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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DARG, Dairg, Daurg, Darg(u)e, n.1, v. Also †da(u)rk, †dar(a)ck; darke (Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (June) 282, 510); derg-. Dim. daurglin. [dɑrg, derg, dǫrg]

I. n.

1. A day's work (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Mry.1 1925; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 160, darck; Rxb. c.1920 Mr Clelland W.-L., daurg). Gen.Sc. Often in comb. day's darg (Sh., Bnff., wm.Sc.). Hence extended to mean a task, work in gen., whether lasting for a day or not.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 143:
He never wrought a good Dark, that went grumbling about.
Sc. 1824 R. Chambers Poet. Remains (1883) 19:
In providin' o' whilk he has mony a day's dargue O' saxteen long hours, at the customer-wark!
Sc. 1828 Scott F. M. Perth xxiii.:
I am sure there are many scores of stout burghers in Perth who would have done this day's dargue, as well or better than I.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 33:
the ilka day, an sent doon ben
toom rakes o hutches inbye gaein
ginn piece-timm at the darg alow
whoere collier bodies wrocht awo
contrack, or oncost keekiebo.
Abd. 1744 Monymusk Papers (S.H.S. 1945) 145:
It [ox] will perform one darack and yoaking each workeing day betwixt 1st Oct. and 1st of March.
Abd. 1988 Jack Webster Another Grain of Truth (1989) 21:
It is no condescension to say that these men are the salt of the earth, honest, decent country folk who would put most of us to shame with the effort and integrity which they invest in their daily darg.
m.Sc. 1939 James Barke The Land of the Leal (1987) 56:
Not for the dairyman did the lengthening days and the soft winds and the singing of birds arouse feelings of joy and gladness. Nor did the swelling bud on the thorn promise release from the winter's darg.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 39:
Eftir yon wearie daurg frae burn tae heidrigg
cowpin the furrs owre in the droukin rain,
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 72:
' ... But we canna aye say this, we must steik oor gabs tae be wise, and dae oor day's darg and no challenge the kirk, or the state, or some o the prejudices and enthusiasms powerfu men hae. ... '
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 131:
Up hurry-scurry in her sark She spangit for her daily dark.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick i.:
We wad a' be set up in bits o' fairms o' oor ain, an' nae need to dae a day's dairg for ony man but oorsels.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Farmer's Salutation xvi.:
Monie a sair daurk we twa hae wrought.
Ayr. 1901 “G. Douglas” Green Shutters iv.:
It's an unco thing if a body's not to have a moment's rest after such a morning's darg!
Dmf. 1894 J. Shaw in Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 145:
There is a field in Tynron parish known as the four-darg; that is, it takes four days to plough it.
Slk. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. and Slk. 253:
The absurd exactions of carriages, kain, dargs, and other remnants of feudal manners, are still retained in some leases; but, in most cases money is accepted in lieu of them.

Hence †(1) darg-days, a certain number of days during which cottars had to work for their landlord, in lieu of rent (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.2); †(2) dargsman, darksman, a workman, a labourer; (3) love-darg, “a piece of work or service done, not for hire, but merely from affection” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Abd.19, Fif.1 1939), a labour of love; “a gift day of service of horses, men, etc. by neighbour farmers to a new-come farmer” (Per.2 1928).(2) Slg. 1723 Burgh Rec. Slg. (1889):
19 Feb.: Workmen, hauxters, carriers, horsehyrers, and other dargsmen.
Rnf. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 II. 153:
A common labourer, called a darksman, with his spade will earn 1s. 6d. sterling, per day.
(3) Sc. 1938 People's Friend (3 Sept.):
Our Love Darg is the effort made every autumn by the “People's Friend” and its readers on behalf of child patients in hospital.
em.Sc. (a) 1895 “I. Maclaren” Auld Langsyne ix.:
It's a love-darg, said his wife; because ye've been sober (ill), they juist want to show kindness.

2. Applied in various senses to the product of a day's work; a set task: “the amount of mineral put out by a miner in a day” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 23), “the set amount of coal to be filled in the shift” (Edb.6 1944): “a great or heavy piece of work; large tract of land to be cultivated” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)).Sc. 1803 Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 129:
A darg of peats is as many as a man can cut in a day.
Per. 1715 in T. L. K. Oliphant Jacobite Lairds of Gask (1870) 35:
I will not have sum years 500 ston hay and Im willing if all the K:s friends be stinted conform to what dargs of hay they have to give my proportione.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 509:
Each family requires at an average 10 dargues of peats yearly. Each darg uncovers a space equal to 10 square yards of clay: so that by casting peats, the moss tenants gain yearly about 6 roods of land.
Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 332:
Formerly the coals were put out by the dark, consisting of 28 hutches. . . . An active workman could very easily put out two of these darks per day.
Edb.6 1944:
The darg of No. 1 Section is 200 hutches.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems 85:
Nor come thy visits scant o' rantin' times, When cares an' daurglins to the wa' are thrown.
Kcb.4 c.1900:
“A daurg o' warmin peats” was a common expression.
Dmf. 1812 D. Hume Decisions Court of Session (1839) I. 859:
Letting out the moss in dargues to be worked for sale.

II. v. “To work by the day; generally applied to agricultural labour, as opening drains, trenching, etc.” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 36); to toil. Known to Bnff.2, Abd. correspondents, Fif.10 1939. Also used tr. = to work at (something), 1996 Ian Middleton in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of Winning Poems and Stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 40:
Foo mony men, in days lang syne, wi dour unbendin will,
Hid dargit at it, days on eyne, or they'd rivvint fae the hill?
Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 79:
Her feyther is a wealthy laird, While I maun darge till banes grow weary.
Knr. 1886 “H. Haliburton” Horace in Homespun 2:
Rich folk lookin' idly on At puir folk busy dargin'.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 18:
“What o' mysel?” thinks Peter. “As for me, I've darg'd a' week, and Seturday's nae rest.”
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 43:
And ither hert-steers that keep burblan back
Frae Paris, Rheims or Anjou, The Hague or Mantua;
Or the time I spent amang the Germans,
Yon honest dargan chiels that some day yet
Will rule the warld
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 166:
'Betsy, Betsy! Best mind Henry doesnae come and find you darging like a skivvy. He'd no' like it.'

Hence 1. darger, darker, dergar, a casual, unskilled labourer, esp. one engaged in draining (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1939); 2. day-darger, idem.1. Sc. 1720 Grievances of the poor Commonality 38:
Servants here that continues to be Servants and Darkers.
Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 323:
The creature's surely sleeping after his day's wark; for he works like a dergar, and nae man kens what at.
Abd. 1936 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (July) 199:
Wi' dargers' drains the lan' wiz unco dry.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 148:
Nor yet shall ony darker stark Lie gruntin' at the hour o' wark.
2. Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1856) III. 44:
This is natural man — the child — the day-darger — the Savage.

[O.Sc. has darg, a day's work, specifically of harvest-work, from 1535; a quantity (of turf, peats, or hay) representing a day's work, from 1566; an extent (of meadow) which can be mowed in a day, from 1582 (D.O.S.T.), variant of dark, id., a reduced form of dawark, -werk, from O.E. dægweorc, day's work.]

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"Darg n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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