Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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STARN, n.1, v. Also starrin (Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 100), staarn-; stairn (Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 43), stern (Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 148), sterne (Sc. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy 27). Dim. starnie (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Lnk. 1888 R. Bennett Poems 28), stairnie (m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 46), sternie (Slk. 1802 Edb. Mag. (March) 215; Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 199). [stɑrn, s.Sc. stern]

I. n. ‡1. A star (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai., ne.Sc. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I. and n.Sc., Lnk., Dmf. 1971). Obs. in Eng. since 16th c. Hence starnie, -y, sterny, starry, covered with stars (Sc. 1808 Jam., a starny nicht; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork., Abd. 1971), starnless, sternless, starless (Watson). Combs. starnfa, the remains of stranded jelly-fish (Cai. 1888 Sc. N. & Q. (1st Ser.) I. 160), the alga tremella (Cai. 1971), cf. fallen-star s.v. Fa, v., 9.(5); ¶starn-keeker, a star-gazer, astronomer (Sc. a.1789 E.D.D.); starnlicht, starlight (Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 52; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd. 1971). Phrs. the red starn, Mars (Sh. 1971), the se(v)en starns, the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, the yule starn, a bright star at Christmas (Sh. 1971). Sc. 1725 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 134:
Frae 'boon the Starns, some Bard, descend.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 84:
Scarce a starnie blinkit frae the lift.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 29:
The sin, meen, and sev'n Starns.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Elegy Capt. Henderson iii.:
Ye hills, near neebors o' the starns, That proudly cock your cresting cairns!
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck vii.:
The se'en starns hed gaen oure the lum.
Dmf. 1820 J. Johnstone Poems (1857) 86:
Or silver Cynthia, wi' her drift O' sterns sae bonnie.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
“Put your finger in your ee, and ye'll see stern-light”; an absurd answer given to one who complains that it is dark.
Rnf. 1836 R. Allan Poems 167:
To look out on the starnless night.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 65:
Starnies pinkin' frae oot the sky.
Sh. 1886 G. Temple Britta 159:
Scarcely has the “Yule” or “red starn” reached its zenith.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde & Tweed 57:
When the lichted starns are gleamin'.
Sh. 1933 J. Nicolson Hentilagets 11:
Nicht eftir nicht he staands coontin da staarns.
Abd. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 6:
I tyauved awa' hame by the licht o' the starn.
Ork. 1951 R. Rendall Ork. Variants 16:
The mune was up, and the starnie lift Luk'd doun wi' an errisome licht.

2. In various fig. uses of anything resembling a star: (1) a glittering spot, specif. a blob of fat or grease sparkling on the surface of a soup. Hence adj. starnie as in starnie-kail, broth with globules of fat swimming on the top (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 179). Cf. Ee, n., 2.(4). Edb. 1839 T. T. Stoddart Poems 55:
But ye may fin' a subtle trout, A' gleamin' ower wi' starn an' bead.

(2) the pupil of the eye (Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 155). Also phr. stern o' the e(y)e, id. (Slk. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1971). Cf. Star, n.1, 1.(4). Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 137:
It gart me backward dart my starns on times like thae.

(3) a spot or star-shaped patch of white hair on the forehead of a horse or ox (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1971). Cf. Eng. star, id. Derivs. sta(a)rna, -ag, -oo, a pet-name for an animal so marked (Sh. 1932 J. Saxby Trad. Lore 194; Sh., Ork. (starnoo), Cai. (starnag) 1971); starned, starnet, ppl.adj., with a white patch on the forehead (Jak.; Ork. 1929 Marw., of a horse). Cai. 1697 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 9:
A black humbled starned steir.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (13 Aug.):
I hankl'd up Staarna's teddir.

(4) a medal or decoration in the form of a star. Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 64:
Duke Puerile thinks it nae disgrace, For a' his gartens, starns, an' lace.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 145:
The lairdy langs for titles braw, For ribbons an' for starns.
Ags. 1815 G. Beattie Poems (1882) 161:
Modern Dux, wi' noddin' crest, An' starnies glancin' on his breast.

3. Freq. in dim. starnie: a grain, particle, a small amount of anything, orig. and specif. of some granulated substance, meal, sugar, salt, tea, etc., rarely of liquids (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. Gl., 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 436; ne.Sc. 1971); also in extended uses. Gen. governing the following noun with omission of o. See O, prep., 1. (5). It is suggested that this sense develops from the star-like arrangement of such a substance when gathered together between the tips of the four fingers and thumb, a “pinch” (Ags. 1904 E.D.D.). Abd. a.1801 W. Beattie Tales (1871) 32:
We hae scarce ae starn O' fardel strae laid by 'gain Yeel.
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 7:
Geordy, ye may gang an' draw yon starn thack.
Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 93:
The billies would not work a starn.
Bnff. 1844 T. Anderson Poems 45:
A wee starn wit, an' twa-three pence.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer ii.:
It's only a starnie o' drift.
Kcb.4 1900:
Gie me a starn o' meal to make the porritch wi'.
Bnff. 1917 J. Mitchell Tibby Tamson 5:
A starnie sugar for oor tea.
Abd. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 12:
Gie him his corn an' hay, a starnie girss.

4. The point of a needle (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.), or a hook. Slk. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 179:
That heuk wants the starn.

II. v. To cover as with stars, to stud or bespangle. Liter. e.Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 21:
O' greenest swaird, a' free o' whins an' broom, Starn'd owre wi' wild-flowers bonnilie.

[O.Sc. stern, 1375, starne, a.1400, a star, starnie, starry, 1587, Mid.Eng. steorrne, O.N. stjarna, id.]

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"Starn n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jan 2022 <>



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