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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BIG(G), n.2 A variety of barley. Now obs. in St.Eng., or dial. The arrangement here is chronological. The last quot. explains the seemingly contradictory evidence in the others. [bɪg, bɪ̢g]m.Lth. 1793 G. Robertson Agric. of Midlothian 64:
In the moorlands, big, or square barley, with six rows, is still sown.
Sh. 1804 J. Mill Diary (S.H.S. 1889) 144:
That they have no Barley, and they sow Bigg in May.
Ork. 1806 P. Neill Tour through . . . Ork. and Sh. 14:
The Orkney big is a variety of the common hordeum vulgare, called bear in Scotland.
Sc. 1888 J. Murray in N.E.D.:
Barley is generic; bear includes the six-rowed and four-rowed kinds; bigg the four-rowed only. But bear interchanges in local use, now with barley, now with bigg.
Sc. 1899 H. G. Graham Soc. Life 18th Cent. I. 158:
It was often May before the “bigg” or four rowed barley was put into the ground.
Sc. 1927 D. Murray Old College of Glasgow 453 Note:
Barley has two rows of grain, bere has four and bigg has six.
Sc. 1934 W.J.P.:
All kinds of barley are rudimentarily six-rowed. In so-called barley only the central floret of each group of three is fertile; hence it is called two-rowed barley. In the case of bere all six are fertile, but the lateral grains of the triplets are so placed that, looked at from the top, the ear appears to be four-rowed. Then we have another variety in which all the florets are also fertile but the grains are so placed that, looked at from the top, the ear is clearly six-rowed. In many districts the terms bere and big appear to be synonymous or only one is in use.

[O.N. bygg, barley (Zoëga); Norse id. (Torp). First appearance in N.E.D. c.1450. Prob. cogn. with O.E. bēow, barley. For correspondence of w and g cf. O.E. trēowe (true), W.S. trīewe and O.N. tryggr (Sc. and Eng. dial. trig).]

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"Big n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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