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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LASS, n., v. Also in dim. forms lassie, -kie, -ky, lassack, -i(c)k(ie), -o(c)k(ie); -ag(ie), -igie (Cai.). Cf. Lad.

I. n. 1. As in Eng. dial., a girl in gen., applied also with familiar or jocular force to an adult woman. Gen.Sc. Cf. 6. The dim. lassie is more common, exc. in I.Sc.Rxb. 1712 J. J. Vernon Par. Hawick (1900) 94:
Delivered to Bailie Martin in name of Isa Anderson for teaching poor lassies £4 0 0.
Ayr. 1783 Burns Green Grows the Rashes i.:
What signifies the life o' man, An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.
Sc. 1797 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 534:
Its [Gentle Shepherd's] herds and cuintray lassocks, or auld wives and carles, speaking in character and pastoral dialect.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xii.:
She was the bonniest lass in our parochine and the neest till't.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlix.:
Fan ye cam' fae lassie to lass, maybe ye wud come to hae a bit o' a saftness and a drawin' oot to some ither ane nor yer mammy.
Lth. 1882 P. McNeill Preston 77:
When oor Ailie was a lass.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken vii.:
King Dawvit himsel … gaed ance wrang amang the lasses.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 230:
It maun be near haun fifty 'ear sin syne, for I was juist a bit lassock at the time, within a cat-lowp o' seventeen.
Slk. 1914 Southern Reporter (17 Dec.) 9:
She's a bonny lass, an' a weel-daein' lass.
Abd. 1922 E. S. Rae Glen Sketches 15:
I wis jist a bit lassock in cotts.
Cai. 1958 Edb. John o' Groat Lit. Soc.:
'E lassigies are real enthusiasts … an' chist as we aal git settled doon … 'e yowng chiels are wheeched awey.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
Och, as much o' a mystery to get to the erse y
As whit yin man sees in wan wummin, or vice versy.
In fact he treats Tartuffe - noo Ah come to mention -
No unlike a lassie he wis winchin' ....
m.Sc. 1985 Janette Walkinshaw in Julie Milton Original Prints 58:
At least her new husband only had one [drink] and he sat and held it as if it was going to bite him. I wasn't surprised because it turned out he worked in an office, which to my mind is only a suitable place for wee lassies to work in.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 45:
' ... D'ye ken that your granny and your mother too when she was a lassie took seaware fae the tidemark to this land. ... '
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 8:
A crowd o' boys and lassies, runnin' everywhere
They are aw oan holiday an it's the Glesga Fair.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 21:
'Lassies' stuff. You know, cleaning the bath, reducing the ironing pile, that kind of everyday homely stuff.'

Hence combs. and derivs.: (1) lass(ie)-bairn, a female child, a daughter (Ork., Ags., Fif., Slk., Uls. 1960). Cf. (8); (2) lass(ie)-boy, (a) an effeminate boy, a “cissy” (I.Sc., Cai., Fif., Ayr., sm. and s.Sc. 1960; Edb. 1960s); (b) a boyish girl, a tom-boy; (3) lassie days, the days of girlhood; (4) lassiehood, girlhood; (5) lassieish, girlish; (6) lassie-like, adj., adv., girlish, like a girl. Gen.Sc. Compar. lassier-; (7) lassie's crust, the rounded or top crust of a loaf (Abd. (coast) 1954). Cf. curly Kate s.v. Kate; (8) lass(ie) wean, = (1).(1) Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 3:
There liv'd a man in Waterairn, A widower, with ae lass bairn.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals xxix.:
To teach the lassie bairns.
Sc. a.1826 Burd Isabel in Child Ballads No. 257 A. v.:
O gin ye hae a lass-bairn, Burd Bell, A lass-bairn though it be.
Ags. 1827 A. Laing Archie Allan 4:
Themsel's, an' but a'e lassie-bairn, was a'.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes xxi.:
And that's no richt for lass-bairns.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Anna Mark xiii.:
There is something not canny about that lassie-bairn!
(2) (a)Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 272:
Some of the other boys used to call, 'Lassie-boy!' after him the word, sissy, wasn't in our vocabulary then but Harold never heeded them.
 (2) (b) Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xxi.:
Mine own ill-set lassie-boy of a Nell.
(3) Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights 262:
It was a sweet and cheery time, My lassie days at hame.
(4) Sc. 1857 A. Wallace Gloaming of Life ii.:
The important transition from the equivocal garb of lassie-hood into his first “corduroys”.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy x.:
I would like her lassiehood to be bright and free.
(5) Sc. 1851 J. Brown Horae Subsecivae (1882) 307:
A somewhat vulgar and “lassieish” objection to Landseer's subjects, that they are painful.
(6) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 227:
His wife's unco lassie-like.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 38:
Mab had gotten a new hat … of which, lassie like, she was geyan proud.
(8) Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Tales 66:
She's gotten a sonsy lass-wean.
m.Lth. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xiii.:
There is one lassie wean — puir wee wifie, she has had a sore time of it with the measles.
Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 71:
But work your wark, drive out the lassie-wean, Drive out the parents, hoary-headed twain.
Lnk. 1923 J. S. Martin Scottish Earth 39:
Lassie weans forby — … A' wi' lips whustle-dry.

Phr. like a lassie, also like a bunch o lassies. Ineffectually, without strength. (Ags., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s).Edb. 1990:
Scotland played like a bunch o lassies. Imagine gettin tashed by Costa Rica.
Ags. 1992:
Ye throw like a lassie.

2. An unmarried woman; a maiden. Hence auld lassie, an old maid; lassie-name, a woman's maiden-name (Ags. 1960).Wgt. 1732 Session Bk. Wgt. (1934) 428:
He never had carnal dealings with the said Mrs Gullin, either wife or lass.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 103:
Coud maids enchant as weel as you, Auld lassies wad be vera few.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 103:
A lass wi' a littlin was sae rare.
ne.Sc. 1888 D. Grant Keckleton 97:
Isobel, or Tibby, as they ca'd me when I wis a lass.
Ags. 1892 Brechin Advert. (10 May) 3:
Her lassie name was Gordon.

3. A female child, a daughter. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1743 J. Clerk Memoirs (S.H.S.) 166:
In May I carried my Wife and som of my Lasses to the Goat whey at Wooler Haughead.
Sc. 1751 W. MacFarlane Geneal. Coll. (S.H.S.) II. 25:
He … married sundry Wives, who bare many Daughters but no Sons. Therefore he was called Thomas of Lasses.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie 178:
Twasome dainty strapping callants, Twasome lassock twins we hae.
Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 25:
Mary was “as weel's cud be expeckit … an' it's a lassikie.”
Dmf. 1877 R. W. Thom Jock o' Knowe 89:
She ca'd her lassie to her side, The treasure o' her earthly love.
Per. 1897 C. M. Stuart Sandy Scott's Bible Class 60:
They aye puts me in mind o' Jeanie Thomson's wee lassie.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (23 July):
Did doo hear onything aboot yon lass o' his, Geordie?
m.Lth. 1922 “Restalrig” Sheep's Heid 6:
“Wha is't?” … “It's Jean Lindsay's lass.”

4. A maid-servant (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., m.Lth., Bwk., Kcb. 1960).Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 116:
And we'll get teats of woo; And we'll get a lass o' our ain, And she'll spin claiths enew.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 27:
She came to be my mither's lass.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxxviii.:
Gang but the house, and see what the lasses hae got in the pantry.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
The lass washed clotted blood aff the carpet the neist day.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith vi.:
A Herd-Lassie (called in the North a “Cow Bailie”).
Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe xxvii.:
They consulted me on mony things conneckit wi' the farm, an' I was mair like the mistress than the lass.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums ii.:
It'll be Lawyer Ogilvy's servant lassieky gaen to the farm o' T'nowhead for the milk.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums xi.:
I got the lassock to fetch me a hue o' hen-broth.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iv.:
He was sittin amang his buiks whan the lassie took me ben.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood v.:
She fleyed Johnnie awa' frae the door when he was for daffin wi' the serving lasses.

Hence lass(ock)-quean, a female servant (w.Sc. 1825 Jam., “rather a contemptuous designation”).Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxii, xxxvi.:
Ask the lass-quean there, if it isna a fundamental rule in my household. … Mattie was nae ordinary lassock-quean; she was akin to the Laird o' Limmerfield.

5. A female sweetheart. Gen.Sc. Freq. in phr. lad and lass, a pair of sweethearts.Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween vii.:
An' monie lads an' lasses fates Are there that night decided.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 184:
Each pleas'd to see, The rays of love dart frae his lassie's e'e.
Edb. 1812 W. Glass Cal. Parnassus 31:
O the saft beauty o' my darling lassie!
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 19:
He aft wou'd sing his lassie's praise.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption vii.:
Tell Mr Jimes that if he has lost his lass his antie has gotten a lad.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 88:
Da first nicht dat he guid ta see his lass.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 85:
A live coal was taken, and two peas … were placed upon it, the one to represent the lad and the other the lass. If the two rested on the coal and burned together, the young man and young woman … would become man and wife.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xviii.:
“Hoo is your lass?” they used to cry to him, inventing a new game.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
He was fond of a lass and fond of a glass.
Ork. 1920:
They were lad and lass for a lang time afore they were mairriet.
Abd. 1960 Buchan Observer (17 May):
Lad-'n'-lass traivlin' airm-in-airm Owre the bents on a simmer's nicht.

6. A familiar term of address to a woman, e.g. one's wife, sweetheart, or to a female animal. Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1796 Burns A red, red Rose ii.:
As fair art thou, my bonie lass, So deep in luve am I.
Abd. 1882 W. Forsyth Writings 58:
He called her [mare] “ane lass”, and never applied a less respectful epithet to her.
Abd. 1909 G. Greig Main's Wooin' 7:
Oh, come awa', Maggie, lass! I wis jist lookin' for ye.

7. The chief female participant in various local festivities in Scot., gen. as the companion of the Cornet, Standard-Bearer, Lad, etc., in most cases an innovation of the post-1920 period. Cf. Lad, n., 8., Laddie, n., 2.Rxb. 1937 M. M. Banks Sc. Cal. Customs I. 101, 108:
The flag, properly bussed by the Cornet's Lass and her lady friends previously in the Court Room [Hawick] … The Cornets of the other Border towns and the Galashiels Braw Lad and Lass [a recent invention] rode in the cavalcade.
m.Lth. 1960 Scotsman (7 May) 4:
The Lad and Lass [at Musselburgh] were then drawn through the street in an open carriage preceded by a pipe band.

II. v. Of a man: to go sweethearting.Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. X. 106:
There are two nights in this parish in the week for lassing, Tuesday and especially Friday.

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"Lass n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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