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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.

UPSET, v., n. Also -sett, -sitt-: †oupset. Sc. usages. [′ʌpsɛt]

I. v. 1. As in Eng., to set up, erect, put up, raise, etc., in ppl.adjs. and vbl.n.: (1) upset, (i) set up on end, placed vertically, of sheaves at the top of a corn-stack (Fif. 1956, upset sheaf); protruding upwards, tilted up; (ii) elated, pleased; (iii) of a price at which a property is offered for auction: publicly announced as that from which bidding must start (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also as n. = the upset price, the minimum price acceptable by a seller at an auction.(i) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 362:
Puir Girzey, wi' her upset chin.
Gall. 1881 L. B. Walford Dick Netherby v.:
To see yon woman come wauchlin' ben, wi' her upset chin an' yammerin' tongue.
(ii) Lnk. 1827 Blackwood's Mag. (July) 48:
As upset about it as if Duke Hamilton had made her keeper of his palace.
(iii) Bwk. 1765 Session Papers, Others v. Yule (3 Jan.) 6:
The upset rent being too high, no body appeared upon the day of the roup to offer for them.
Sc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (15 Jan.):
To encourage a roup, the upset sum will be £150.
Abd. 1780 Aberdeen Jnl. (10 July):
The upset Price of these Subjects is £344 sterl. at Ten Years Purchase of the free Rent.
Sc. 1800 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (1 Oct.) 314:
The Lands will be exposed at upsets somewhat under those at which they were last set up.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xiv.:
Mr. Glossin offered the upset price for the lands and barony of Ellangowan.
Sc. 1896 W. K. Morton Manual 256:
The sale may be notified as subject to a reserved or upset price. The reserved price is not necessarily disclosed to the company. An upset price is publicly stated beforehand; and unless that be bid, the property is withdrawn. The former is common in England the latter in Scotland.
Kcb. 1911 Crockett Smugglers xvii.:
The estate brought nearly twice the upset price.
Sc. 1957 Scotsman (26 Sept.) 10:
For Sale by Public Roup two modern Terraced Villas. . . . To be sold separately at Upset Price of £1900 each.
Sc. 1972 Scotsman (15 June) 16–17:
For sale by Public Roup centre house, first Flat. Upset £700. . . . Most desirable modern detached House. Upset Price £11,000.

(2) upsettin(g), ¶upsitten, (i) ppl.adj., haughty, presumptuously ambitious or aspiring, pushing oneself forward, giving oneself airs (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Abd., Ags., Ayr., Dmf. 1973). Hence upsetting-like, supercilious-looking, upsettingness, arrogance, pomposity; (ii) vbl.n. (a) a raising up or exalting; (b) a setting up in business. Agent n. upsetter, one who sets up in business; (iii) arrogance, an unwarranted assumption of superiority (Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals xxix.). Freq. in Galt.(i) Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxxvi.:
That lang-tongued, conceited, upsetting serving-man.
Sc. 1824 S. Ferrier Inheritance II. xxxiv.:
He's a proud, upsetting-like puppy.
Ayr. 1836 Galt Rich Man (1925) 65:
Neither rich enough nor sufficiently upsetting to be made magistrates.
Ags. 1868 G. Webster Strathbrachan I. ix.:
It would mak her ower up-settin' to be walking wi' me.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. of Hermiston v.:
The sister of the gardener who kept house for him had shown herself “upsitten”.
Gsw. 1922 Glasgow Herald (23 Feb.):
I have heard an old man speak with asperity of the “upsettingness” of one who adopted “Mac”, which his father had not used.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 24:
The provost's wife's an upsettin quean.
Abd. 1970 Huntly Express (9 Jan.) 2:
An idle, upsettin' limmer that winna fyle her han's.
(ii) (a) Sc. 1748 E. Erskine Works (1755) 327:
What a pleasant Upsetting of Christ, and his Kingdom, would it be.
(b) Peb. 1705 Burgh Rec. Peebles (B.R.S.) II. 173:
His upsetting of that trade of candlemaker.
Gsw. 1717 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (B.R.S.) 609:
They had set up a manufactory in this city and have continued ever since their first upsetting in the free excercise thereof.
Lnk. 1721 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 208:
To seize and secure all the brewing vessels and other utenciles for selling of ale in the custody of such upsetters.
(iii) Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xc.:
Can ony gude come, but vice and immorality, from sic upsetting in a Christian kingdom?
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xvii.:
Keep us from a' proud prossing and upsetting.
Per. 1835 R. Nicoll Poems 144:
He sees their upsettin', sae crouse an' sae bauld.

2. To make good, make up or compensate for, offset, to get over (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 123:
Folk as stout an' clever . . . Hae gotten skaith they never Upset for mony year.

3. Of the sky: to cloud over, esp. in a striking or colourful way.Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS.:
When the sky “upsets” towards the north, i.e. when large masses of clouds of different hues rise towards the north.

II. n. 1. A short roof timber rising from the wall-head to a purlin or from one purlin to the next above to take the cross-spars on which thatch, tiles or slates are laid, an Upstart.Peb. 1704 C. B. Gunn Stobo Church (1907) 79:
The old small timber will serve for “upsets.”
Sc. 1731 Trans. Cmb. & Wm. Antiq. Soc. LXI. 209:
d d d are upsets of about 3 in. broad and 2 in. thick upon which they fix the small sparrs on which the covering stones hang, and these upsets seldom reach from the head of the wall to the top of the roof, but from one of the great beams to another.

2. A barrel set up on end after being filled, esp. in fish-curing.Sc. 1911 “Viking” Fishcuring 15:
From 700 to 1,000 barrel covers should be provided for laying on the tops of the “upsets” or newly packed barrels.

3. In Mining: a working place driven upwards following the course of the seam (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 69; Fif. 1973).m.Lth. 1745 Bryan Pit Acct. Bk. MS. 68:
By William Robertson 5 days at the Upset East Levell east Syde of the Dyke.
m.Lth. 1767 Session Papers, Petition Earl of Abercorn (30 June) 14:
The wideness of the upsets or thirlings thro' the level stoop.

4. The act of setting up in business on one's own and so, formerly, of becoming a freeman in a particular trade; specif. the sum paid to the appropriate Incorporation when one set up in business in a particular trade. Comb. upset-money, id. Now hist.Gsw. 1719–40 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909–11) 73, 55:
No burgess ther can practise any furder then the imployment into quhich he is admitted unless he pay in a new upsett and be admitted of new. . . . No person shall be allowed to sett up to work taylor work within the lands of Gorballs untill first they give essay . . . for the liberty of which upsett the following compositions or fines shall be paid.
Bwk. R. G. Johnston Duns (1953) 67:
Likewis what mony is got for oupsets of Mesters and prentices deus.
Sc. 1768 Scheme for Annuity Hammermen Canongate 5:
£10 of the upset-money of new members to be got yearly from the Boxmaster.
Per. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 X. 80:
The fees of admission [of burgesses] consist of entry money, and of certain small dues, viz. 10 merks as upset.

5. A market charge or duty imposed in Paisley on unsold goods brought back for sale a second time.Rnf. 1785 Session Papers, Petition J. Locke Proof 20, 22:
A duty of one penny per load was paid, which got the name of upset. . . . He has seen half duty paid for upsets, that is, for meal which had been exposed, and not sold and again exposed on a future day.

6. Appar. a copy, exact likeness, poss. from I. 2., sc. a replacement, a making good for.Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 54:
Thy father's upset — image o'er again — The fruit o' luckless love, an' muckle pain.

7. A telling-off, rebuke, an altercation, quarrel, set-to. Also in Eng. dial.Abd. 1962 Huntly Express (28 Dec.) 7:
The upsets that I get from readers when I give a wrong forecast of the weather.
Abd.27 1972:
I had a bit o an upset wi 'im the streen.

[O.Sc. upset, tilted, c.1460, = II. 4., 1496, upsetter, one who starts in business, 1518, upsetting, setting up in business, 1577.]

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"Upset v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Mar 2024 <>



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