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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

LICHTEN, v.2 Also lichen. Gen.Sc. forms of Eng. lighten: to make lighter in weight, to ease a burden, fig. to alleviate, cheer (Abd. 1836 J. Grant Tales 211; Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 310; Gall. c.1870 Bards Gall. (Harper 1889) 163; Sc. 1928 J. Horne Lan'wart Loon 9). [lɪç(t)n]

1. Specif.: to raise (an upper mill-stone) slightly to alter the fineness of the grinding. Gen. in comb. †lightening-tree, a beam which is adjusted for this purpose (see quots.). Cf. Lichter, v., 2.Sh. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 142:
Some millers are proof against the temptation, having been taught caution by the fate of others; and instead of taking a ride, salute his Neogleship with a fiery brand through the lightning-tree hole, which makes him immediately scamper away.
Sh. 1886 P.S.A.S. XX. 275:
Lightening-tree — The upright beam fixed from the outer end of the sole-tree, passing through the mill-floor. It is a simple contrivance for raising or lowering the upper millstone, so as to produce a finer or more coarsely ground meal.
Ork. 1911 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 23:
All querns were not alike … In one variety, the centre spindle, instead of going through the sile of the top stone, was adjusted so that the sile rested and swung round on the top of it. It was lightened, i.e., the distance between the two stones made greater by knocking the spindle further up through the wooden nave of the lower stone.
Sh. 1937 J. Nicolson Restin' Chair Yarns 77:
Then without warning, the mill would stop. The person in charge of the operations would hurry to adjust the lichtnin tree.

2. To make light of, to disparage (Fif. 1960). Cf. Licht, v.2, 4., Lichtlie.e.Lth. 1924 I. Adair Glowerower 43:
A Scott to the ends of his finger-nails, which was a sore trial to his father. Not that I am lightening the Scotts.

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"Lichten v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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