Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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QUERN, n.1, v. Also kwern (Ork.); quearn, quairn; hwern (I.Sc.); quarn (Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) II. 250), querren- (Abd. 1925 Greig and Keith Last Leaves 111); quiern (Sc. 1763 R. Kirk Secret Commonwealth (1815) App. 57); quirn (Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 298), queern. Dims. quernie (Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads II. 355; Mry. 1825 Jam.); quernock (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.). Deriv. kwerno (see I. 1. (2) (ii)). Sc. forms and usages. [kwern. In sense 2., kwirn (ne.Sc.), ′kjurən]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a primitive type of hand-mill for grinding corn, etc.; also of smaller hand-mills, e.g. for snuff (Kcd. 1843 J. Anderson Black Bk. (1879) 12; Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 10; ‡Abd., Kcb. 1967). Sc. combs. and phrs.: (1) quern-bink, a stone or ledge on which the quern was kept and used. See Bink, n.1, 2.; (2) quirn-fish, (i) the brill, Scophthalmus rhombus (Ork. 1891 Harvie-Brown and Buckley Fauna Ork. 284); (ii) the turbot, Scophthalmus maximus (Sh. 1808 Jak. (1928), kwern-fish; Cai. 1967), from their round shapes. Also kwerno, id. (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (3) quairnhouse, an apartment or recess in which a quern is kept (Ork. 1710 P. Ork. A.S. XII. 57, Ork. 1967); (4) quern-ledder, -le(a)ther, kwern-, = (1) (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork.5 1950). The second element appears to be a variant of Lewder, n., 5.; (5) quearn pick, a small hand-pick for cleaning and sharpening quern-stones; (6) quern's ee, the hole in a quern through which the grain to be ground is fed. Phr. lying on a quern's ee, see quot.; (7) quern-shaped flounder, see (2) (ii) above and Gael. lèabag-bhrathainne, id., from bràth, quern. (1) Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. i. 22:
On the ben side of the gable, and in the centre of the wall, there was a recess called the quern-ledder or quern-bink, where the burstin' and the malt made from bere were ground.
(4) Ork. 1946 Ork. and Sh. (Hist. Mon. Comm.) I. 54:
In the walls [of an Orkney farm house dating c.1700] are a number of rectangular recesses, some of which are aumbries, others nests for geese, while two with rounded backs, known as the “sae bink” and the “quern ledder”, accommodated a water-tub and the stone hand-mill.
(5) Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A.S. I. 65:
An quearn pick weighing Six Merks.
(6) Sh. 1961 Scottish Studies 184:
“Lying on a quern's e'e” was a phrase sometimes used, which denoted that fish were lying in a very small area.
(7) Sc. 1875 W. A. Smith Lewsiana 39:
The turbot is known as the “quern-shaped flounder,” from its circular shape.

2. Transf. the stomach of a fowl, the gizzard (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Cai.4 1920; ne.Sc. 1967, queern) from its similarity in function to the corn-grinding mill. Abd.15 1924:
Some aul wifies eest tae mak yirnin wi' the in-skin o' a hen's kweern.

3. = 1. (2) (ii) (Cai 1967).

II. v. To grind in a quern. Rare. Sc. 1793 J. L. Buchanan Travels 157:
They quern as much grain as their diets require.

[The long vowel form is found in O.Sc. queirn, 1596.]

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"Quern n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Aug 2020 <>



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