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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BRAK, Brack, Brek, Breck, Brik, Braik, v. Also braak, brekk. Sc. forms of St.Eng. break. Where the forms break and broken are used with exclusively Sc. meaning, they also are illustrated.

A. Grammatical forms.

1. Parts from inf. stem. [brɑk, brɛk Sc.; brɪk s.Sc., Peb.]Sc. 1991 Kenneth Fraser in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 101:
The word o this mishanter tae the nation
Wad cause a michty stushie tae brek oot.'
Sh.(D) 1916 J. J. H. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr, Siptember 16:
Da pör braks da laas o da rich; an da rich braks da laas o Göd.
Abd.(D) 1875 W. Alexander Life among my ain Folk 227:
He once or twice rather strongly protested against the conduct of “that ablich” in “brackin 's nicht's rest” with its outcries.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 23:
And noo ye come rantin at my door
as gin I wis less a Scot acause
I see nae point in braakin the Union?
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 58:
Westminster's grip we'll hae ti brek
(for faur ower lang it's lastit).
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 38:
Wan mair word fae you an' Ah'll brekk yir boady!
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 139:
Her freenship, since she choose to brak' it, May tak' the road.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 24:
Ye might hiv broke yer mammy's heart, son, bit yer no gonnae brek mine.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms lviii. 6:
Brik thair teeth, O God, in thair mooth.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 67:
And the bridle [may] breck. [O.Sc. has brek, brak, braik, brake, breik, brik, with variants, see D.O.S.T.]

2. Pa.t. Brak', brack, brake, bruik, bruk, brook, breuk, brok, brukk, breckt; (brock Ork., Arg. 2000s). [brɑk Sc.; bruk I.Sc. + brʌk, brøk; bruk n.Sc.]Sc. 1745 Scots Mag. (June) 274:
Nae ferley, neighbour, ye had frightfu' dreams, That brake your rest, and troubled a' your brains.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl. s.v. brak:
Bruk, pa.t. of break.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 36:
Sheu breuk apen the coffin lid; an . . . the regairdless sinner teuk the sheet aff o' the deid body.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.E. Scot. 14:
Here's the man it brook the barn, Here's the man it staa the corn.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xii.:
We never bruik breid wi' them.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Middleton in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of Winning Poems and Stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 29:
... her marble hochs glimmerin aneth the ripples o the watter like the spars o a spider's wab far the win brukk her reflection, ...
Fif. 1771 Lady Anne Barnard Auld Robin Gray in North. Muse (1924) 74:
He hadna been gane a twelvemonth and a day, When my faither brak' his arm, and the cow was stown away.
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 57:
She went nae mair wi crisps and cake
an brok them roon the den:
tae loo a thing is no eneuch
gin there is mair tae ken.
Dmf. 1877 R. W. Thom Poems (1878) 6:
An' pleasant soun' o' their innocent laughin' Brack the silence. [O.Sc. has brak, brek, brake, braik, bruk, brok, with variants (D.O.S.T.).]
Dmf. 1979 Ron Butlin in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 36:
I clapped ma hauns th'gither that they'd stairt
an flee awa,
insteid the haill sky breckt apairt.

3. Pa.p. Brak, bracken, braken, brok(e), bruk; brucken (Fif. 1859 P. Landreth Joseph Spindle (1911) 22, 25); brukken. Also ppl.adj. [brɑk, brɔk, brok, also brɔkən, brɔkŋ, and variants with ʌ and ɑ in first syllable]Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 55:
Deevil tak the worsted bell-rape — see if it hasna bracken short aff.
Sc. 1829 Ib. II. 246:
Is baith my legs brok?
Sc. 1928 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 22:
A've nae sheep, noo, and the fauld is braken doon.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 48:
"I doot thoo're brocken something," faltered Jeanick.
"I think a'm brocken me back," groaned Tam.
Abd. 1987 Sheena Blackhall in Joy Hendry Chapman 49 57:
Yet ivery teenie bird may raxx its wing
Kennin the solace o a cloudless sky
There is a sea that welcomes ilkie wave
Yeh, even sic a brukken ane as I.
Fif. 1998 Tom Hubbard Isolde's Luve-Daith 3:
Sae I come greetin ower your braken corp
An haud it gentlie gin this staunin-stane
Auncient an roch as wis your Governal.
Bwk. 1873 Lady John Scott Songs and Verses (1911) 153:
They've brak into our King's palace, They've ripit his treasury.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 24:
Ye might hiv broke yer mammy's heart, son, bit yer no gonnae brek mine.
Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People and Lang. of Uls. 42:
You may hear it said that the weather . . . has “broke,” or “bruk,” when the dry spell has ended.
[O.Sc. has brokin, broikin, brakin, also brek, brok, brook, with variants (D.O.S.T.).]

B. Scottish usages.

1. Meanings not found with St.Eng. break.

(1) To sell by retail, implying the cutting up of a carcase or article.Sc. 1887 Jam.6:
I dare na sell the bouk, I man brek it to the neebours a' roun'.

†(2) To disappoint.Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Gl.:
I'se no break you, I shall not disappoint you.

†(3) To collapse, die of grief, used in expressing great sorrow.n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
I'm like to brak.

(4) To bring on a change (of weather). The St.Eng. use is always intr. in this sense.Cai.7 1935:
When the cat passes her paw over her ear, she braks the weather.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas, etc. 90:
What way it [the wind] raise, and brak' the weather, . . . Or whare it gaed, I ne'er cou'd gather.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 283:
When he . . . saw the cat through his fingers washin' her face wi' her paw, he . . . flung his Stewarton bonnet at bawdrons wi' the indignant question, “Daum ye! would ye break the weather in my vera face?”

†(5) To vomit. Found only as vbl.n.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 51–52:
But some way on her, they [nuts and slaes] fuish on a change, That gut an' ga' she keest wi' breakings strange.

(6) Of the moon when she changes from full to third quarter.Mry.(D) 1898 J. Slater Seaside Idylls 51:
“I'm nae carin aboot that meen, tho',” said . . . Willie, . . . nodding to the moon. “She breaks the nicht [to-night].”

(7) Of milk: to curdle, coagulate, by becoming sour or in the process of churning (Sh., ne.Sc., Kcb. 1975). Hence broken milk, curds. Inv. 1951 Folklore LXII. 326:
A large bowl of whipped milk, or "broken milk" as it was called, was placed on the table.

2. Used with various advs. and preps., with meanings not found in St.Eng.

(1) break aff, †(a) start off; (b) “cease to have dealings with” (Slg.3 1935); (2) break afore, in phr. broken afore (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), s.v. afore) = Broken-for-neb, q.v.; (3) break doon, — down, carve, cut up, see B. 1 (1) above; (4) brack-in, break — (see quots.); to commence the working of a coal-seam, to start to take out the coal (Sc. 1883 W. S. Gresley Glossary 32).; (5) brack-o', break on, (a) begin to use food or drink that has been stored up; (b) “change a bank note or coin for smaller money” (Ags.1, Slg.3, Lnl.1, Kcb.9 1935); (6) brak out, — ut, †(a) “to cut out any thing in a rough way, before reducing it to the form required” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2) (see quot.); (b) (see quot.); (7) brak up, to start (a conversation).(1) (a) Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 151:
Ye're like Lamington's mare — ye break brawly aff, but soon gies up.
(b) w.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie Last Day 10:
We'll need tae try and stop M'Lashan's, Jenny; it's twa prices for everything wi' him. We'll need tae break aff him a' thegither.
(3) Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.:
Breaking down a cow [is] taking down the carcase of a cow or ox from where it has been suspended, and cutting it up.
Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Sh. Trad. Lore 172:
“The breakin' doon o' do mert” was a most important event.
(4) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 15; Bnff.2 1935:
Brack-in, to prepare a field for receiving the seed by harrowing.
Fif. 1825 Jam.2; Fif.10 1935:
To Break in. To go twice over ground with the harrow, the first time that this instrument is applied.
(5) (a) Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 29; Abd.15 1928:
“To break on a bottle” is a Scotch phrase for “uncorking a bottle.”
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff.; Bnff.2 1935:
We've broken-o' wir hinmost kebbuck.
(b) Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 29:
“To break on a pound note” is used for “changing a pound note” and perhaps “spending a part.”
Abd.15 1928:
I hinna nae sma' siller, an' I sanna brak on a note.
(6) (a) Lnk. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 359:
The collier's business is to break out the coal [i.e. break up the large masses into pieces that can be lifted].
(b) Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), s.v. braktin; 1914 Angus Gl.:
“To brak ut”: to bring fallow land under cultivation.
(7) Sh. 1926–1928 J.G. Lowrie an' da Wadder Forecast in Shet. Times:
I brook up aboot da wadder.

3. Phrases: (1) break a bottle, “to open a full bottle; especially when it is meant only to take out part of its contents. Hence, a Broken Bottle, one out of which part of its contents has already been taken” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Gen.Sc. Cf. 2 (5) (a); (2) brak' an egg, brack —, term used in curling (see second quot.), known to Abd.9, Fif.10 1935; Lnk.3 c.1910 for Lth. and Lnk. Also used in bowling (Ayr.8 1935); (3) brak breath, braik braeth, utter a sound; hold conversation with; (4) brak eggs wi' a tattiechapper, to be in a state of munificence; (5) brak muck, spread dung; (6) break prices, to lower prices; (7) break the drum, surpass everything; (8) brak' the hoose, break into a house; (9) brak (break) wi' a (the) fu' han', make a fraudulent bankruptcy. Gen.Sc.; (10) brak' ane's taes, to annoy, hurt; affect personally.(2) Ags.(D) 1890 A. N. Simpson Muirside Memories v.:
Now, sir, ye see that stane. . . . Well, sir, brak' an egg; just brak' an egg.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 88:
Brack an egg. A curling phrase, given by the directors of the game to those about to play; and means, that they are to strike a stone with their's, with that force that it would break an egg between them at the point of contact.
(3) Sh. 1897 Sh. News (22 May) (E.D.D. Suppl.); Cai.7 1935:
Da first 'at I saw wis Tammy an' Sibbie harkin, nae less; bit I niver braik [sic] braeth.
Bnff.2 1935:
She's a din-raisin' limmer, an' I'll never brak breath wi her again.
(4) Abd.1 1929:
The laddie is daein weel bit nae jist brakin eggs wi' a tattiechapper yet.
(5) Bnff.2 1928:
Tam fee't anither loon t' brak muck, gaither weeds, an' orra wark o' that kyn.
Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15):
Farmer engaging boy — “ye'll hae muck te brak, loon; div ye think ye cud dae't wi' a man?” “Na, fin I brak muck I dae't wi' a graip!”
(6) Rnf. [1850] A. McGilvray Poems (1862) 213:
Are they still hatching new devices To break the weavers table prices.
(7) Ags. 1891 J. M. Barrie Little Minister (2nd ed.) x.:
Ay, but this breaks the drum.
(8) Abd.4 1929:
“Them 'at sees ye a' day winna brak' the hoose for ye at even,” said to an unattractive woman.
(9) Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15):
Gin he brak, it'll be wi' a fu' han'.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings, etc. 221:
Some . . . break wi' the fu' han', an' pay nocht ava'.
(10) Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London, etc. (1869) 17–18:
An' I should be sae gnib as middle wi' the thing that did nae brak my taes, some o' the chiels might let a raught at me.
Ags. 1823 A. Balfour Foundling of Glenthorn I. v.:
The thing that doesna lie in your road winna brak' your taes.

4. Combs.: †(1) brak-back, brack-, “a designation metaph. given to the harvest-moon, from the additional labour she occasions to reapers” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2); (2) brak-the-barn, the thumb (in nursery-rhyme language).(2) Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights of Fancy 252:
Ilka dirlin' foot and hannie — Brak-the-barn and crannie-wannie.

5. Proverb:Bnff.2, Ags.1, Slg.3 1935:
“Ye've pu'd a stick tae brak yer ain back.” You have taken some action which will recoil on yourself.

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"Brak v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



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