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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PORT, n.1, v.

I. n. 1. A gateway, entrance, esp. one of those in the wall of a city. Obs. in Eng. in 17th c., and in Sc. now only hist., except as applied to the spot or street in a town where a city gateway stands or formerly stood, as in the West Port in Edinburgh and St. Andrews, Panns Port in Elgin. Comb. port-waiter, an official watchman or porter at a city gate.Edb. 1700 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1962) 270:
The Councill . . . condemne the said new north port over against Halkerstouns wynd leading to Leith and ordains the same to be built up with stone and lime.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iii. iv.:
Whene'er he drives our Sheep to Edinburgh Port.
Sc. 1725 Session Papers, Magistrates Edb. v. Heritors (9 Dec.) 1:
Petty-port-customs, payable at the Ports of the City of Edinburgh.
Sc. 1736 Crim. Trials Illustrative of “H. Midlothian” (1818) 295:
The deponent having the custody of the Keys of the Netherbow Port, they came to his house, and forced from him the keys, and therewith did lock fast the said port.
Edb. 1776 Session Papers, Thomson v. Grieve (23 Aug.) 2:
A person was stoped by the port-waiters at the Nether-bow port carrying oats.
m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) cxxiii.:
For they relate what wages they Do gi'e at Embrugh ilk day. . . . Note: The West-port of Edinburgh, or rather the Grass market adjoining, is the place where reapers are hired every day during Harvest . . . particularly on Mondays, when there are sometimes two or three thousand at once.
Ayr. a.1796 Burns Reply to Trimming Epistle vi.:
Auld Clinkum at the inner port Cried three times: — “Robin”!
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet x.:
You know I have no power beyond the ports of the burgh.
Ags. 1894 J.B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) v.:
There were a gey twa-three streekit their necks as I jestered up the Port.
Ayr. 1904 C. S. Dougall Burns Country 7:
Travellers setting out through the Kyle port, the eastern exit of the “ancient borough”.
Sc. 1964 Scotsman (3 Oct.):
So often, indeed, were the Netherbow Port's turrets used for the barbarous and gruesome practice of spiking the heads of political offenders that people grew callous at the all-too-familiar sight.

2. A piece of open ground near a town gate used as the site of a feeing market or hiring fair, esp. for farm workers; hence the feeing-market itself (see 1786 quot. above). Combs. port-day, the day of a hiring-fair, port-wages, the official rate of pay fixed at a hiring fare.Lnk. 1760 Caled. Mercury (18 Aug.):
Ports will be opened at Lanark, Biggar, Carnwath, and Douglas for Hiring of Harvest Shearers weekly.
m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) cxxvi., cxxxiv.:
Masters far and near hae been At port, they say . . . To Dun-eudain they hie with haste The next port-day.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recoll. 238:
There were always some cottars on the town, that made part of the band [of harvesters]. What more hands were required, were hired . . . at the Port.
m.Lth. 1841 Edb. Ev. Courant (9 Sept.):
Dalkeith Shearers' Port. — Monday, 6th September. — Shearers were hired at 18d. and 16d. per day and victuals.
e.Lth. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 8:
Port wages and the halesome harvest fare. Note: The wages agreed to by farmers and reapers, and then publicly announced by the Chief County Constable every Monday morning during harvest at the West Port.

3. Transf. A hole or aperture in a bee-hive for the passage of the bees (Bnff., Uls. 1966). Dim. in comb. portie-door, id. (Bnff. 1966).Bnff. 1955 Banffshire Jnl. (1 Nov.):
I'll close a' the ports o' the skeps, an' them that's in will bide in, an' them that's oot will jist hae tae bide oot.

4. In Curling or Bowls: a narrow passage between two stones or bowls through which a third can be aimed. Hence to block (fill) a port, to enter a port. Gen.Sc.wm.Sc. 1784 in J. Cairnie Curling (1833) 133:
Six stanes within the circle stand, And every port is blocked.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 120:
They closed fast on every side, A port could scarce be found.
Sc. 1811 J. Ramsay Curling 10:
Whether they have to draw, strike, wick, or enter a port, they will seldom deviate an inch from their aim. To enter a port, is to make a stone pass through an opening made by two others lying opposite to one another.
Ayr. a.1822 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 196:
Now, Geordie Goudie, here's a port, Be cannie, and we'll soop ye for't.
Dmf. 1830 R. Brown Mem. Curl. Mab. 63:
An ye break through this narrow port and carry out the winner upon this half inch.
Sc. 1883 The Channel-Stane (Ser. 1) 49:
Wilson is left with a port which allows him a by no means certain, but possible, draw to the winner.
Sc. c.1900 Sc. National Readings (Forsyth 1914) 166:
If ye but saw hoo it's gairdit, jist an inch o' its cheek bare through the only port.
Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie 60:
If ye mak' yersel' sma' ye'll can squeeze through the port. Here's the tee; noo canny.

II. v. 1. In Curling or Bowls: to send a curling-stone or a bowl between two stationary stones or bowls lying close together, to enter a port, see I. 4. Also fig., as in 1881 quot.Sc. 1831 Blackwood's Mag. (Dec.) 971:
Porting, is to come up, inter Syllam et Charybdim, i.e. to draw a shot through a strait formed by the stones upon the rink.
s.Sc. 1881 Border Counties Mag. II. 126:
Here was the twae fresh hands, an' he [a fugitive] was just portin' right atween them.
Slk. 1897 D. W. Purdie Poems 136:
She's portin' grand — Hoo! shot! shot! shot! There's nae game like curlin'.

2. Comb. porting-bolt, in setting shaftpumps: “a bolt used for bringing the bolt holes of two separate pipes opposite each other” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 52).

[O.Sc. port, = I. 1., c.1500.]

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"Port n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2024 <>



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