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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GUISER, n., v. Also guisar, guizer, -ar, gyser, -ar; guisard, -art, guiz-, g(u)ys-, g(u)yz-, ¶guiserd (Hdg. 1896 J. Lumsden Poems 145), ¶-yard (m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood x.), ¶geizart (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 14), ¶gayzard. [′gɑezər -ərd, -ərt]

I. n. 1. A mummer, masquerader, esp. in mod. times one of a party of children who go in disguise from door to door at various festivals, esp. Halloween, †Christmas Eve and †Hogmanay (Sc. 1770 Hailes Ancient Sc. Poems 286). Gen.Sc. and n.Eng. dial. Also fig.Edb. 1773 Edb. Ev. Courant (18 Jan.):
Some boys diverting themselves through the streets as guizards [at Auld Yule].
Peb. 1800 Edb. Mag. (Dec.) 476:
Whan gloamin' gray comes frae the east, Through a' the Gysarts venture; In sarks an' paper helmets drest They for their bawbees enter.
Sh. 1809 A. Edmonstone Zetland II. 64:
It is a common practice for several young men to disguise themselves, and visit the company thus assembled. Such a party is known by the appellation of Guizards. Their faces are masked, and their bodies covered with dresses made of straw, ornamented with a profusion of ribbands.
Sc. 1825 Lockhart Scott (1837) xiii.:
Yesterday being Hogmanay, there was a constant succession of Guisardsi.e. boys dressed up in fantastic caps with their shirts over their jackets, and with wooden swords in their hands. These players acted a sort of scene before us, of which the hero was one Goloshin, who gets killed in a “battle for love,” but is presently brought to life again by a doctor of the party.
Slg. 1827 W. Hone Everyday Book II. 18:
The grand affair among the boys in the town [Falkirk] is to provide themselves with fausse faces or masks; and those with crooked horns and beards are in greatest demand. A high paper cap, with one of their great-grandfather's antique coats, then equips them as a guisard — they thus go about the shops seeking their hogmenay.
Ayr. 1830 Galt Southennan I. xiv.:
What a place this Embro' is for guisarts and turncoats.
ne.Sc. 1881 Gregor Folk-Lore 158:
On Christmas Eve a few of the more sportive of the youth in the villages . . . disguised themselves, and went in companies of three and four, singing, shouting, and rapping at doors and windows. The houses whose inmates were known to them they entered with dancing, antic gestures, and all kinds of daffing. They were called “gysers.”
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xviii.:
These are the guizards with their turnip lanterns; they're going round the houses singing.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 8:
There's bairns wi' guizards at their tail Clourin' the doors wi' runts o' kail.
Per. 1939 F. Drake-Carnell Old Sc. Custom 21–2:
A more complete remnant of the plays of the guisers is to be found at Comrie in Perthshire, for there the young men and boys of the town dress up in weird and wonderful costumes . . . and parade at midnight through the town carrying burning torches with which a street bonfire is finally lighted.
Gall. 1955 Gall. Gazette (5 Dec.) 5:
On the night of Hallowe'en he dressed up as a guiser.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 85:
I'm threipin awa
til an auld sang the nicht
Are ye needin ony guisers
wha sing in a minor key?

Comb.: guiser-jarl, the chief or leading guiser in the Shetland Up-Helly-Aa celebrations (Sh. 1955).Sh. 1906 C. E. Mitchell Up-Helly-Aa (1948) 156:
At a mass meeting of the Guizers held in January, 1906, it was decided to drop the title Worthy Chief Guizer, and substitute the much more appropriate one of Guizer Jarl, and in order that the Jarl should more realistically look the part, it was agreed to purchase a Viking suit of armour complete with raven-crested helmet and accoutrements.
Sh. 1934 W. Moffat Shetland 131:
Long before the great night itself, preparations are made for it by the young men of Lerwick. A Guiser Jarl — in other words, an Earl of the Masks, or Guisards, really a Master of the Ceremonies, is elected and a committee is appointed.
Sh. 1955 Shetland Times (28 Jan.):
When a man is elected to the Up-Helly-A' Committee he can expect to become Guizer Jarl according to his seniority.
Sh. 1990 Sunday Times 28 Jan :
At the head of the procession is the Guizer Jarl, the chief of the event, who has waited since his childhood for his year of Viking fame. He leads the only squad allowed to dress as Vikings - and no expense is spared in making their Nordic couture.
Sh. 2000 Herald 26 Jan 5:
Leading the marches was a squad of more than 50 men in full Norse costume, headed by the chief Viking, known as the Guizer Jarl, and a 30ft galley specially built for the occasion.

2. Fig. An unprepossessing, odd-looking person, a “freak” (Abd., Ags. 1955). Cf. slang Eng. geezer.Sc. 1715 Robin Red-breast and the Wren 11:
They'l be to Admiration driven, To see such Gayzards come to Heaven.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Jnl. from London 23:
An auld, wizen'd, haave coloured carlen, a sad gysard indeed, an' as baul as ony ettercap.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 176:
Than ane gruff untowyrd gysart came, And he hundit the lyon on his dame.
Sc. 1925 Cadger's Creel (G. Douglas) 25:
“And yet” — with a complacent glance at the portrait over the fireplace — “I'm maybe no' just sic a black-avized auld guizard as Hairry Cockburn maks out.”

II. v. To go masquerading (Ags., Per., m.Lth., Bwk., Rxb. 1955). Found gen. as vbl.n.Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxxvi.:
Deil hae me, if they are na a' mad thegither . . . or else they hae ta'en Yule before it comes, and are gaun a guisarding.
Slk. 1874 Border Treasury (31 Oct.) 171:
My brother Doddy has an auld wood ane that he takes wi' him to the guisartin.
Sc. 1876 S. R. Whitehead Daft Davie 197:
They were on the spree, and had borrowed their mother's duffle cloaks to go a guisarding in.
Fif. 1898 “S. Tytler” Mrs Carmichael's Goddesses vii.:
I did it for a wager and to please a merry lass who was inclined to maintain that guisarding would be as fine fun on a May morning as in the dark days of December.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 44:
At fechtin and at guisardin, ye wadna find his like.
Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 77:
On Hallowe'en the Grüliks went a-guisaring.

[From Guise, v. 2. + suff. -er, -ard, -art. O.Sc. has gysar, -ard, -art, a mummer, masquerader, from 1488, also guyser, guizer, from 1614. The v. is not found.]

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"Guiser n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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