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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.

SINGLE, adj., n., v. Also singel (Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 3), -il (Abd. 1924 L. Coutts Caul' Nor'-East 13); ¶shingle, and erron. sindle. Sc. forms and usages. [sɪŋl. See P.L.D. § 79.]

I. adj.

Sc. form of Eng. single.wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 9:
Come dork, she wis richt weak
Wi' the gowpin' o' her sair heid and seeck
At the thocht o' touchin' a singel bite.
Edb. 2004:
Are ye singel again?

1. As in Eng. In combs.: (1) single book, the Shorter Catechism, in the version without the scripture-proofs appended to each question. See Pruif, n., 1.(2), Short; (2) single brae, in Mining: a self-acting incline, in which there is one set of rails only and the hutches are hauled up by counterweight, a cuddie brae (Fif. 1970). See Cuddy, n.1, 4. and Wheel; (3) single carritch(er), = (1) (wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 516). See Carritch; (4) single-end, a one-roomed house (Gsw. 1935 McArthur and Long No Mean City i.). Gen.(exc.I.)Sc.; (5) single fish, (i) see 5. below; (ii) rhyming slang for pish v., n. II. 1.; (6) single-flooring, a flooring nail of ordinary length as opposed to the long double-flooring size; (7) single-handed, of a game of curling: played to win points for oneself and not as a member of a rink or team. See Point, n., 1.(1); (8) single-horse-tree, a swingle-tree of a plough to which the traces of a single horse are attached (Per., Kcb. 1970); (9) single-house, a house of one single room in depth; (10) single note, a one-pound banknote. See Pund, n.1, 2.; (11) single-run, the first distillation of the wort in the manufacture of whisky, which produces low wines, as opposed to the subsequent distillation of these, called doubling, used attrib. in quot.; (12) single-sided, without one's married partner, widowed; (13) single-soled, of boots and shoes: with a single thickness of leather in the sole, used specif. in reference to the manufacture of such as a speciality of Selkirk; (14) single-stick, used fig. as an adj., unaided, alone without help, from Eng. single-stick, a stick used in place of a foil at fencing; (15) single-tongued, truthful, honest in one's words (Ags. 1958); (16) single-work, a section of a dry-stone wall which is one stone thick only. See II. 2. below.(1) Fif. 1886 A. Stewart Dunfermline (1889) 81:
His turn came to say his questions, but he appeared to be sadly deficient of a knowledge of the “single book”.
(3) Sh. 1738 Hjaltland Misc. (1937) II. xxiv.:
12 Mother's Catechisms. 24 Single Catechisms.
s.Sc. 1787 in Burns Works (Chambers 1896) II. 49:
Theirs who sup sour milk and parritch, An' bummil through the single Caritch.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxxvii.:
My mother gar'd me learn the Single Carritch, whilk was a great vex.
Ags. 1895 Caledonia I. 423–3:
We got a fell smatterin' o' readin' an' a roond or twa o' the single carritchers.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (15 May):
Whin a lad or lass hed gaen troo da Single an' Moder Catechis' an' da pröfs.
(4) Lnk. 1897 J. Wright Scenes Sc. Life 27:
“A single en”, or one apartment.
Fif. 1964 R. Bonnar Stewartie i.x.:
The twa-three sticks o' furniture he has doon there in that single-end o' his.
wm.Sc. 1965 Alan Sharp A Green Tree in Gedde (1985) 67:
An old man in an old pub across from an old cemetery, gerontic algebra. Moving his feet in the sawdust, under the geraniumbrage, thinking old thoughts for a first time. Soon, when the sweet cheap wine is finished, he will go home to his single end.
Edb. 1967 Edb. Ev. News (12 Jan.):
Exchange large room and kitchen for single end, boxroom and w.c.
 Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 44:
A single-end
in a waalie close,
wi mirle, sclaffert, bleibs,
and a kirkyaird hoast.
Gsw. 1991 John Burrowes Mother Glasgow 78:
He and his family had taken her as their own daughter after her mother's death when the two of them had lived in the most basic of tenement accommodation, a one-roomed 'single-end' in one of the oldest and worst tenements in Florence Street.
(5) (ii)Gsw. 1996 Herald 28 May :
The story is Erchie in an Art Tea Room in which, as Mr Haddow says, Munro "expertly takes the single fish out of the trendy arty-farties."
(7) Gall. 1904 E.D.D.:
The medal for “points” is called the single-handed medal, that for rinks, the rink medal.
(8) Rxb. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 50:
Single-horse-trees, to whose extremities . . . the chains are fastned, which reach from both sides of the collars of two horses placed abreast.
(9) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxvi.:
A single house; that is, having only one room occupying its whole depth from back to front.
Gsw. 1845 Hogg's Weekly Instructor (March) 78:
At the door of what is there termed a single house, or honse of one apartment.
(10) Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption xviii.:
Ye hae twenty fives, and three bunches o' single notes.
(11) ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 70:
Whisky wis the staple drink, Single run for drams, for toddy Double stuffs to gar ye wink!
(12) Rnf. 1877 J. M. Neilson Poems 67:
Whan Death took Sawners ower, He left her single-sided.
Per. 1904 R. Ford Hum. Sc. Stories (Ser. 2) 52:
To see hoo I was fairin' since left in my single-sided condition.
(13) Sc. c.1750 T. Somerville Life (1861) 341:
The shoes of the men, called brogues, were made of leather tanned from horse hides, and, as purchased, had only a single sole (they hence went by the name of single-soled shoes).
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. 249:
Up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk, . . . That sew the single soaled shoon.
(14) Edb. 1882 J. Smith Canty Jock 38:
For the first month I sang single stick.
(15) Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lochinvar xxviii.:
There was a dragoon that was single-tongued.
(16) Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 152:
The Galloway dyke is measured at the grass, at what is called the first lift, where there is a scarcement left as a projecting base, and at the commencement of the top, where the double building ends, and the single work begins.

2. Of members of the armed forces: of the lowest rank, private, able. Hence single man, -sailor, -sentinel, -soldier, etc.Sc. 1721 R. Wodrow Sufferings ii. v. s. 3:
An Ensign, Lieutenant or single Centinel.
Sc. 1785 Duke of Gordon's Daughter in Child Ballads (1956) IV. 335:
For once I was noble captain, Now for thy sake a single man.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality viii.:
I'se e'en turn a single sodger mysell.
Sc. 1880 Jam.:
A single soldier, a private; a single sailor, a man before the mast.
Fif. 1900 S. Tytler Logan's Loyalty xxi.:
The ‘single soldier' — the ignorant reckless country lad picked up by the recruiting sergeant.

3. Of a letter of the alphabet in writing or printing: small, lower-case, as opposed to capital (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. Dooble, adj., 12.

4. Scantily or thinly clad.Sh. 1969:
Du's gyaain about ower single.

5. In fish-and-chip shop usage, of a dish: not to be served with chips, by itself only, e.g. single fish, -pie, -pudding, etc. (m.Sc. 1970).

II. n. 1. In pl.: the Shorter Catechism. See I. 1.(1) above and Short. Also attrib.Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk More Bits 222:
The ‘singles questions', or ‘the carritch', as the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “adapted to those of weaker capacity,” is called in Scotland.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 60:
When the weans were wee she used to mak' them learn the Singles and the Mother's Questions on the Sabbath efternoons.

2. The upper part of a dry-stone wall “where large stones are used the full width of the dyke” (Gall. 1957 F. Rainsford-Hannay Dry Stone Walling 33; Dmf. 1970). Also comb. single-dyke, id. (Ib.). See I. 1.(16).Gall. 1955 Quest No. 20. 15:
A standard dyke of height five feet has a “double” of three foot four inches, and a “single” of one foot eight inches.

3. A bundle of gleaned corn, gen. what can be spanned by the hand, a handful of gleanings (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 159; s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl., sindle [sic]; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Bwk., Dmb., Lnk., Rxb. 1970). Also in form singloo (Ork.). Comb. single-straw, the gleanings of straw in harvest.Sc. 1726 A. Pennecuik Collect. Sc. Poems (1787) 12:
Bairns come laden hame with singles.
Sc. 1763 R. Kirk Secret Commonwealth (1815) App. 94:
A neighbouring Woman coming in with some Shingles of Barley to be dried on the small Kiln.
Bwk. 1764 Session Papers, Yules v. Others State of Process 17:
They laid down their gatherings in singles in Howlawrigg park.
Lth. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 55:
The cotter's muck and single straw.
Fif. c.1870 Edb. Ev. News (26 May 1956) 4:
It was the custom for old and young to take part in the gleaning. . . . When the hand was full the quantity was called a “single”. To gather a dozen “singles” was a good four hours' work.
Ork. 1912 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 22:
The heads of bere left on the field after removing the crop were gleaned and tied in bunches, called ‘singloos'.
Rxb. 1920 Kelso Chron. (17 Dec.) 6:
Beating out the grain from these “singles” afforded occupation for many winter evenings.

III. v. 1. To thin out seedlings (esp. of turnips), to single spaced plants (Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson). Gen.Sc. and in Eng. dial. Hence vbl.n. singling, agent n. singler.Sc. 1801 Farmer's Mag. (Jan.) 52:
The turnip being singled by the hand-hoe.
Gsw. 1857 Jnl. Agric. App. lxv.:
The best Machine for Singling Turnips.
Hdg. 1873 Trans. Highl. Soc. 28:
In singling, the plants are left 12 inches apart.
Wgt. 1878 ‘Saxon' Gall. Gossip 332–3:
Instead of standing up and singling the turnips with a hoe, they gart them single them with their fingers. “Singlers, my boy, singlers, they're always grumbling.”
Ags. 1903 T. Fyfe Lintrathen 13:
They were not skilled in “singling” the turnips with the hoe, so the boy went first on his knees, “singling” with his hands.
Lth. 1921 A. Dodds Antrin Sangs 5:
[He] singles wi' the women-folk in season.

2. To glean after harvest, in vbl.n. singlin, a handful of gleaned corn (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth., Bwk., Dmb., Lnk., Rxb. 1970). Cf. II. 3. Also in n.Eng. dial.Rxb. 1895 J. B. Webber Rambles 169:
A' through the day the bairnies fell Aye gather't singlins.
Rxb. 1909 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 77:
To gather “singlings” which were taken home to feed the hens.

3. In vbl.n. singling, the first distillation in the making of whisky. See I. 1. (11) above and doubling (OED). Used attrib. in quot.Abd. 1796 Session Papers, Leslie v. Fraser (29 March 1805) 167:
In the wash or singling still, which was wrought off once in twenty-four hours, there generally remained from 300 to 600 gallons of spent wash or burnt ale, which was carried off by the company and people in the neighbourhood for feeding cattle.

[O.Sc. single, = II. 3., 1508, singill catichisme, 1580, single dike, 1698, singil soillit, 1637.]

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"Single adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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