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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

MEG, n. Also Megg, Mag, Maag, Meig, and dims. Meggie, Megsie (Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (Dec.) 179), Maggie. Sc. hypocoristic forms of the Christian name Margaret (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Sc. usages:

1. Combs. and phrs.: (1) Meg-cut-throat, the whitethroat, Sylvia communis (Rxb. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 23, ‡1923 Watson W.-B.); (2) Meg Dorts, see Dort, n., 2.; (3) Maggie Findy, a resourceful, self-reliant woman, “good at shifting for herself” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). See Fendie; (4) Meg's hole, “a rift in the sky to the south-west, foretelling clearer weather” (Lnk., Ayr. 1962); (5) Meggie-lickie-spinnie, a spider. Cf. (11); (6) Meggie-mony-feet, Meg(gy)-, Maggie-, Maggy-; -o'- or -wi(th) the-, the centipede (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Cf. Jennie, n., 7. (12); also applied to other creatures with many legs, e.g. the millepede (Arg.1 1931) or the crab or lobster; (7) Maggie-muffie, the whitethroat, Sylvia communis (Ant. 1907 Northern Whig (30 Nov.)). Cf. (1) and Muffit; (8) Meg Mulloch, Meig-, Maag-, Maggie-; -Mullack, -Mullach, a familiar spirit or Broonie traditionally associated with the family of Grant of Tullochgorum in Strathspey (Mry., Bnff. 1962). Descriptions of the appearance of the spirit and speculations about the orig. of the name vary considerably (see quots.); (9) Meg Mutchkin, see Mutchkin; (10) Maggie Rob(b), -Rab, (i) a counterfeit halfpenny. Also used attrib. and fig. The elements are puns on slang mag, a halfpenny, and rob, to steal; (ii) a scolding shrewish woman, a virago; (11) Meggie-spinnie, a spider (Bnff.16 1927, Bnff. 1962). Cf. (5); (12) Meggie-wob, a spider's web (e.Dmf. c.1914); gossamer (Kcb. 1962). Cf. (5) and (11); (13) Mons Meg, ¶Mounts-, a large 15th c. cannon, prob. made in Flanders, at Mons, mentioned first by the name Mons in the Treasurer's Accounts in 1489 though perhaps alluded to earlier as “magnum bombardum” and recorded as being at several sieges in that century. Popular tradition connects it with a gun made locally for use at Threave Castle in 1455 but this is discredited. The gun, after being transferred to London in 1754, was restored to Edinburgh Castle in 1829, chiefly through the influence of Sir Walter Scott (see quots. and Accts. Lord High Treasurer Scot. (1877) I. ccxx. sqq.). The use of Meg as a soubriquet for a cannon occurs in O.Sc. from 1546, and the first instance of the full name Mons Meg in Drummond's Polemomiddinia (c.1650). See Sc. Hist. Rev. xxvii. (1948) 124–6.(4) w.Fif.1 1930:
The weather comes oot o' Meg's Hole. When wind goes from S.E. to S.W. via south very wet. Not so, if by N.
(5) Ags. 1849 Montrose Standard (2 Nov.) 8:
Ye meggie-lickie-spinnie tow! Ye upsettin' gameramus, 'at wud daur to insult an auld man.
(6) Ags. 1784 Gentleman's Mag. II. 506:
We have many droll names of insects, as the Cloc, King-Colin, Horngolach, Maggy-with-the-Mony-Feet, etc.
Ags. 1813 J. Headrick Agric. Ags.App. B 55:
Cancer . . . pagurus, crab, or parten. . . . [Cancer] gammarus; the lobster. Both these species are called in Angusshire by the name of Firy tangs, or Meg wi' the mony feet.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 410:
I dinna like the Meg o' mony feet, Nor the brawnet Connochworm.
s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders II. 45:
Ye lie whar the meg-o-mony-feet crawls on the green and yellow carrion.
Bwk. 1848 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 327:
Some of these [Myriapods] are more popularly known as “Meggy-mony-feet”.
Sc. 1861 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. 164:
It [a beetle] is a little black beastie, about the size of my thoom nail. The country folks ca' them Clocks; and I believe, they ca' them also Maggy-wi'-the-mony feet.
Abd. c.1920 G. B. Thomson Pirn-Tae't Jockie MS.:
Wi' a thoosan maggie-mony-feets crawlin' doon yer back.
(8) Mry. 1696 J. Aubrey Miscellanies 175:
Whether this Man saw any more than Brownie and Meig Mallach, I am not very sure: Some say, he saw more continually . . . Others affirm he saw these two continually, and sometimes many more . . . Meg Mullack, and Brownie . . . are two Ghosts, which (as is constantly reported) of old haunted a Family in Straths-pey of the Name of Grant. They appeared the first in the likeness of a young Lass: The Second of a young Lad.
Mry. c.1700 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) III. 243:
In old there frequented this Family a spirit called Meg Mulloch. It appeared like a little Boy, and in dark nights would hold a candle before the Goodman, and shew him the way home, and if the Goodwife would not come to bed, it would cast her in beyond him and if she refused to bring what he desired, it would cast it before him.
Mry. 1775 L. Shaw Hist. Moray 306:
I find in the synod records of Moray, frequent orders to the Presbyteries of Aberlour and Abernethie, to inquire into the truth of Maag Moulach's appearing. But they could make no discovery, only that one or two men declared that they once saw, in the evening, a young girl whose left hand was all hairy, and who instantly disappeared.
Sc. c.1830 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 99:
The May [sic] Moulloch or female Banshie is very probably of the same kind of spirits, as Killmoullach or Killmoulis.
Mry. 1860 W. G. Stewart Lectures on Mountains (Ser. 2) 144:
It was her custom to wear a superabundance of hair, in consequence of which, she was commonly called “Maug Vuluchd” or “Hairy Mag”. Mag was an honest and excellent housekeeper, and had the service of the table generally assigned her.
Mry. 1887 J. Thomson Recoll. Speyside Par. 59:
The Grants had their spectral guardian which never failed to warn them of death and danger. The name of “Maggie Mulloch” was “familiar as a household word” in my early days, and so “Botach-chaursan”, a name that has before now made the writer tremble.
Mry. 1888 Trans. Gael. Soc. Inverness XIV. 247:
The female Gruagach, or Brownie of Tullochgorum, was known as Mag Mhullach or Hairy Left-hand, who acted the part of invisible tablemaid or general servant. She used to slap the servants about, and carry tales to the master.
(10) (i) Bnff. 1730 Annals Bnff. (S.C.) II. 158:
Bad ha-pence commonly call'd Maggy Robbs, £18. 15s.; in Wood's ha'pence, named Hibernie's, £5 10s 6d.
Ags. 1734 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) X. 153:
In 1734 we find that the counterfit halfpennies, commonly called Maggie Robs, were Sold at 5 shilling 2 D. Scots the pound weight.
(ii) Abd. 1825 Jam.:
He's a very guid man, but I trow he's gotten a Maggy Robb o' a wife.
Sc. 1928 J. Bridie Sunlight Sonata (1932) 103:
[Ira advances.] Man! Here's a bit maggie-rab partan! And what's like the matter wi' you? Ira: I'm Anger. My Christian name is Ira.
(13) Sc. 1753 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. 164:
A huge Piece of Ordnance, resembling an old-fashioned Mortar . . . denominated Mounts-Megg.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 53:
Oh willawins! Mons Meg, for you, 'Twas firing crack'd thy muckle mou.
Sc. 1825 Scott Journal (10 Dec.):
If I go to town this spring, I will renew my negotiation with the Great Duke for recovery of Mons Meg.
Edb. 1850 J. Grant Mem. Castle Edb. 274:
Mons or Mollance Meg. This celebrated piece of ordnance . . . weighs six tons and a half, and is composed of malleable iron bars hooped together; the balls are twenty-one inches in diameter, and hewn of granite.
Sc. 1916 P.S.A.S. L. 198:
This brings us to that piece of Scottish ordnance still in existence which bears the famous name of Mons Meg. The popular and patriotic tradition is that when James II besieged the rebellious Douglasses in the castle of Threave in Kirkcudbrightshire in the year 1435, the artillery brought having proved ineffective, a local blacksmith named McKim and his sons offered to make then and there a bigger and more powerful gun than any the King had, and produced in a short time this mighty specimen of their skill.
Sc. 1942 Scotsman (18 April):
Will Mons Meg, veteran cannon at Edinburgh Castle . . . be included in the new drive for scrap in Scotland? . . . Asked about Mons Meg, . . . an official connected with the drive said that he would not like to say at the moment.

2. A rather unsophisticated girl (Sc. 1937 Partridge Dict. Slang), esp. a young country girl or fisher girl; a mate or wife.Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings 9:
An' up I gat twa buncing megs, An' fill'd the ring.
Slg. 1804 G. Galloway Poems 55:
He made complaint to Jamies, Jocks and Megs.
Ags. 1819 G. Beattie Poems (1826) 83:
Troth, little profit has she made By fisher maggies.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 157:
The mimmest Meg amang them a' Will tipple wi' a Jo an hour or twa.
Abd. 1889 W. Allan Sprays 35:
Wha wad e'en sell yersel' an keep freens wi' your meg.

[O.Sc. Meg, c.1538, Maggie, 1603. = 2.]

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"Meg n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2023 <>



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