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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

UNKEN, v. Also oonken (Abd., Kcd. 1904 E.D.D.).

1. Not to know, to fail to recognise, mistake, be ignorant of. Rare exc. in ppl.adjs., see 3. See Ken, v.Lnk. 1838 J. Struthers Poetic Tales 83:
Ere sic profane presumptions tell . . . Or wheeze me to unken mysell.

2. Derivs. (1) unkennance [ < -ins], n., a matter of ignorance, a thing unknown, a secret, poss. deriving from an adv. genitive as in Unwittins; (2) unkennable, oonkeenable (Sh.), see Onkennable; (3) unkensome, adj., unknown, not to be recognised, incognito. Rare and liter.(1) Per. 1738 Session Papers, Haggart v. Hog (27 July) 4:
It is no Unkenance to you that I am here.
(3) Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. 179:
A smith! a smith! right speedilie; To turn back the caukers of our horses' shoon; For it's unkensome we wad be.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 59:
Far dim herbours in unkensome creeks.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 51:
His voice wis the sum
o unkennable scauds, o joukin lauchter,
o aa that ever took a flauchter
intil the clairt.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 6:
Aw she could manage tae communicate by wis roch picturs, maist o them cryptic an unkennable.

3. Ppl.adjs.: (1) unkenningunkennin (o'), unknowing, ignorant (of) (Sh. 1973).Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 130:
Unkenning how to carp or mourn.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 261:
Unkennin' o', uncarin' for, cauld care or crosses stern.
Sc. 1891 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 171:
Dinna pit on that unkenning look.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 151:
... Fergus laughed, soldier-boy, and spurred his great trumpeting stallion onwards; and under the brown feet of the unkenning reapers and the Gowk's churning cartwheels, the strath heaved with the passing of his springtime blood, and it was the end of all his brave hopes and dreams and loves and fears, for they rode their fine white horses down to the silent sea, and the waters of oblivion closed over them, and all things were finished.
Abd. 1991 George Bruce in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 21:
ensure the continuity
o the tribe Brachyura: this the climax
o their ploy, they unkennin that I and millions
geck, and whiles I watch, my guid-wife puts
into this auld haund a clam-shall fossil
brocht tae Edinburgh frae Chesapeake Bay,

(2) unkend, -kenn(e)d, -kent, unknown, unfamiliar. Gen.Sc. Also absol. Also in n.Eng. dial. See also Onkent.Sc. 1720 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 154:
Nilus swelling frae his unkend Head.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 3:
A royal nest Bequeath'd to him and his since time unken'd.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xviii.:
The plague and trouble which he had about Gilliewhackit to an unkenn'd degree.
Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Tales 82:
Baa the bairns wi' an unken'd tune.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 69:
There was a muckle barrel filled wi' dirty water, an' oonkent things.
Cai. 1869 M. Maclennan Peasant Life 69:
Ye're gain awa' 'mang unkent folk.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 68:
By whatna crystal wave unkent ye wander'd.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 209:
Better the ill kent than the guid unkent.
Rxb. 1921 Hawick Express (12 Aug.) 3:
Freidom an' liberty are terms unkenned in that puir Communist ruled country.
Sc. 1991 John McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 91:
close-mooths yeuky wi the unkent;
fain tae drap their gett -
a drucken stramash, or a steive corp.
m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 3:
but och whitna creed could jalouse
a curse pit on a skaithless tree
whase leaves whiles bleeze wi gowden fire
that smoorsna or skinkle siller
rain that faasna, that jig an reel,
whiles sing in a thoosan distant
unkent tongues,
Sc. 1999 Herald (25 Aug) 19:
When I first went to Westminster in 1962, the Scottish MPs were kent figures, men of stature in many cases. Come a general election some of the kent faces disappeared, unkent ones arrived. But there was always a continuity in the overall cast of political players.

With various preps.: (i) unkent by, unknown to; (ii) unkent in, ignorant of, unversed in, unfamiliar with; (iii) unkent o', (a) = (i), without the knowledge of. See Unkent; (b) not known about, unheard of; (iv) unkent to, — till, (a) untouched or unvisited by, hence inexperienced in, unfamiliar with; (b) unknown to, unnoticed by (Cai. 1973).(i) Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxxii.:
She has been offen here unkent by her father.
s.Sc. 1887 R. Allan Border Poems 93:
That this could hae a' been unkenn'd By our bigs-wigs I canna believe.
Fif. 1905 S. Tytler Daughter of the Manse IV. iv.:
Whiles the daft may speak words of sense unkenned by the wise.
(ii) Per. a.1843 J. Stewart Sketches (1857) 64:
Unskuil'd in books, unkent in ballants.
(iii) (b) Ayr. 1785 Burns To W. Simpson vii.:
She lay like some unkend-of isle.
Rnf. 1876 D. Gilmour Paisley Weavers 135:
The cause o' unkent o' heart-burnin'.
(iv) (a) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 135:
In winter he might fend fu' bald, His eild unkend to nippin cald.
Dmf. 1861 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 155:
Unkent tae either care or dool.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Sangs 103:
They lived an' lo'ed thegither A' unkent to walth or fame.
(b) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 174:
Unkent to a' Ae night I bade the cruel place adieu.
Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 21:
Gin ye're my sister's son, he said, It is unkent to me.
Cai. 1973:
He deed unkent til himsel, i.e. in his sleep.

[O.Sc. unkennand, unkennyt, unkende, a.1400.]

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"Unken v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Mar 2024 <>



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