Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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TARRY, adj. Also tarrie, taur(r)ie, taurry. Sc. forms and usages. [′tɑre; wm.Sc. ′tre; Sh. ′tære]

1. As in Eng. (e.Lth. 1876 J. Teenan Son 23, taurie; Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 183, taurry). Sc. combs.: (1) tarrie bogie, a sack made of dried whale-gut for containing oil or tar (Sh. 1972). See Bogi, n.; (2) tarry breeks, a soubriquet for a sailor. See Breek, n., 1. Also in anglicised form britches. Liter.; (3) tarry hat, a nickname for a policeman from the tall black felt hat formerly worn as part of their uniform (Abd. 1890); (4) tarry jacket, = (2); (5) tarry John, = (2); (6) tarry-temple, see quot.; (7) tarry (w)oo, wool from a sheep which has been smeared with tar. (1) Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 135:
I wis' mae heed been smoored that day Doun i' a tarrie bogie.
(2) Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 318:
Tarry Breeks pays no Fraught.
Abd. 1733  W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 50:
Tarry-breeks should aye gae free.
Ayr. 1786  Burns A Dream xiii.:
Young, royal Tarry-breeks, I learn, Ye've lately come athwart her.
Abd. 1824  G. Smith Douglas 49:
Tarry-breeks lay yaval on the deck.
Sc. 1931  J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xxviii.:
The tarry-britches from the Beulah's crew.
(3) Bnff. 1954  Banffshire Jnl. (2 Nov.) 4:
I wis eyven a bobby a fyle. An' I got rale tired o' the loons roarin' ‘Tarry-hat!' efter me.
(4) Sc. 1822  Scott F. Nigel iv.:
Every tarry jacket that wants but a pound of oakum.
(5) Sc. 1888  Stevenson Black Arrow iv. vi.:
Long-headed tarry-Johns, that fear not fire nor water.
(6) Sh. 1964  J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 63:
During the herring season, all these girls lived in the various ports, in large tarred wooden huts known as “barracks” or “tarry temples”.
(7) Sc. 1737  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) II. 184:
Tarry woo is ill to spin.
Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems 276:
O weels me on the tarry woo'.
Per. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XI. 182:
The smeared or tarry wool, is sold at from 4s. to 5s. per stone.
Ags. 1879  Forfar Poets (Fenton) 139:
His hair . . . hung in teats like tarry-'oo.

2. Fig. Light-fingered, thievish, having a tendency to pilfer, short for tarry-fingert below (Sh., Cai., Ags., Per., Ayr., Kcb. 1972). Edb. 1821  W. Liddle Poems 108:
Ye'll ne'er gie o'er that tarry trick, Likewise that way o' cheating folk.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie II. xvii.:
The gipsies hae tarry fingers, and ye would need an e'e in your neck to watch them.
Rxb. 1824  Rymour Club Misc. II. 48:
Have fingers aye tarry, but look to the lass In case that your motions she's watching.

Combs.: tarry-fingers, an epithet for a person given to stealing, a petty thief, ppl.adj. tarry-fingert, -ed, pilfering, thievish (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmb., Ayr. 1910; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 271; Cai. 1916 J. Mowat Cai. Proverbs 11; Gen.Sc.), tarry-haun'd, id. (Sc. 1825 Jam.); tarry neive, = tarry fingers above. See Neive. Dmf. 1810  R. Cromek Remains 98:
Tweed-shaw's tarry neives are here.
Rnf. 1813  E. Picken Poems I. 65:
Man sets the stamp [trap]; but we can tell He's aften taury haun'd himsel'.
Dmf. 1836  A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. x.:
There's nae need o' standing on stepping-stanes wi' a tarry-fingerd attorney.
Lnk. 1886  A. G. Murdoch Readings I. 25:
Wha was't put a bawbee in the kirk-plate, an' lifted oot the fourpenny bit, eh? Answer me that, auld taurrie fingers!
Fif. 1912  D. Rorie Mining Folk 400:
When the child's nails require shortening, they should not be cut with scissors, but bitten. If a child's nails are cut before it is a year old (some say six months), it will be “tarry-fingered.”
Arg. 1936  L. McInnes S. Kintyre 23:
She's aa richt in every wey but wan: she's tarry-fingert.
s.Sc. 1947  L. Derwent Clashmaclavers 50:
The tarry-fingered Gypsy Queen In a' oor hen-hooses has been.
Abd. 1966  Huntly Express (21 Oct.) 2:
Only a loon o' saxteen or so, but as tarry-fingered as ever I cam' across.

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"Tarry adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Feb 2019 <>



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