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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SARK, n., v. Also serk (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Dim. sarket, -it. [sɑrk; em.Sc.(a), s.Sc. sɛrk]

I. n. 1. A man's shirt (Sc. 1755 S. Johnson Dict., 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc., also in n.Eng. dial. Also attrib. Adj. ¶sarken, belonging to a shirt.Ayr. 1702 Arch. and Hist. Coll. Ayr. & Wgt. IV. 202:
With the half of his bountess, viz., of ane pair of hose, shoes, and sark.
Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 68:
Some did their Sark Tails wring.
Fif. 1761 E. Henderson Annals Dunfermline (1879) 476:
I sent you a linen Serk.
Ayr. 1795 Burns Lass that made the Bed vii.:
She took her mither's holland sheets, An' made them a' in sarks to me.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 11:
Turning coats, and mending breeks, New-seating where the sark-tail keeks.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian iv.:
Our gentles will hardly allow that a Scots needle can sew ruffles on a sark.
Gsw. 1856 “Young Glasgow” Deil's Hallowe'en 43:
There Venus dipped, wi' lauchin' glee, Her sarken sleeve o' Poesy.
Hdg. 1876 J. Teenan Song 3:
Darnin' my stockins or shooin' my serk.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xix.:
To warm his sark at the fire afore he put it on.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 29:
“The button”, said he, “has come off the neck o' my serk”.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 63:
The men . . . threw off both coat and waistcoat and “tripped it” in their “sark sleeves”.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert iv.:
They jist lie i' their sark-sleeves an' dicht the swyte fae their faces.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 11:
Ma serk was drackeet wui weet till it stack ti ma verra back.
Slg. 1929 Scotch Readings (Paterson) 8:
A man doesna change his hale natur ilka time he pits on a new sark.
Bwk. 1947 W. L. Ferguson Makar's Medley 38:
Auld carls in flannel serks are roastin'.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 21:
"Whit a daft thing tae deu," said Henrietta. "Pit thee sark on a horse."
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 61:
When the excisemen or soldiers appeared, making for the unloading ship, the first small look-out would wave sark or kerchief wildly until he saw his message taken up and passed along the line.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 178:
He gave her an armful of sarks which had belonged to dead troopers. Dead men's clothes! Seonaid shivered.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 34:
In thae days whuin a collier man
was crusht an killt alow a stane,
the-tyme wi sploongein, swaetie sark,
gurriein, he wrocht at the wark.
Abd. 1993:
Naebody's lookin at ye - jist gang in yer bare sark.

Dim. sarket, -it, an undershirt, a woollen vest (Abd. 1904 W. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 38; Bnff., Abd. 1969); “a kind of short skirt, or blouse” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 147). This last is phs. due to a confusion with Surcoat, q.v.Slg. 1788 R. Galloway Poems 111:
At that time men cou'd gang to market, Wi' plaiding hose, and straiken sarket.
Bnff. 1907 Banffshire Jnl. (13 Oct. 1953):
Hose an' drawers an' sarkets.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 81:
Packin' up my sarks an' sarkits.
Bnff. 1959 Banffshire Jnl. (14 April) 8:
Ma jersey an' ma sarket.

2. In reference to church practice or discipline: a surplice, also in phr. ¶sark of God; a penitential shirt.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 137:
Jockey shall wear the hood, Jenny the sark of God.
Abd. 1733 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 39:
He'll get the dud and Sacken gown, That ugly Sark.
s.Sc. 1809 T. Donaldson Poems 160:
Ye'll ask yon man i' Haly sark, I mean the priest.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xvii.:
The curate linking awa at it in his white sark.
Kcd. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet xvi.:
Wi' a lang white serk on, an' a can'le i' their hands.

3. A woman's shift or chemise (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 205). Gen.Sc., obsol. Also attrib.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 139:
He was wrap'd in his Mother's Sark Tail. The Scots have a superstitious Custom of receiving a Child, when it comes to the World, in its Mother's Shift, if a Male; believing that this Usage will make him wellbeloved among Women.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 149–50:
[She] coost her duddies on the wark, And linket at it in her sark!
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 131:
Up hurry-scurry in her sark She spangit for her daily dark.
Ags. 1846 A. Laing Wayside Flowers 104:
As they gaed out to dip their sark, Twa brankin' chiel's cam' in the gaet.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (8 Jan.):
Dey're been naur dy cot 'at stüle dy sark.
Dmf. 1928 Scots Mag. (July) 263:
That wife o' his rinnin' doon the Raw in her serk tail, and him efter her wi' an axe.
Fif. 1964 R. Bonnar Stewartie 2. viii.:
They'll better keep their sarks weel doon when John G.'s near them.
Bnff. 1968 Banffshire Jnl. (6 Feb.) 4:
Her fine cotton sark with the lace and herring-bone stitchery.

4. Special Combs.: (1) sark-alane, in one's shirt or shift; (2) sarkfu, a shirtful, in phrs. a sarkfu o idleness, a lazy person (Sh. 1969), a sarkfu o sair (†-wrought) banes, of a person stiff and sore from hard labour or from a beating (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1969), gen. in threats; ‡(3) sarkless, without a shirt or shift (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 266; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc.; (4) sark-neck, a shirt-collar-band. Gen.Sc.; (5) sark-tail, a shirt-tail; (6) wooden sark, a coffin.(1) m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) cxiii.:
Auld Seonet comes in sark alane.
Ayr. 1879 R. Adamson Lays 122:
He caresna for a steek o' claes, For sark-alane he tak's the road.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 45:
[He] huntit squirrels, sark aleen, as swuppert as the win'.
(2) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 396:
I'll give you a Sarkful of sore Bones.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xlv.:
Ye shall hae the best sark-fu o' sair banes that ever ye had in your life.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 21:
A sarkfu' o' sair banes for the sins of ilka meenont of the day.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick i.:
Mony's the nicht I brocht a sark-fu' o' sair banes hame wi' me.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (24 July) 2:
Geordie saved 'imsel a sarkfu' o' sair benes b' rinnin' awa'.
(3) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 212:
Langsyne you ha'e been blyth to pack Your a' upon a sarkless soldier's back.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 95:
But we drank the gude brown hawkie dry, An' sarkless hame came Kimmer an' I.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 14:
Na, na, she'd ten times rather tak Her Tammie wi' a sarkless back.
Bnff. 1909 Banffshire Jnl. (29 Dec.) 3:
Hame lads gang wi' sarkless skins.
Sc. 1926 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 227:
Guid fa' that sarkless loon.
(4) Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry x.:
There's some sark-necks I wad draw tight.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 98:
Stiff sark-necks up to their ears.
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xiii.:
Dinna hing on to my sark-neck.
(5) Abd. 1981 Christina Forbes Middleton The Dance in the Village 79:
We doon the stair thegither
Jeck ready for the wiggin'
Wi' me hingin' on tae his sark-tail
Aye peengin' awa an' priggin'.
ne.Sc. 2003 Press and Journal (20 Oct) 12:
Weel deen tae aa for bridgin the eers in sang an clatter and I hope the young eens will haud gyan. They dinna quite realise yet foo important their darg is. We hae, tae me, the best twa in the lan ivnoo haudin up oor ain tradition in Robert Lovie an Paul Anderson. Lat's hope some will hing on tae their sark tails.
(6) Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 69:
Yet after a' this frugal wark, It pinch'dly coft a wooden sark.

5. The black membrane that lines the inside of the belly of a fish (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

II. v. 1. To clothe in or provide with a shirt. Gen. in ppl.adj. sarkit (Sc. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.). Vbl.n. sarkin, serken, -in, shirting, material for making shirts (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Per., w.Lth., Ayr. 1969). Also attrib.Rxb. 1711–25 J. J. Vernon Hawick(1900) 78:
5 yards serken to deceased James Glasgow.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 239:
Sarking lint, or claithing fleece.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 141:
But how I was sarked, foul fa' them that speers!
Ayr. 1786 Burns Vision I. v.:
Half-mad, half-fed, half-sarkit.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 15:
Underneath weel sarkit Wi' harn that day.
Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 102:
Plenty sarkin' light an' leal, O' Ellan's spinnin'.
Sc. 1832 Chambers's Jnl. (Feb.) 27:
The meal pock was made of sarken cloth.
Lnk. 1835 W. Watt Poems (1860) 89:
She could wed Willie Speedyspool the sarkin weaver.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 25:
At the least, ae' wab o' harn, The guidman an' yersel' to sark.
Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 71:
Te fess oot wi' her some chaip wincey an' sarkin.
Arg. 1939 I. Malcolm Songs o' Clachan 26:
Guisers were we that braw night, Capped in colours, sarked in white.

2. To cover the rafters of a roof with wooden boards, to line a roof with wood for the slates to be nailed on, gen. in vbl.n. sarkin(g), serkin, roof boarding (Sc. 1808 Jam., 1952 Builder (20 June) 943.) Gen.Sc. and n.Eng. dial. Also attrib. as in sarking board, nail, seam, etc. Used also of roofing felt (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).m.Lth. 1700 Cramond Session Rec. MS. (6 Dec.):
Sarkeing and sklatteing the kirk.
Lnk. 1712 Burgh Rec. Lnk. (1893) 285:
A parcell of old daills that were the old serkin of the kirk.
Ayr. 1738 Ayr Presb. Reg. MS. (1 Nov.) 177:
Three hundred sarking nails at Seven pence half penny per hundred.
Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 121:
The roofs are sarked, i.e. covered with inch-and-half deal, sawed into three planks, and then nailed to the joists, on which the slates are pinned.
Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 47:
Its vaulted roof has been converted into the present one of cupples, and blue slate, with serking of deals.
Sc. 1834 G. Smith Cottages 19:
In the South and West of Scotland, where the large Welsh slates are generally used, there is no sarking or boarding laid over the couples, but merely lath rods, similar to what are used for tiling.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 157:
Even when slates came into use as a roofing material, they were attached to the “sarking” not by iron nails but by hardwood pins.
Arg. 1952 N. Mitchison Lobsters on Agenda vi.:
The sarking of the old roof.
Mry. 1965 Stat. Acc.3 187:
The roofs sarked and slated.

[O.Sc. sark, shirt, a.1400 sarkin(g), of a roof, 1532, shirting, 1575, North. Mid.Eng. serk, O.N. serkr, a shirt.]

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"Sark n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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