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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

PARTAN, n. Also parton, -en, -in. [′pɑrtən]

1. The common edible crab, Cancer pagurus (Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife (1803) 132; Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Obs. Sc. Dial. 149, Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc., the Eng. word crab often being reserved for inedible varieties. Comb. partan-crab, id.Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 278:
For dinner . . . lapster and partans and brandie . . . £2. 18. 6.
Bnff. 1730 W. Cramond Ch. Rathven (1885) 64:
Delation given in against Janet and Margaret Simsons, in Lonhead, as having gathered partens this day eight days.
Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 173:
One of the boatmen went in among the rocks where he catched a large partan.
Sc. 1798 in Laing MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1925) II. 659:
The supper (consisting of toasted cheese, partan claws and Alesops) is just come up.
Sc. 1819 Scott L. Montrose iv.:
He's shelled like a partan, wi' airn on back and breast, haunch and shanks.
Fif. 1867 St. Andrews Gazette (10 Aug.):
The immense distance which the tide receded has been useful in allowing some of our parten fishers to recover some of their lost creels.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vi.:
Gin ye cud get a gweed chape skate till her, an' twa three-bawbee partans.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders vii.:
I had not gone far, progressing, as the partan-crab is said to do, backwards.
Ags. 1929 Montrose Standard (19 April):
I wiss I was awa', as the wife said when the parten gripped her wi' his claw.
Ork. 1936 Scotsman (7 March):
Up came the creel glittering in its black tar, and in it a “partan”, an enormous crab.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 108:
... the women crowded in, exchanging weaving patterns and secret ways of smoking partans.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 86:
Partens tuik his fancy maist; syne octopus, jeelyfush - an at the hinner-en, ony kin o fush.

Combs. and phr.: (1) as fu as a partan, brimful, full to the top, sc. as full as a crab shell is of meat (Ork., Bnff., Abd. 1965). Cf. (7) below; †(2) partan-back, a soldier, a “red-coat”, from the colour of his tunic; (3) partan bo'ster, -baulster, a female crab. See Baulster-crab; (4) partan bree, crab soup (Sc. 1909 Cookery Bk. Lady Clark of Tillypronie (Frere) 348). See Bree; (5) partan('s) cairt(ie), a toy cart made from a crab's shell and drawn along on a string (Ork., Bnff. 1965); (6) partan creel, a wicker crab-trap. See Creel; (7) partan-fu', adj., = (1); (8) partan-haar, a sea-mist, thought to be propitious for catching crabs (Fif. 1899 Mont.-Fleming). See Haar; (9) partan-handed, -it, adj., mean, miserly, tight-fisted (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); (10) partan hoe, a long-handled hoe with curved claw-like prongs, a cultivator; (11) partan pie, a dish of seasoned crab meat cooked and served in the shell (see 1827 quot.); (12) partan('s) tae, the claw of a crab. Hence partan-taed, adj., having an in-toed gait, like a crab (I. and ne.Sc., Ags. 1965); (13) partan-trunk, a wicker cage for catching crabs, a crab-pot (Lth. 1965).(1) Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches xcvi.:
He had primed his proboscis [with snuff] till it was as “fou as a partin”.
Fif. 1860 H. Farnie Fife Coast 73:
A little man, as full as a partan of buttoned, brushed, and powdered pride.
(2) Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 11:
He espied a party of parten backs proceeding in the direction of a neighbouring burgh.
(3) Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 82:
They wou'd a' been baith snug an' quate as partan bo'sters lang ere now.
(4) Sc. 1929 F. M. McNeill Sc. Kitchen 99:
Partan Bree with rice and cream “intill't”.
(5) Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Witch-Wife iv.:
He was capering about with that ugly black brute of yours harnessed to a parten's cart.
Kcd. 1901 Abd. Wkly. Free Press (9 Feb.):
In the childish days when they dragged their partan cairties on the bit of cobbled causeway.
(6) Fif. 1865 St. Andrews Gazette (24 June):
One day last week Mr. John Wilson had rather a motley assemblage of enemies to each other in one of his parten creels.
(7) Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 56:
She was sae partan-fu' o' pride.
(9) Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xci.:
Ye partan-handit, grip-and-haud smiddy-vice Mammon o' unrighteousness.
(10) Abd. 1953 Abd. Press & Jnl. (21 April):
Round Shovels, Dung Graips; Dutch, Draw and Parton Hoes.
(11) Per. 1738 Ochtertyre Ho. Bk. (S.H.S.) 150:
Supper chickens broyld . . . cold mutton eggs and pottatoes, parton pyes.
Sc. 1827 M. Dods Manual 198:
The Scotch Parton-pie. Pick the meat out of the claws and body; clean the shell nicely, and return the meat into it, first seasoned with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg; with a few bits of fresh butter, and some bread-crumbs. A small glass of vinegar, beat and heated up with a little made mustard, may be added, and a small quantity of salad-oil substituted for the butter. Brown the meat when laid in the shell with a salamander.
Sc. 1844 G. Outram Legal Lyrics (1874) 14:
Pangin oursels wi' haggis an' brose, an' whiles wi' sheep's head an' partan pies.
(12) Kcd. c.1700 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 78:
He roasted a hen to him with strea and gave him a dram out of a paiten [sic] tea.
Sc. a.1770 Herd's MSS. (Hecht 1904) 182:
Ye's get partan-taes to pike, And ye sall be my wife, lassie!
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 70:
Some for Auchmithie, famed for caulkers An' parton taes, an' Luckie W — s.
Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 59:
Yer lang sharp nails can nip as weel As ony partan's tae, John.
Fif. 1909 J. Colville Lowland Scots 123:
Withered leaves of the tussilago or colt's foot . . . were eagerly utilised as a substitute for tobacco, and smoked, “with diffeeculty”, in a “partan's tae”.
(13) Fif. 1865 St. Andrews Gazette (7 Oct.):
One of our fishermen named David Grant went out in a small boat to bait his parten trunks.

2. Fig., as a term of abuse or ridicule, an ugly or bad-tempered person, a stupid creature (Bnff., Ags., Fif. 1965); also partan-face, id. Hence parten-faced.Bnff. 1895 N. Roy Horseman's Word xii.:
Answer yoursell, parten-face, gin you're grown sic a wonder o' wisdom.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy iv.:
[She] sent him sprawling with the words “Tak' that, you glowering partan!”
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Anna Mark xx.:
A silly partan o' a bairn like this.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset 49:
A partan-faced, sculduddery loon.
Abd. 1941 Abd. Bon-Accord (27 Nov.) 12:
The iniqueety o' men fouk in general, an' ae pike-thank fiteless aul' partan in partickler.

3. A cattle louse (Per. 1975). Cf. Eng. crab (-louse).

[O.Sc. partan, c.1420, Gael. partan, a crab.]

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"Partan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jun 2022 <>



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