Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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TANG, n.1 Also tong (Ork. 1929 Marw.), and deriv. forms tangie, -y, tanyie (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.), tongie (Marw.); tanyick. [′tɑŋ (i), Ork. + ′tɔŋ(i)]

1. A gen. name for large, coarse sea-weed growing above low-water mark, esp. the genus Fucus (I.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc., Cai. 1972). Also in Eng. dial. Hence tang-covered, of a rock (Sh. 1888 J. M. E. Saxby Lads of Lunda 122). Sh. a.1725  T. Gifford Hist. Descr. Zetland (1879) 78:
That none take bait, nor cut tang in another man's ebb.
Ork. 1733  W. Mackintosh Glimpses Kirkwall (1887) 129:
Cutting and burning the tang or sea-ware growing upon the rocks of the town's priviledge at Quanterness.
Ork. 1759  Session Papers, Earl of Morton v. Covingtree (9 July) 41:
Tang and Wair are two different Things; Tang grows upon the Rocks above the Low-water Mark, and Wair grows in the Sea, without the Low-water Mark.
Sth. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 III. 531:
The sea weeds commonly used as manure are the tang and kelp ware.
Ags. 1813  J. Headrick Agric. Ags. App. B. 35:
The stems of the Fucus digitatus and Fucus saccharinus, which are sold under the name of tang or tangle.
Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 139:
Cut an' roo the tang.
Ork. 1910  Old-Lore Misc. III. i. 32:
Da sheep teuk for da ebb tae ate tang.
Sh. 1932  J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 185:
Her vild carcish washed up among the tang two days after dat time.

Deriv. tangie, tongie, n., (i) the small common inshore or brown seal, as opposed to the selkie or grey seal (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Cai. 1956); ‡(ii) a sea-spirit, in the form of a horse or an old man which haunts the seashore, a species of Kelpie, gen. described a being covered with sea-weed and phosphorescence (Ork. 1825 Jam., 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1972). (ii) Sh. 1877  G. Stewart Fireside Tales 69:
As truly as der hill folk, tangies, and brownies upo' da land.
Ork. 1931  J. Leask Peculiar People 33:
Dere waas ald Tangie stan' aford da bed.
Sh. 1932  J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 140:
He was horse-shaped with snow-white mane, and rampant crest with very large blue eyes and flowing beard mingling with his curly coat of cream colour. The Tangie haunts the rocky coast, the outlying skerries and sand-shoals; hut his home is in the depths of the wide ocean.

2. Combs.: (1) black tang, the bladder-wrack, Fucus vesiculosus (Sc. 1886 B. & H. 462); (2) knap tang, the seaweed, Fucus nodosus (Sh. 1845 T. Edmondston Flora Sh. 52, Sh. 1972). See Knap, n.1, 1.; (3) prickly tang, the seaweed, Fucus serratus; (4) tang-bow, one of the knobs or vesicles on the leaves of tang (Sh. 1886 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh. 1972). See Bow, n.3 and cf. Norw. boletang, id.; (5) tangy-buckie, the obtuse periwinkle, Littorina littoralis (Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56, Ork. 1972); (6) tang-cow, a branch or tuft of tang (Sh., Ork. 1972). See Cow, n.1, 1.; (7) tangi(e)-fish, the common inshore seal, Phoca vitulina (Sh. 1818 Scots Mag. (May) 429, 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1972); (8) tangie-spur, id. (Ork. 1929 Marw.). For spur cf. Spurd; (9) tang kelp, kelp made from burning tang; (10) tang(ie) maw, -maa, the common gull, Larus canus (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1972), also tanyie-maw, (Edm.), tanyick (Sh. 1951 Sh. Folk Book II. 34); (11) tang-sparrow, the shore- or rock-pipit, Anthus obscurus (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh. 1972); (12) tang-whaup, -whaap, the whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus (Ork. 1806 P. Neill Tour 203; Sh., Ork. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh. 1951 Sh. Folk Book II. 33, Sh. 1972); (13) tang(ie)-whesser, tongie-, = (7) (Ork. 1929 Marw.). See Whess; (14) teeting-tang, tettin-, = 1. See Teetin; (15) yellow tang, the knotted tang, Fucus nodosus (Sc. 1810 Scots Mag. (June) 438); also, more doubtfully, the variety Fucus serratus (Ork. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 64). See (2) and (3). (1) Sc. 1799  Trans. Highl. Soc. I. 11:
Fucus vesiculosus, called also the Sea Oak, from the resemblance of its leaves to those of the oak tree. It is termed in the Orkneys the Black Tang.
(3) Ork. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 233:
The jagged or serrated sea-weed commonly known by the name of prickly tang in this country.
Sh. 1810  Edb. Review XVII. 146:
The prickly tang often grows intermixed with the bladder-wrack.
(6) Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 133:
Twa'rt'ree tang-cows afore him lay.
(7) Sh. 1822  S. Hibbert Description 586:
The smaller seals, or ‘Tang-fish,' so named from being supposed to live among the ‘Tang,' or larger fuci that grow near the shore.
Ork. 1893  Sc. Antiquary VII. 171–177:
Seals were popularly divided into two classes; namely, first, the common seal, here called tang fish, which had no power to assume the human form.
(9) Ork. 1884  Crofters' Comm. Evidence II. 1449:
It is from drift ware you make the kelp? — Yes, but it is best kelp, not tang kelp.
(11) Sh. 1864  Zoologist XXII. 9316:
The meadow pipit is known here as the “hill sparrow,” while the rock pipit goes by the name of “tang sparrow.”
(14) Ork. 1891  Buckley and Harvie-Brown Fauna Ork. 109:
They are constantly observed resting on a species of sea-weed, and from this habit this weed has acquired the trivial name of “Teeting-tang.”
Ork. 1931  J. Leask Peculiar People 166:
In their straits the poor starving beasts went down to the shore and greedily ate a certain species of seaweed, locally known as “tettin tang.”
(15) Ork. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 233:
The knotted sea-weed, or, as it is sometimes called, the bell-wrack, and here the yellow tang.

[E.M.E. tang, id., Norw., Faer. þang, O.N. þang, seaweed, Fucus.]

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"Tang n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jan 2018 <>



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