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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.

KIST, n., v. Also kest; kyist, kjist (Sh.); cust (Hdg. 1844 J. Miller Lamp Lth. (1900) 54), and dim. kistie, -y. Sc. forms and usages:

I. n. 1. A chest, box, trunk, coffer, esp. a (farm-)servant's trunk. Also a chestful. Gen.Sc., also in n.Eng. dial.; specif. a wooden box or bin in a stable for holding the horses' corn, a cornkist; a deedbox. Hence kistfu, a chestful.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 28:
With an auld kist made of wands, And that sall be your coffer.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 157:
Careless o' mair, wha never fash To lade their Kist wi' useless Cash.
Ayr. 1786 Burns 2nd Ep. J. Lapraik xi.:
Do ye envy the city-gent, Behint a kist to lie an' sklent?
ne.Sc. c.1800 Sc. N. & Q. (1900) 184:
Girsy corn maks a hole i' the kist.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxiv.:
What wad ye gie to ony ane . . . that wad help ye to sic another kistfu' o' silver?
Peb. 1817 R. Brown Lintoun Green 69:
His sides a parallelogram, Kest-shap'd, with breast and keel.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Confessions 99:
Be my sooth, we found a broken lock, an' toom kists.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb iii.:
Seating himself on his “kist”, [he] began, by-and-bye, to “sowff” over “My love she's but a lassie yet.”
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders vii.:
It's the auld man's brass kist they're after.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 276:
The wricht made her kist of sound, well-seasoned wood [with] . . . an inner compartment . . . which was secured by a padlock.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 13:
He struck his fit on a great muckle kist, at cam' fae Orkney wi' us, wi' a' wur deenin.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 9:
The bothie fire is loupin' het, A new heid horseman's kist is set Richts o' the lum.
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 29:
See, here's a bonny oxterfu' for baith o' ye the nicht, An' I winna straik yer feedie fae the kist.
Arg. 1956 Scotsman (30 March) 5:
She stole the money — for the sisters — from a kist in Lamont's house.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 181:
We arrived in Coupar Angus with only a few blankets, dishes, and Mother's kist which held her few treasures.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 50:
I'm tellt the auncient Celts collectit heids
lik some fowk gaither stamps,
an gin ye were thair guest wad shaw ye kists
fu o thair latest prizes.
Nou we're delivrit frae sic ugsome weys,
Sth. 1996 Gordon Stewart in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 92:
Each cart had what we called 'the wee box', a kist about one foot high. And the wife would sit on it, when she was cooking and she'd have what we called 'the meat box' beside her.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 28:
Dinnae buck the system Dad,
ye wullnae git yir pension.
Thon wee kist, ablo the bed,
ye dinnae need ti mention.

Phrs. and Combs.: (1) kist-locker, a small compartment in a trunk for keeping money and valuables (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Dmb., Ayr., s.Sc. 1960), “two drawers with a sliding board in front” (Kcb.10 1941); (2) kist-neu(c)k, a corner of a chest reserved for money or valuables (Hdg. 1887 P. M'Neill Blawearie 137; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Ayr. 1960); the corner in which one's trunk sits, used fig. in phr. to flit one's kist-neuk, to move from one's accustomed place (ne.Sc. 1960). See Neuk; (3) kist o(f) drawers, chest of drawers (Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 31). Gen.Sc.; (4) kist o providin, a bottom drawer; (5) kist(fu') o' whistles, a pipe-organ. See Whistle; †(6) kist-weed, the woodruff, Asperula odorata (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 226), from the custom of placing the dried sweet-scented leaves in kists to perfume the contents.(1) Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 64:
Ae haf-crown i' her kist locker.
(2) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 209:
The benmost part o' my kist nook I'll ripe for thee.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 121:
Her blankets air'd a' feil and dry, And in the kist nook fauldit by.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxxix.:
Jenny Clatterpans, that has had a lang snug time o't, and has a pose in her kist-nook.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 263:
A keek into his kist-neuk Wad charm a miser's e'e.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 15:
A'm tinkin' doo'l hae ta geng i' da kjist neuk for as muckle as 'ill get wis a bow ta da simmer.
Abd.1 1929:
There'll be a new maister hame an' ye'll hae tae flit yer kist neuk.
(3) Edb. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 100:
The total wreck o' the furniture — except the kist o' drawers — was mair than thae had reckoned for!
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 32:
A' 'at A hed wis 'er mither's kist-o'-drawers.
(4)Fif. 1988 Alistair Lawrie et al. eds Glimmer of Cold Brine 45:
A day or so before the wedding 'Hoose-fillin'' took place at the couple's new home. The bridesmaid supervised this because it was forbidden for the bride to see her house until after the wedding. At 'Hoose-fillin'' the 'kists o' providin' (the bride's bottom drawer) were placed beneath the beds . . .

2. In Mining: (1) a wooden water-tank mounted on wheels (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 17; Fif. 1960); (2) a box of wood or iron for holding brushers' tools underground (m.Lth. 1960).

3. A coffin (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 115). Gen.(exc. s.)Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. For comb. deid-kist, dead-, see Deid, III. 25.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 4:
All that you'll get will be a Kist, and a Sheet after all.
Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 28:
Ye'll get a sark, an' sheet, an' kist, To be ye'r all.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
There's grund-mail — and bell-siller — . . . and the kist.
Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales 201:
'Tis a bonnie braw kist, Little waur than the new.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 251:
It sae happened dat an auld wife . . . hed bün buried dat sam' day, an' he made da kist himsel' an' wis at da fooneral.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vi.:
It didna maitter whether the kist was aik or deal, . . . I hae aye ettled to dae my best for the corp.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo v.:
A peyin' burial it was too, for Gabriel got kist, hearse, and grave to look efter.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 32:
The Maister had a fun'ral braw; A kist o' oak wi' bress.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 18:
They'll aye come for ye, loupin oot their kists
Een bleezin as het coals,
Corbies wi knablick nebs ...

4. Also chist. The human chest, the thorax (Ork., ne.Sc., Per., Fif., Lth., w. and sm.Sc. 1960; Ork., Ags., Arg., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s). Dim. kisty (Abd. 1923 H. Beaton Benachie 128).Mry. 1872 W. H. L. Tester Poems 120:
I've a cauld in my kist, an' I'm maist like to dee.
Ayr. 1892 J. C. C. B. A. Boyd's Cracks 18:
Jock got sic a pain about the kist.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood vii.:
Her kist's stronger, and I'm hopin' the simmer will pit colour intil her cheek.
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 29:
In the chist and ribs. A pistol shot and two strokes o the cutlass.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 37:
I mean the richt
dauntin tattie-bogle
wi the fairmer's filshens
flafft i the wun,
a neep for a heid,
an' deep howe een,
besom-shank airms
an' a kist o strae.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson Chapman 52 71:
Sae they sat an they spied, an the hours drave on, an their lang lyart bairds raxed doun tae their kists, an on they sat, watchin the submarines snoove in an out tae Rosyth, ...
m.Sc. 1993 Jane Harris in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 154:
"Flat-chisted", was what her mother said. She'd said it only once, out of the side of her face: "She'll be flat-chisted."
Gsw. 1999 Anne Donovan in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 35:
You can just see the two wee bumps startin tae grow on her chist and she footers aboot, sortin her straps tae try tae cover them.

5. In a window: the shelf formed by the top of the lower sash (Fif. 1957), jocularly as a resting-place for miscellaneous articles like the top of a chest of drawers.

II. v. 1. To place or pack in a box or chest, to lay past as a store, to save (Bnff., Abd., Ags., Ayr. 1960).Abd. 1885 J. Scorgie Flittin' Noo 25:
Although at the time I'd the fient a maik kisted, I jist had to sit a lang year i' the neuk.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 336:
Then doff your duffles, deary, An' kist the Winter claes.
Bnff. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel fae Hame 13:
The sichts an' souns ye fordled in your min' Afore ye kistit a' an' owre the sea.

2. To lay or enclose in a coffin (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 150). Also chesting. Gen.Sc. Also fig.Edb. 1707 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 460:
To pay the coatch doune and up when lissies mother was kisted. . . . 0. 14. 0.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 25:
The best [person] to streek or kist a corpse.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 15:
Death had at last his claim insisted — Auld uncle Wat was deid and kisted.
Fif. 1899 S. Tytler Miss Nanse xiii.:
She gave birth to a dead bairn yesterday, and she'll no let it out of her sicht to be dressed and kisted.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 324:
Dere waas nane tae straik, kist or booray 'er.
Ags. 1918 V. Jacob More Songs 31:
Says she, “Guidmen I've kistit twa, But a change o' deils is lichtsome, lass!”
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 26:
For Death that coffins a' the lave your sangs can never kist.
Sc. 1939 Sc. Educ. Jnl. (27 Oct.) 1105:
They kisted him, he was sae puir, In his auld workin'-claes.

Hence kistin(g), -an (ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 140), -(e)en (Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 179), the laying of a dead body in its coffin on the night before the funeral, with accompanying ceremonies and entertainment (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc., obs.Edb. 1884 R. F. Hardy Jock Halliday x.:
A waddin' at the stair-fit an' a kisten at the stair-heid.
Sc. 1899 H. G. Graham Social Life II. 36:
In 1705 . . . another Act was passed, ordering that every corpse should be swathed in plain Scots woollen cloth . . . To secure faithful obedience . . . Parliament (in 1695) enjoined that the nearest elder or deacon, with a neighbour or two, “should be present at the putting in of the dead corps in the coffin, that they may see the same done”. From this rule arose the lugubrious custom of “kisting”.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 189:
Even at the final and most solemn event of life the three feasts were still observed, viz., the Kistin', the Funeral, and the Condolin'.
Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray 101:
On the evening of the second day was the ceremony of “kisting”.
Dmf. 1913 J. L. Waugh Thornhill 257:
John Haugh's prayer at the kistin' was maist beautifu'.
Ags. 1930 A. Kennedy Orra Boughs iv.:
And then they were in the big hoose at the brae-heid for Uncle Dauvit's kistin'.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 54:
'Charles Davidson Marr died of a heart attack at seven-o'-clock this night. Visitors are welcome at Number Five, Elm Grove, between nine a.m. and seven p.m. tomorrow, when the last kisting will take place. ...'
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 15:
Will had stood at the graveside of his parents, both dead of a smit that had raked their glen, that they were buried without dignity, sharing a pauper's grave and that young Will had made a fierce vow that day to be kisted and laid decently to rest when his own time came.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 80:
Anyway it was his croft now, but he did not think on it for long because there were the unfamiliar matters of the kisting and the funeral to arrange.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 65:
His kistin ran like clockwork, jist the wye he likit it. Nae wan sowel amang the mourners wis latchy - nae even Dod Forbes.
Gsw. 1998 Alan Spence Way to Go (1999) 58:
I moved into the same detached functional mode that always took over when I helped my father with a chesting. Distanced and clinical, outside myself.

3. To draw water by means of a chest (see n., 2.) or veal (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 17); “to take water out of a shaft by winding it up in a self-filling and self-discharging box attached to the cage” (Edb.6 1944).

[O.Sc. kist, a chest, coffin, a.1400, northern form of Eng. chest; O.N. kista, O.E. c(i)(e)st, a chest, coffin, < Lat. cista, a box, chest.]

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



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