Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BURN, v. Meanings and uses not found in St.Eng. For met. pa.t. and pa.p., see Brunt, v., and for combs. with pa.p., see Burnt.

1. Used pass.: to suffer (Abd.9, Fif.10 1937). Sc. 1808 Jam.:
One is said to be burnt, when he has suffered in any attempt. Ill burnt, having suffered severely.

2. “To deceive, to cheat in a bargain” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff.2, Abd.22, Fif.10 1937; Ayr. 1898 E.D.D.). Abd.2 1937:
Sandy was fair burnt wi' the auld coo he bocht.
Ags.1 1937:
Though he's been badly burnt mair than eence wi, his trokin, he winna tak a tellin.

3. “To derange any part of a game by improper interference; as, in curling, ‘to burn a stane,' is to render the move useless, by the interference of one who has not the right to play at that time” (Clydes. 1825 Jam.2; also known to Bnff.7 1912; Abd.2, Ags.1, Fif.10 1937); in bowling: to touch accidentally with the foot a wood belonging to one's own side. This wood has then to be removed from the green and is not allowed to count for that head. Often used as ppl.adj. (Kcb.9 1937). Per. 1898 E.D.D.:
That stone's burnt. I saw you burn it wi' yer besom.
Arg.1 1937:
That's a burnt bool; aff the green wi't!
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 104:
When a stone in motion hits another in passing slightly, it is said to burn on it . . . and when a stone in motion hits the feet or the broom of any player, not on the same side of the game with that stone, it is allowed to be played over again; but if it hit one on its own side, it is thrown off the ice; for why it is a burnt-stane.

Phr.: to burn the end, a term in bowls: “to drive the jack out of bounds” (Slg.3 1937).

4. To light up water when fishing at night in order to attract and spear the fish. Gen. in phr. to burn the water, which is used also in Eng. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Lnk.3 1937. Cf. Bleeze, v.1, 1. m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 69:
Puir Jamie's killed. A better lad Ye wadna find to busk a flee Or burn a püle or wield a gad Frae Berwick to the Clints o' Dee.
Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 591:
The fishers follow the practice of their forefathers, angling, setting small nets in cairns, when the river is in flood, and killing them [fish] with listers, when the river is small and the evening serene; and this they call burning the water, because they are obliged to carry a lighted torch in the boat.

5. Phrases and combs.: †(1) burn-airn, a branding-iron; (2) burnin' beauty, “a female who is very handsome. The idea is thus reversed; ‘She's nae burnin' beauty mair than me'” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) burnin(g) shame, see Black, adv. (2); (4) burn-shin-da-eve, “a term for a woman who is fond of crouching over the fire” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); (5) burn-wood, wood for fuel (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (6) to burn nits (nuts), a ceremony observed on Halloween, supposed to foretell the matrimonial fate of the younger members of the party. Gen.Sc.; (7) to burn tobacco, to smoke (Bnff.2, Abd.22 1937). (1) Abd. 1825 Jam.2:
“They're a' brunt wi' ae burn-airn,” i.e. They are all of the same kidney; always in a bad sense.
(5) Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork., Zetland, etc. 92–93:
There are no Pites [peats] in them, but many Ships being cast away upon them, the Inhabitants make use of the Wrack for Burn-wood.
(6) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween ii.:
Some merry, friendly, countra folks, Together did convene, To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks, An' haud their Halloween. [Ib. vii. Note: “They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the Courtship will be.”]
(7) ne.Sc. 1883–1886 D. Grant Chron. of Keckleton (1888) 29:
I wud gang in without the excuse o' requirin' to burn tobacco.

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"Burn v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jan 2022 <>



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