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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

GAUGE, v., n. Sc. usages. Also gadge, ga(a)ge, guage, †gaudge. [gɑ:dʒ]

I. v. To ascertain the content of a cask, gen. of liquor; to perform the duties of an exciseman.Rxb. 1708 J. Tait Border Ch. Life (1889) 12:
Thomas Kennedy intimated that he had spoken to Andrew Simson “anent his gadging on the Sabbath, and that he answered that he had printed instructions for what he had done.”
Sc. 1737 D. Hume Punishment of Crimes (1797) I. 397:
He openly boasted of what he had done, saying “that he had cured the gauger of his gauging.”
Sc. 1852 Carlyle Heroes 302:
That a Europe, with its French Revolution just breaking out, finds no need of a Burns except for gauging beer, — is a thing I, for one, cannot rejoice at!

Hence gauger, gadger, 1. an exciseman (Sc. 1715 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report III. 378, gaudger; Cai. 1890 J. Sinclair Scenes and Stories 189, gaeger). Gen.Sc. Obs. in Eng. since early 18th cent.; 2. used fig. for the larva of the stone fly, a creeper; 3. in n.phr. smugglers and gaugers, the name of a game (Gsw. 1854 Gsw. Past & Pres. (1884) II. 191).1. Lnk. 1721 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 206:
Greivances of the brewers . . . in relation to their paying in of money to the gadgers . . . for payment of their excise to the collector thereof.
Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.T.Misc. (1876) I. 100:
When malt-men come for siller, And gaugers with wands o'er soon.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Ep. to Dr Blacklock iv.:
But what d'ye think, my trusty fier? I'm turned a gauger — Peace be here!
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian iv.:
Sic an host of idle English gaugers and excisemen as hae come down to vex and torment us.
w.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 89:
Do ye think that I had nae mair sense than to stan' and claver wi' two gaugers, and a burden o' smuggled tea on my back?
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 30:
The' wur nae ma't measerers den. — Sae micht the De'il ca' his horns t'rough the guts o' the guagers.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 15:
The maister scauls, exceptin' fin The gager looks in-by.
Nai. 1927 G. Bain Dauvid Main vii.:
They never smuggled Cromarty fish, nor stole salt from the gaugers.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 25:
"Hugh said they wid be safe here for twa-three days like they usually are, but somebody'll tell't the gauger there's kegs here somewheres at the mill."
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 22:
We had a fecht wi the gaugers.
Gsw. 1988 George MacDonald Fraser The Sheikh and the Dustbin (1989) 139:
...and the Excisemen or "gadgers" (so called from the word gauger)...
Sc. 1989 Scotsman 3 Jun 3:
"...but these rights were generously interpreted and there had been times when free trade was its main concern and the east-coast gaugers [customs men] led a weary life."
Arg. 1992:
There'd be three and fower gadgers then at any wan time.
2. Lnk. 1953 Scottish Field (March) 51:
A stop was made to gather “gaugers,” as stone-fly creepers are locally named [at Lamington].

II. n. A piece of wood used in net-making to regulate the size of the mesh (Sh. 1913 J. M. Hutcheson W.-L., gage; Cai.7, Kcb.10 1954).

[O.Sc. has gadge, to gauge, 1600, gaugear, early 15th cent., gader, 1606; O.North. Fr. gauger, to measure, Anglo-Fr. gaugeour.]

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"Gauge v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Oct 2022 <>



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