Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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'.

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) 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) 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 Nov 2019 <>



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