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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BUTT, n.2

1. “Ground appropriated for practising archery” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Known to Abd.2, Abd.22, Fif.10 1937.

Comb.: bowbutt, idem. Survives now only in names of farms, streets, etc. (Abd.19, Ags.2, Lnl.1 1937).Fif.1 1937:
There is a sort of deep-sunk turf amphitheatre near the road called “The Scores” in St Andrews, which is known as “The Bow Butts” and which was anciently used as a practice-ground for archers.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 104:
“Bowbutts,” little hillocks of earth common in Galloway; there are mostly two of them found near other, within 150 or perhaps 200 yards; they were the places shot at by our forefathers, when practising with the ancient weapons of war — the bow and arrow.

2. A line drawn on the ground to indicate the starting-point in any game or sport (Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1937; Uls.2 1929).Lth. 1831–1841 “J. Strathesk” More Bits from Blinkbonny (1885) 33:
“Marbles,” or “the bools,” was entirely a boys' game, from the Ring, Winnie, or Funny, with its hail-butt and half-butt.

3. Used as a measure of distance: the length of a shooting-range. Obs. also in Eng., last quot. 1696 (N.E.D.).Sc. 1724 W. Macfarlane Geog. Collections (1906) I. 8:
The church stands a pair of butts from . . . the toun of Inverurie.
Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Hist. and Trad. Tales 21:
The sheep-house, which is three or four pair of butts distant.

4. In grouse-shooting: a wall or bank of earth erected for the purpose of hiding the guns. Given in N.E.D. Suppl. but not elsewhere.Sc. 1911 “Ian Hay” The Right Stuff ii. iii.:
Next morning we met the keepers, dogs and beaters not far from the first line of butts on the moor.

[O.Sc. but, butt(e), bout, goal, target; also used as a measure of distance (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. butte, but, Fr. but.]

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"Butt n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 5 Feb 2023 <>



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