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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

WRACK, n.1, v.1 Also wrak; wrake, wraic(k); werack, wirrack, wyrack (see W, letter, 4.); ne.Sc. forms vrack (Abd. 1825 Jam.), vreck (see V, letter, 3.); rack, rake. [(w)rɑk; (w)rek; ne.Sc.†vrɑk]

I. n. 1. A shipwreck, a broken ship (Sh., ‡ne.Sc. 1974). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial.Ags. 1729 Arbroath T.C. Rec. MS. (29 Dec.):
Saveing as much of the wrack of the said sloop as possible.
Sc. 1772 Lady Anne Lindsay Auld Robin Gray (B.C.) V.:
But hard blew the winds, and his ship was a wrack.
e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 32:
‘What drifting wrack is yon?' cried he.
Abd. 1943 W. S. Forsyth Guff o' Waur 29:
The coast guard calmly took a seat and newsed aboot the vrack.

Combs. †(1) wreck goods, goods driven ashore from a wreck; (2) wrack-ship, a wrecked ship (Sh. 1974).(1) Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute II. i. § 13:
Wreck goods, even where no creature had been found alive in the ship, were not claimed as escheat.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 1058:
Stranded goods, and such wreck goods as the owners claim and recover (but not flotsam, jetsam and lagan) are liable to custom.
(2) Sh. 1900 Shetland News (16 June):
Da men that they blaem'd for stealin at da Fetlar wrack ship.

2. Ruin, havoc, destruction. Now rare or obs. in Eng. exc. in phr. (w)rack and ruin. Also used expletively in phr. what the wrack, what the mischief. . .? Warld's wrack, the troubles and hardships of life, in 1792 quot. where Burns may have misunderstood the O.Sc. meaning of the phr. warldis wrak, material or wordly goods in a contemptuous sense, gear, pelf.Abd. 1769 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 23:
Three fallows bauld, like very lions strong, Were a' his wrack, an' wrought him a' his wrang.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Winsome Wee Thing ii.:
The warld's wrack we share o't; The warstle and the care o't.
s.Sc. 1845 Sc. Ballads (Whitelaw) 36:
But what the wrack took the auld wife's fit? For into the creel she flew.
Cai. 1869 M. MacLennan Peasant Life 94:
Am seein' that misery an' wrack are afore me.
Slg. 1902 W. C. Paterson Echoes 38:
As water they maun hae to mak' This awfu' drink that gars sic wrack.
ne.Sc. 1915 W. S. Bruce Nor' East 5:
It's a' wrack an' ruination.
Abd. 1933 in Sc. N. & Q. (Nov.) 176:
The three deils o' Auchlossan fair Ca' body, sowl and purse to vrack.

3. A broken object, something which has been smashed or disintegrated, remnants, fragments, wreckage, driftwood, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 263; I., ne., em., sm.Sc. 1974); also of living creatures: a broken-down animal. Obs. or arch. in Eng. Comb. wrack-wid, driftwood (Ork. 1974).Sc. c.1805 Mother's Malison in Child Ballads No. 216 A. vii.:
O spair me, Claid's water Make me yer wrak as I come back Bat spare me as I gaa!
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate v.:
The wreck-wood that the callants brought in yesterday.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 71:
Midst blood an wrack They bore them back.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 143:
They drew out the fiddle, completely a wrack.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 204:
His nout's jist mere vrack.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 177:
There 'midst the wrack o' auld ruins black.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (5 March):
Da wadder an' da fishin', an' wrack wid, is da maist 'at he tinks aboot.
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 368:
For the chair a cushion's made Frae the wrack o' some aul' plaid.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 139:
What can a rack o' rubbish like me dae or gie?
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 61:
Oh, hit wis bits o' wyrack it I wis fun.

4. Fresh- or salt-water weed, river or marine algae in gen. or applied to specific kinds (Ayr 1990s wrack; Ayr. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XII. 91, Arg. 1990s wreck; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Arg. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VII. 389, wraic; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Abd., Fif., Lth. 1974), also transf.; broken seaweed and miscellaneous flotsam washed up by the sea. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc.; the part of the shore where it accumulates (Abd. 1974). Now only dial. in Eng.Bte. 1700 Rothesay T.C. Records (1935) II. 533:
John Kelburne and Archball Gray for the wraicks nyne pund halfe a merk.
Ayr. 1730 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (M.C.) 89:
Noe person ore persones gether wrak one the Saboth day at aney time.
Abd. 1747 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 70:
To 3 days gathering water wreek [sic].
Ork. 1805 G. Barry Orkney 295:
The Polack — is frequently caught close by the shore, almost among the wrack or ware.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 159:
Wi' sweating, drinking water, and chewin tobacco, my mouth was got dry, and a ‘wrack' had gathered brown roun' my lips, like the wrack on the shore roun' the sea.
Sc. 1849 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 396:
To prevent the wrack floating on the surface of the water finding its way into the sluice.
Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 286:
The Fucus vesiculosus and serratus are called Wrack, and are used for packing lobsters and crabs to be sent to a distant market.
em.Sc. 1894 H. Haliburton Furth in Field 99:
Plenish'd wi' nocht but shells and tangle wreck.
Arg. 1898 N. Munro J. Splendid ii.:
Not that I was one who craved for wrack and bilge at my nose all the time.
Abd. 1925 R. L. Cassie Gangrel Muse 13:
Noo, here's a chokit burnie Sae fu' o' rake.

Combs.: (1) blown wreck, seaweed and other residue left on the shore by the tide (Sc. 1806 R. Forsyth Beauties Scot. III. 351); (2) button-wrack, a seaweed, ? Fucus nodosus, or poss. = Box-wrack, q.v.; (3) lady-wrack, the sea-weed, Fucus vesiculosus: (4) cart-wrack, see Cart, n.1, 4.; (5) May-wreck, see quot.; (6) wrack-ball, one of the vesicles or air-capsules found on various kinds of sea weed, as (3); (7) wrack-box, id. See (2) and Box-wrack; (8) Wreck Brethren, a society of farmers at Monkton in Ayrshire; (9) wreck-graip, see 1992 quot.; (10) wrack-duck, the eider-duck, Somateria mollissima; ¶(11) wrack-ware, driftweed. See Ware, n.1; (12) wreck-weed, id.(2) Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 181:
Button wrack, and lady wrack, are best for kelp.
(3) Sc. 1703 M. Martin Western Isles (1884) 233:
If after a fever one chance to be taken ill of a stitch, they take a quantity of lady wrack, and half as much of red-fog, and boil them in water.
(5) Arg. 1946:
“May wreck” is the first lot [of seaweed] drifted ashore early in the year.
(6) Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch (1935) 62:
It was her custom to go down on the hot days to the shore at the Water-foot when the tide was far out, and the wrack-balls burst with the heat.
(7) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 487:
Wrack-boxes. Little oval-formed boxes, full of air, found made of and adhering to vegetable sea-weed.
(8) Ayr. 1894 K. Hewat Little Sc. World 112:
From 1796 till 1887 there existed among the farmers an institution called the “Wreck Brethren Society.” They annually raised funds for their purposes and regulated the carting of the wreck.
(9) Arg. 1992:
Wreck-graip - a fork specially designed for loading and unloading seaweed for fertiliser. It was long in the shaft for getting below the seaweed and for building a high load in the cart, and had three iron prongs, each about a foot long and with an upward turn to it.
(10) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 198:
We lay babbin in the mouth o' the loch, as deep's a wrack-duck.
(11) Sc. 1865 A. Way Promptorium Parvulorum III. 533:
On the coasts of Scotland sea-weed is called ‘wreck-ware'.
(12) Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate x.:
One whom the sea flung forth as wreck-weed.

5. Field weeds, vegetable rubbish, any kind of profitless vegetation (Sc. 1808 Jam., wreck; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd. 1925, rake); specif. (the roots of) the couch-grass, Triticum repens (m.Lth. 1795 G. Robertson Agric. M. Lth. 145; Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 261; ne., m., s.Sc. 1974), occas. of other natural grasses. For whin-wrack see Whin, n.2, 3.(18).Peb. 1715 A. Pennecuik Tweeddale 6:
There are amongst them, that will not suffer the Wrack to be taken out of their Land, because (say they) it keeps the Corn warm.
Sc. 1743 J. Cockburn Letters (S.H.S.) 88:
The mould is very fine by ploughing harrowing or cloding if necessary and the wrack taken out carefully.
Ags. 1795 Session Papers, Arbuthnott v. Scott (11 March) 164:
He was likewise employed in making the dike closer, and in putting lonnacks, wreck and other stuff into it.
Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 63:
The roots of the quicken-grass (and probably also of Holcus mollis confounded with it under the name of wrack).
e.Lth. 1895 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 248:
See at the thistles, an' the dockens, an' the skellochs an' rack.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 244:
They burnt heather an whuns, an whiles wrack.
Slg. 1953 Sc. Agriculture (Summer) 14:
If the soil is kept in lumps the rack is killed effectively.
Slk. 1965:
A wrack-midden is a pile of couch grass made in a field where sheep are — they tramp it into compost and after three years or so it is carted away and used.

II. v. 1. As in Eng., of a ship: to destroy or be lost by storm, etc. (I., n.Sc. 1974).Sc. 1711 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 12:
Since the Union there has not a ship come in to our port from any forreigne place (except one small vessel from Dantzick) but we have had three taken and one wracked.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 74:
The Grimsbys were ca'd after some ship 'at was werackit.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 10:
Vrackid ships an' droonan men.
Bnff.2 1929:
The crew at thir boat wis vrackit are in Aiberdeen.

2. tr. To break in a physical sense, disable, destroy, ruin. Also fig.; intr. to come to ruin. Vbl.n. wraking, destruction, crippling, ruin, ppl.adj. wrackit, broken-down, in 1827 quot. phs. confused with Eng. rack, a faulty gait in a horse.Sc. 1712 Trial of Scot & Mackpherson (1737) 7:
The disabling or wracking of so many of the Pursuers Cattle.
Abd. 1786 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 17:
The wives about, envy'd the lassie's fare, And wiss'd her wraking, but begecked were.
Ayr. 1792 Burns What can a young Lassie do iv.:
I'll cross him, an' wrack him Until I heartbreak him.
Abd. 1820 A. Skene Poems 32:
It really maks me wae to think, What numbers wrack on hymen's brink.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 114:
E'en Tammie Pethrie's wrackit mare, Had gather't to her feet ance mair.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 60:
He won it frae the stout Glencairn The day he came to wrack Carsphairn.
Bnff. 1881 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars 66:
He'll vrack the characters o' a' the decent lasses.
Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 90:
A drucken dame dings a' to shame — Your happiness, she'll wrack it.
e.Lth. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 191:
Tales o' tempests an' war, Whilk sae aft hae wrackit Dunbar!
Abd. 1929:
He's growin a sad vrackit stock, an gyaun near twa-faul.

3. As a variant of Eng. wreak: to give vent to (feelings of rage or vengeance). Obs. in Eng.m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 21:
At length whan they hae wrack'd their wrath Wi' sad ill-words.
Per. 1816 J. Duff Poems 65:
Thou'st blawn a dour and dulefu' blast, Thy wrath to wrack it.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xviii. 47:
The God wha wracks a'right for me.

[For convenience, several distinct words, corresponding to Eng. ‡wrack, wrake, wreck, wreak, have been put together as, owing to similarity of meaning, Sc. phonological development, interaction of form and sense, and ultim. common orig., in Teutonic *wrek-, it is hardly possible to distinguish them in mod.Sc. O.Sc. has wrak, shipwreck, wrecked goods, 1428, driftweed, 1462, ruination, 1513, warldis wrak, c.1480, wrakk, to ruin, 1564, chiefly from O.E. wræc, retribution, Mid. Du. wrak, a shipwreck, refuse; wraik, ruin, shipwreck, 1513, wreckage, 1544, a ruin, to (come to) ruin, 1570, partly ad. O.E. wracu, revenge. Wreck is from Norm.Fr. wrek, orig. from Teut.]

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"Wrack n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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