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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.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PIN, n.1, v.1 Also pinn(e); pen; peen, pien (Gen.Sc. in the sense of the common metal pin, see note). Sc. forms and usages. [pɪn; pin]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., in all senses. Combs. and phrs.: (1) gallows pin, see Gallows; (2) pin-fit, a wooden leg or foot (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) peen-heid, the young fry of the minnow or stickleback (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; em. and s.Sc. 1965). Cf. Preen, Needle; (4) pin-leg, a wooden leg. Gen.Sc. Hence pin-legged; (5) pin-mitten, a mitt knitted on a wooden pin instead of a knitting needle (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (6) pin-stick, a mistake for pirn-stick (see Pirn, n.1, 1. (13)); (7) pin-strae, the crested dogstail grass, Cynosurus cristatus (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (8) pintodle, given as “a pincushion.” The second element is obscure, phs. a nonce dim. form of Tod, a round cake; (9) temper-pin, see Temper; (10) to ca' one's budget or pack till a pin, to squander one's money and possessions, reduce oneself to penury. Cf. Pack, n., 1. Hence of persons: to pit one to his pins, to put someone into a fix, into a tight corner; (11) to pit a pin in one's nose, to bring one under control, reduce to order, “put a stop to someone's nonsense” (see quot.) (Kcb. 1965); (12) wheegle-pin, see Wheegil.(4) Sh. 1964 New Shetlander No. 71. 27–9:
The “pin-legged fiddler,” who was reputed to clump about within the house . . . The halting, clumping walk, which could be likened to nothing so much as someone hobbling about on a pin leg.
(8) Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. vi.:
The wife at the head o' the town Gae nought but a lang pin-todle.
(10) Mry. c.1840 Lays & Leg. (Douglas 1939) 16:
The lad will o'er his tether rin, An' ca' his budget till a pin.
Ork.1 1949:
“That'll pit thee tae thee pins, my lad,” might be said to an opponent at draughts or whist or in ordinary life.
(11) Abd. 1883 W. Jolly J. Duncan 162:
“She widna do wi' me as she does wi' you; I would sune pat a pin in her nose” — a figure of speech drawn from the custom of fastening a wooden pin in the nose of an obstreperous pig, to keep her from burrowing.

2. As in Eng., a peg used to control or regulate (1) the tension or speed of a spinning-wheel or similar piece of machinery. Hence in fig. phrs.: (i) full pin, adv., at full speed (I. and n.Sc., Per., Lth. 1965). Also pin, speed (Sh., Ork., Abd., Edb. 2000s; Edb. 1986); (ii) also in reference to drinking, later adopted in colloq. or slang Eng.: to keep in the pin, to let oot the pin, to pit in the pina greasy pin, i.e. a slippery one, not likely to hold.(1) (i) Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 45:
Aandrew took after the hat full pin.
(ii) m.Sc. 1827 A. Rodger Peter Cornclips 158:
I ance was persuaded to put in the pin, But foul fa' the bit o't ava wad bide in.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane 88, 89:
He resolved to pit in the pin for a twelve-month . . . He had religiously abstained from drinking during the twelve months he had himself determined to keep in the pin.
Gsw. 1856 “Young Glasgow” Deil's Hallowe'en 14:
Hearin' that the Deil that e'en Was ettlin' to let loose a pin.
Ayr. 1870 J. McKillop Poems 17:
When men an' wives put in the pin, Your gaucie kytes ye maun draw in.
Bnff. 1930:
I hid three gless on Seturday nicht, bit I'm gaan t' pit in the pin.

(2) the pitch of a stringed musical instrument. Hence phr. to screw a merry pin, to play a lively tune.Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun iv. xxv.:
Ding, ding, ding, dang, the bells ring in, The Minstrels screw their merriest pin.

Hence by extension (i) a degree, step, pitch. Obs. in Eng.Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xl.:
They mak a loud and joyfu' din, For ilka heart is rais'd a pin.
Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 121:
It twines my heart-strings up to sic a pin, I b'lieve my saul will bout out through my skin.

(ii) a mood, frame of mind, humour, in phr. a merry (sad, angry, etc.) pin. Obs. or dial. in Eng. Phr. to be in a pin, specif. of a bad temper (I.Sc. 1965).Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) 1. 25:
Sae whan e'er Company came in, And were upo' a merry Pin.
Abd. 1794 W. Farquhar Poems 181:
Gin ye're content, I'se mak but little din, Tho' I'd fain pit you in a merry pin.
Sc. 1818 Blackwood's Mag. (July) 407:
So wide a subject, were I in the pin, Would last me out at least a canto clearly.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iii.:
This is steeking the stable-door when the steed is stolen . . . but I must put him on another pin.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 198:
And his flyte-poke aneath his chin Priev'd he was in an angry pin.
Dmf. 1836 J. Mayne Siller Gun v. xix:
When fowk are in a merry pin, Weel fortify'd wi' Highland gin.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 8:
[She] wistna what was i' the win' That Tam was in sic wullin' pin.

3. In Mining: a tally with a distinctive mark used by a miner to label the hutches of coal he had filled. See quots. and II. 1. (2).Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 50:
Pins were formerly made by the miners themselves, each miner's pins having a distinguishing device, initial, or number.
Fif. 1909 R. Holman Char. Studies 7:
Taking off the pins (pieces of leather or wood with various letters or marks indicating the name of the men who filled the hutches).
Lnk. 1912 Justiciary Reports (1919) 64:
When a man proposes to leave his employment he gives notice to the foreman on the day he is leaving, lifts his graith, and returns his “pins,” receiving back the deposit of 1s. from the cashier.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 43:
Gin oor hutches were licht — 'twas tae'n oot o' oor skins; The hillsman condemned them, sent back doon oor pins.
Dmf. 1962 J. C. I. McConnel Upper Nithsdale Coalworks 55:
Each man attached a “pin” or numbered metal tally to his hutch. This was removed when a hutch was weighed, enabling the weight to be credited to the right man.

4. A type of door-knocker (see 1825 quot.), a Risp, q.v. Dim. pinnie, id. Now chiefly hist. See also Tirl.Abd. c.1750 Garland Bon-Accord (1886) 14:
He tirl't the howdie's widden pinnie.
Sc. c.1800 Gay Goshawk in Child Ballads No. 96. E. x.:
When he [a bird] came to the lady's gate, There he lighted down, And there he sat him on the pin.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xl.:
Murder tirl'd at the door-pin.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxxv.:
With a merry hand, and a beating heart, he tirled at the pin.
Edb. 1825 R. Chambers Traditions I. 234:
The pin . . . was formed of a small square rod of iron, twisted or otherwise notched, which was placed perpendicularly, starting out a little from the door, bearing a small ring of the same metal, which an applicant for admittance drew rapidly up and down the nicks, so as to produce a grating sound . . . These were almost disused about sixty years ago, when knockers were generally substituted as more genteel.
Bnff. 1863 Banffshire Jnl.:
Should gangrel bodies tirl the pin, We'll tak them for a nicht within.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xxxiii.:
It was you that used to let him in when he cam' tirlin' at the pin.
Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow xiii.:
You should have shut up the door of your heart . . . till the proper time cam', and the proper man tirled at the pin.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Penny Wheep 56:
Life keeks in the winda, Daith tirls at the pin.

5. The latch of a door.Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy II. 34:
Then take the sword frae my scabbard, And slowly lift the pin; And you may swear, and safe your aith, Ye never let Clerk Saunders in.
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 232:
Your powerless arm, your fingers numb Will hardly turn the pin.
Sc. 1823 C. K. Sharpe Ballad Bk. (1880) 5:
With her fingers lang and sma' She lifted up the pin.

6. In Golf: the flagpole marking each hole. Now St. Eng.Sc. 1901 Scotsman (5 Sept.) 7:
His magnificent approach to within a yard of the pin.
Sc. 1938 Complete Golfer (Wynd 1954) 30:
A lovely brassie it was, too — though lucky. Rolled to within two feet of the pin.

7. The centre or hub of a circle, wheel, etc. Hence by extension applied to a round dance in which one unpartnered person dances alone in the centre of a ring of dancers. Also pin-reel, id. (Bch. 1921 T.S. D.C.; Sh., ne.Sc. 1965). Phr. to be aff the pin o the wheel, to have strayed from the point at issue.Sc. 1840 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 410:
But we're aff the pin o' the wheel, Girz.. The question is . . .
Abd. 1868 G. Gall MS. Diary (22 Oct.):
[We] wound up the proceedings with the lively dance the pin.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 30:
We danc't reel efter reel, an' “The Flooers o' Edinburgh,” “The Pin Reel.”

8. A small stone wedged into the crevices between larger stones in a wall to consolidate it (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126; Sc. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also pinn-stone, id. (Ib.). Cf. II. 3.Gall. 1957 F. Rainsford-Hannay Dry Stone Walling 34:
Pins: Small wedging stones, tapped into the interstices. They render the dyke rabbit-proof and give it a little more strength. As far as possible, and as far as the stones allow, pins should be brought up with the dyke during the building.

9. A small, compact person or animal, a small child (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126. pinn). Deriv. pinner, a small mackerel (Arg. 1935 Fishery Board Gl.). Cf. 1. (3).Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 133:
I was a cadger frae Banff, Wi' an auld hielan' pin o' a shaltie.
Bch. 1924 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 56:
Ye little pin.

10. A point, peak, apex. Rare and arch. Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. Specif., a sharp point of land, a headland (Bch. 1910). See Peen, n.2, v.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 184:
The sun was cockin' now upon The vera pin o' Mid-day's cone.

11. A sharp stroke or blow from a missile, a buffet, knock, dab (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126). Cf. II. 4.Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 155:
A simple pin wi' a bodie's fit Maks 't rin a most prodigious bit.

12. In mangling: “as much linen as will go through the mangle at one time” (Watson; Fif., Lth., Slk. 1965). Also used as a pl. and in deriv. pinfu', id. (Ib.). The mangled clothes were freq. wrapped round a pin or stick to prevent creasing before ironing.Edb. 1922 “Restalrig” Sheep's Heid 20:
If some o' them . . . had to mangle twenty or thirty pin o' claes, it wad tak' a lot o' that hooligan nonsense oot o' their heids.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The mangle-wife chairged a penny for three pins.
Knr. 1948 R. S. Young About Kinrossshire 37:
It consisted of a large flat box fully three feet long and eight or ten inches high filled with heavy stones. Underneath were wooden rollers called "pins" three or four inches in diameter. The articles to be mangled were carefully wrapped round the pins and the box was, by a rope pulley, drawn back and forward over the pins which revolved under it. The charge for mangling was one half-penny per pinfull!

13. In warping yarn: a set or number of threads pulled off the bobbins together (Fif. 1930).

II. v.

 Sc. form of Eng. pin.Slg. 1990 Janet Paisley in Hamish Whyte and Janice Galloway New Writing Scotland 8: The Day I Met the Queen Mother 120:
Hur big, heavy airms roon me. Peenin me doon, keeping me stull, haudin me, haudin me.

Sc. usages.

1. (1) Combs. and phr.: (i) ppl.adj. pinn't, pinned, fig. of persons: tied down (to work), hard-pressed, not having a moment's leisure (Mry., Bnff. 1965); (ii) pinnin awl, a shoemaker's awl for pegging shoes; (iii) pin-the-widdie, ¶penny-widdie, a small haddock, unsplit, which is hung in the smoke of the chimney to cure (Abd., Lth. (penny-) 1808 Jam.; ‡Kcd. 1965). See Widdie. Phr. as reekit as a pin-the-widdie (Kcd. 1965).(1) (i) Abd.13 1910:
We'll be afa pinn't wi' the wark the day.
(ii) Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 29:
Pinnin-alls and pykin-alls.
(iii) Edb. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 4:
Chewing our cuds owre whisky toddy On Speldins or a Penny-widdie?
Abd. 1832 A. Beattie Poems 128:
Like pin-the-widdie dwine away, Till naething left but skin and bane.

(2) to put a tally or pin on a hutch of coal, esp. fraudulently to substitute one's own pin for that of the rightful owner (m.Sc. 1965). Cf. I. 3.Dmf. 1962 J. C. I. McConnel Upper Nithsdale Coalworks 55:
“Pinning” was a crime, i.e. the removal of a rightful pin and its replacement by that of a wrongdoer or thief.

2. In Fishing: to attach the snood of a fishing line to the bauk or bauk-line (Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS., pin, pen). Hence pinnan, pennan, the join so made (Ib.).

3. To fill, stop up, plug spaces or interstices (Sc. 1880 Jam.), lit. and fig.; specif. in Building: to consolidate masonry by wedging small stones or chippings into the interstices of the larger stones (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126). Gen.Sc. Obs. in Eng. Vbl.n. pinnin, a small stone used for this purpose (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1946 Hist. Mon. Comm. (Orkney) II 373; Sh., ne.Sc. 1965); combs. pinnan hill, a pile or mound of stone chippings, usu. near a quarry, pinnin-stane, = I. 8., also jocularly applied to a mouthful of food. Phr. to haud in the pinnins, to eat heartily (Bnff., Abd. 1965).Gsw. 1725 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909) 236:
For pinning and poynting of two beat-ridges.
Fif. 1740 A. M. Houston Auchterderran (1924) 365:
For pinning and harling the fore, back, and west walls of the Church.
Sc. 1742 R. Erskine True Christ 36:
Little Truths are like the little Pinnings of a Wall, they are as necessary as the great Stones.
Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 438:
They [pieces of blue moor-stone] are found in various shapes and sizes, from that of the smallest pinnings, to the most solid binding masses employed in building.
Gall. 1810 S. Smith Agric. Gall. 87, Note:
The stones immediately above the bands, (termed gulls) are so dressed as to lie solid upon them without being supported by small stones or pinnings.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 191:
His dykes had ne'er the sleek'd skin, . . . He didna batter, line and pin, To please the e'e.
Lnk. 1838 McIlwham Papers (Morrison) 13:
They'll no let ye pick out ae pinnin-stone frae the auld house, till ye hae plan't, an' estimatit, an' biggit, an' furnished them a new ane.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126:
He pinnt's pouches wee aipples . . . The pinnan o' bread an' cheese an' ale it he took wiz something by the bye.
Sc. 1912 Rymour Club Misc. II. 44:
Formula for Dry-dykers: Pin weel, pack sma', Lay ae stane abune twa.
Abd. 1949 W. Diack Granite Industry 40:
Quarrying operations have been in progress in this part of Newhills for very many years, as the extensive “pinnan hill” in the vicinity bears testimony.
Sh. 1954 New Shetlander No. 40. 11:
Tammie hitched da coo's teddir till a pinnin apo da gavel.
Sh. 1965:
When we were carrying peats we would fill the kishie almost to the top with smaller-sized peats and then pin it by setting up a row of long peats all round the inside, and then putting in more peats and clods till the kishie was pinned full.

4. To strike as with a small sharp-pointed missile, hit a sharp quick blow (Bnff. 1880 Jam., pinn; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., pien; I., ne., wm. and sm.Sc. 1965), to pelt, to throw stones after one, to annoy one with stones (Ork. 1965), also in freq. form pinner, id. (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) P. 39). Phr. to pin a lozen, to make a small hole in a window-pane with a stone (Lth. 1825 Jam.), but see also Preen, v., 1. (3). Deriv. pinner, a game played along a road or gutter in which the aim is to strike an opponent's missile, a piece of iron, with one's own (see 1955 quot.), the missile used, see Kill, I. 1.; also in a more gen. sense: a “hot” shot at bowls, cricket, etc. (Slk. 1965); phr. to pin aff, to make a hit in the game of pinner.Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter i.:
And who taught me to smoke a cobbler, . . . pin a losen? Alan, once more.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 86:
Ae shot o' Sampson wad hae pinn'd you.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126:
We set up a bottle on the dyke, an' pinnt it at the first lick.
Bnff. 1930:
They pinn't him wi' snaa-baas.
Ags. 1955:
Pinner is a game rather like marbles, but played with large lumps of iron which are thrown at one another along the road. The lump of iron is a pinner, and to pin aff is to hit another person's pinner with your own.
Ags. 1962 Dundee Courier (25 Oct.):
The cundie provided the means for a game of skill called pinner, played for stakes whereby one gained or lost varying numbers of cigarette cards.
Sh. 1964 Norden Lichts 18:
Wis bairns . . . Wid lift a ston an peen At mony a peerier craetir.
Abd. 1993:
Pin a tattie at e cat.

5. To beat, belabour, drub (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126; Cai. 1903 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Cai., s.Sc. 1965). Hence pinnin(g), pinnan, a beating, trouncing (Gregor; Wgt., Slk. 1965).Rnf. 1852 J. Fraser Chimes 10:
She gave me no pinnings — she only groaned, and then wept, and that groan, and that weeping was the sorest thrashing I have ever received.
Bnff. 1880 Jam.:
I'll pinn ye for that yet.

6. As in dial. Eng.: to grab, grasp at, seize, “nab” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 126; Ags.11926; Abd. 1965); fig., to grasp with the imagination, locate, pin down. Hence pinner, an unscrupulous person, one with an eye to the main chance, a “chancer” (Bnff., Slk. 1965).Rxb. 1867 R. White Poems 120:
In ilka case he proved a pinner, And few might cope wi' Dicky Skinner.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 235:
The brook thro' Kirklan' glen that gushes, We guddlin' pinn'd its spotted fishes.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxvi.:
Just twa e'en, and they aye keep thegither, though they're aye moving. That's why I canna pin them.

7. To move with speed and vigour, use one's “pins” to advantage (Ork., n.Sc. 1965). Also freq. form pinner, id. Used fig. in phrs. to pin in, to hurry (over a task, etc.), get a move on (Bnff., Abd. 1965); a pin-in, a concentrated effort, an attempt at speed. Heriot's Hosp. Slang.Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Works 147:
Thou [a horse] then wad up and down hill pinned, With merry canter.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 51:
The sorry craeter syne crap oure the dyke an' through the fields fat he cud pin.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 305:
I'll ca' anither [nail] in the heel To gar the powney pinner weel.
Edb. 1898 J. Baillie W. Crighton 211:
Now for a pin-in [at an imposition at school], and when it's done we'll tell some stories.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 5:
'Ey're aff owre 'e links is hard is 'ey can pin, t'see fat's come o'r.
Bnff. 1930:
Ye'll be in time if ye pin in.

8. Deriv. pinner, something large or good of its kind, a “thumper” (Uls. 1924 W. Lutton Montiaghisms 31), in 1836 quot. used of drink; a heavy drinking-bout (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. App.).Rnf. 1836 R. Allan Evening Hours 8:
Jen laughed then in my face, and said, Take ye anither pinner.

[The form peen is due to conflation with Preen. O.Sc. has pinning-stane, 1559.]

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"Pin n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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