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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.

HORNIE, adj., n. Also horn(e)y; horni (Sh.). Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. Gen. combs.: (1) horny-buck, see II. 7.; (2) hornie carp, a Sh. name for the puffin, Fratercula arctica; (3) horny-gol(l)ach, an earwig, see Golach; (4) hornie holes,, a game played by four persons, two on each side, in which one aims a piece of stick or horn at a hole guarded by his opponents, one of whom is armed with a stick with which to drive the missile away (Teviotd. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cf. Cashhornie, id.; (5) horny-(h)oolet, -owl, the long-eared owl, Asio otus (Slg., e.Lth. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 128; Bnff. 1957); (6) hornie-rebels, see II. 7.; †(7) hornie-worm, the larva of the crane-fly or daddy-long-legs (Fif. 1825 Jam.).(2) Sh. 1932 J. Saxby Trad. Lore 199:
There is an older and probably more appropriate name for this odd little bird [puffin], namely, Hornie-carp (sharp beak, hooked like a horn).
(4) Sc. 1903 R. Ford Children's Rhymes 72:
“Hornie Holes” is a boys' game in which four play, a principal and assistant on either side. A stands with his assistant at one hole, and throws what is called a “cat” (a piece of stick, or a sheep's horn), with the design of making it alight into another hole at some distance, at which B stands, with his assistant, to drive it aside with his rod resembling a walking stick.
(5) Rxb. 1922 Jedburgh Gaz. (31 March) 4:
The “horney hoolet” . . . abides with us all the year round.
Sc. 1950 Scots Mag. (May) 144:
An auld horny owl gied a hoot frae the side o' the road.

2. Strong, unyielding, as if made of horn.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 247:
They dunch down strengths like wiggiewams, And hornie wa's roun towns.

II. n. 1. A cow of a horned breed (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), also a gen. (in Sh. orig. sea-tabu) term for a cow (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1957) or a name for a particular individual. Cf. Horna.Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 81:
Bedown the green the hornies rowt.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xiv.:
Hornie — so named, indeed, because of her readiness to use the weapons with which Nature had provided her . . . was in fact a malicious cow.
Ags. 1898 J. T. Boyle Spectre Maid 119:
Tho' hornie made a stoot resistance, They steen'd him back.

2. A nick-name for the Devil, pop. conceived as having horns, gen. Auld Hornie (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. The alternative dim. form hornock is also occas. found (Gsw. 1856 “Young Glasgow” Deil's Hallowe'en 12). Phr. by Hornie, a mild oath (Sh.10 1957).Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Deil i.:
O Thou! whatever title suit thee — Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie.
Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 20:
For when our birkies ance begin, Wi' guid het ale an' whisky, Auld Hornie cou'd nae haud them in.
Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays 145:
The auld Laird's ghaist, Or Hornie in his shape at least.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 149:
An' I winna be put frae my ettle, Not e'en by auld Hornie himsel.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. of Hermiston v.:
But the four brothers rode it as if Auld Hornie were behind and Heaven in front.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xxxvii.:
If himsel' was to ken o' me colloguing wi' ye at the door at this 'oor o' the nicht, there wad be Auld Hornie to pay.
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 42:
Andrew smiled, as if to plead not to bring Auld Clootie, Hornie, or Nick into it.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 19:
"Aw ye that tae Auld Hornie swure,
Gleg for yer erles when he wud fee;
Hou weill it sers ye nou tae fin
Ye're bocht for aw eternity. ... "

3. A constable; in mod. times, a policeman (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; ‡Rxb. 1957). In this sense the word seems to have been current esp. among gipsies and tinkers, phs. from sense 2.Gsw. 1789 J. Strang Gsw. Clubs (1856) 187:
They were then better known by the appellation of red-coat officers or hornies.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Here's the hornie comin'.
Per. 1979 Betsy Whyte The Yellow on the Broom 136:
He [the dog] would immediately dive into the tent and crawl under the straw of a bed, as soon as I or any of us said 'Hornies binging' (police coming)...
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 25:
Fine I kent that he had phoned for the hornies. So I asked him if he was going to buy the bracelet or not, and if not to give it back to me because I was in a hurry.
Edb. 1990s:
Her ma nivir spoke tae her again - efter she went oot wi a hornie.

4. An inferior kind of gas coal, “the pieces of which rattle with a sound suggestive of horns” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 37).

5. A fish of the ray family, prob. the sandy ray, Raja circularis.Mry. 1852 Zoologist X. 3488:
The fishermen at Lossiemouth . . . also describe a ray which they call “Hornies,” about 4 or 5 inches broad, round in shape with two black spots on the back, and both back and belly full of “spikes” (spines); when taken into the boat they contract themselves into a lump.

6. The turret-shell, Turritella communis (Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56).

7. A form of the game of tig. Also horny-buck, a child's game of tig in which each player caught joins hands with the others until all have been captured (Wgt. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.); hornie-rebels, id. (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); the hornie geegle-gaggle, a hide-and-seek game played by two teams (Ags.19 1957).Lth. 1825 Jam.:
A game among children, in which one of the company runs after the rest, having his hands clasped, and his thumbs pushed out before him in resemblance of horns. The first person whom he touches with his thumbs, becomes his property, joins hands with him, and aids in attempting to catch the rest; and so on till they are all made captives. Those who are at liberty, still cry out, Hornie, Hornie!
e.Lth. 1886 J. P. Reid Facts and Fancies 199:
At tig or horny, race or play.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
Two players join hands at one side of the play-field and call, “Horny!” They then try to catch some of the other players on their way across the field. Those caught take their places between the original two, and the process is repeated until all are caught.

8. Phr.: fair hornie, fair play (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. This expression possibly arises from the notion of horned animals fighting face on and not butting from the rear. It has been incorporated into other expressions which normally use only fair, e.g. fair hornie oot, candidly, frankly, and to play fair hornie, to play fair. Cf. to be the fair horn, id. s.v. Horn.Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 120:
Gin a' the lave get something an' me naething, faith I'll think it nae fair hornie.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxii.:
Ye can juist keep yer beer an' yer bap, an' I'se keep my four an' a bawbee. That's fair eneugh hornie I think.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet viii.:
Gin ye had cuttit yersel' wi' yer ain razor, wad “Effectual Callin',” think ye, hae been the first word i' yer mooth? Noo' minister, fair Hornie!
Bnff. 1898 Banffshire Jnl. (27 Sept.) 2:
No humbug wi' Cissie, but fair hornie oot.
wm.Sc. 1917 H. Foulis Jimmy Swan 218:
Up till now the firm has played fair horney, and seen I didna lose.
Sc. 1948 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 429:
A single external exam lasting a hectic hour or two to find out a girl's knowledge and ability in a subject, is not fair hornie at all.

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"Hornie adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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