Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BA', BAA, BAW, n.1 Sc. forms of ball, with meanings partly as in St.Eng., partly peculiar to Sc. [bɑ: + a: I.Sc., n.Sc.; b; em.Sc., wm.Sc. but Arg. bɑ:; bɒ: sm.Sc., s.Sc.]

1. Football as in Eng. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 33:
A's fair at the ba' o' Scone. Refers to the annual game of football on Shrove Tuesday [Fasten's E'en], between the married men and bachelors of Scone, Perthshire. [The “Ba'” was also played at this festival in many Border towns, in the Highlands and in e.Lth.]

2. Sc. uses.

(1) The game of Handball played on certain annual holidays in many of the Border towns and villages, as in Ancrum, Hobkirk, Duns, Jedburgh, Kelso. Rxb. 1909 Jedburgh Gaz. (5 Feb.) 3/2:
This contest is still known as The Callants' Ba'.
Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (15 Feb.) 3/2:
Fastern's E'en Handball at Jedburgh . . . known as the Men's Ba'.

(2) The ball of the leg, the calf. Sh.(D) 1891 Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 9:
Wha, tinkin it time for ta gie him a seg, Sank his yackles fair inta da baa o his leg.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 96:
Ane scours the plain, well kilted to the baw.

(3) The coppers thrown to children at a wedding. Orig. the money was for the purchase of a ball. w.Dmf. 1905 J. L. Waugh Thornhill, etc. iii:
The “baa” was a largesse of copper coins flung among the children on the street.

3. Combs.: (1) Ba' day, the day of the annual Handball or football; (2) ba' spel', -spiel, a single game (of handball, etc.), a “spell” at the ball; see Spiel; (3) ba'-men, bawmen, the players in the game of Ba'in(g). (1) Sc. 1928 The Times (2 March) 10/5:
So common [in Scotland] was a game of ball [football] on Fastren's Eve that it was known as “Ba' Day” and hailed as a time of riotous sport.
Rxb. 1922 Kelso Chron. (3 Mar.) 3:
The annual ba' day was observed on Tuesday.
(2) Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf vi.:
I staid away from the Ba'spiel on Fastern's E'en.
Abd.(D) [1788] J. Skinner Christmas Ba'ing, Amusements, etc. (1809) xxxii.:
Fy, Sirs, co' he, the ba' spel's [game's] won, And we the ba' ha'e hail'd.
(3) Ib. xxxiv.:
Of a' the bawmen there was nane But had twa bleedy shins.
Bwk. 1834 T. Brown in Proc. Berw. Nat. Club (1885) I. ii. 44:
Three young men were chosen to conduct them, and were called “ba'-men.”

[O.Sc. ball, baw, baa, etc., O.N. bllr, genitive ballar. Cogn. O.H.Ger. balle; M.Du. bal; Mid.Eng. bal. No O.E. form is known.]

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"Ba' n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 May 2021 <>



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