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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.

SKEP, n., v. Also skepp, scep(e), scap(e), skape; skip; skeb(b) and dim. skebbik. [skɛp; I.Sc. skjɛp]

I. n. 1. A basket of wickerwork or straw for carrying e.g. grain, meal or potatoes (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.) or for sifting meal or dressing corn (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1897 J. Jakobsen Old Sh. Dial. 32, skepp, skebbik, 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.). Gen.Sc.; a clothes-pin basket (Clc. 1950, skip); a container for bobbins in a spinning factory (Rnf. 1910). Also in Eng. dial. Hence skepf(o)u, the full load of a skep. Comb. tool-skep, a straw tool-basket.Slk. 1746 Scottish Journal (1848) II. 28:
A souin seive, ane babrick, ane meal skep.
Dmf. 1806 Scots Mag. (March) 207:
Trollybags a groat the skepfou.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 94:
He then got a skep and gathered sheep dung.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 97:
She brought in a skepful of hen eggs.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 171:
At the side of the kiln stood a large straw basket, called a skeb, in which the corn was rubbed by foot when dried.
Kcb. 1903 Crockett Banner of Blue x.:
As pleased-like as he lay doon his tool-skep at nicht.
Lth. 1924 Edb. Evening News (10 April) 4:
The lines had been “redd” by the wives, and re-baited and coiled down in the skepp ready for running out.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 165:
Wi kots knee high, within a skeb Trang rubbin kiln-dried bere.

2. A straw-beehive (Sc. 1755 S. Johnson Dict., 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.Sc. and Eng. dial. Hence skepfu, the contents of a hive.Rnf. 1705 W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1878) 170:
It is not lawful to keep empty bee skapes in their yeards.
Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 169:
Three score of bees' scapes, all set on the ground, with the entry in the midst of the scape.
Sc. 1792 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 381:
When the lower scep is filled with honey, it is to be removed after the bees are admitted into the upper scep.
Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf xviii.:
Elshie's skeps o' bees.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 38:
A skep o' bees that was cummin' aff.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxiii.:
Boxed up in this bee-skep of a cage of mine.
Rxb. 1901 W. Laidlaw Poetry 67:
She pointed where the bee-skeps stood.
Abd. 1913 C. Murray Hamewith 99:
Whiles fae a skep a dreepin' comb he steals.
Cai. 1957 Edb. John o' Groat Liter. Soc.:
Her eggs an' her butter an' skepfues o' bees.
Ags. 1975 Valerie Gillies Each Bright Eye (1977) 39:
Old bee-skeps, and the cows in byre
Spelled milk and honey would be there.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 18:
He also made bagpipes, flat irons, brass and silver brooches, tins, besoms and bee skeps: the years of the tinklers as tin and tool workers and repairers of pots and pans were yet to come.
Sc. 2001 Scotsman 30 Mar 6:
There is a beautiful smooth stone sculpture by Peter Randall-Page. This is reminiscent of an old-fashioned bee skep crossed with a seashell and you could happily gaze at it for ages.
Sc. 2002 Sunday Herald 13 Oct 2:
... the formal gardens to west and north of the house are walled, and within one wall are the original bee boles, complete with their iron security bars to prevent thieves raiding the straw skeps (beehives) which sat in the boles.

Combs.: (1) skep-bee, the hive- or honey-bee (Abd., Kcd., em.Sc.(a) 1970). Also in reduced dim. form skeppie (Ib.); (2) skep-hole, a recess or niche in a garden wall for holding a bee-hive (Ags. 1961 Dundee Courier (18 Feb.) 6); (3) skep-moo, the mouth or door of a hive (ne.Sc., Ags. 1970).(3) Abd. 1867 A. Allardyce Goodwife 10:
Wer nain bees, fernyer, never keest, Bit hang at the skep-moo.

3. A clumsy wide-mouthed vessel of any kind, also fig. of a boat. Hence skeppy, wide and ill-shaped (Ork. 1930).Id.:
A skep o a cup, o a tub, o a boat.

II. v. 1. To put (a swarm of bees) into a hive, vbl.n. skepping (MacTaggart). Gen.Sc. Used fig. in 1879 quot.; to store (honey) in a hive. Phr. to skep a bike, “to carry off wild bees with their combs from their natural nest, and put them into a hive; a practice common among boys” (Abd. 1825 Jam.).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 95:
Let us skep gin that we can My gude tap swarm here casten.
Mry. 1865 W. Tester Poems 168:
Dinna throw awa money for the Keith-skepit honey.
Abd. 1879 A. Jervise Epitaphs II. 124:
Frae the kirk he took a swarm An' scapit it in Fytie's barn!
Per. 1951 N. B. Morrison Hidden Fairing xi.:
Helping to skep a swarm of bees.
Abd. 1957 Huntly Express (28 June):
I've skeppit them in boxes, in aul' herrin' bowies, an' in pails boddim eemist.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 13:
Bit wir fadder sottert i the yaard
An skeppit amo bees
An keepit fancy dyeuks an doos
At warna muckle eese.

2. Fig.: to put to bed, gen. in pa.p. skeppit, tucked up for the night (Bwk., Lnk. 1970).Sc. 1796 Poetry Orig. and Selected III. No. 15.5:
Waens lie skepped i' their nest.
Lnk. 1893 J. Crawford Verses 53:
When a' ither bodies are skeppit fu' soun', An' their limbs lyin' cozy on saft beds o' doon.

3. Phr. to skep in wi, to share accommodation with, to live or hob-nob with, “a metaphor borrowed from the conjunction of bees of different swarms in one hive” (wm.Sc. 1825 Jam.).Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 156:
Jo' wad fain skep in wi' me.
Abd. 1876 R. Dinnie Songs 74:
The man maun be daft wha skeps in wi' A bee wantin' honey to pree.

4. In ppl.adj. skep(p)it, “having the hat tilted over the eyes and nose from behind” (Abd. 1904 Weckly Free Press (8 Oct.)), phs. from the practice of collecting a swarm of bees under a hat.Abd. 1889 Press & Jnl. (16 June 1969):
The saddle girths gave way an' he Was skepit in his hat.

[O.Sc. skepe, a basket, a.1400, skepp, a bee-hive, 1585, Mid.Eng. sceppe, O.N. skeppa, basket, bushel.]

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"Skep n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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