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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STARK, adj., adv. Also sterk (Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms Intro. 1). Sc. usages, now rare or obs. in Eng.:

I. adj. 1. Of persons or animals: physically strong, sturdy, lusty, in full vigour (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Ork., Cai. 1971). Adv. starkly, vigorously, vehemently.Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 78:
To ease the Gantrees of the Ale, And try wha was maist stark.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 16:
He flegged starker fouk na' you.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 113:
It [wine] maks you stark, and bauld and brave.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Elegy R. Ruisseaux iii.:
Tho' he was bred to kintra-wark, And counted was baith wight and stark.
Sc. a.1802 Jamie Telfer in Child Ballads (1956) IV. 7:
The Scotts they rade, the Scotts they ran, Sae starkly and sae steadily.
Knr. 1832 L. Barclay Poems 145:
When stark there was but very few Could better as a tracer pu'.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 96:
Fill fu' and haud fu', maks the stark man.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xliv.:
Following strongly in our wake, as a stark swimmer might do.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 88:
Starkly did he gie him't back.
Ags. 1918 J. Inglis The Laird 3:
What mak's the wean stark and sturdy?

2. Of material objects: strongly made, durable, stout, hard.Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Shop Bill 33:
The starkest hose that can be made.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 92:
Frae a stark Lochaber aix He gat a clamihewit.
Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 6:
The sarks were few, an' very stark.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 92:
We've logs, baith steive and stark.
Gall. 1904 Crockett Raiderland 161:
This is a guid stark bit whup.
Uls. 1953 Traynor:
That's far starker calico.

3. Of liquor: strong, potent, heady, intoxicating (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Obs. in Eng. since 17th c.; of food: strong-tasted, full of substance, solid.Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 4:
She fills a bicker o' the starkest ale.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 40:
The wife remarking that it was a stark dram.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 119:
It wad be ower stark meat for your wake disjastion.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard-Bearer xiv.:
The stark Hollands flowed like water.

4. Of wind: strong, violent, boisterous; of a snowfall: thick, dense, blinding (Ork. 1929 Marw., a stark moor, stark drift, Ork. 1971).Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 184:
My friends, for G—d sake! quat yer wark, Nor think to war a wind sae stark.

II. adv. In a vigorous manner, energetically; rigidly; fully, completely. Now rare in Eng. except in certain collocations.m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) lxxv.:
Kempen fowk they dinna lo'e, They wurk sae stark.
Abd. 1857 G. MacDonald Songs (1893) 127:
The auld fowk lie still wi' their een starin stark.
Arg. 1898 N. Munro J. Splendid iv.:
The whole wide street was stark awake.
Lnk. 1951 G. Rae Howe o' Braefoot 126:
We filled Ming sterk fu' wi' brandy.

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"Stark adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Dec 2023 <>



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