Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BREEK, Breik, n.1 Trousers; rarely used in the sing. Like Eng. breeches, breeks may cover the whole of the leg down to the ankle. [brik(s) Sc., but Abd. + brɪks]

1. Examples of the sing. use. Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 75:
The man was seurly fairly left, tae come tae the hoose o' Geud wi De'il 'e rag o' breek or troosers on.
Ags. 1871 W. Adamson Abbot of Aberbrothock (1886) x.; Ags.1 1935:
Had ye been a wheen half-nakit Heelandmen withoot a breek on yer hurdies, I wad hae thocht naething o' yer rinnin' awa'.
Knr. [1886] “H. Haliburton” Horace in Homespun (1925) 190:
An' weel he kens it's no' the Indies That ane may scaithless want the breek, An' sae he seeks the chimla-cheek.

Hence (1) breekens, breeches; (2) breekless, (a) without trousers, i.e. too young to wear trousers; (b) “wearing a kilt” (Bnff.4 1912; Bnff.2 1935); (3) breeky, clad in “breeks.” (1) (Highland) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian li.:
How is the lads to climb the praes wi' thae tamn'd breekens on them?
(2) (a) Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rambling Rhymes 162:
When our grand-daddies ower the braes O' blooming heather, Ran breekless.
(b) Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
Heard ye ever a breekless loon frae Lochaber tell his mind and his errand mair deftly?
(3) w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. maer:
Breeky maer, playfully applied to a boy on his unusual appearance in his first pair of trousers.
[For maer, see Mae.]

2. Examples of the pl. use. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 54:
A Wife knows enough, who knows the good Man's Breeks from Weilycoat.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley (1817) xlviii.:
“Why,” said he, “you know, Baron, the proverb tells us, ‘It's ill taking the breeks off a Highlandman.'”
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 6:
The laird hed tae sit doon on de knockin steen, whill sheu poo'd aff his stockins an' breeks.
Abd.7 1925:
“His breeks lies gey near his hip,” said of one who is mean or parsimonious.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Scotch Drink xxi.:
Fortune, if thou'll but gie me still Hale breeks, a scone, an' whisky gill, An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will, Tak a' the rest.

3. Phrases: (1) it (i)s no(t) in your breeks (breiks), “used, in low proverbial language, in relation to ability, but always in a negative form, as addressed to one who boasts that he can do this or that; It's no in your breiks, man” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Abd.2, Fif.10, Slg.3 1935); (2) to fill one's breeks, to be big or stout; (3) to have riven breeks, a riven breek, to have something to conceal (Bnff.2 1935); (4) to pull up one's breeks, to prepare or gird oneself for action. Gen.Sc.; cf. Eng. slang, to pull up one's socks; (5) to wear the breeks, to be master, to dominate (applied to a wife). Gen.Sc. (1) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 220:
It is not in your breeks. An allusion to Money in our Pockets; signifies our Inability to effect, or procure such a Thing.
(2) Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 25:
As I grew up an' filled my breeks, fyow market days we saw.
(3) Abd.(D) 1785 R. Forbes Ulysses' Answer in Sc. Poems 30:
I dinna hing my lugs, like ane That has a riven breek.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) v.:
Them that hae riven breeks had better keep their seats.
(4) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 43:
A period when it was needful for me to pull up my breeks, and when Ambition touched me on the arm.
(5) Ags. 1889 Arbroath Guide (5 Oct.) 4/3:
Ye maun ken that I've nae desire to gar folk believe that Marg'et wears the breeks.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xiii.:
Poor Alick Bowsie married to a drucken randie, that wore the breeks.

4. Combs.: (1) breek-brother, -bridder, — brither, “a rival inlove” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). This is also present in O.Sc. (see D.O.S.T. s.v. breik-brother); (2) Grey Breeks, a nickname formerly given to some Scots regiments. The Royal Scots Fusiliers were the “Earl of Mar's Grey Breeks.” The Perthshire Light Infantry were the “Perthshire Grey Breeks” (see W. M'Millan Scottish Symbols, pp. 260, 266). (1) Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
When two men are courting the same woman, each of them is breekbridder to the other.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 97:
The Twa Breek Brithers, and their Ae Nicht's wooin'.

[O.Sc. breke, breik, brekis, breeks, breeches, trousers (D.O.S.T.). N.Mid.Eng. breke, O.E. brēc, pl. of brōc, breeches; O.N. brōk, one leg of a pair of breeches, pl. brœkr (Zoëga). The form breekens is prob. for breekings, cf. Plaiden and Plaiding.]

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"Breek n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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