Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.
KEMP, v., n. Also k(j)aemp, kjemp (Sh.); kamp, camp (Uls. 1930), campe (s.Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 90). [Sc. kɛmp, Sh. + kjɛmp]
I. v. 1. To strive, struggle, contend in gen. Now mostly liter. Vbl.n. kemping, struggle, contention.Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxviii.:
A soldier, my lord; and mony a sair day's kemping I've seen.Sc. 1825 Aberdeen Censor 143:
The Crawfords, an' the Grahames, an' the Mars, an' the Lovats, were aye trying to comb them against the hair, an' mony a weary kemping had they wi' them.Lth. 1851 M. Oliphant Merkland I. vii.:
I wad rather hae a day's kemping with that illwilly nowt that winna bide out o' the corn.Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 114:
Sae boys! we'se kemp noo, ean an aa, Ta staand, in strent, a leevin waa.Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 99:
Whin traetnin' waves an' roarin' tide, Wid kjaemp wha first sood conker dee.Sh. 1933 J. Nicolson Hentilagets 17:
Nations ir kaempin ta slachter an kill.
2. Specif.: to compete in a piece of work, to race against another or others in working (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., rare; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I.Sc. 1959), esp. in the harvest field (‡Ib.), or in eating, hence to sup hurriedly (Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton Gl., 1919 T.S.D.C.). Occas. used tr. Vbl.n. kempin, a contest of this kind (Slk.1 1929; Ork. 1959).Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 72:
Wi' Gravie a their Beards did dreep, They kempit with their Teeth .Sc. 1723 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) III. 27:
When thou art kemping on the harvest-ridge.Sc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (28 Oct.):
As a farmer was grieving his shearers at a little distance from that place [Jedburgh], he observed them kemping with one another, and spoiling his corn.Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poetry I. 163:
Soon strip'd's the kemping field.Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxvii.:
The dragon's teeth are sown, . . . there will be an awful day's kemping at the shearing of them.Edb. 1845 F. W. Bedford Hist. G. Heriot's Hospital (1859) 346:
I wasna lang of kemping my pot.Abd. 1869 Banffshire Jnl. (21 Dec.):
When fairmer's dothers wi' their maids Held kempins ilka nicht.Sh. 1898 Shetland News (25 June):
Takkin' your aer — a saxern aer, i' your haand, an' kjaempin' fornenst a ranksman.Gall. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 153:
There was a kempin every year amang the “young leddies”, wha wud mak the best poem on a religious subjeck.Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. V. iii. 114:
Kemping, or competition in winding simmons, often enlivened the evening's work.Bte. 1922 J. Sillars McBrides xxvii.:
Sitting in the circle round the fire, thrang at the knitting — both man and wife — kemping as they called it: that is, each would tie a knot in the worsted and make a race of it, who would be finished first.Sh. 1956 New Shetlander No. 43. 21:
When the aesterlie gells girn i' da door, one puts on a tick wirsit ganzie, or swarrie joopie made by wan o da lasses who aye seem kempin wi' dir socks on the wares.
3. Hence (1) kemper, one who strives or contends, a fighter, a keen and vigorous worker, esp. one who strives to outdo his fellows (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh. 1959). Used attrib. in comb. kemper-man; (2) kempie, -y, n., a bold or pugnacious person (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.), an energetic, lively child (Bnff. 1959); adj., †(a) brave; ‡(b) energetic. vigorous (Rxb. 1959).(1) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 4:
All Corn is not shorn by Kempers.Ags. 1774 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' vi.:
The lasses wi' their unshod heels, A' set themsells down to their wheels, And weel ilk beardless kemper dreels, And bows like wand.Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 25:
Thus thir twa eldren focks, whan het, Appear'd 'mang kempers keen.Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 31:
He ca'd me, i his droll wey, his kemper-man; an sae micht I, he wan minny a geud stiver wi wagerin on me fechtan'.Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xlvii.:
Sawny Bean himself, the ruffian kemper, low-browed, buck-toothed, and inhuman.Sc. 1931 Weekly Scotsman (5 Sept.):
Because the successful reaper was the hardest and quickest worker a kemper came to mean a man of outstanding ability.(2) Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate xxviii.:
When kempies were wont, long since, to seek the habitations of the galdragons and spae-women.Ags. 1856 Brechin Advertiser (29 Jan.) 4:
It's my Johny's wark, a kempie o' a loon at the schule.Fif.10 1941:
She's jist an ill-deedy kempie.(a) Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A kempy little falla.(b) Ib.:
A kempy shearer. A kempy loon.
4. To make a fuss, an ado (Ork. 1929 Marw.).
II. n. ‡1. A contest, usually for first place (Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 152; Cai.3 1931; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I.Sc., Rxb. 1959), esp. a struggle on the harvest field to see who would finish first (Sc. 1931 Weekly Scotsman (5 Sept.); Bnff.2 1941), “a meeting of girls for sewing, spinning or other work, ending with a dance” (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Also in n.Eng. dial. Occas. fig. = struggle.Edb. 1786 G. Robertson Ha'rst Rig (1801) xxxvii.:
Some flairing wife now tells how she Did win a kemp most manfully.Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 154:
A kemp begude, sae fast they laepit Stout chiels around it darnin.Abd. 1816 in T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latter-Day Exploits (1882) 112:
The kittle kemp began in haste . . . They flaughtit, flew, and did their best.Uls. 1863 Fraser's Mag. (Feb.) 220:
And where at Camp or Kayley could be found One face more welcome, all the country round?Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies, Pref.:
Whatever lesson we began to, we gaed at it just like a kemp on the hairst rig.Rxb. 1955 Abd. Univ. Review (Aut.) 142:
Frae a' Life's kemp and care lang hid.
Combs.: †(1) kemp-rooth, kjaemp-rowth, a contest at rowing (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.). See Rowth; †(2) kemp-stane, “a stone placed as the boundary which has been reached by the first who kemps or strives at the Putting-stone. He who throws farthest beyond it is the victor” (Fif. 1825 Jam.); the name of a large cromlech near Dundonald in Co. Down (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gt.).(1) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (4 Feb.):
He wis niver a man fir kjaemp-rowths, bit wance pit him til hit, an' he'd no been da first ta gie in.
†2. A champion, warrior, hero. Surviving in ballads and place-names, e.g. Kemp's Castle (Ags., Dmf.), — Hold (Per.), of early fortified sites.Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy II. 339:
Syne he's ca'd on him Ringan Red, A sturdy kemp was he.Sc. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 7:
Till Kemp Owyne come ower the sea, And borrow you with kisses three.
3. Gen. in pl.: (1) the ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata (Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 170); ‡the greater plantain, Plantago major (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Eng. dial.; in some parts the word is applied to the crested dog's-tail grass, Cynosurus cristatus (Cai. 1902 E.D.D.; Rs. 1919 T.S.D.C.; Cai. 1959). Deriv. kempo(o), marsh ragwort, Senecio aquaticus (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1959, kempoo). Cf. (2).Bwk. 1867 Science-Gossip 65:
It was once, and perhaps still is, a custom in Berwickshire to practise divination by means of “kemps” (Plantago lanceolata).
Combs.: (a) kemp-seed, the ribwort plantain (Slk. 1825 Jam.); the seed of the greater plantain (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); †in pl., “the seeds of oats, when meal is made, or the reeings of the sieve” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); (b) sea-kemps, sea-side plantain, Plantago maritima (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 171).
(2) A game played by two children, who collect equal numbers of plantain stalks, each taking his turn in trying to decapitate those of his opponent. The one left with a whole stalk wins the contest (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1886 B. & H. 285; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen. in pl.Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 170:
It is customary with children to challenge each other to try the “kemps.”
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"Kemp v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2023 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/kemp>