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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

RACK, v.1, n.2 Also rak, rau(c)k; raek. Sc. usages of Eng. rack, an instrument of torture, to stretch on the rack.

I. v. 1. tr. and intr. To stretch, pull, increase in length (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 53; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; em.Sc.(a), Lnk., sm.Sc., Slk. 1967). Obs. in Eng. Also fig. Ppl.adj. in combs. racking-pin, -stick, = n., 10. (2) (Cai. 1967); specif. of cloth: to stretch in the process of drying.Ags. 1764 Session Papers, Waulkers Dundee v. Brown (2 Feb.) 2:
The next part of the Waulker-mistery consists in the tenting, racking, pressing, and sheering of the cloth.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 42:
Stap out to Tweeddale braes, An' rack your leather.
Lth. 1825 Jam.:
He has a conscience that will rack like raw plaiding.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 63:
The folks said his conscience was carelessly girdet; When it took a rackin, it bate a' description.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 99:
He'll shew the curse that Job invokit, When raucking patience, clean outraukit, Brak through her brand.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 48:
Donal' Mac's black paintit rung, Is made a carter's rackin'-pin.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 243:
Our Cadger sae sly slippit in, Syne cannilie shot, the muckle door slot, Made a ranse o' a big racking pin.
Ork. 1905 Orcadian Papers (Charleson) 35:
This is a strong straw rope formed of two cants twisted together, and spun by hand alone. When spun and “raked,” that is stretched, it is then wound into large clews the width of a barn door.
Fif. 1916 G. Blaik Rustic Rhymes 20:
Nae wonder the pooch at the corners was racket, When sae mony nick-nacks oot o' sicht in't were packet.

2. Specif. tr. and intr. of the neck: to stretch, i.e. to hang, be hanged.Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 522:
I hope they'll get him, an' rack his neck for him!
Sc. 1838 Chambers's Jnl. (20 Oct.) 312:
I tauld you I should gie you plenty o' hangin' for false aiths afore night; there are five o' them in for rackit necks.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebacket Rural Rhymes 114:
The destined doom that he maun dree, When, racking at a gallows tree, He birles cauny roun'.

3. To wrench, sprain, dislocate, twist (Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Bnff., m. and s.Sc., Uls. 1967). Also used pass.Sc. 1761 Session Papers, Robertson v. Ralston (22 July) 5:
The Horse was racked in the Back.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 18:
Whan howstin made me unco' sair, Whan my poor breast wad rack and rair.
Rnf. 1865 J. Young Pictures 127:
Crinolines gat thrown and rackit Out o' a' form.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 125:
Their chafts like to rack wi' the gantin'.
Ags. 1918 J. Ingles The Laird 6:
I never saw a brute sae dour — I think ma back is rackit O!
Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 32:
Wi' rackit gab ilk tries tae nab The biggest ane [apple] they see.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 17:
A've gaen an rackeet masul wui raxin owre fer owre.
Ags. 1946 Forfar Dispatch (18 April):
But fin she heard that Jezebel had fa'n and rackit her back, she set me oot tae help her.
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 21:
Ah racked ma back howkin dockens an that. I strained my back whilst weeding the garden.
Edb. 2003:
Ah've racked ma wrist wi a thon heavy liftin.

4. Fig., intr. To worry needlessly, to be overanxious (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Kcb., Rxb. 1967).

5. To tie the latch of a door so that it will not open (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 263, Per. 1967).Fif. 1887 G. Gourlay Old Neighbours 45:
He could neither get out nor give the alarm — the door was racket, i.e. fastened on the outside.

6. To reach, extend (Lnk., sm. and s.Sc. 1967).Gall. 1888 G. Sproat Dalma Linn 66:
Wi' a bien peat licht, As it rackit weel up the flues.

II. n. 1. A stretch.Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 135:
An' were we east the saddler's length, I'se gar him gie't [horse collar] a rack.

2. A sprain, wrench, dislocation (Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.Sc. 1761 Session Papers, Robertson v. Ralston (22 July) 5:
He observed the said Horse to have a Rack or Lameness in his Back, or hinder Parts.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 33:
I gat a rack, — my maister sell'd me, But better far gin he had fell'd me.
e.Lth. 1896 J. Lumsden Battle of Dunbar 22:
Trockin' auld airn, banes, an' bauchles, Limping wi' spavie, weeds, an' racks.
Ags. 1897 Arbroath Guide (27 Feb.) 3:
Ye've near garred me gie mysel' a rack wi' tryin' to help ye.
Per.4 1950:
Tak care and no gie yersel a rack liftin that.

3. Capacity for extension, elasticity (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); the full stretch or extent.Cai. 1829 J. Hay Poems 14:
An' fill their paunches to the rack, Wi' win' an' freeth.

4. A frame for stretching wet cloth in the process of fulling (Ags., Slk. 1967). Also in Eng. dial.w.Sc. 1842 Children in Trades Report ii. I. 17:
The cloth is thrown from the wheel upon a rack, as it is called, i.e. a wooden frame raised 18 inches from the ground, and composed of bars which allow the water to drip from the cloth between them.

5. A stretch or reach of a river (Ags. 1967). Also in n.Eng. dial. Cf. Raik, n., 6.Slg. 1755 Session Papers, Petition J. Galloway (16 Feb.) 2:
Temporary Encroachments were made upon the Burrow-meadow Rack, by Fishers in the Neighbouring Racks.
Slg. 1781 Caled. Mercury (10 Sept.):
If no bidders offer for these Fishings in one lot, they will be immediately set up in racks for the ensuing year.

6. A ford in a river (see 1825 quot.); a ridge of gravel or a shallow place in a stream or tidal water (Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poetry II. 298; Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 183, rauk; Kcb., Dmf. 1967). Comb. rack-rider, a young salmon or parr (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 149).Dmf. 1705 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. IV. 59:
From the said miln to that rock in the rack opposite the heid of the Willies.
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. 127:
They led him thro' the Liddel-rack, And also thro' the Carlisle sands.
Dmf. 1806 A. Steel Annan (1933) 188:
To be applied for the above purposes and in building a Wharf, breastwork, or other proper Landingplace for goods, at or near the Rack or Well upon the River Annan.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
A very shallow ford, where the water extends to a considerable breadth, before it narrows into a full stream. Applied only to a ford of this kind, in which the passenger has to take a slanting course.
Dmf. 1834 Letters C. K. Sharpe (1888) II. 480:
The breaks in the narrative, like the racks in the Nith and Annan, serve to make the current run quicker and look clearer.
Kcb. 1963:
Rack — a narrow, stony track exposed at low-tide [on the Solway], leading across mud-flats to an island.

7. A path or track. Also in Eng. dial; specif. in a forest: a pathway between trees (Sc. 1962 Scottish Forestry XVI. 231).Ags. 1952 A. R. B. Haldane Drove Roads, 131:
About a mile to the north of Brechin . . . wide trackways or “racks” of turf with a ditch on either side are still to be seen.
Ags. 1965 Dundee Courier (9 Jan.):
He [a forester] spoke of the “foil” of the deer . . . and of its “entry” and “rack”, the places where it had found a gap in the fence and made a narrow path through the undergrowth.

8. A curling rink (Lnk. 1825 Jam.; Ayr. 1928); the number of players required to play on a rink.wm.Sc. 1784 J. Cairnie Curling (1833) 133:
The racks we sweep from tee to tee, Our crisps we set wi' care.
Lnk. 1793 J. Kerr Curling (1890) 137:
The players shall be divided by the office-bearers into racks, and places in these racks in all parish games.
Lnk. 1864 J. B. Greenshields Annals Lesmahagow 47:
The Skippers both their choice must take Of “rank and tire”, ranged on the lake . . . They're quickly formed into a rack, Eight of a side.

9. The rut made by a cart-wheel (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slk. 1967). See also cairt-rack s.v. Cairt, n.1, 1. (6). Also in Eng. dial.

10. Combs.: (1) rack-ba(a)n, -chain, the chain connecting the bridle of a plough with the swingletree (ne.Sc. 1967, -ban, Kcb. 1967, -chain); (2) rack-pin, a stick used to twist and tighten a rope or chain, as on a loaded cart (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 138; Sc. 1880 Jam.; Abd. 1904 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., m.Lth., Lnk. 1967). See also v., 1.; (3) rack-staff, id. (Abd. 1904 E.D.D.); (4) rack-stick, id. (Sc. 1880 Jam.; Abd. 1904 E.D.D.). See also Rack, n.1, 1.; (5) rack-stock, (i) the beam of the rack, in phr. to tak owre (the) rack-stock, to take to task severely (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 138), to make exorbitant demands on one's possessions, to screw the last farthing (w.Sc. 1880 Jam.); (ii) a shoemaker's last; (6) rack-strap, a strap used by a cobbler to loop round knee and foot and over the work so as to grip it firmly (Bnff., Abd. 1967). Cf. fit-fang s.v. Fit, n.1, III. 11. and (5) (ii).(1) ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 180:
The bridle of the plough bore the name of the “cheek-lone,” to which the “fit-yoke” was attached by the “rack-baan.”
(2) Sc. 1821 Scots Mag. (July) 84:
Wood seized his rack-pin, and knocked him down.
Sc. 1832 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log xi.:
Friend, if thou be'st not nautical, thou knowest what a rack-pin, something of the stoutest, is.
Gsw. 1836 Justiciary Reports (1838) 211:
The father got a cart rack-pin, with which he struck the pannel twice.
Sc. 1859 J. Brown Rab and his Friends (1863) 31:
I had to brain him wi' a rack-pin.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 194:
He would stand about thirty paces from Union Bridge and throw a rack-pin clean over the Bridge.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 47:
For if his dog is not at hand, He swings his rack-pin like a wand.
(4) Sc. 1821 Scots Mag. (July) 84:
Francis Wood . . . repeatedly struck William Steele, . . . with a rack stick, to the bereavement of his life.
(5) (i) Abd.7 1925:
Rackstock. Probably this may have been some instrument of torture in days gone by, and gave rise to the common saying that one “wis teen owre the rackstock” who had been called in question for some offence and probably suffered on its account.
(ii) ne.Sc. 1832 P. Buchan Secret Songs 2:
The Soutter spew'd at the first bouck, The tresser an' the rack-stock.
(6) Abd. 1940 Songs of the N.-E. (A. Keith) 33:
First he spewed the rack-strap, And after that the batter-caup.

[O.Sc. has rakkis, a spit, 1548, rak, = 5., 1624, rack, a ford, 1659, rack-stocke, 1635. It is not certain that all the usages above belong to the same word. 5., and phs. 6., correspond to Du. rak, a reach of a river; 7. may be a variant form of Raik, n. (O.N. rák, a stripe). Others suggest from place-name evidence connection with O.E. hraca, a throat, though there are phonological difficulties; for the semantic development of 8. cf. Ger. dial. recke, a row or series, and for 9. cf. Norw. dial. råk, a track, rut, O.N. rák, though here again the phonology is uncertain. Prob. many of the usages are local developments of Eng. rack, the immediate orig. of which is itself disputed but which is ultimately cog. with reach, O.N. rekja, to stretch, Ger. recken, Du. rekken, etc. There may also have been some semantic influence from Raik, q.v., which has some sim. meanings.]

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"Rack v.1, n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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