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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HALFLIN, n., adj. Also haflen, -line, halfling, -lan(g), haf(f)lin, hauflin.

I. n. 1. A half-grown boy, adolescent youth; often applied to a lad engaged in farm work (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also attrib. and fig. Used in 1849 quot. of a young girl.Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XII. 304:
Wages of a man servant . . . £10. 0 0. — of a halflin (between man and boy) £5. 0. 0.
Sc. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xiii.:
When I was a halflin, no far past the years of Mary, my niece.
Abd. c.1880 W. Robbie Yonderton (1928)31:
Willie Eddie, . . . a youth or hafflin about eighteen years of age, who had also been present.
Gsw. 1884 H. Johnston Martha Spreull (1887) vii.:
The ither — a tousie, big-baned halflin' — couldna gie me the correct answer to “Man's Chief En'.”
Sh. 1886 G. Temple Britta 112:
He's a halflin, and works a half-share in his father's boat.
Rxb. 1914 Kelso Chron. (25 Dec.) 4:
Two or three boys, “halflings” we called them, also were employed, all drawn from the place.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xi.:
The auld and the bauld and the leal-hearted must go down because of conceited halflings like you.
Fif. 1936 St Andrews Cit. (17 Oct.) 3:
The following [wage-rates] were quoted . . . halflins, £45 to £50.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 7:
And that was how it was with Hugh, then and in the next few years that turned him from idle halflin' into lack-a-daisy man, and Jamie knew that he would never see him other.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 19:
Scotland's aye the halflin, wi the warst o youth,
wi its brag, its doot, its shairness wrocht
no on reflection but simplistic thocht.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 113:
Aince, lang syne, in ma halflin days.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 19:
The hinmaist loon tae bide in the chaumer hid bin a pee-the-bed halflin frae Glen Dav.

2. A half-witted person (Sth. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1902 E.D.D.; Uls. 1924 W. Lutton Montiaghisms 23; Cai. 1955, -lan). Also used attrib.

3. A half-mature herring (Fif. 1956). Also used attrib. in comb. halflin fishery, fishing for such herring.Fif. 1950 Fraserburgh Herald (21 Feb.):
The large catches of “halflins,” two years old, now being recorded from the Forth consist of autumn spawning herring.
Lth. 1953 Scotsman (20 May):
The “halflin” fishery in the upper reaches of the Firth should be more productive in 1953–54 than in 1952–53.

II. adj. 1. Youthful, adolescent, half-grown (Sc. 1808 Jam., half(l)in). Gen.Sc. Occas. used of a young girl.Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xi.:
My mother sent me, that was a hafflin callant, to show the stranger the gate to the Place.
Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (March) 220:
When she was a hafflin' cummer, about sixteen years of age.
Hdg. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes & Sk. 236:
Sic a bit hempie, halflin' lassie as Miss Fairbairn.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xi.:
Fifteen tarry sailors upon the one side, and a man and a halfling boy upon the other!
Gsw. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 68:
When I was but a hauflin' chiel O' seeventeen simmers.
wm.Sc. 1949 Scots Mag. (May) 111:
The years had passed pleasantly enough, the halflin years between the wars.

2. Specif.: with reference to a young farm-worker.Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 110:
There were commonly two young men, as gadmen, or plough-drivers, and a halflan callant, or sturdy boy, as cowherd.
Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 50:
Willie Simpson, now “a ha'flin' birkie,” was engaged by Kirkton as his “orra man.”
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 1:
I keepid kye that summer, and wroucht halflin' wark the year efter.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 156:
The farmer, his wife, and the younger children, with Jeanie Bishop, the maid servant, and a “halflin” lad, were seated round the table.

3. Half-complete, imperfect.Sc. 1705 Dialogue between a Country-Man and a Landwart School-Master 14:
There were a great many Gentlemen, hafline Gentlemen, and Honest men's bairns among them.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 1:
Mak ye be lookit on by betters, As some outlandish halflin' creatures Nae o' God's mak.
Abd. 1841 J. Imlah Poems 264:
A haflin being, man, thou art, Without a fairer, better part, To keep thy house and keep thy heart.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Frae the Heather 109:
His halflin proffers thoroughly scan Afore ye plight yer troth.

4. Of an intermediate or half size, half long. Comb.: halflin plane, †half-lang (Sc. 1899 A. Mathieson & Sons Catalogue Index) plane, a large-size trying plane used by carpenters (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Now the largest plane used but orig. second in size to the yet larger jointer plane. Sometimes abbrev. to halflin or halflon (Sc. 1950 Scotsman (13 June)).Abd. 1780 Aberdeen Jnl. (31 July):
Quarry Tools and Machinery . . . Large Iron Sways, halfling and quarter Irons, Pinches, Jumpers and charging Tools.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 85:
But sair he miss'd the hauflin boots, Mid cracklin' whins and knabblick roots.
Fif. 1937 St Andrews Times (15 Dec.) 2:
We had to plane it doon wi' a halflin plane and then wi' a jack plane.
Abd. 1952 Abd. Press and Jnl. (15 March):
Hand Plane, Bull-nose Plane, Halflin Plane, Jack Plane.

[O.Sc. halflin, stripling, 1662, from Half + dim. suff. -ling. There has been some confusion of usage with Halflang and in meaning 3. of the adj., the word is more correctly a back formation from Halflins.]

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"Halflin n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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