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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FREE, adj., v., n. Also frei (s.Sc.). Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. Guiltless, innocent (Sh.10 1953). Obs. in Eng. a.1700. Phr. I'm (etc.) no free, used elliptically = “I (etc.) can't deny it, must admit it, there is something in that,” and implying an asseveration of what another speaker has said in regard to oneself or another, sc. “I'm not free of being, doing, etc. what you say” (Sh.12 1953).Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sh. Sketches 17:
“Doo'll be blyde o' dat,” said Mary, smiling . . . “Yae, I'm no free,” answered Aandrew.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (9 Faebruary):
Whin experrience manages ta taech a föl, shö's no free at times o makkin him intil a knave.

2. Unmarried, single (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Fif., m.Lth. 1953).Ayr. 1725 Session Bk. Dundonald (1936) 620:
Alexander Stuart in Kirktoun of Dundonald, being a married man, was found in naked bed with one Janet Lusk, a free woman.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 202:
The mode adopted was to order all the “free” or unmarried women to compear at the kirk.
Bnff.2 1943:
I'm looking for a free man for foreman. We haena a cottar house.

3. With the inf.: ready, willing (Sh., Ags., Slg., Kcb. 1953). Obs. in Eng.Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 95:
I'm free to say't, whaever kent ye, They had but little wit that sent ye.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 167:
I've had nae fine night . . . But ane right sair, I'm free to swear t'ye.
Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rhymes 120:
His maister's free to gie his aith He didna dee a fair strae death.

4. Of pastry, scones, oatcakes, or the like: brittle, crumbly, friable (Sc. 1818 Sawers). Gen.Sc.; also of stone (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 210). Cf. Freestane.Rs. 1794 Stat. Acc.1 XI. 336:
A large quantity of potatoes is raised here, of a very free and sweet quality.
Abd. 1867 Mrs Allardyce Goodwife xli.:
Fan soor scones were nott at Yeel, Or scrumpit bannocks free.

5. In calculating time, of days or nights: clear, non-inclusive, esp. in legal usage of days coming between and not including two given dates, as between a summons and a trial.Sc. 1716 S.C. Misc. (1841) I. Pref. 66:
John Cruickshank, their officer, to pass and lawfullie summond the said Dr Andrew Burnet personallie, or at his dwelling house, upon ten frie dayes, to compear.
Edb. 1739 Caled. Mercury (30 July):
As in Civil Affairs, so in Criminal Cases, the Days specified in the Act must be free Days, so either the 11th of June or 21st of July could not be admitted in the Calcul.
Rxb. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XXI. 13:
Ten free days intervene between the intimation and the meeting.
Sc. 1800 D. Hume Trials for Crimes I. 175:
In the case of Robert Thomson in June 1739, it was debated . . . whether the forty days must be free days; that is, exclusive of the day on which the trial began.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 168:
This is Hallaeven, The morn is Halladay; Nine free nichts till Martinmas.
Sc. 1945 J. T. Cox Pract. Ch. Scot. 99:
“Free days” or “clear days” means days over and above the day of the initial and the day of the terminal act.

II. v. 1. With the inf.: to absolve, acquit (someone, -thing) from being or intending something, to clear of a suspicion, deny that one is or does something (Sh., ne.Sc. 1953).Mry. 1825 T. D. Lauder Lochandhu xxi.:
I wadna free her to be a wee skier wi' ower muckle drink.
Abd. 1914 A. McS. The Bishop 2:
Ay, Eppie his smeddum: I widna free 'er to try some queer pliskie on 'im.
Abd. 1921 W. Walker W.-L.:
I wadna free't = there is a possibility of its being so.

2. In a game, esp. hide-and-seek: to absolve from the conditions, to put out of the game, either by having reached the “home” before the searcher, or by failing to do so. The person who gets there first, whether seeker or sought, calls “Free!” (Abd., Ags., m.Lth., Bwk., Ayr. 1953). Phr.: free-the-den, a game in which two sides try to capture one another, the captives being kept in a “den.” If an opponent succeeds in entering the “den” without being captured, he shouts “Free the den!” and automatically releases the prisoners (Ayr.9 1950).Abd. 1923 Sc. Univ. Verses 1918–1923 19:
I joukit an' ran, but aye as I ran I hard “Mysie! Mysie! Ye're freed.”

III. n. 1. The (United) Free Church of Scotland; a member of these churches; also a member of the Free Presbyterian Church. Gen.Sc. A Wee Free is a member of the minority of the Free Church of Scotland which refused to enter the Union with the United Presbyterian Church in 1900 and which continues under its original name, being particularly strong in the Highlands and Islands. The phr. is used gen. with somewhat disparaging force, from the notion that this church tends to be narrow, doctrinaire and puritanical in its views.Bwk. 1863 A. Steel Poet. Works 38:
As independent wad ye be, Ye stars and pillars o' the Free, And soon, ye worthies, may ye see That happy day!
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 259:
It'll no be den, “Auld kirkers, come ye dis wy;” nor, “Frees, geng ye up yonder.”
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town xv.:
I'll dee an Establishment man. I've nae faith in your U.P.s and your Frees.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 15:
The Frees are aye ruggin at me for subscriptions — priggin siller here an' siller there.
Sc. 1904 Abd. Daily Jnl. (24 Aug.):
He deprecated the Free Church being referred to as the “Wee Frees.”
Arg. 1952 N. Mitchison Lobsters on the Agenda iv.:
It was possible on the whole to tell the Established from the Wee Frees and the F.P.'s. There was more latitude in the dress, especially of the ladies of the congregation. The Free Presbyterians were mostly all in their blacks and a few older ones still wore the long black mantles and black bonnets on their heads.
m.Sc. 1988 Archie Cameron Bare Feet, Tackety Boots (1997) 37:
My mother, a hard-working and somewhat self-effacing person was born in Tolsta, Lewis, and brought up under the strict and narrow teachings of the 'Wee Free' church.
wm.Sc. 1991 Liz Lochhead Bagpipe Muzak 25:
Protesting Wee Frees fed him antifreeze
Sc. 1999 Herald 11 Sep 16:
"... The next thing I flew up to Scotland in a tartan Bunny costume for a promotion and it was on the front page of the newspapers. My mother is a Wee Free and it went down like a lead balloon. ..."
Sc. 2000 Herald 1 Feb 17:
The term "Wee Free" was coined around 1904, when the Free Church won legal title to her name and assets against the much larger United Free Church; the epithet is today used of both Free and Free Presbyterian traditions. It makes many cringe.
Sc. 2002 Daily Record 13 Dec 13:
We also have to tackle our sectarian schools.
All children - whether Catholic, Protestant, Wee Free, Moslem, Jewish, Mormon, Wicanist, Satanist or nothing in particular - should be educated together.
Sc. 2003 Herald 16 Dec 18:
Daft old Christmas joke to get us in the mood? A woman goes into the post office and asks for 30 Christmas stamps. "What denomination?" asked the counter clerk.
"Ye gods, has it come to this?" she replies in disgust. "Give me 15 Church of Scotland, 10 Catholic, two Episcopalian and three Wee Free."
Sc. 2004 Times 9 Oct 16:
At stake is the future of the 161-year-old Presbyterian Church, known as the Wee Frees and one of the last strongholds of sabbatarianism in the Highlands and Islands, not to mention ownership of about £100 million of church property.
Sc. 2004 Herald 9 Oct 3:
The collective national mood seems to make the Notting Hill carnival look as sedate as a Wee Free Sunday. The tickets have gone as fast as Tony Blair's credibility. The expectation is as high as a Glaswegian's cholesterol.

2. Freestone, soft easily-worked sandstone (Gall. 1900 E.D.D.); also in powder form used as an abrasive for cleaning. Sh. 1923 T. Manson Lerwick 265:
Misses Blair, were manufacturers and dealers in a commodity unknown in these days, but common at the time they lived and moved upon the earth, namely, "free"- that is to say, sandstone ground to a powder, used two generations ago where pipeclay is now employed-on hearthstones, steps, and those places which housewives with an eye to the beautiful like to make clean and fresh.

IV. Combs.: 1. free cleek, see Cleek, n.1, 3.; 2. free coal, a kind of coal that breaks easily or burns freely (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 30). Gen. in mining areas; †3. free corn, corn “which is so ripe as to be easily shaken” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); 4. free coup, a tip into which anyone may shoot rubbish free of charge, a public dump. See Coup, n.1, 7. (3). For extended meaning see 1886 quot.; 5. free days. See I. 5.; †6. free-gaun, easy-going, happy-go-lucky; †7. free gear, goods which are the absolute and unencumbered property of the possessor; 8. Free Kirk, Free Church (of Scotland), the name adopted by the body which, from liberal and evangelical principles, broke away from the Established Church of Scotland (see s.v. Estaiblish) at the Disruption of 1843, now applied to the minority which dissented from the union of 1900 and which continues as a separate church under the original name. See under III. 1. above; a church building belonging to this body. Hence Free Kirker, a member of this church; 9. free-living, self-indulgent, following one's appetites (Sh., ne.Sc., Fif., Uls. 1953). First found in Scott, and no doubt formed from earlier Eng. free-liver; 10. free man of the forest, see Forest, 2 (2). 11. Free Presbyterian (Church), (a member of) the body which seceded from the Free Church of Scotland in 1892 after the passing of its Declaratory Act which they considered to weaken the original Calvinist doctrine of the church. Abbreviated to F.P., see 1952 quot. under III. 1.; 12. free toom, = 4. (Gall. 1900 E.D.D.). See Tuim; †13. free trade, smuggling. Hence free-trader, a smuggler.2. Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 694:
The three lower coals are composed of free coal.
Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 157:
Free coal. — Coal with a bright lustre and cubical fracture, as opposed to splint or gas coal.
4. Gsw. 1886 Scottish Bakers' Year-Book (1948) 73:
There were at least two shops in Glasgow, in the poorer districts where the sour bread could be disposed of at 1½ per 2-lb. loaf. These shops were known as “Free Coups.”.
6. Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 22:
A lichtsome, lithesome, leesome, blythsome, Free-gaun, hearty body, our auld wife.
7. Sh. a.1733 in R. Forsyth Beauties Scot. (1808) V. 144:
A prohibition existed . . . against marriage, unless where the young couple could show they possessed £40 Scots of free gear.
Ags. 1737 Carmyllie Session Rec. (25 April):
Alexander Miln a young tradesman who could not be expected to have much free gear.
8. Sc. 1843 Acts Gen. Ass. Free Church (30 May) 38:
May it please your Majesty, We the Ministers and Elders of the Free Church of Scotland, convened in this our General Assembly . . .
Sc. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xl.:
We have resolved to shake oursel's oot o' the trammels o' pawtronage at ance and for ever mair, by joining the Free Kirk o' Scotland, and getting a minister o' our ain pick and wale.
Ags. 1897 “F. Mackenzie” Sprays of Northern Pine xvii.:
Dinna ye mind yon ablach o' a mannie that was preachin' i' the Free Kirk a twal'month past?
Sc. 1953 Scotsman (20 May):
They in the Free Church represented a tradition which had served Scotland well in the past and which had bred Christian character.
9. Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvi.:
“He was a gude servant o' the town,” said the Bailie, “though he was an ower free-living man.”
11. Sc. 1892 J. Barr U.F. Church Scot. (1934) 186:
It is true that those who seceded from the Free Church in 1892 did not call themselves “The Free Church of Scotland,” but “The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.”
Sc. 1948 Scotsman (20 May):
The Free Presbyterian and the Reformed Presbyterian Churches had declined to enter into the scheme.
Sc. 2000 Herald 1 Feb 17:
Eleven years ago, as a young journalist, I found myself at the centre of the split in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, following the discipline of Lord Mackay of Clashfern for hearing Requiem Mass. Again, I find myself most close to schism, in this instance in the Free Church of Scotland (the two bodies are entirely separate, though often confused) ...
13. Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. v.:
These free-traders, whom the law calls smugglers.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xiii.:
If you will do nothing for the free trade, I must patronise it myself.
Sc. 1835 H. Miller Scenes and Leg. xiv.:
[He] was engaged . . . in the free trade, and had set the officers of the revenue at defiance.
Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 99:
We soon may fall in with a custom-house shark But here's to the Free Trade for ever!
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xiii.:
These, perhaps taking us to be free-traders, fled on our approach.

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"Free adj., v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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