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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1983 (DOST Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Pirn, Pyrn(e, n. Also: pirne; peyrne; prine. [Only Sc. and north. Eng. dial. Of unknown origin. Cf. late north. ME. pirn (once, a 1450) ? pointed twig or ? thorn, perh. metathetic f. prin Prene n. Cf. also Prin n.SND conjectures that pirn is to be associated with pirr, pirl, ‘as from an imit. formation *pir with the basic meaning of whirling or rotating’ (SND, s.v. Pirn n.1).]

1. A small cylinder or spool on which was wound a ( ? more or less precisely measured) length of gold, also silver and silk, thread; a reel (of, or for, thread or yarn). b. The amount of thread a pirn would hold; a pirnful.(1) 1474 Treas. Acc. I. 20.
iiij pyrnis of gold for the kingis knoppis to the harnessingis, price of the pyrn xij s.
Ib. 25.
A pirne of gold for a skawburne to the … swerd
1490 Acta Conc. I. 158/1.
A punde of pyrnis of golde
1494–5 Ib. 229.
Gevin to the browdstar to mend the vestimentis of the kingis chapell … xviij pirnis of gold
1500 Ib. II. 40.
For viij pirnis gold to hir, ilk pirn vj s.
1516 Acta Conc. MS. XXVIII. 34.
Ane bust of dammas with x pirnis of goldwyr
15.. Clar. iii. 959.
Scho bought hir pirnis baith of gold and silke
1592 Edinb. Test. XXIV. 357.
Ane pirne of gold weyand nyne vnce
1593 Ib. XXV. 191 b.
xij mark wecht of gold pirnis at xxxij s. the mark
1610 Brechin Test. III. 100.
Aucht pirnis counterfut gold
(2) 1516 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 22.
A buste of dammas golde with eght pirnis
(3) 1611 Edinb. Test. XLVI. 252.
Tua merk wecht thrie drop les of siluer pirne at xxvj li. the mark wecht

c. spec. A spool designed to hold the weft yarn in the shuttle; a weaver's bobbin.The only sense in the mod. dial. 1622 Edinb. Test. LI. 322.
xj prines of spleitt at iij s. the pirne
1624 Edinb. B. Rec. VI. 259.
Four yrne pyrnis for lumes
1670 in Law Memor. 27.
She did find more yearne upon her pirne, and good yearne, nor she thought could be spun in so short a tyme
1684 New Mills Manuf. 72.
Any weaver that shall thorough carelessness work in quill or pirn of wrong yearne shall pay for evry such quill or pirne of wrong yearne one shilling sterling
1691 Foulis Acc. Bk. 142.
To Maggie to buy 2 pirns 0.4.0.
1698 Black Bk. Kincardineshire 69.
For … away-taking a pirn and breaking a lint wheel
16.. Boyd Fam. P. No. 251c.
Tuinte penis for a pirn, tipens to the veif that spins the vol

d. To win(d ( ? also wirk) (someone, or oneself) a pirn, to ‘entangle’, ‘tie in a knot’, create trouble or difficulties for. 1535 Stewart 6525.
Throw sic displesour he hes wynd him ane pirne [: girne]
1571 Q. Mary in Cal. Sc. P. IV. 60.
We sal yit wirk [? erron. for wind] them a pirne that studyes to circumvene us
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS. No. 895.
Ise wynd yow a pirne
1639 Justiciary Cases I. 301. 1660 Johnston Diary III. 177.
He is lyk to sitt between tuo stooles and may wind himself a pirne
a1676 Guthry Mem. (1747) 36. 1687 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII. 162.
Whither or not he hade promised to win the defender a pirne

e. attrib. and comb.Pirn satin (of gold) or stuff, satin or other stuff variegated with gold, also other, (contrasting) thread.Pirn quhele, ? a wheel used in winding thread on pirns.(1) 1511 Treas. Acc. IV. 253.
The kingis goune of pyrne satyne of gold lynit with Romany buge
1536 Ib. VI. 454.
For xiiii elnis of blak pirne sating, coft in Rowane to the kingis grace, price of the elne v frs.
1627 Orkney & Shetl. Test. I. 170 b.
Quhyte pirne stuff
(2) 1536–7 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 178.
Twa pirne quhelis
1568 Edinb. Test. I. 182. 1564–75 Hamilton & Campsie Test. I. 29.
Ane peyrne quheill
(3) 1538 Treas. Acc. VII. 12.
For pirne threid, iij frs.

2. A ‘pirn’ or unevenness in a piece of cloth, caused by a difference in the quality or texture of the yarns composing it.Also in this sense in the later dial. 1688 New Mills Manuf. 187.
The … cloaths … being badly dressed and milned and some pirns in them
1701 Ib. 259.

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"Pirn n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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