Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

CURN, Kurn, Curran, Kirn, n.1 Cf. Corn, n.1 [kʌrn, kɪrn]

1. A grain or particle (Bnff.2, Ags.2, Slg.3 1941). Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act. II. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
And on the Haggies Elspa spares nae Cost; . . . she can mix fu' nice The gusty Ingans with a Curn of Spice.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxvii.:
Mind to spice high with Latin; a curn or two of Greek would not be amiss.
n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
To express the greatest want, it is said that one has not meal's curn.
Fif. 1882 “S. Tytler” Scotch Marriages II., Harry Balfour's Elopement i.:
He's cleaned out his cap, ilka curran'.
Edb. 1887 R. S. Inglis in D. H. Edwards (ed.) Mod. Sc. Poets (10th Series) 306:
To get a scone or bannock baket, When box an' barrel are clean raket, Nor ae kurn left to feed a mouse.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.2:
A curn o' bread, a small piece of bread.

Hence curn(e)y, kirny, adj., (1) “grainy, full of grains” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); †(2) “knotted, candied; as honey, marmalade, etc.” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2). Cf. quernie s.v. Quairn. (1) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Meal is said to be curny, when the grains of it are large, or when it is not ground very small.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xx.:
It [wheat-flour]'s no that ill food, though far frae being sae hearty or kindly to a Scotchman's stomach as the curney aitmeal is.
em.Sc. (a) 1894 “I. Maclaren” Bonnie Brier Bush 269:
Saunders has been . . . for five and thirty year . . . eatin' naethin' but kirny aitmeal.

2. A (small) number or quantity; a few (Mry.11925; Bnff.8 c.1920; Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, s.Per. (per Fif.13) 1941). Also dim. curnie (Bnff.2 1941). Of persons: a band or company. Often used with a following noun with ellipsis of of. ne.Sc. 1929 M. W. Simpson Day's End 28:
A gey curn year — twal' oot come Caun'lemas — Ha'e worn awa' sin' yon day Bell was ta'en.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 344:
O send poor Andie friends in curns, Or but one “bonny Dutchess.”
Ags. 1894 G. A. Mackay in People's Friend (30 July) 483/1:
East o' this, a fell curran miles, Miss Elliott.
Edb. 1776 Weekly Mag. (11 July) 82:
Of gowd and siller ('twixt us twa) It costs a curn.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 109:
Behold ye wa's o' Alloway This curn o' canty carlies.

[O.Sc. curn, curne, kurne, etc., a single grain of corn; a given fraction or proportion of corn dressed for multure, 1446 (D.O.S.T.); O.E. corn, corn. The vowel relationship between curn and corn is uncertain: phs. due to early dial. variation; cf. Kirn, n.2]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Curn n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2021 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: