Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KILMARNOCK, n. The name of a town in Ayrshire, noted for its weaving. Specif.:

1. A broad flat woollen bonnet coloured blue, black or red (Gen.Sc.), the traditional headgear of the Scottish peasantry, and still worn, in a modified form and colour, by Scottish infantry regiments. Orig. attrib. as Kilmarnock bonnet. Now mainly hist. Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 31:
Each pilgrim . . . set up an “all hail”! to the land of Burns, flourishing, at the same time, their “kilmarnocks” manfully round their heads.
Slk. 1828 Hogg in Blackwood's Mag. (Jan.) 40:
Kilmarnock bonnets, pirnie caps, and mittens.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
He wore a broad blue Kilmarnock bonnet, checked red and white in a “dambrod” pattern round the edge.
Ayr. 1953 J. E. Shaw Ayrshire 32:
The Kilmarnock bonnet manufacturers strike a specially sentimental note in the hearts of all Scotsmen, particularly curlers and soldiers. It was at one time a national headwear. It may be described as having a large flat crown about eleven inches in diameter, blue in colour with a red toorie in the middle, a diceboard forehead band . . . It dates from the sixteenth century.

2. A knitted woollen conical skull-cap, worn as a night-cap, or by indoor workers such as weavers and shoemakers (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 145; Abd.9 1941). Combs. Kilmarnock cowl, -hood, -pirnie, id. See also Cowl, Huid, Pirnie. Ppl.adj. Kilmarnocked, wearing such a cap. Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 84:
An honest wabster . . . Whase haffet a Kilmarnock hood Kept warm an' snug.
Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 72:
His fearsome blue Kilmarnock cowl, His cloutet hose, an' sarks, and bedding.
Mry. 1833 Lintie o' Moray (1851) 36:
With his long nose, leathern apron, red Kilmarnock cowl.
Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays (1884) 45:
Kilmarnock pirnies on their heids.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie xv.:
It was really an amusing sight to see the Dominie, with his red Kilmarnock on his head.
Edb. 1881 J. Smith Habbie and Madge 17:
Habbie rises up in the bed, . . . taks aff his Kilmarnock, an' gie's a bit short word.
Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 89:
A hand grasping a weaver's lease-rod darted out, and after it the Kilmarnocked head.
Sc. 1927 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 211:
The old peasant is passing. Sanitarians have robbed him of his box-bed and his red “Kilmarnock”.

3. A kind of coarse woollen material manufactured in Ayrshire. Also attrib. and in pl. Ayr. c.1750 H. G. Graham Soc. Life Scot. (1928) 508:
Ayrshire had no manufactures except of blue and black bonnets at Stewarton, and a coarse woollen stuff called “Kilmarnocks”.
Kcb.10 1941:
There is a kind of working shirt called a Kilmarnock shirt.

4. Combs.: †(1) Kilmarnock hose, woollen stockings; (2) Kilmarnock mittens, a jocular expression for the hands in the pockets (Wgt. 1900); (3) Kilmarnock shot, in bowling: a shot put deliberately wide of the jack in order not to disturb the position of the bowls already played; in football: an attempt to play safe by kicking the ball out of the field and so wasting time; in other games, referring to any kind of play considered unsporting (Ags., Fif., Ayr. 1941); (4) Kilmarnock twist, in curling: a particular twist given to the stone, enabling it to reach the mark upon biassed or crooked ice, or to cut out the winner when guarded upon true and straight ice; (5) Kilmarnock well, a cast-iron fountain made in a foundry in Kilmarnock; †(6) Kilmarnock whittle, a knife made in Kilmarnock. See Kilmaurs, 1.; fig. a person engaged to be married (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). See Whittle. (1) Sc. 1715 T. L. K. Oliphant Jac. Lairds Gask (1870) 32:
Three pairs silk stockings, a pair of Kilmarnock hose, and a pair understockings.
(3) Gsw. 1946 Gsw. Herald (24 Aug.):
Having recently taken up bowling, I have heard players saying, “That's a Kilmarnock one” when a shot has shown evidence that the player was determined to run no risks in disturbing the head.
(4) Lnk. 1806 J. Greenshields Lesmahagow (1864) App. 46:
And some, I see, who can with subtle wrist, Give to their stane, the true “Kilmarnock twist”.
Sc. 1914 J. G. Grant Complete Curler 191:
It has, as a rule, been called the “Fenwick twist,” as it is generally believed to have been practised first at that village in North Ayrshire. (It is also sometimes called the “Kilmarnock twist”).
(5) Lnl. 1949 J. Drummond Behind Dark Shutters i.:
They agreed to pipe a water line from Townhead and to put in a “Kilmarnock well” in the Row.
(6) Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 262:
Ther ar some of your Kilmarnock whittles, that, though they look not soe fair on it as your English knives, yet have a better edge.

[O.Sc. has Kilmarnock knife, 1681.]

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"Kilmarnock n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Jan 2022 <>



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