Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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.

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 26 Sep 2021 <>



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