Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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DURK, n.1, v. Also dirk, †dirg. [dʌrk]

1. n.

(1) A short dagger worn in the belt by Highlanders. Sc. 1724–27 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1762) I. 7:
On his gray yad as he did ride, With durk and pistol by his side.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
Een like a blue huntin' hawk's, whilk gaed throu' and throu' me like a Hieland durk.
n.Sc. 1724 Hist. Papers Jacobite Period (N.S.C. 1895) 133:
The Arms they make use of in War, are, . . . a Pistol and a Durk or Dagger, hanging by their side.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry xvii.:
Her tartan petticoat she'll kilt, An' durk an' pistol at her belt, She'll tak the streets.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders vii.:
There's mair need to be as quiet as an ash-leaf twirlin' to the grund in a windless frost. Tak' a durk, man, instead!
Slk. 1835 Hogg Wars Montrose III. 15:
Ilka man has a sword an' a gun, a knapsack an' a durk.

¶(2) Appar. a sort of clasp-knife. Ayr. 1795 Burns Letters (ed. Ferguson) No. 682:
He was despoiled of his durk, and that durk despoiled of its knife and fork, and silver mounting which had indeed been very rich.

†(3) fig.: a spoiling, a bungling. Edb. 1906 C. B. Gunn G. Heriot's Hospital 10:
This sudden stoppage of the singing in the Chapel was termed a “dirk”.

2. v.

(1) To stab with a dirk, or with some sharp-pointed instrument (Kcb.4 1900, dirg). Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 87:
Mischievous weapons, antick and droll, Was both for cleaving and for clieking, And durking too.

†(2) fig.: to bungle, to ruin. Abd. 1900 E.D.D.:
I've durket mysel'. He's dnrket that job.
Edb. 1845 F. W. Bedford Hist. G. Heriot's Hospital (1859) 346:
Cunninghame is a capital singer, though he dirkit the tune last night.
Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton 169:
He's aye douchie baith in Billy's and Cockie's, and dirks almost everything he tries in his ither classes.

[Origin obscure. O.Sc. has durk, n., from 1574 (dowrk, 1557), v., from 1599. The word appears first in Eng. in the form dork, 1602, the 17th cent. durk being dropped in favour of Johnson's form dirk, 1755. Possibly a corruption of L.Ger. dolk, dulk, id.]

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"Durk n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Oct 2020 <>



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