 51:
Neither bere nor barley is grown, save an odd rigg on farms here and there.
Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 10:
A fardin' rig i' the shead o' Tanklid.
Cai. 1916  J. Mowat Proverbs 8:
“A crook in the rig is nane in the bushel” was the reply of the crofter who was criticised for his crooked furrow.
Abd. 1923  Banffshire Jnl. (28 Jan.) 2:
Many a “fur” has Mr. Dingwall of Mabon turned, and many a “rig” has he judged.
Cai. 1934  John o' Groat Jnl. (25 Oct.):
He is doon 'e reegs at 'e flichin' gallop.
Ags. 1934  H. B. Cruickshank Noran Water 24:
Her mark's on every rig an' fur.
Sh. 1946  Scots Mag. (Feb.) 386:
In the centre of the best bit of rig there was a peculiar shaped lichen-covered “earthfast” boulder. It meant that a big portion of the rig was left barren.
Abd. 1968  :
Far did ye leave your ploo? At the en o a weel-plooed rig, far I never saw yours [given as a password in a ploughman society].

(2) the same piece of land when planted with a crop or being harvested (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags. 1968); the harvest-field in gen. (Ork. 1968). Lnk. 1709  Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 68:
They should not eat there more then in his corn rige.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 83:
Thof to the weet my ripen'd aits had fawn, Or shake-winds owr my rigs wi' pith had blawn.
Ayr. 1783  Burns Corn Rigs i.:
Corn rigs, an' barley rigs.
Slg. 1830  Perthshire Advert. (21 Oct.):
She, along with a neighbour, keep up their rig with the best upon the field.
Kcb. 1893  Crockett Raiders lxvi.:
He catches sicht o' a dizzen mair rigs cut.
Uls. 1901  J. W. Byers Northern Whig:
“Boon of shearers” is a number, say four to six, each cutting his “rig” of corn.

(3) the team of reapers, usu. three, assigned to each rig at harvest-time. Cf. Bandwin. m.Lth. 1786  G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) xxiii.:
The next rig redds them to tak' care To cut their fur.
Bwk. 1809  R. Kerr Agric. Bwk. 226:
Two parties of three reapers in each, called a rig or ridge, as these three cut the grain of one ordinary ridge, or land, of fifteen feet broad.
Fif. 1897  D. Pryde Queer Folk 168:
Each rig or company . . . of shearers tries to get before the others.

(4) In pl. in a more gen. sense: the arable land belonging to one farm or proprietor. Chiefly poet. Sc. 1720  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 178:
Some Lords and Lairds sell'd Riggs and Castles.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 38:
Ye see her rigs run just unto our ain; 'Twill mak a swinging lairdship a' in ane.
Ayr. 1796  Burns In simmer v.:
O, gear will buy me rigs o' land.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality vii.:
I had rather that the rigs of Tillietudlem bare naething but windle-straes.
Ayr. 1836  J. Ramsay Woodnotes (1848) 249:
His rigs are weel till'd.
Bnff. 1888  Trans. Bnff. Field Club 25:
They became adscripti glebae, passing from hand to hand with the riggs.
Knr. 1925  H. Haliburton Horace 245:
The cottar spak' it in his yaird, An' on his rigs the gawcie laird.

(5) Combs. and phrs.: (i) bowed rigg, a strip of arable land on a hill-side ploughed in a serpentine fashion to prevent water from draining off directly and carrying top soil with it (wm.Sc. 1968). See Boo; ¶(ii) dead riggs, the land on which a battle had been fought, and where the dead would have been buried; (iii) en(d)-rigg, see En, n., 7. and (xii). Gen.Sc.; (iv) heid-rigg, see Heid, n., 5. (11). Gen.Sc.; (v) rig-about, rig and rig about, a former land tenure whereby the land was divided into groups of isolated strips or rigs, each group being allotted to a different tenant annually (Sh., Cai. 1968). See runrig, s.v. Rin; †(vi) rig and baulk, arable strips of land separated by uncultivated strips of grassland on to which stones and rubbish from the cultivated strips were cleared. Also in Eng. dial. See also Bauk, n.2; (vii) rig and fur(r)(ow), the ridge of ploughed earth and the hollow between it and the next, used of the pattern of a newly-ploughed field (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., 1953 Traynor), also fig. of the ridged pattern on a piece of ribbed knitting. Gen.Sc. Freq. attrib. Hence rigged and furred, ribbed, of any corrugated surface (Bnff. 1945). Also in n.Eng. dial.; ‡(viii) rig and rendal, -rennal, -rennel, -rental (Ork. 1929 Marw.), rig-a'-, riggga-, = (v) (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 186; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh., Cai. 1968). See rundal, rendal s.v. Rin, v. 1. (2); (ix) rig and reind, the employment of labour on alternate days on the land of each of joint employers. Fig. usage and curtailed form of (viii); (x) rig-braid, the breadth of a rig. See Breed, n.1, and 5.; (xi) rig-breist, = (xiv) (Sh. 1968); (xii) rig-end, = (iii), the land at the end of a rig on which the horses are turned during ploughing (Fif. 1899 Proc. Philos. Soc. Gsw. XXXI. 39); (xiii) rig-fit, the foot or lower end of a rig. Gen.Sc.; (xiv) rig-heid, the crown or high part of the rig (Sh. 1968); (xv) rig-land, ploughed land. Also attrib. = arable, cultivated; (xvi) rig-len(g)th, the length of a rig, as a measure of distance (Sh. 1968). See 5.; (xvii) rig-mark, v., to mark off a section of a field with single furrows preparatory to ploughing (Arg.1 1937; Cai. 1968); (xviii) run o' the rig, the direction or angle at which a field has been ploughed (Per., Slg., m.Lth., Arg., Slk. 1968); (xix) to drive a rig, of a reaper: see quot.; (xx) twa rigs on the beer, half-drunk, half-seas over, with a pun on Bear, n., and phs. Rig, n.2, 2.; (xxi) twist rigg,? = (i) or (iii). (i) Ayr. 1864  J. Paterson Hist. Ayr. III. 107:
Many of the hills, where the furrows of the old “bowed rigs” can be distinctly traced, show that they had formerly been cultivated.
Ayr. 1866  Trans. Highl. Soc. 59:
The high “crooked” ridges of former days are now nearly all levelled down and straightened . . . and even still, fields laid off into these high and wide “bowed-riggs” may be seen here and there.
w.Lth. 1938  Proc. Sc. Anthropol. and Folk-Lore Soc. III. 81:
He had ploughed up bow'd rigs by the hundred. The reason why the rigs were bow'd, was simply “to taigle the water” . . . impeding its flow down hill by changing its course or direction in order to conserve the soil and to prevent its being carried away.
(ii) Sh. 1932  J. Saxby Trad. Lore 184:
Dead riggs were battlefields, and were never cultivated.
(v) Mry. 1807  J. Hall Travels 457:
They have their ground, as they termed it, ridge-about.
Bte. 1881  Trans. Highl. Soc. 35:
The land to be improved was held by six tenants on the rig-about system.
Abd. 1900  Scots Mag. (March 1934) 431:
In Belnaboth, for example, there were seven crofters whose rigs would run side by side, a rig of outfield alternating with one of infield. This system was known as “run rig” or “rig about”, and secured that each holding in the hamlet had its due share of good land and less good.
Ork. 1911  J. Omond Ork. 80 Years Ago 25:
About the year 1832 Mr. Laing of Papdale began the abolition of the rig-about system, and squared off his estate into farms with the land lying near and about the separate farm houses.
(vi) Kcd. 1813  G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 63:
The property is still much in the rig and baulk system.
Ags. 1818  Scots Mag. (Aug.) 125:
A large field alternately varied with narrow stripes of corn and pasture; this, in the vernacular language of the county, is rig and bauk; the ridges and stripes of pasture are twisted in serpentine forms.
Abd. 1881  W. Paul Past & Present 87:
The latter [outfield] consisted of what was called rig and baulk, that is of arable ridges, between every two of which there was an interjacent space termed a baulk, which the plough never disturbed.
Per. 1926  D. Grewar Glenisla 122:
The system of cultivation was that known as “rig-and-balk”, perfect examples of which are still to be seen. A “rig”, by no means broad, was reclaimed, the stones removed being placed in a line along its side. Here, too, in successive years, all the weeds collected were thrown, until in some cases the “balk” bade fair to become as wide as the “rig”, and gave the ground a peculiar terrace-like appearance.
(vii) Sc. 1764  Caled. Mercury (24 Oct.) 519:
He had on rig'd and fur'd blue stockings.
Rxb. 1764  Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1916) 5:
Folding, plowing, and sowing round the inner Grayhill to near the Craigiewell, where the rigg and fur still appears.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie x.:
He had on a pair o' dark-blue pat-dyed rig-and-fur . . . worsted stockings.
Gsw. 1877  A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 10:
Acres braid o' rig and fur.
Ags. 1883  Brechin Advertiser (27 Feb.) 3:
Rigg an' fur stockens, a' gude hamespun grow grey.
e.Lth. 1892  J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 236:
Oure rigg an' fur we ca'.
Gall. 1899  Crockett Anna Mark xx.:
I wad tear the bonny face o' ye, till it is a' rig-an-furr like a new ploughed field.
Sc. 1947  Scots Mag. (June) 176:
At dusk, the slope below the inn had been transformed into an expanse of wiselike rig-and-fur [after a ploughing match].
(viii) Sh. 1775  J. Mill Diary (S.H.S.) 45:
Which lies Rigg and Rendal (as called) with my glebelands.
Sh. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 VII. 398:
The small farms, which are parcelled out in discontiguous plots and run-rigg, termed here rigg and rendal.
Cai. 1885  E. J. Guthrie Old Sc. Customs 170:
The somewhat peculiar custom of Rig and Rennel, or run rig . . . formerly prevailed over the north, and lingered in Caithness till 1740.
Sh. 1950  New Shetlander No. 20. 25:
Da crofts are nae langer rig-a-rendal.
(ix) s.Sc. a.1838  Jam. MSS. XII. 186:
When two farmers buy a lot of corn conjunctly, they agree to cut it down day-about, with the same number of reapers. This they denominate Rig and Reind.
(x) w.Lth. 1768  W. Wilkie Fables 121:
Before it gets a rig-braid frae The place its in.
(xii) Wgt. 1804  R. Couper Poetry I. 150:
Nae a word till the rig-end Th' enlivening shearer gains.
Ags. 1822  A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters I. v.:
Did you observe the maukin, how she sat cockin her legs at the rig-end?
Kcd. 1933  Scots Mag. (Jan.) 251:
Meg Menzies watched till they reached the rig-end.
(xiv) Ags. 1894  F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xvii.:
Some o' the stooks that hae sitten mebbe lang eneuch on the rig heid already.
Dmf. 1898  J. Paton Castlebraes 58:
More at home on the rigg-head behind the plough.
(xv) Sc. 1776  Lord Ingram in
Child Ballads No. 66 C. xxxii.:
Ye sall hae a rigland shire Your mornin's gift to bee.
(xvi) Sc. 1713  R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 171:
He was not a rigg-lenth from him.
Abd. 1754  R. Forbes Jnl. from London 28:
Whosling like a horse i' the strangle a rigglenth eer you came neer them.
Ags. 1790  D. Morison Poems 6:
He'll wi' ease a rigg length rin.
Sc. 1823  Gude Wallace in
Child Ballads No. 157 G. 23:
He had not gone a long rig length, A rig length and a span.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxix.:
Noo, heelie till we wun awa' twa-three rig lengths at ony rate.
Lnk. 1880  W. Grossart Shotts 31:
Shotts, the present name of the parish . . . is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “shot”, signifying a plot of ground, a rig-length.
(xix) Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 185:
A person is said to be able to drive a rig when able to reap as well as other reapers, and as fast.
(xx) Lnk. 1882  A. L. Orr Laigh Flichts 49:
A farmer, twa rigs on the beer, offer tae swap a weel-faur'd mere For Jock's auld nag an' ae pound clear.
(xxi) Sc. 1810  Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) II. 402:
As for grieving my shearers as we very emphatically term it in Scotland I am always too happy to get out of the way that I may hear them laughing at a distance when on the twist rigg.

5. A measure of land, taken from the size of a rig, usu. 15 feet wide and varying somewhat in length acc. to the nature and slope of the land to allow the plough-horses proper pauses for rest but averaged by Stephens Bk. Farm (1889) I. 102 as 270 yards (but see also quot. below) (Arg. 1968). Sc. 1887  Jam.:
A measure of land extending to 240 paces by 6 paces, or 600 ft. by 15 ft.; and containing 9000 sq. ft. A firlot of oats was reckoned sufficient seed for a rig.

6. A strip of ground leased for building in a Scottish burgh, usually with a narrow street frontage and a considerable extension backwards (hence the common designation lang rigg), originating in medieval times and still existing in many of the older burghs as St. Andrews, Haddington and Linlithgow. Cf. Ruid, n., 4. Per. 1743  Caled. Mercury (4 Aug.):
Four Butts or Riggs of Land, lying in the Spey-yards of the Burgh of Perth.
Ayr. 1750  A. F. McJannet Irvine (1938) 276:
All and Haill that tenement of land or dwelling-house, high and laigh, back and fore, with the back room, offices, house, yeard, well, rigg, and universal pertinents of the same.
Ags. 1763  Arbroath T.C. Minutes (5 Nov.):
William Gardner having yielded six Falls 86 Parts of his Rig on both Ends for making proper Entrys for which he gets an equall Quantity of the Abbay Yard on the north side of his Rig.
Abd. 1775  Abd. Journal (31 July):
The House with the Yard and three Riggs of Land, lying on the North end of the Burgh of Inverury.
Fif. 1832  Fife Herald (1 Nov.):
The Lands at Falkland . . . viz, — about 3 acres, 3 roods, 38 falls, and 859 decimal parts, imperial measure, of fine fertile land, called the Lang Riggs, lying to the south of the town, possessed by James Fernie.
Sc. 1896  A. Cheviot Proverbs 189:
I'll rather strive wi' the lang rigg than the ill neighbour.
Fif. 1923  E. S. Robertson Old St. Andrews 9:
The building sites in the town were mainly laid out in the form of “rigs” or long strips of ground running back from the main streets. In the ordinary way the house was built on the street front, though usually with a generous “fore-land” between it and the common thoroughfare, the remainder of the site at the back being used as garden ground or a miniature croft complete with doocot, byre, and piggery.
Ags. 1931  V. Jacob Lairds of Dun 2:
The ground [in Montrose] used to be leased for building in meagre lots called twelve foot rigs, making it necessary for houses to be set with their gable-ends to the street; [hence the bestowal] on us citizens of the contemptuous name of “Gable-endies”.

7. A narrow strip of anything. Sh. 1893  Sinclair MS. 13:
Wi' da perrie muttle shø spelds da liver in riegs (no ower tick).

II. v. 1. To plough land in rigs (Slg., m.Lth., Lnk., Kcb., Slk. 1968). Also in Eng. dial. Comb. riggin-clout, -flag, a flag set up to guide a ploughman in opening a rig (Lnk. 1968). Lnk. 1853  W. Watson Poems 82:
Her fertile braes are rigget by the pleughman lad.
Uls. 1884  Cruck-a-Leaghan and Slieve Gallion Lays and Leg. 46:
Drain it an' dig it, an' crap it, an' rig it.

2. Ppl.adj. riggit, -et, -ed, riged, (1) of land: cultivated in rigs; (2) of the ribs: standing out in ridges, protruding; (3) of animals, esp. cows: having a contrasting stripe of colour along the back (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh. 1968), freq. with a colour adj. prefixed. Comb. rigged-owsen, breaking waves, “white horses” (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (4) of knitting; ribbed (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). (1) e.Lth. 1772  Session Papers, Charteris v. Lord Blantyre (26 Oct.) Proof 20:
The deponent has also known them get divots off the ends of rigged ground.
(2) Rxb. 1847  J. Halliday Rustic Bard 138:
My riggit ribs, where snurk'lt skin is fatit To lanely hing.
(3) Sc. 1706  Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 276:
The bull calfe of the riged kow.
Arg. 1720  F. F. Mackay Carskey Jnl. 56:
Ane big Rigged Kow and ane Hacked Kow.
Lnk. a.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 72:
He gets a piece of chalk and brays it small as meal and steeps it in a little water, and therewith rubs over the cow's face and back which made her both brocket and rigget.
Dmf. 1788  Session Papers, Johnston v. Graham Proof 14:
Two rigged cows, one black branded cow.
Ags. 1814  Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 23:
Several rigged (white on the belly and back, and black or yellow on the sides).
Abd. 1877  W. Alexander Rural Life 74:
Groups of black “hummlies” diversified by an occasional “bran'it” or “rigget” stirk.
Sh. 1908  Jak. (1928):
A black-rigget, red-r., grey-r., brun-r, coo.
Gall. 1948  Sandy Candy (Montgomerie) 52:
I met a drove o Hielan swine; Some o'm riggit ower the croon.

[O.Sc. rigge, high ridge of land, 1375, back, c.1420, strip of arable land, 1428 (in place-names, c.1170), rig-back, 1591, rig-bane, spine, c.1475, rig-lenth, 1616, rig and rendel, 1519, riggit, striped, 1580. Sc. form of Eng. ridge, poss. from O.N. hryggr, back, ridge, corresp. to O.E. hrycg, id.]

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"Rig n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Dec 2017 <>



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