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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

OUTSET, n., v. Also -sett, ootset, utset (Jak.); -seat. Sc. forms and usages. [′utsɛt]

I. n. 1. A setting or sending out; the publication of a book (Sc. 1808 Jam.); the provision made by a parent for a child when it leaves home, e.g. for a daughter on her marriage (Sc. 1825 Jam.); a start in life.Sc. 1818 S. Ferrier Marriage I. xxxv.:
Here's t'ye, Glenfern, an' your wife, an' your wean, puir tead; it's no had a very chancy ootset.

2. A patch of reclaimed and newly-cultivated land, by itself, or as an extension to previously cultivated ground (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1964), freq. taken in from moorland or common pasture. Cf. Inset, I. 1. Occas. in farm-names as Outseats (Abd.).Abd. 1705 Bk. Glenbuchat (S.C.) 83:
The town and lands of Overknockespack, with the manor place, gardens, etc., and outsettis . . . called Suyfoord and Longfuird.
Per. 1762 Nairne Peerage Evid. (1873) 92:
Milns, miln lands, fishings, outsetts, insetts, tenants. . . .
Abd. 1793 Session Cases, Leslie v. Fraser (29 March 1805) 9:
With all and sundry houses, biggings, yards, tofts, crofts, outsets, insets.
Sh. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 499:
This ministry contains a greater number of inhabitants, in proportion to the rental land, than any other in Shetland, owing to the exertions of the two principal heritors . . . in making outsets, or new settlements, on grounds formerly uncultivated.
Sh. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 117:
When a tenant finds himself unable to pay his former rent, or when a newly married couple can obtain land in no other way, they fix on some particular spot in the common pasture, obtain leave of the principal proprietor of the nearest arable lands and enclose as much ground as they think will support their family; and such an enclosure is called “an outsett”.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (29 May):
Your faider hed taen a bit o' a ootset fur thertie-five shillins.
Sh. 1957 J. Stewart Shet. Archaeology 47:
Most of the house ruins that can be seen elsewhere are 19th century, when Shetland's population was greatest, and these are often outsets.

3. An addition to a room or building for purposes of enlargement, an outhouse (Sc. 1887 Jam.); a bothy, hut or temporary building (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) O. 19).

4. Lay-out, arrangement, plan; a display of goods for sale (Ork. 1975).Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xii.:
The map of the Clyde was nothing but a plan for the outset of a fashionable table.
Slg. 1876 A. B. Grosart Poems A. Wilson I. xxx.:
This is only my first out-set sin' I was at Glasco', for I ken ye like to see what's in my pack.

5. An ornament, embellishment (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 120; Uls. 1964); an ostentatious display of finery.Sh. 1825 Jam.:
She had a grand outset.
Ayr. 1841 J. Paton Songs 35:
It is an outset to our toun.
Fif. 1879 W. D. Latto Sang Sermons 8:
Muckle she cared for her wedding ring except as an ootset to her dainty fingers.
Abd. 1894 J. A. Jackson Bundle of old Stories 73:
“I'm surprised, after all I've said to you, that you will persist in swearing as you do.” “Weel, Sir! I'm sure it's a great peety, for, ye maun alloo, it's jist the verra ootset o' langage”.

II. v. 1. To set out, start off on a journey. Vbl.n. outsetting, departure (Sh., Abd. 1964). Orig. and chiefly Sc.Sc. 1824 Mrs. A. Grant Memoir (1844) III. 62:
I shall leave your son to tell of our outsetting.
Sc. 1827 Carlyle German Romance I. 292:
They used to look at one another, at outsetting, or when cross-ways met, with an air of sadness.
Dmf. 1863 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 212:
Outsettin' in quest o' a wife.

2. To lay or spread out, in vbl.n. ootsettin, lay-out, spread.Sh. 1955 New Shetlander No. 42. 24:
Cald winter's white table-spread lovely may be, Bit, ales! he's a puir ootsettin fir dee.

3. To display one's finery ostentatiously (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Ppl.adj. outset, “making a tawdry display of finery” (Ib.).

4. Ppl.adj. outset, worn outside the rest of one's clothes, outer, top.Sc. 1766 Caled. Mercury (22 Oct.) 507:
A blue coat, and a big drab out-set coat, and a Farmer's hat.

[O.Sc. outsett, = I. 2., 1509, maintenance, 1573, to uphold, 1561.]

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"Outset n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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