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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).

MAGG, v., n. Also mag.

I. v. Of coal carters: to pilfer coal by removing part of a load to sell on their own account (Lth. 1808 Jam.). Also transf.Sc. 1762 Caled. Mercury (27 March):
The Magistrates . . . fine severals [for] forestalling, regrating, using false weights and magging or selling part of carts of coals.
Sc. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (16 Sept.) IV. 294:
Friday a carter, at Loanhead, was convicted before the Magistrates, of being guilty of the base practice of magging the coals brought in to him by his customers.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xliii.:
They were a bad pack — steal'd meat and mault, and loot the carters magg the coals.
Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. vi.:
They scrapit up a groat amang them, poor dears, — magged frae their Sabbath pennies to the brod, I'm thinking.

II. n. In pl.: an extra payment to express appreciation of services outside regular duties, a gratuity, a tip (Lth. 1808 Jam.; Sc. 1818 Sawers; m.Lth. 1962). Construed as a sing. in 1779 quot. Phr. to melt one's mags, to drink one's tips.Edb. 1762 Session Papers, Chaise-masters v. J.P.s. Edb. (30 Nov.) 9:
They get besides Mags, two Pints of Ale and four Rolls.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 60:
The [ministers]'re well paid for their preaching, they may very well both marry and chrisen a' the poor foukes into the bargain, by the way of a maggs.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Deanhaugh x.:
Mensefu' wives are aye mensefu' baith wi' their drams an' their maggs.
Sc. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 724:
Maggs, allowance to ploughmen when on duty from home.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 110:
“Thou's nane blate for thy years, but tak thou that by way o' mags!” quo' she, and she yerkit my haffet with her loof.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 97:
There was a half-way hoose at Gammelston, keepit by a man ca'd Sam'el Vint, whaur the chaps üsed to stop in the hame-comin an' melt their maggs.
e.Lth. c.1920:
A tip given by a master to his servant [on a farm] who is sent a long distance with a cart or the like. Usually 3d. or 4d., and drunk on the spot or at the nearest pub!
m.Lth. 1939:
At that time mags was still used by carters and lorry drivers. It was used both in the sense of a tip given to a carter and of a tip by a carter given to anyone about the pit who assisted him.

[Semantic development of mag, colloq. Eng. form of magpie, noted for its pilfering habits. Meaning II. is a development of I., as another form of a (orig. coalman's) perquisite.]

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"Magg v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Sep 2022 <>



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