Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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STIRK, n., v. Also stirc, sturk: ¶stirrock; and met. forms strick, strik(k) (I.Sc.). Dim. stirkie, -y. [stɪrk; I.Sc. strɪk]

I. n. 1. A young bovine animal after weaning, kept for slaughter at the age of two or three, not for breeding, and usu. referring to a steer or bullock, less freq. to a heifer, though the pl. gen. includes both (Sc. 1755 S. Johnson Dict., sturk, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. and in n. and m. Eng. dial. Also combs. bull(ock)-, heifer-, ox-, quey-, quoyack-, stot-, according to the sex of the animal; (shep)herd's stirk, a bullock belonging to a shepherd who has the right to graze it on his master's pasture as part of his perquisites. Fif. 1704  County Folk-Lore VII. 102:
His [the devil] feet was cloven like the feet of a stirk.
Ork. 1734  P. Ork. A. S. I. 65:
Three black Stricks, Each of them three years old. One black and white Ox strick and one Quoyack strick, each one year old.
Abd. 1754  R. Forbes Journal 25:
A stirkie that had staver'd into a well-eye.
Ayr. 1786  Burns Jolly Beggars Air 3. ii.:
I ance was ty'd up like a stirk For civilly swearing and quaffing.
Kcb. 1789  D. Davidson Seasons 49:
The unco brute much dunching dried Frae twa-year-alls and stirks.
Sc. 1803  Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 213:
The calves, or stirks, as they are termed after Hallowmas.
Sc. 1816  Scott Black Dwarf x.:
And leave us neither stirk nor stot.
Slk. 1829  Hogg Shep. Cal. I. 104:
Tak' care o' his head and the bauks, and no fa' ower the bit stirk.
wm.Sc. 1835  Laird of Logan 142:
A bull-stirk grazing hard by.
Dmf. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 IV. 389:
The grazing of a milk cow with a calf or stirk.
Knr. 1891  H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 134:
The haflin wi' stirk-like glowre.
Cai. 1909  D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 4:
Fan Kirsty tethered 'e stirk.
Uls. 1915  P. MacGill Rat Pit 48:
Run those hens from the house and the young sturk too.
Ags. 1921  V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 37:
Young stirks loupin' to the Mairt.
Sh. 1948  New Shetlander No. 8. 9:
A strik which lost da cud.
Lnk. 1949 ,
Scotsman (17 May):
50 herds' stirks, Bullock Stirk, Heifer Stirk . . . Shepherds' stirks.
Lth. 1970  Glasgow Herald (12 March) 23:
Friesian bullock stirks to ¥64 10s; Cross Hereford heifer stirks, to ¥62 10s.

In proverbial phrs.: (1) there's aye some water whaur the stirk(ie) drouns or is drouned, = Eng. “there's no smoke without fire,” there must be some truth in the story (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 309). Gen.Sc.; (2) to be (putten)) in the stirk(ie)'s sta, -biss, of a child: (to be) supplanted in the prime and exclusive attentions of its parents by the birth of a younger brother or sister (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Per., Ayr. (biss), Kcb., Slk. 1971). Edb. 1856  J. Ballantine Poems 76:
When the pet child is transferred from his mother's to his father's bosom, in consequence of a younger aspirant coming on the field, he is said to be sent to the stirk's sta.
Lnl. 1896  Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 298:
Puir, little chiel! he feels the chain O' stirkie's sta'.
Fif. 1904  Caled. Med. Jnl. V. 179:
John Andrew (soon to be “put in the stirky's sta'”).
Bwk. 1912  J. Burleigh Ednam 137:
Wee Annie's in the stirkie's sta'.
m.Sc. 1928  O. Douglas Ann and Her Mother vi.:
Mark was never put in the “stirk's stall”; for you were a healthy, placid baby.

2. Transf.: (1) a sturdy young man (n.Sc., Slg., Ayr. 1971). Abd. 1739  Caled. Mag. (1788) 501:
A stalwart Stirk in tartain claise.
Sc. 1953  Scots Mag. (Aug.) 338:
He was a strong, determined lad, “a hardy stirkie.”

(2) a stupid, oafish fellow (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), s.Sc. 1971). Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 65:
For me, I took them a' for Stirks That loo'd na Money.
Ayr. 1785  Burns To J. Lapraik xii.:
A set o' dull, conceited hashes Confuse their brains in college-classes They gang in stirks, and come out asses.
Sc. 1826  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 140:
One of the “Twa Stirks”, that, in the absence of the Stot, mislead the Scotsman.
Lnk. a.1832  W. Watt Poems (1860) 355:
The kintra stirrocks, fley'd o' skaith, Frae this wanchancie crowd.
s.Sc. 1835  Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 150:
Ye stupid stirk! why do ye stand there?
Slg. c.1860  Trans. Stirling Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc. (1923) 10:
A watch-hoose tae, pairt o' a kirk That some infernal Heilan' stirk Blew up in air sae hie.
Ags. 1875  Brechin Advertiser (20 April) 4:
He's a dumb stirk i' the Hoose o' Commons.
Cai. 1909  D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 8:
Fat's'at ye're sayan, ye feel stirk!
Lnk. 1922  T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 19:
Ye'll maybe think I'm just a stirk.
Sc. 1931  J. Lorimer Red Sergeant ix.:
A stirk and the chief of stirks, that's what Alasdair is.

II. v. Of a cow: to be in calf (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.).

[O.Sc. stirk, = 1., 1329, = 2. (2), c.1590, O.E. stirc, dim. form of stēor, a steer.]

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"Stirk n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jan 2019 <>



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