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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.

MUCK, n., v. Sc. form and usages:

I. n. 1. Dung, farmyard manure; refuse, compost. Gen.Sc. Now mainly dial. in Eng. Freq. attrib. See also Combs. below.Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife (1803) 156:
Where they are near to towns, they use muck and dung, which does turn to good account.
ne.Sc. 1745 Origins '45 (S.H.S.) 160:
When they observed them at a great distance they swore it wus only muck heaps.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 11:
An yence my father's muck were out, my mither downa wirk at the midden.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 40:
An' I hae seen the muck ta'en to the fields On horses' backs, in strang slip-bottom'd creels.
Sc. 1832 Trans. Highl. Soc. III. 250:
The Scottish wiseacre who informed a young inquirer that the three great points in husbandry were 1st, muck; 2d, muck; 3d, muck (Anglice dung) was unquestionably right so far, that dung is a sine qua non.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 80:
Our hind's daughters . . . are set to . . . fill muck-carts, drive the same, spread muck, drive the harrow etc.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
His carts . . . scrubbed clean, after the defilement of driving out the “neep muck.”
Sc. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours Sc. Life 193:
Muck is the mither o' the meal-chest. What dae a' want wi' science? Gie me a cheap fairm and plenty o' muck, and a'll be contented.
Sh. 1930 Shetland Almanac 193:
Nanny küst a shivil o' muck oot apo da middin.

2. Dirt, filth; slimy mud. Gen.Sc. Colloq. in Eng. Also fig.Abd. c.1750 W. Walker Bards (1887) 182:
Oliver and Willie Buck Sit o'er the lugs in smeekie muck.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 3:
Beauty's muck when honour's tint.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. & Arch. Soc. (1923) 23:
For surely it's just for muck like this Sic creatures as puddocks were made.
e.Lth. 1896 J. Lumsden Battle Dunbar 14:
His colour, of the hue of fire, Was weel-toned down wi' muck an' mire.

3. A scoundrel, a good-for-nothing person.Per. 1766 A. Nicol Poems 93:
Unless ye her restore, ye're a mere muck.

4. Derivs. from n.: (1) muckafy, v., to make dirty (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Sh. 1963); (2) mucker, a local name for a cake made from bakers' scraps (Abd. 1963) phs. a short form of 5. (14) below; (3) muckie, -y, adj. As in Eng.: dirty, filthy, covered with dung (Cld. 1880 Jam.). Combs. muckie-fit, a ploughman, a farm-worker (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 115, Bnff. 1963); mucky heap, a dirty, slatternly woman. See Heap, n., 3.; †muckie house, a privy (Cld. 1880 Jam.). Also in shortened form muckie (Id.). Cf. muck-house s.v., n., 5. (10).(2) Abd. 1957 Press & Jnl. (9 May):
Muckers at playtime is a tradition at this School [Fraserburgh Academy] . . . left-over bread, sugar, syrup, cinnamon and fruit between layers of pastry.
Abd. 1984 Scots Magazine Dec :
One's hands cupped around a hot mucker (humbler species of the fruit cake) was just grand on a cold day.

5. Combs.: (1) muck-bell, a silver bell given in Dumfries as a prize to the winner of the Muckmen's horse races. Hist. See (13); (2) muck-creel, a wicker basket or hamper used for conveying dung to the fields (Sc. 1825 Jam.). See Creel; (3) muck-cupp [ < coup], a small box-cart with closed sides for carrying dung. See Coup, n.3, 2.; (4) muck-fail(e), -feal, -feill, turf cut up and mixed with dung, to form a manure or compost. See Fail, n.1; (5) muck flee, a bluebottle (Bnff., w.Lth. Ayr. 1963); a dung-fly (Sh., Per. 1963); (6) muck-fork, a dung-fork. Obs. or dial. in Eng.; (7) muck-hack, see Hack, n.1, 1. (2); (8) muck-hole, the hole in the wall of a byre through which the dung is thrown out; (9) muck-horse, a horse used to carry panniers of dung to the fields (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poet. Gl.); (10) muck-house, (i) a shed for storing dung (Ayr. 880 Jam.); (ii) a privy (Ayr., Cld. Ib.); (11) muckhow, a tool used for scraping out dung. See How, n.1; (12) muck kishie, = (2). (Sh. 1963). See Kishie; (13) muckman, a day-labourer or odd-job man one of whose duties was to act as a scavenger. In Dumfries in the 17th and 18th cs. these were organised in a fraternity; (14) muck-midden, a dung hill. Gen.Sc. Also a jocular name for a cake consisting of a layer of fruit between two layers of pastry (Abd.31 1963); See Midden; ¶(15) muck-monger, a dealer in dung and refuse; (16) muck rotten, rotten to the point of decomposition (Sh. 1963).(1) Dmf. 1716 W. McDowall Hist. Dmf. (1783) 309:
[Dumfries Town Council] by a plurality of votes, prohibit the riding of the muckmen in all time coming; and, in order to the entire extinguishing of this custom, they appoint the treasurer to sell the muck-bell for the best advantage.
(2) Slk. 1886 T. Craig-Brown Hist. Slk. II. 110:
Many years elapsed [since 1725] before the “muck-creel” was finally dispensed with.
(3) Rnf. 1714 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M. 69:
Ane muck cupp at 5/-.
(4) Sc. 1706 Charitable Observations on Forbes's Treatise on Tithes 102:
I make use of Pease every other Year, or Muck-feal, without which we would not have such abundance of Barley.
Abd. 1759 Trans. Highl. Soc. XIV. 81:
When the bear-seed is over, the oxen plough enters to the faugh and the horseman to the casting and leading muck-fail.
Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 456:
The practice of cutting up sward for manure or muck-fail, was prohibited by an Act of Parliament, made for the county of Aberdeen, as long ago as 1685.
Abd. 1811 G. Keith Agric. Abd. 439:
Instead of muck feal, or thick turfs cut from barren soil, the greater part of the farmers now lay in the bottom of their dunghills, either the turf walls of old houses, . . . or rich earth.
(6) Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 143:
A muck-fork, and an auld peat-creel.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 99:
Like the heft o' a muck fork frae a middenstead.
(8) Cai. 1961 “Castlegreen” Tatties an' Herreen' 30:
‘E greip 'll still be doan' ids stuff Oot through 'e owld muck-hol' .
(11) Sc. 1739 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch 450:
Her husband offered to strick her with a Mattock or Muckhow.
(12) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (11 March):
Hit's a ruinashen ta hang up muck kishies 'ithoot scraepin' dem.
Sh. 1928 Shet. Almanac 187:
Nothin bit da spade an' da muck-kishie.
(13) Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 269:
To the muckmen theirs [hansell] . . . 0 14 6.
Edb. 1703 Act for quenching of Fires (21 April) (Broadsheet):
The Council appoints the whole Muckmen to have each of them an Creel, and to repair to the Fire with their Creels full of Horse-dung or Muck, upon the first Alarm.
Dmf. 1746 R. Edgar Hist. Dmf. (1915) 85:
The Muckmen or daily labourers, and servants of the Heretors in their husbandry or labouring the Burrow Aikers.
Dmf. 1873 W. McDowall Hist. Dmf. 308:
It was the custom, every first Monday in May, for the day labourers and servants of heritors to parade the town on horseback, armed with swords and dirks, and bedizened with sashes and ribbons . . . Even as the Trades had their convener and the Councillors their provost, so this more humble fraternity had a chief entitled the Lord of the Muckmen, who was annually appointed to that dignity by popular suffrage.
(15) Sc. 1846 Anon. Muckomachy 34:
Muck-mongers! Men of filth and fulzie!
(16) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (29 April):
Yon hide is been muck rotten ye an' faider bought fir wir voar waer.

6. Phrs.: (1) as drunk as muck, extremely intoxicated (Sh., Ags., Per. 1963); (2) to make muck o' meal, fig. to live parasitically, said of a person fit for little else; (3) to think oneself nae muck, to have a good opinion of oneself, to be proud. Also Lord or Lady Muck (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1963); (4) wet as muck, soaking wet, dripping (Sh., Kcb. 1963).(1) s.Sc. 1878 N. & Q. (Ser. 5) IX. 73:
A drunken man on both sides of the Border is termed as “drunk as muck”.
(2) Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xxxvii.:
Ye're just fit to make muck o' meal, Sae swith awa'.
(3) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 214:
I trow they thought themsel's nae muck, Nor yet their dolls.
Gsw. 1964 George Friel The Boy who Wanted Peace (1985) 10:
"Of course, you're Lord Muck of Glabber Castle, you're too high and mighty to bother about money. ..."
Edb. 2003:
Her wi her new car she thinks she's Lady Muck fae Stoorie castle.
wm.Sc. 2003:
She aye acts like Lady Muck and Glabber.
(4) Slg. 1818 W. Muir Poems 26:
A' saft an' soaket, wet as muck.
s.Sc. 1878 N. & Q. (Ser. 5) IX. 73:
If a Scottish southland shepherd comes soaking wet from the hill, or a farmer from the plough in the same condition, each will describe himself as being “wet as muck”.
Abd. 1926 E. Duthie Three Short Plays 8:
Weel, they'd jist need to be, for the last were as weet's muck . . . Set them doon. A'm obliged to ye for cairtin' them up.

II. v. 1. To spread with dung, to manure, to fertilise. Gen.Sc. Dial. in Eng. Ppl.adj. muckit, very dirty, filthy (Sh., Abd. 1963).Uls. 1728 in Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 70:
With sic dead Ase to muck a Moorland Soil.
Ork. 1766 P. Fea MS. Diary (14 March):
6 Horses mucking upon the half penny Lands.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 110:
May mak the grun as sma' as meal Muck weel the stem.
Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 5:
To muck the riggs in ilka field.
Rxb. 1807 J. Ruickbie Wayside Cottager 177:
But now she [a dog]'s gane to muck the land.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (4 March):
Saw doo no what da Johnson breider did ta der toon wi' muckin' wi' waar.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 4:
It wid 'a set him better if he'd gaen an' helpit his wife . . . ta muck an' dell da kail yard.

2. To clean the dung out of (a byre or stable). Freq. with oot. Now St. Eng. but originally Sc. Ppl.adj. muckit, cleaned out, vbl.n. muckings, dung. Also vbl. n. muckin-oot. Agent n. mucker.Sc. c.1745 J. Oswald Caled. Pocket Comp. II. 35:
The Mucking o' Geordy's Byre.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 86:
An' now sin Jock's gane hame the byres to muck.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 19:
But Maggy turn'd better the next day, and was able to muck the byre.
Dmf. 1813 A. Cunningham Songs 73:
An ewe-milking maiden, and mucker of the byre.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 112:
O didna I help you at muckin' the stirkie?
Lnk. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 30:
The rest were half fed an' half watered, An' ne'er gat a clean muckit byre.
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 339:
Clarty . . . work is mucking byres.
Ork. 1911 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 16:
It was not an easy job to “muck” or clean out the stable.
Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (13 Feb.) 2:
The cattleman there had to be much more than a wheeler of turnips and a “mucker of byres.”
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Penny Wheep 51:
The fairmer's lass has kilted her coats An's muckin' oot the byre.
Abd. 1950 A. Keith Autobiog. 16:
A hole through which the muckings from the cows could be pushed.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 6:
But the beasts hae to be fed
though there'll be nae muckin-oot needit
till themorrow.

3. To clean out or tidy up in gen. (Abd., Kcb. 1963). Fig. to scold (Ayr. 1963). Hence muckin out, a dressing-down (Id.).Sc. 1700 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 298:
To clean, muck and keep clean the saids haill wells, for the space of five years.
Fif. 1864 St. Andrews Gazette (19 Nov.):
If . . . they cannot get to sea for some time, the bait becomes stale, and it is invariably found necessary to go a short distance to sea with the baited lines, such as they are, not so much for the quantity of fish they expect to take as for allowing them (to use their expression) to muck their lines.
Abd. 1914 J. Leatham Daavit 53:
Aw wiz muckin' oot mi pooches this mornin', fin I cam upon a postal order for half-a-croon.
Cai. 1916 J. Mowat Caithness Proverbs 5:
“February will fill 'e dick an Mairch will muck it oot” — the “fans” of February will lie at the dyke side until March weather clears them away.
Kcd. 1853 George Caie The Cove Marriage :
Come awa in [and] lat's muck our line.

4. To sweep away, get rid of, eject.Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 55:
But we'll need frien's an' favours tee, I doubt, Ere we get Saunders Randolph mucket out.

5. tr. To clutter up, to mar the appearance of, to litter (Sh., ne.Sc. 1963). Colloq. in Eng.Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray 70:
Caun'les, crucifixes, copes, rochets, stolls, an' a' ither bairns' playicks they wud fain muck the kirk wi.

6. Combs.: (1) muck-a-byre, -the-, a contemptuous name for a farmer (Bnff., Per. 1963). Attrib. = rustic; (2) muck-it-out, a phr. imit. of the cuckoo's call (see quot.).(1) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 220:
I wad rather see my boat and a' my three sons dadet against the Bass or I saw ony ane o' them married on a muck-a-byre's daughter.
s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders II. 61:
I wad think shame to tell that I belonged to sic a muck-the-byre set.
(2) Bwk. 1886 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 117:
His (cuckoo's) harsh second note (or as they call it in Berwickshire, his “muck it out”) once between his usual cry.

[O.Sc. muk, mwk, dirt, filth, 1505; to clear out a stable, a.1400.]

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"Muck n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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