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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TURN, v., n. Also tirn (Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 3; Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 79, 1909 J. C. Craig Sangs o' Bairns 36, Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 17). Sc. form and usages. [tʌrn]

I. v. 1. As in Eng.

Sc. usages: To change one's religion, esp. to become a Roman Catholic.Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 287:
She didn't want me to marry a Catholic. She knew he wouldn't turn, and she was determined that I wouldn't turn.

Sc. phrs. and combs. with turn(ing)-, turnie-; (1) turn-ahead, in golf: a forward stroke; (2) turn-head, the point in a mill-stream at which the water falls on the wheel (Per. 1973); ¶(3) turnie-box, a box turning on a pivot in a door and used for passing food into a locked room, cell or the like (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Cf. †Eng. turning-box, id.; ¶(4) turnie-weasel, a spout (of a kettle); (5) turning-loom, a turning-lathe (Sh. 1973). See Lume; (6) turnin tree, a wooden stirring-rod, a pot-stick (Sh. 1973); (7) turn-the-bauk, the amount of a commodity needed to swing the scales to the desired weight, a make-weight (Slg. 1973, a guid turn-the-bauk, good measure). See Bauk, n.1, 3.; ¶(8) to turn a horn, to tilt a drinking horn, to drain a bumper; (9) to turn one's hand, to provide one with the wherewithal, to relieve one from financial straits (n.Sc., Kcb. 1973); (10) to turn one's head, to make one giddy, to intoxicate (Sh., Cai., Ags., Per. 1973); (11) to turn over, (i) to decant (a bottle) (Sc. 1811 Edb. Annual Reg. lxxiv.); (ii) to turn ower in or tae years, to grow old, age (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1973); (iii) to turn ower the stanes, to recall the past, indulge in reminiscences (Gall. 1947); (12) to turn the cat, -wull cat, to do a somersault, go head over heels (Sh., n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1973). See Tummle, v., 2., Wild, adj., 1. Combs.; (13) to turn the sleeve, to divine the future by hanging up to dry before a fire the sleeve of a shirt dipped in a stream over which a corpse had been carried, and observing its motions and the shadows it cast (see quot.); (14) to turn to the door, to put out of one's house, to eject, expel (Sc. 1905 E.D.D.; Sh., Cai., Abd. 1973); (15) to turn up the wee finger, to indulge in drinking, to tipple. Gen. (exc. Sh.) Sc. See also Finger, n., 9.; (16) turn-the-plettie, the game of spin-the-plate (see quot.); (17) turn-the-ship, a girl's game (see quot.).(1) Fif. 1857 H. B. Farnie Golfer's Manual 57:
Old hands playing backwards and sidewards out of a hazard in preference to a “turn a-head.”
(2) Ags. 1794 Session Papers, Arbuthnott v. Scott (3 July) 11, 16:
From the eye of the intake to the turnhead of the Upper Mills of Kinnaber. . . . From the turn-head to the tail-water below the wheel (which is the proper fall of the mills).
(4) Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS.:
Roon like a kebboc and black as a coal Wi a lang turnie-weasel and a plump-doon hole.
(5) Sc. c.1800 A. Carlyle Autobiog. (1860) 96:
He would order his son, who was a more powerful master of the turning-loom than he was, to turn me a nice snuff-box.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 99:
Making wee wheels and chackreels, plying the turning-loom to great perfection.
(6) ne.Sc. 1832 P. Buchan Secret Songs 9:
How the jolly soutter did behave Wi' his brave turnin tree.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 249:
He wis a winderfil haand fir dryin' burstin', an' never needed a turnin'-tree, bit just used his haand.
(8) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 235:
Let's turn a horn to the virgin memory of Mary, the bosom bride of our Bard!
(9) Fif. 1879 G. Gourlay Fisher Life 58:
A good Greenland voyage, shall we whisper, was that day the joy of the shore. “It just turned oor hand,” said the honest goodwife. Many a time and oft it replenished the “ways and means” for the new fishing tackle, if not for the last year's rent.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton 43:
The man 'at hisna mony spare bawbees t' turn his han' wi'.
(10) Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 239:
That sour dirt o' wine's nae like gweed honest fusky; it'll turn a man's heid afore he's half-gate on.
(11) (ii) Abd. 1857 A. Forbes Forbes of Forbesfield (1905) 75:
Gentlemen turning over to years.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton 62:
Aw'm turnin' o'er t' years noo.
Abd. 1914 J. Cranna Fraserburgh 141:
Ye're turnin' o'er tae years, and ye'll be better o' somebody tae look aifter ye.
(13) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 191:
Amid the gloom and fitful flicker an apparition is seen flitting across the floor and silently turning the wet sleeve. This is none other than the phantom of the future husband or wife. Sometimes it was said that the dark outline of a coffin was seen.
(15) Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller xx.:
Ye maun keep unco sober, and no be turnin' up yere wee finger sae aften as ye used to do.
(16) Bnff. 1898 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games 313:
Turn the Plettie. A trencher, saucer, or plate is used. The players sit in a circle and one twirls the trencher, at the same time calling out the name of one of the players. He or she jumps up and tries to catch the whirling trencher before it falls. If it falls or is knocked over, a forfeit is lodged, and the player who lodged the forfeit now becomes the twirler.
(17) Mry. 1898 A. B. Gomme Trad. Games 312:
This is commonly a girls' game. Two join hands and trip along with hands crossed, turning from one side to the other, and crossing their arms over their heads without letting go their hold of each other, singing at the same time: ‘Tip, tip, toe, leerie lo! Turn the ship and away you go.'

2. tr. To twist or spin (a rope) from straw, etc. Hence turner, “the man who holds and turns the instrument that twists straw-ropes” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); turn-crook (Rs. 1961 Gwerin III. 213), turnie-crog (Bte. Id.), a rope-twister, a thraw-cruik (see Thraw, v., 1. (3)).

3. To turn cut hay, corn, peats, etc., to facilitate drying by exposing another side to the wind or sun, to dismantle and rebuild a small heap or stack of these for the same purpose (Arg. 1937, to turn a stack). Gen.Sc. Hence turning, a small pile of peats made up from several raisings (see Raise, v., 3.) (Sh. 1966), turn-fit, -foot, id. (see Fit, v., 3.), vbl.n. turn-fittin, to build such piles of peats (Wgt., s.Sc. 1973), -footins, small heaps of cut turf (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.).Sc. 1825 Mirror V. 278:
When turning peats [he] walked fearlessly among the Hags of Lochar Moss.
Peb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 III. 53:
All the expense of “fitting” and “turn-fitting.”
Sh. 1934 W. Moffatt Shetland 93:
Some peats will have fallen down or have been too much sheltered from the sun and the drying winds. These have to be turned. While this is being done, the raisings are converted into “turnings,” which are slightly larger pyramids, each turning containing the contents of two or three raisings.
Uls. 1942 E. E. Evans Irish Heritage 140:
The spread turf is stacked in small “foots” formed by leaning a number of turves together, and later in “turn-foots” and “castles” which are built up in storeys.
Uls. 1951 E. E. Evans Mourne Country 130:
The turves are spread out to complete the drying, a long process involving much further handling and turning, footing, turn-footing.

4. In mining: to cut a coal-seam so as to form a stoup (see Stoup, n., 6.), to cut into coal in two directions at right-angles to one another (Sc. 1883 W. S. Gresley Gl. Coal-Mining 265).

5. To mention, divulge, pass on (a piece of news, information, etc.) (I.Sc. 1973). Cf. Eng. turn over, id.Sh. 1950:
I never turned it.

6. To become, grow, (1) in gen., as in Eng., but freq. with the complement preceding the ppl. or gerund of turn (n., m. and s.Sc. 1973).Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
It was a dark night turned.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 22:
A was gey dry turrnt, lang or this.
ne.Sc. 1972:
It's richt caul turnin.

(2) of physical or mental development (Sc. 1798–1800 Monthly Mag. II. 436, I. 322: I.Sc., Cai., Ags., wm.Sc. 1973).Sc. 1855 Scotticisms Corrected 17:
Your boys are turning very big: say, are grown very tall. Robert is turned a good scholar: say, has become &c.
Sc. 1858 G. Roy Generalship 20:
My mother was turning auld and frail.
Ayr. 1957:
Ye're turnin a big boy.

7. Absol. of weather: to change, alter. Gen.Sc.Sh. 1898 J. Nicolson Aithstin Hedder 6:
O! Guid 'at hes da pooer o' a', Eence lat dis wadder turn.
ne.Sc. 1972:
That's the win' gettin up; I dout the day's turnin.

8. In vbl.n. turnin, (1) a refrain (of a melody), esp. in ballad usage. See II. 3.Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 170:
Aye the turning o' the note Was, Barnaby will be here.
Sc. 1825 Earl of Aboyne in Child Ballads No. 235 B. xix.:
They heard the dead-bell knellin, And aye the turnin o the bell Said, Come bury bonny Peggy Irvine.
Sc. 1830 Little Musgrave in Child Ballads (1956) II. 249:
Aye the turning o the tune ‘Away, Musgrave, awa! '

(2) = II. 3. (Sh. 1973).Sh. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 200:
The different parts of a tune are known in Shetland as the “turns” or “turnings” of the tune.

II. n. 1. As in Eng., the act or process of turning, changing, etc., in Sc. phrs.: (1) aff the turn, gen. in neg. expressions, of a door: at rest, still (Abd., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1973); (2) on the turn, (i) of days, the year: changing in length of daylight, temperature, etc., as between the seasons, esp. from winter to spring. Gen.Sc. Cf. (4); (ii) of food, about to go off; (3) the turn of the nicht, midnight, the dead of night (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., ne. and m.Sc., Rxb. 1973); (4) the turn o the year, the time of year when the days begin to lengthen, the period after mid-winter. Gen.Sc.; (5) to take a turn to oneself, to pull oneself together, get the bit between one's teeth (Bnff., Ags., Fif., Edb., Gsw., Ayr. 2000s).(1) Lnk. 1895 W. C. Fraser Whaups of Durley xiii.:
The door's never off the turn wi' them.
(2) (i) n.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
The day's on the turn, the days are beginning to lengthen.
(ii) Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 36:
Several loaves of bread baked that day and even cakes; butter which had gone yellow and neep-tasted; dollops of hard cheese; fruit which was just on the turn - and even butcher meat which would not keep for another day, but was still eatable.
Sth. 1996 Essie Stewart in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 17:
'It's hot,' she said, 'but I think the milk is on the turn.' On the turn! It was round the bend! As soon as she was gone, we poured it in the grass.
Edb. 2004:
Throw thon sausages away! They're on the turn.
(3) Rnf. 1873 D. Gilmour Pen' Folk 10, 33:
He was in the dead-thraws or I left: the turn o' the nicht 'll bring a change. . . . The eerie turn o' the nicht.
(4) Sh. 1898 W. F. Clark Northern Gleams 59:
Whin da turn o' da year cam' he nearly danced wi joy.
(5)Edb. 2005
He took a turn tae hissel and gien up the gamblin.

2. A check, rebuff, set-back, a heading-off (Cai. 1973).Edb. 1816 J. Aikman Poems 242:
The spirit that erst gae a turn To tyranny at Bannockburn.
Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 130:
When my ewes do gang astray He gies them aye a turn.

3. In music: a section or passage of a tune, as in a refrain, or in a dance-tune corresponding to a change in the movements of the dance. Cf. I. 8. (2).Sc. c.1830 Little Musgrave in Child Ballads (1956) II. 250:
At ilka turn it [a horn] said, Away, Musgrave, away.
Per. 1881 D. MacAra Crieff 51:
Slurring up the turns of “Gainsborough”.
Sh. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 200:
The different parts of a tune are known in Shetland as the “turns” or “turnings” of the tune, and most of the tunes which were used for Shetland Reels within living memory have two “turns”. These two “turns” were usually labelled as the “dancing turn” and the “reeling turn”, or vice versa, according to whether the local versions of the dances began with “dancing” or “reeling”.

4. (1) A piece of work or business, a job, task, chore, duty (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Mry. 1925; Ags. 1973). Phr. a hand's turn, a stroke of work (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc. and colloq. Eng.Lnk. 1709 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 67:
A few dayes would do the bestialls and his turn there.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 137:
Ilka turn is handled to his mind.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xlvii.:
Much might be dune by timing ane's turns.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 183:
Leave little Cousin wi' me, to help me wi' bits o' turns till ye come back.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxv.:
I have no other turn in hand at this time.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
She's a lazy queyn, she's no worth her meat, I canna get her to do a hand's turn.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie xvii.:
I've ey been able t' dee ma ain turn.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie viii.:
Daein' their bit turns the best way they can.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 157:
I'll help ye wi' twa-three turns efter Jean tak's the road.
Sc. 1949 People's Journal (12 Nov.):
His 92-year-old mother is still alive and doing her “ain turn.”

(2) Specif.: what is necessary for a particular job or purpose, a requirement, need, in phr. to do (the, one's) turn, = Eng. to serve a turn, to suffice for some occasion, serve a useful purpose (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc.Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 109:
For siller ye's nae want, Enough to do your turn.
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 155:
I'll find them on the bride's part that will do a' the turn.
Ayr. 1896 H. Johnston Dr Congalton xiv.:
I have enough wi' honest farming to do our turn.
Slk. 1899 C. M. Thomson Drummeldale 197:
Oo have eneuch to dae oor turn.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian (13 Apr) 21:
Two young boys had been employed as harvest hands to a lady who still worked her farm and did her turn as well as she was able.

(3) A trick, prank, escapade. Obs. in Eng. Phr. to take the turn out o, to trick, befool (Ork. 1948; Sh., Per. 1973).Abd. c.1760 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 65:
I never met wi' sic a turn As this sin' ever I was born .
Dmf. 1820 J. Johnstone Poems 114:
Thy foolish turns have often caused me smart.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 89:
He had a pour o' unca cliver turns about him when he likit.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xii.:
When you had some sly turn of your own to work out.
Lnk. 1885 F. Gordon Pyotshaw 148:
He . . . had yielded to the ‘bit lassie's' caprice, or ‘daft turn', as he called it.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (21 Jan.):
Dat wis a bonnie turn fir young men ta dü.

(4) In phr. to do someone a turn, to do something for someone (as a favour).wm.Sc. 1977 William McIlvanney Laidlaw (1985) 189:
'Listen. Ah can do ye a wee turn.'
Edb. 1992:
My dad's friend was awful grateful for the wee turn he did him ...

5. Mining: an equal share held by a miner in the coal sold from the pit-head.Lth. 1883 P. McNeill Tranent 27:
In pit phraseology every old miner has a whole “hook” or “turn”, which means an equal share of the sale.

6. Bent, bias, inclination; aptitude, manner, gen. with qualifying adj. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1808 E. Hamilton Cottagers viii.:
She hasna a turn that gait, poor woman!
Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 3:
If I kend ye'r favourite turn I'd try to please ye.
Sc. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xvi.:
I bowed my head, for I was not in the turn for speech.
Sh. 1898 J. Burgess Tang vii.:
She would be a great help to you, being of a particular turn with bairns.
Abd. 1972:
Folk began tae gie him trade because he had a fine turn wi' him.

7. A stroke of luck.Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 177:
Take the other night, just as a for instance; we got a wee turn, a wee turn. Trouble is it should've been a fucking lot better than that. Gordon sat back on the chair. He sat forwards again and leaned closer to the other: I mean somebody like yourself Brian, you could've done a nice bit of business, a nice bit of business. And no sweat. None. I'm no kidding ye.
Edb. 2004:
Ah'll pey for lunch - Ah had a wee turn on the lottery.

[O.Sc. turn, piece of work, a.1538, do one's turn, c.1590.]

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"Turn v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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