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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SPENCE, n., v. Also spense, spens. Sc. forms and usages. [spɛns]

I. n. An inner apartment of a house, a parlour variously used as a sitting room, small bedroom, breakfast room, larder or store-room for provisions, domestic equipment such as a spinning-wheel, loom, etc. (Lnk., n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc., Lnk., Ayr., Dmf. 1971). See also Ben, n., 4. Comb. spence-door, the door opening from the kitchen into the spence (e.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also in Eng. dial.Ayr. 1702 Munim. Irvine (1891) II. 318:
For ane roff and thrie ribs at 6s. 8d peece to the spence . . . £1 6 8. For ane new ash couple to the spence £3.
Sc. 1707 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 94:
[She] went to the spense to prayer.
Rnf. 1733 in Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) L. 6:
I now furnished byre, insett and spence with jeists and ribs.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Vision ii.:
Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie, I gaed to rest.
Dmb. 1794 D. Ure Agric. Dmb. 17:
The house is generally one story high, and consists of a large kitchen, and room or spence, as it is usually called.
Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr 114:
On larger farms, another apartment which entered through the in-seat, was called the spense in which were stored the meal chest, sowen tub, some beds, a cask into which the urine was collected.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xvii.:
In one large aperture, which the robber facetiously called his spence (or pantry) there hung by the heels the carcasses of a sheep, or ewe, and two cows lately slaughtered.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xv.:
The spence, or public apartment, in which, at the early hour of seven, the morning-meal was prepared.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xii.:
But and ben, ae while i' the spence, ane i' the awmrie.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 41:
The posse of robbers were permitted to depart one by one, “through the muckle bunker o' the spence,” leaving their arms behind.
Sc. 1844 W. H. Maxwell Wanderings I. 180:
A peg behind the spence door.
Mry. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XIII. 155:
The old butts and bens, with kitchen and spens, were abolished.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 17:
The aucht-day clock . . . That nicht stood silent ben the spence.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 200:
Mrs Horsman abruptly made entrance into the “spence” with the precious babe to be operated upon.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxii.:
I sent Marion to bed in the spence. . . . The spence door gied a bit cheep.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 16:
The hoose is braw — the lobby uncae swell, The spence adorned wi' nackets, curtains, fern.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 43:
Andrew Sillars was from quite a bien family in Dreghorn. His father's cot was superior to most and had a second room to the living room, a well-furnished spence.

II. v. tr. To take someone into the inner room of a house.Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 14:
His mother cried to spence him, and bed him wi' the bride.

[O.Sc. spence, c.1420, Mid.Eng. spence, a pantry, aphetic form of dispense, O.Fr. despense, id.]

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"Spence n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Dec 2022 <>



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