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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BAUK, BALK, Baulk, Baak, Back, n.2, v.2. [bɑ(:)k, b.ǫ:k Sc. (see P.L.D. §§ 85, 93); bɒ:k sm.Sc., s.Sc.; bɑk Ork.]

I. n.

1. An unploughed ridge or portion of land in a cultivated field.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
Syne down on a green Bawk, I trow, I took a Nap.
Sc. 1776 Kames Gentleman Farmer 362:
Baulks between ridges are equally frequent.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxvi.:
Upon a baulk, that is an unploughed ridge of land interposed among the corn, the Laird's trusty palfrey was tethered by the head, and picking a meal of grass.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.-E. Scot. 178–179:
Even in the cultivated parts of larger size there was no regularity. They were twisted, bent like a bow, zig-zag, of all shapes, and cut up by “baaks,” into which were gathered stones and such weeds as were taken from the portion under crop.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 134:
Ye'll hae to ging tae the bauk for neeps to the coo, for they're a' dune.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood x.:
That's what we ca' the Deil's Baulk in the gospel field o' Scotland.
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheephead, etc. 255:
Nanny roam'd wi' me, By boskie bauk an' briery brae!
Wgt. 1702 in G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 27:
And those who shall be found guilty of cutting of yr neighbour's grass, aither in yeards, balks of land, Meadow, or fields, is reputed to be equally guilty wt ye above peyckers.

2. (1) A strip of unploughed land used to mark a boundary between farms or between neighbours' land in the old run rig system of agriculture; hence, a boundary.Bch. 1929 (per Abd.1):
I see the fairmer daunderin ben the mairch bauk, takin' a skance o' Hilly's neeps.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Gen. View Agric. Perth 196:
Large slices of the land are left unploughed, as boundaries between the alternate ridges of neighbours, in the same plough-gate; which are a perpetual nursery of weeds, besides the loss of so much land lying waste. These earthen boundaries (baulks) are wearing fast out, in this country.
[See also Balkie.]

(2) When these balks were tilled, in the general improvement of agriculture, for a long time they could still be recognized by their rising above the level of the rest of the field.Ork. 1929 Marw.:
Back. A ridge in ploughing; often used in older records (spelt balk).
Lnl. 1832–1895 A. Hamilton in Poets and Poetry of Lnlshire (ed. A. M. Bisset 1896) 185:
Nae witch nor warlock noo is seen On Beltane's dewy morn, Nae tether stown by cantrip airt, Nor scowther'd bauks o' corn.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 41:
Lang may his sock and couter turn the gleyb And bauks o' corn bend down wi' laded ear.
Lnk. c.1710 Minutes J. P.'s Lnk. (S.H.S. 1931) p. liii.:
Tilling in the baulk, i.e. tilling the soil between the rigs.

3. (See quots.); a garden path (Fif. 1975).Mry.1 1925 and Fif.2 1933:
Bauk, baak, . . . a narrow footpath.
Abd.7 1925:
Bauk, a narrow roadway or right of way that divides two holdings or forms the marches of two estates.

4. fig. Loss, disappointment, something futile for a certain purpose. Rare in Mod.Eng.Fif. 1715 Memoirs Insurr. Scot. (Abbotsford Club Publications 30) 337:
If this last resource of the King's presence, and the miracles it would work, was takne from him [Mar], the bauk would be too great; and humane imagination could not frame another lye to amuse them.

5. Phrases: (1) balk and burrall, baulk and burrel, ridge and furrow; (2) rig and baulk (see quot.).(1) Sc. 1855 Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 720:
Balk and Burral, (Scot.) ridge and furrow alternately.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. vii.:
Arable areas, here and there, went again into a state of nature; to remain so for an indefinite time, as testified by traces of “baulk” and “burrel” rigs in various places not under the plough within living recollection.
Slk. 1986 Harvey Holton in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 167:
in balk an burrel, weans weill happit
an courss cairns bi their biggins
as ower mild mead an prood pasture
(2) Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past and Pres. of Aberdeensh. 87:
The cultivated ground was divided into what was called infield and outfield. The former received all the manure of the farm, and was perpetually in crop. The latter consisted of what was called rig and baulk, that is, of arable ridges, between every two of which there was an interjacent space termed a baulk which the plough never disturbed.

II. v. 1. (See quots.)Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I. 344:
Baulking, or leaving a portion of land occasionally unploughed; which is caused by the swerving of the horses, or by allowing the plough to start out of the ground.
Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Bauk. To leave small strips of land not turned up in ploughing

Hence baulky, balky adj., and baulkit, ppl.adj., interspersed with bauks, rough in places.Sc. 1804 Folklore LXVII. 88:
It was very difficult to labour; it was wild, balky, stony, cairney, and the furrow ill to clear.
Sc. 1928 Rymour Club, Miscellanea, III. iv. 187:
Baulky lands mak's girsy corn. (“Baulky land” is ground which the plough has failed to turn over.)
Bnff.2 1930:
Trimmlin' straes [straw from which the grain has been threshed] mak' trottin' owsen, trottin' owsen mak' baulkit grun'.

2. To open the first furrows in a field about to be ploughed (see n., 2. (2)). Hence vbl.n. baukin, see quot.Arg.11933:
By a Break or a Baukin is meant the first six furrows or rather the first three complete 'bouts', i.e. out and back again three times each way, in an unploughed field.

[O.Sc. balk, bauk, bak, baik, bake, n., a ridge, or unploughed strip between two portions of ploughed land; as a verb it means in O.Sc. to pass over, overlook, miss (D.O.S.T.). O.E. balca, a ridge; O.N. bālkr, a partition. See also Back, n.4 Bauk,1 Bauk,2 are prob. from the same root.]

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"Bauk n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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