Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SPAR, n.1, v. Also sparr; sper(r) (Sh.); spair, spare; spear; dim. forms spardan, spardie, -y (Rs.). Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. (1) A wooden bolt for securing a door, a linch-pin (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 174, 1923 Watson W.-B., ‡spare, †spear; wm.Sc., Wgt., Rxb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial.; (2) a bar or rail of a wooden fence or gate (ne.Sc. 1971); (3) the rung of a chair or ladder (ne., m. and s.Sc. 1971); (4) a stout pole passed through the centre of a millstone to guide and balance it when trundling it on its rim from one place to another; (5) a cross-bar or slat of wood in a kitchen-dresser (ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Lnk. 1971); (6) in dim. form spardie, -y: a foot-rest in a rowing boat (Rs. 1921 T.S.D.C.); a wooden erection for supporting a basket for fishing-lines (Crm. 1921 T.S.D.C.); an attic or loft (Crm. 1958). Cf. Eng. dial. spar, a rafter; (7) a perch for a bird (Cai., Inv. (spardie), Per. 1971); (8) in dim. form sperrek, fig., a tall thin person (Sh. 1897 J. Jakobsen Dial. Sh. 49). (2) Sc. 1882  Stevenson New Arab. Nights II. 201:
‘What's all this?' cried the host through the spars of the gate.
(3) Per. 1881  D. MacAra Crieff 249:
Tak' care; yer ladder's losing its spars.
Gsw. 1910  H. Maclaine My Frien' 78:
“A clean dickie — if ma Ingin'-rubber collar'll no' dae?” “Hear him!” said Leezie, taking the socks from off the spar o' the chair.
Gsw. 1934  D. Allan Hunger March v.:
[Caused] him to raise his feet to the spars of his chair to escape little runnels of soapy water.
(4) Abd. 1877  W. Alexander Rural Life 147:
They got a long and stout stick, which was called “the spar,” put through the eye of the millstone, and firmly wedged there.
Abd. 1896  A. Cheviot Proverbs 251:
Mony ane's gotten an amschach at the spar.
(5) Slk. 1897  D. W. Purdie Poems 17:
She ranged, and better ranged, the drawers, And damaged sair the auld, dune spars.
(7) Cai. 1966  Edb. John o' Groat Liter. Soc. 4:
Then off a spardan shoved three hens In a bag wi' 'e callach too.

2. Combs. and deriv.: (1) adv. a spar, see Aspar; (2) ppl.adj. sparred, slatted. Gen.Sc.; (3) spair-nail, a nail or spring for securing a bolt (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 174). (2) Sc. 1952  Builder (20 June) 943:
Sparred Shelving — Slatted shelving.

3. A striking-out motion with the legs. Cf. II. 2. (2). Abd. 1889  Bon-Accord (23 February) 16:
He'd hae his lugs open to catch the words spoken, “Gee up Tam,” — then he'd move wi a bit o' a spar.

II. v. †1. To fasten a door or gate with a bar or bolt (Sc. 1825 Jam., spar, sper). Dial. or arch. in Eng.

2. (1) To brace the limbs in order to resist a strain (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), sperr; Bnff., Abd. 1971). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 230:
Sparr yir legs agains the wa', an' a' thir airt winna pit ye oot.

(2) To kick out with the legs, as a sheep laid down to be bound (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1971).

(3) To stride out, to stretch the legs in walking (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1971).

[The Sh. forms derive from the cogn. Norw. dial. sperra, a rafter, beam, etc., sperra, to brace oneself against, strive against, O.N. sperrask við, id.]

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"Spar n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2019 <>



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