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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

HIRE, v., n. Also †hyrr (Sc. 1743 Origins '45 (S.H.S.) 52); †hyr; heir. Sc. usages:

I. v. 1. (1) tr. As in Eng. to take on, engage (someone) as a servant. Vbl.n. hirin(g), the act of doing this; a fair or market held for the purpose of engaging servants for farm work, short for hiring fair, — market (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Bwk., Rxb. 1957). Also common in Eng. dial.Ayr. 1818 Air Advertiser (3 Dec.) 4:
The want of a hiring market in Kyle is much felt, and, in the harvest time, when additional strength is often suddenly needed, this want is productive of considerable loss.
Sc. 1824 Eppie Morrie in Child Ballads No. 223. xv.:
Wally fa' you, Willie, that Ye could nae prove a man, And taen the lassie's maidenhead, She would have hired your han'.
Sc. 1883 R. Buchanan Annan Water v.:
A couple of female farm servants who had come in to the spring “hiring.”
Edb. 1895 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 34:
Ae Hirin Friday I met in wi' Durie doun by.
Ayr. 1911 Ayr Advertiser (1 June) 4:
Tuesday was observed in Ayr as Dudds Day hiring fair, and a large number of country folks visited the town.
Sc. 1918 Weekly Scotsman (2 Feb.) 2:
At all the leading “hirings” and “feein' fairs” a condition has been generally agreed to of an advance of six shillings on the weekly wage.
Lth. 1924 A. Dodds Poppies in Corn 13:
Then Wattie gangs enquirin' Aboot anither hirin'.

(2) intr. To engage oneself as a servant, to take service. Gen.(exc. ne.)Sc. Derivs.: hirer, a farm-servant (Cai. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evid. III. 2405); specif.: “a person engaged for farm work by the day or for a short period” (Cai. 1902 E.D.D., Cai. 1957); hirin, an engagement for a day's work on a farm (Cai. 1957).Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 70:
Ruddy was his face, and gracefu', When first he hired wi' Laird Mane.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 32:
I dread . . . gif ye hired at Beltan, there woud be ither words amang your win' or auld Halla' day.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) x.:
“Are you to hire, pretty maiden?” “Yes, sir.” “Will you hire with me?”
Dmf. 1831 R. Shennan Tales 33:
The lassie said she wasna willing to hire under fifty shillings.
Ork. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evid. II. 1457:
We are bound to furnish a woman hirer for each croft, to work on the farm of Housebay for six months in the year. The wages each hirer earns is paid to herself, while we have to find her in board and lodgings during that time.
Rxb. 1925 Kelso Chron. (13 March) 4:
“Irr ye for hyren, Dod?” “No, man, Aw henna been spoken tae.”

2. To let out on hire (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 87, 1808 Jam.). Also found in Eng. but appar. considered to be characteristically Sc., esp. in the 18th c. Hence hirer, one who lets out something on hire, applied esp. to one who hires out horses or carriages (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dictionary, 1787 J. Beattie Scotticisms 43), or, nowadays, cars and motor coaches, boats, etc. Gen.Sc.Abd. 1703 Abd. Burgh Rec. (1872) II. 332:
Dischargeing all hyrers and stablers from giveing out or hyreing any horses . . . on the Sabbath day, . . . and that under the faillie of ten pund.
Abd. 1766 J. Beattie Poems (1796) 67:
'Tis wondrous hard, To act the Hirer, yet preserve the Bard.
Sc. 1779 D. MacNicol Remarks on Johnson's Journey 92:
The decent behaviour of common horse-hirers, to use a Scottish expression.
Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 39:
A hirer in Scotland is one who lends a horse for hire. A cab-hirer is one who lets out cabs on hire.
Sc. 1935 St Andrews Citizen (9 March) 8:
Mr J — C — has been granted permission by the Town Council to hire ponies at the West Sands.
Abd. 1953 Abd. Press & Jnl. (13 March) 7:
The Business consists of 2 First-class Buses with Routes, 2 Hiring Cars, Garage, Service Station.

3. tr. To season food, to make it more palatable by the addition of rich ingredients (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bnff., Abd. 1957). Gen. as ppl.adj. hired, hir(e)t, seasoned, enriched, made more tasty (ne.Sc. 1957). Also used fig. See n., 1. (1).Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Nae faut but the gentles should sup parridge, whan they maun be thrice hired; wi' butter, and succre, and strong yill.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb viii.:
Weel hir't brose, an' plenty o' as gweed milk to yer kyaaks as ever cam oot o' a byre.
Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 11:
The Dominie is in the dumps An' hires nae mair wi' sugar lumps.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 10:
Thae scones ir weel heirt; A pat a guid fairkeesheen o butter inti thum.
Abd.15 1938:
The old fashioned gweedwife on farm and croft, would often “hire” a bairn's “piece” with a small lump of butter from the churn on churning day.

Hence vbl.n. hirin', a seasoning, a “taste”; “a baking with enriching or seasoning ingredients” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); “butter, cream, lard, etc. used in abundance when baking” (Ib.).Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 28:
A hirin' o' ream til his tea.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick i.:
A “wee tastinie o' the fuskie be wye o' hirin”.

4. Combs. and deriv.: (1) hire-house, a farm bothy, hence by extension = farm labour or service (Bnff.7 1925); (2) hireman, a hired servant, farm labourer (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.). Now obs. in Eng. Also abbreviated dim. form hir(e)ie, id., a hired man on a boat, i.e. one who has no share in its ownership (Mearns6 1957); (3) hire-quean, -(w)oman (Jam.), a female servant, a maidservant; (4) hireship, service, the place of a servant (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.).(1) Inv. 1865 J. Horne Poems 172:
Ye soon maun sweep the hirehouse floor.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 77:
A wiz sent t' the hire-hoose, fin a wiz bit aucht yer aul'.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlix.:
The gryte goodwife callin' o' oorsel', a peer indwaller i' the hirehoose.
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 83:
He'd hae wirkin' men's geets t' the hire-hoose early an' hae them learn t' wirk.
(2) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 3:
All new Things sturts; quoth the good Wife, when she gae'd ly to the Hireman. People are generally much affected with Novelties.
Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 15:
The wages of a hireman, that is, a man-servant hired for the half year, capable to hold the plough and work with horses were formerly 16s. 8d.; such a man's wages now are £3 or £3 10s.
Sc. 1822 Hireman Chiel in Child Ballads (1859) VIII. 234:
[He] has put on the hireman's coat, To keip him frae the cold.
Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales (1896) 98:
The hireman is aff for a sharp to his couter.
Ags. 1906 Rymour Club Misc. I. 176:
The hireies roond the porridge pot, Lickin' at the theavil.
(3) Sc. 1827 G. R. Kinloch Ballad Bk. 24:
The hire-quean has tane my bed, And I am forc'd to flee.
Kcd. c.1878 Montrose Standard (28 Dec. 1928):
A new hire-'oman rises sune.

II. n. 1. (1) A titbit, something tasty, given as an inducement, a reward in gen. (Uls. 1953 Traynor; m.Lth. 1957). Dim. hirie (Mry. 1957).Sc. 1812 Popular Opinions 87:
The little cow-herd, for a wee-bit hire, Redds up the stable and snods up the byre.
Lth. 1856 M. Oliphant Lilliesleaf lii.:
But, to see the bairn's face, when she found out it was me! Truly, I will not say but that was hire enough for the whole gate to London, weary as it was.
Abd. 1876 R. Dinnie Songs 72:
An' I'm to get the Hawkie cow, Nane better i' the byre, She'll fill the handie reamin' fu', Altho' she needs some hire.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 62:
A'll gi'e you a hirie, 'cause ye're a gweed laddie.
Uls. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.:
Some cows will not give their milk freely unless they get a “hire”, i.e. a “white” drink or other form of food, which, as it were, coaxes them to part with their milk.

(2) An additional seasoning to food or drink, in quot. of an adulterant in liquor.Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 126:
They little think they some day may, Get a lick o' sulphur vive, Frae clootie for sic hire in whisky .

2. Ironically, in phr. to gie somebody his hire, to give someone his deserts. sc. a drubbing.m.Lth.1 1957:
I'll gie ye yer hire if I had the grup o' ye.

[O.Sc. n. in sense 1. from c.1500, v. in sense 2. from 1622; hyr(e)man from 1456, hyre-woman from 1552.]

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"Hire v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Apr 2024 <>



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