Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CLOSE, CLOSS, Kloss, n.1 This word had orig. a different connotation in different districts, but in Mod.Sc. the uses have become largely confused, and often almost impossible to distinguish. Some of the examples quoted below might belong more properly to another sub-section. Dim. clos(s)ie. [klos, klɔs]

1. A courtyard; an enclosed space adjoining a house. Chiefly Edb., but known to Cai.7, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1936. Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923) gives the meaning of “an area in front of a house” as obs. Obs. in Mod.Eng. Sc. 1933 E. S. Haldane Scotland of Our Fathers iv.:
Wynds were often so narrow that a cart could not pass along them, and out of these opened “closes,” or courts, in the centre of which was a dunghill.
Edb. [1825] R. Chambers Trad. of Edb. (1869) 12:
For an inn, he would have had the White Horse, in a close in the Canongate.
Edb. 1929 Edinburgh 1329–1929 385:
The most serious overbuilding in Edinburgh, however, was that which took place in the closes. Under the combined pressure of war and increase of population, the old and narrow gardened enclosures were gradually covered with buildings which were approached from the street by a narrow pathway.

2. (1) “A farmyard; the yard round which the farm-buildings are arranged” (Mry.1 1914; Bnff.2 1942). Fairly common in most parts of Scot. Used also in Kent and Sussex (E.D.D.). Ork.1 1942, however, says: “in smaller (croft) houses the ‘close' was usually a passage between the dwellinghouse and byre, etc.” Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 35:
The mull cam' dirlin' throwe the closs, an' i' the cornyard steid.
Ayr. 1858 M. Porteous Real “Souter Johnny” 17:
The little building [Ballochneil old farmhouse] is yet to be seen, standing on the opposite side of the “closs” or courtyard of the steading.

(2) “An enclosure (usually covered) for sheltering cattle” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Borders 1917 Border Mag. (Aug.) 192:
Cattle are housed comfortably in stone-built closes, bedded to the knees in golden oat-straw.

3. The passageway leading into a courtyard; any narrow passage or alley. Later extended to a narrow lane with houses on each side; “a narrow street” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kloss); “used of the wider openings in the old town which would lead to several tenements or houses and yards” (Edb.3 1929). This meaning later spread from Edb. to all old Sc. towns, although such “closes” are tending to disappear through slum clearance schemes. Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 122:
I wis just gain ta say, 'at dey wir some mair o' dy freends comin' up da closs, an' I toucht doo micht care ta see dem.
n.Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters North Scot. (1754) I. 63:
[In Inverness] a little Court or a turn-again Alley, is a Closs.
Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 44:
They huntit him thro' ilka clossie an' lane.
Ags. 1762 in J. M. Beatts Municipal Hist. of Dundee (1873) 121:
That all persons within this burgh make the street clean before their own doors and gates, alswell doors within closses as on the fore streets.
Ags. 1891 J. M. Barrie Little Minister (2nd ed.) i.:
All Thrums was out in its wynds and closes.
Edb. 1779 H. Arnot Hist. Edb. 233:
The ridge of this hill forms a continued and very magnificent street. From its sides, lanes and alleys, which are here called wynds and closes, extend like slanting ribs.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xx.:
The Boar's Head Inn . . . was little better than any of the nuerous taverns that kept discreet half-open doors to the wynds and closes of the Duke's burgh town.
Rxb. 1833 Mrs Hall Sc. Borderer (1874) 12:
The prospect was bounded by the opposite houses of the Dean's Close.

4. The entry to a tenement house, the open passage-way giving access to the common stairs and the floors above. Chiefly Gsw., wm. and sw.Sc., but known to Abd.19 and Lnl.1 1936. Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 53:
If ben the laich closs ye're intendin' to gang, Mak' a boo to the roof, an' ye'll no dae faur wrang.
Gsw. 1931 T. Smellie in Glasgow Herald (3 Nov.) 5:
The common entrance to a tenement is a “close.”

5. Phrases: (1) craig's-close (closs), see Craig, n.2 and v.; (2) to be up a clos(i)e, of persons: (a) “to be in a quandary, to be in a hopeless position” (Arg.2 1936); (b) “to be quite wrong” (Kcb.1 1936). Also used impers.: it's a' up a closie (wi'), it is a hopeless position, a poor outlook (for); known to Bnff.2, Abd.19, Lnl.1, Lnk.3 1936. (2) Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden iii.:
Gin ye dinna belang to the Established Kirk, it's a' up a closie wi' ye.

6. Combs.: (1) close-foot, the end of a “close” furthest from the street; (2) close-head, closs-, (a) the entrance to a passage or alley; (b) transferred to the crowd of people that congregates there; (3) close-mooth, — mou', the entrance to a “close.” (1) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet, Letter vii.:
I had no mind . . . to confirm the report . . . which had probably spread from Campbell's close-foot to the Mealmarket Stairs.
(2) (a) Ags. 1762 in J. M. Beatts Municipal Hist, of Dundee (1873) 121:
That all hucksters . . . pay the Thesaurer one yearly duty of twenty shillings Scots for the liberty of keeping their stands foregainst their own doors or closs-heads.
(b) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian v.:
Sic men as Duncan Forbes, and that other Arniston chield there, without muckle greater parts, if the close-head speak true, than mysell, maun be presidents and king's advocates.
(3) Bnff.(D) 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 35:
We've flitted, lad, we've flitted, We've left the auld close mou'.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 199:
Now at ilk corner [they] ready staund, Or i' the close-mooths keep sentry.

[O.Sc. clos, close, closse, an enclosed space (adjacent to a house or other building); an enclosure, court or courtyard; a narrow space between buildings and giving access to these; an entry or passage. Close-fute and close-heid are also given (D.O.S.T.). Mid.Eng. close, clos, n.Mid.Eng. cloise; O.Fr. clos, Lat. clausum, an enclosed place.]

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"Close n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jan 2022 <>



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