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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CLAG, Clagg, Klag, v. and n.1 Also found in Eng. dial. (E.D.D.). Cf. Cleg, v. and n.2 [klɑg]

I. v., tr. and intr.

1. tr.

(1) To besmear with dirt or any adhesive substance, such as clay, mud, etc. (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.2, Fif.10 1940). Ppl.adj. claggit.Rnf. 1861 J. Barr Poems and Songs 5:
It's raggit, and it's claggit, But it's no wi' decent wark.

(2) To clog, stick (to); stop up, cause to adhere; “to lick up, as a piece of soft cloth does wet or dust” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., klag). Ppl.adj. claggit, clagged. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10, Arg.1, Kcb.1 1940.Cai.7 1940:
'E wheelie wis clagged wi' ile.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas, etc. 124:
Sax little anes clag my shangy tail, The auldest nae eleven.
m.Sc. 1997 Tom Watson Dark Whistle 54:
His lineage hings
Aff breist-bane rid,
His neb an' claws
Wi' ran-dan bluid aye clagged,
Yet wi' rumgumption
Tholes yon coinage o'
Bad cess, the cleck
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 57:
What think ye neist, o' gude fat brose To clag his ribs? a dainty dose!
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-head and Trotters 39:
We pree the tither drappie, To synde the gusty mouthfu's ower And clear our claggit crappy.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ann. Parish xxvi.:
It happened that, as it had not been used for a day or two before, the lid was clagged, and, as it were, glewed in.

(3) “To climb (a tree or post) by gripping with hands and knees” (Cai.9 1939).

2. intr. “To adhere, of a sticky mass” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), s.v. kleg; 1914 Angus Gl., klag). Used fig. in quot., and also with meaning “to confederate” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.).Ork. 1911 J. Spence in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. IV. iv. 185:
Da bit a boy tuik hert whan he saw at he wasna tae be droonded like a kettlin'” an' as dey gaed ap for da hoose he clagged on tae him like tar tae a tree.

Comb.: clag-tistle, a kind of burr.Ork.1 1929:
The bairns were stickin clag-tistles on een anither's backs.

II. n.

1. A lump or accumulation of clay, mud, snow, etc.; “anything sticky” (n.Dwn., Tyr. 1930 (per Uls.3)); “loamy, adhesive mass; mire” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), s.v. kleg). Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1940.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
There was a great clag o' dirt sticking to his shoe.
Sc. 1832–1846 A. Fisher in Whistle-Binkie, 5th Series (1853) 52:
I wish I had a clag o' snaw, Or dad o' ice, tolick.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 62:
Syne, he'd aye tak fower strides frae the door ben the lobby inno the parlour an send a cauld waucht o air innower, faniver he opened the door, garrin the flames lowp abeen the clags o dross an bankit peat.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal, etc. 100:
. . . to the surface rose sic noisome clags, Bunches o' sparrow-grass an' hame-made rags.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 86:
Will ye be sae kind, honest weaver, as to favour me wi' a bit clag o' your flour-dressing paste to batter up this adverteesement of a roup on your smithy door?

Fig. in phr.: he has nae clag till his tail, “there is no stain [on his] character” (Sc. 1808 Jam.).

2. A quantity of any kind of soft food. Specif. an ice-cream sandwich, consisting of ice-cream between two pieces of sponge cake (Edb. c.1900). Abd. 1906 J. Christie in Bnffsh. Jnl. (12 June) 2:
And here's whaur Duffus held the splore, An' gied the masons clag galore.
Lnk. 1805 G. M'Indoe Poems 68:
Great claggs o' meat they ne'er could worry.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin Borderland 53:
Who lounge in here from far and wide To wash their fleshbags — get 'em dried, And cook their clag and sparkers.

3. “An incumbrance, a burden lying on property; a forensic term” (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1700 Records Conv. Burghs (1880) 301:
All claggs, claimes, . . . and processes.
Sc. 1722 Ramsay Three Bonnets 4:
. . . a good Estate, Which has been honourably won, An' handed down from Sire to Son, But Clag or Claim, for Ages past.
Ags. 1722 Private Document (per Fif.1):
All clags, claims . . . and other obligations.

4. A fault, cause for reproach.Sc. 1724–1727 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 206:
He was a man without a clag, His heart was frank without a flaw.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man vii.:
But let me tell ye, Will o' Craik, it is a sair fault o' your's, and it is a clagg o' the hale clan.

5. A large amount of anything not particularly wanted, an encumbrance, lumber (Lnk. 1975). Cf. 3. Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 78:
An' what's the ferlie? Priests an' fools Are gear we've aye a clag o'.

[O.Sc. clag, clagg, v., to clot with something soft or sticky; to clog, 1456; n., (1) a claim against a holder of property, freq. associated with claim, 1592; (2) a tag of vice or evil repute, 1596. Cf. Dan. klag, klagge, sticky mud, clay. There may be some confusion with clog, e.g. in 3 and 4 above, but in s.Sc., where the two words are kept distinct, clag implies stickiness and clog weight.]

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"Clag v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Mar 2023 <>



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