Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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DORBIE, n. Also darbie (Ags. 1890 (per Abd.27); Slg. 1902 W. C. Paterson Echoes of Endrickvale 15).

1. A stone-mason (Cai.1 c.1920; Bnff.2 1940; Abd.15 1949; Fif. 1899 Colville Vernacular 16; Per. 1900 E.D.D.; Rxb.5 1940). Bnff.6 c.1920:
Weather Lore — 1st March: “Corbie an dorbie baith a-biggin wid be.”
Abd. 1921 J. Wight in Swatches 9:
Fin the muckle skweel at Byth wis biggit, the tyler wis a barra-min tae the masons. An aul' hoose . . . wis made a bothy for the dorbies.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 13:
I wonder what the puir dorbies, plasterers, navvies, an' gardeners do in sic fearfu' weather?
Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 82:
The stane was laid wi' muckle care . . . Syne aff the dorbies gleefu' gaed . . . Doon to the “Curlers'” weel-kent inn.

2. In Freemasonry: an initiate (Sc. 1891 Farmer and Henley).

Hence dorbie's knock, a special knock on a door given by freemasons as a signal among themselves, described as two long raps, three short and one long (Ib.).

3. Applied by extension to certain birds: (1) the dunlin, Pelidna alpina (Bnff. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XIII. 10, Note), phs. because of a fancied resemblance between its plumage and the mason's lime-stained apron (but see etym. note); cf. blind dorbie s.v. Blin, v.2, n., adj.; (2) the crow (Abd.15 1949; ne.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), because it is frequently seen on walls and roofs.

[Origin obscure. In 3 (1) the word is phs. rather to be derived from Dorb, n.1, v.; cf. san' dorbie s.v. Sand.]

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



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