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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BEAR, BERE, Beer, Bar (an old spelling used freq. in combs.), n.1. Also beir (Abd. 1711 Third S.C. Misc. I. 18). [bi:r Sc.; be:1r Ags.; be:r Sh., Ork., Cai., Bnff. and Abd. + bi:r]

1. A kind of barley hardier than the ordinary kind but of inferior quality. Ordinary barley has two rows of grain on the head, bear four (see esp. tenth quot. below). It is also called Big n. 2 or Bigg, q.v.  Bear, bere, etc., according to N.E.D. is the orig. Eng. name for barley, but is now retained only in the north and esp. in Scotland.Sc. 1825 Sc. Proverb in Jam.2:
“He pays nae green bear for that”; used to denote that a person inherits a particular defect, bad disposition, or vicious habit, from his parents; in allusion to one who possesses property without paying for it any duty in kind, or rent, to a superior.
Sh.(D) 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 51:
Da hay is oot o' harms way noo, sae far, an' aless hit be a grain o' bere, deil huik 'ill be laid in corn for twa ooks yet.
Inv. 1723 Letter-Bk. of Bailie J. Steuart (ed. W. Mackay) (1915) 202:
James Russell and I have for severall days past been endeavouring to sell ye bear of Petty and Conadge at this place.
Bnff. 1743 W. Cramond Court Bks. Regality of Ogilvie in Trans. Bnff. Field Club (1886) 53:
A master is fined £4 for giving his servant bounty and bear instead of money.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. 5:
Under a constant succession of cereal crops, with no variation except from oats to bere every third or fourth crop, even good “intoon” land did not improve.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems Chiefly in the Sc. Dial. 110:
When bear an' ate the earth had fill'd, Our simmer meldar niest was mil'd.
m.Lth. 1793 G. Robertson Agric. of Midlothian 64:
The ground employed in barley and bear, or big, is probably still as much in quantity as at any former period.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings among the Heather 90:
Your music doth the farmer cheer, When sawing baith his corn an' bere.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Scotch Drink i.:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can make us.
Dmf. 1812 Dr [W.] Singer Gen. View Agric. Dmf. 192:
Under this designation [barley] . . . are comprehended the finer species, with two rows of grain on the ear . . .; and also the coarser species, with four rows, which has of late got the name of bear, though this was the old Scotish name for the genus.
Rxb. c.1734 Anon. in Hawick Arch. Socy. (1913), Elegy on John Hasty 56:
He hated a' your sneaking gates, To play for bear, for pease, or ates.

2. Combs.: (1) Bere bannock, a cake of barley-meal. See also under Bannock.Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecd. 176:
I showed him a whang of a bere bannock.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 30:
"Me sooan scones is the best in the pairish," she said, "if I dae say id mesel, an' me bere bannocks is next tae Chessie Clouston's."
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 (1998) 5:
" ... 'Can thoo see the buttons apae his cott? bit neebody's ever offered me as muckle as a bite o bere bannock. A body gets fairly tired o fish an dunters year in year oot!"
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 19 Oct 17:
Sometimes in the old days our old tatties ran out before the new ones were ready, and we ate meat with bere bannocks instead, but that was a poor substitute and white bread was worse!

(2) Bear-bap, a barley biscuit or scone.Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 132:
In the days o' lang syne, when I liv'd in the east, Rampin' milk an' bear-baps, we then counted a feast.

(3) Bear Barrel.

(a) Whisky.Knr. 1894 “H. Haliburton” Furth in Field 9:
The farmer . . . demanded in a stoor voice . . . “whether they werena coming to taste the Bear Barrel.”

(b) A festival celebrating the stooking of the bear.Ib. 7:
But only few can now remember that, before the grand concluding festival of the autumn season came round, a kind of snack or foretaste of its ampler form was the custom, now grown obsolete, on nearly every farm. It marked the stooking, that is the gathering into stooks, of the barley harvest; and the celebration of that event was known as “The Bear Barrel.”

(4) Bere-beater. (See quot.)Abd. 1930 Abd. Press and Jnl. (5 Nov.):
A bere-beater is a frame about fifteen or eighteen inches square, having blades inserted inside with cutting edges down at possibly three-quarters of an inch apart, the cutting edge of blades and frame being even in the underside, and consequently all flush when resting on the floor. Then a vertical handle about three feet high having a cross head attached with which it was moved up and down among the grain completed the instrument, the effect being to cut or break off the “yavins” from the seed, after which it was cleared by being put through the fan.

(5) Beer-braird. See Braird.

(6) Beerbuntlin, the corn bunting, Emberiza miliaria, Linn.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 59:
Beerbuntlins. Birds as large as thrushes, and somewhat like them in plumage; common amongst grain, particularly beer, when growing; it is from this, and because they are of the buntin species of birds, they have their name.
[Cf. Buntin, short and thick, and Buntling.]

(7) Bear-caff, bear chaff.Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 69:
A wamefou's a wamefou, were't but o' bear-caff.
Bnff. 1887 J. Yeats Local Popular Superstitions in Bnffsh. Field Club 67:
When assailed with the usual formula — “Man on the piet horse fat's guid for the kinkhost [whooping-cough]?” he used to snappishly reply “butter an' bear caff.”
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables of Robin Cummell xv.:
He couldna' do't till he got bere caff.

(8) Bear-curn, for bear Quern, q.v. (See quot.)Fif. 1825 Jam.2:
Bear-curn. A term sometimes used in the same sense with Bear-stane, as being a sort of hand-mill.

(9) Bear fey, beerfey, land set apart for the growing of bear or barley.Gall. 1794 J. Webster Gen. View Agric. Gall. 12:
A small bit of land near the house, called the Bear Fey . . . was kept perpetually in tillage, received the whole dung of the farm, and was regularly sown with bear or barley.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 59:
Beerfey. Anciently the best piece of land about a farm. This was the craft, the only place that received a spoonful of manure — the only place where it was thought beer would grow.
[See Fey, n.]

(10) Bere-hook, an instrument for cutting bear.Ayr. 1885 R. Lawson Maybole Past and Present 22:
Labourers with felling axes, pickaxes, spades, shovels, bere-hooks, saws.

(11) Bere hummler, an instrument for removing the beards of bere after threshing.Abd. 1930 J. Lawrence in Abd. Press and Jnl. (31 Oct.):
A “bere hummler,” something between a washerwoman's poss stick, and an outsize spurtle.

(12) Bear-land, land set apart for the growing of bear or barley.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Bear-land is that part of infield, which, being impoverished and worn out, we again dung, and prepare for bear, to bring the field in heart.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. v.:
The land . . . was divided, in the common course of husbandry, into “bear land, bear root, and awal bear root.”

Phrase: to go through the bear land with anyone. Obs. (See quot.)Sc. 1808 Jam.:
I gaed through the bear land with him, is a phrase used by a person who has gone through all the particulars of a quarrel with another, or told him all the grounds of umbrage at his conduct. The phrase is probably borrowed from the difficulty of walking through land prepared for barley, as it is more thoroughly tilled than for most other crops; or it may refer to the pains taken, in preparing it for this crop, to remove all the weeds.

(13) Bear-leave, -lave, ground the first year after bear has been grown on it.Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 213:
The Crofting consisteth of four Breaks; whereof one, after a Year's Rest, is dunged for Bear, the second is Bear-leave, the third Oat-leave, the fourth ley, one Year old.
Lnk. 1825 Jam.2:
The grund is in bear-lave.

(14) Bear-meal, beer-, bare male, meal made from bear.Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xi.:
He would have found enough among the shepherds to hide him, and feed him, as they did me, on bear-meal scones and braxy mutton.
Ork. 1908 J. T. S. Leask in Old-Lore Misc., Ork. Sh., etc. I. vi. 223:
A grain o' tin bare male porridge.
Cai. 1916 Cai. Proverbs in John o' Groat Jnl. (14 Jan.):
It's bare-meal-tasted — more than commonplace.
Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 21:
We've wantit bear-meal for oor bannocks this fyle.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie's Wallet x.:
Our gentry's wee peel-garlic getts Feed on bear meal, an' sma' ale swats.
Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 63:
Thick nevel't scones, beer-meal, or pease.
Wgt. 1794 Some Entries in a Farmer's Book in G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 70:
Bear meal sold at 1s. 3d. per stone.
Slk. a.1835 J. Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) V. 357:
I'll feed him on black bearmeal brochen for a month.

Phr. bear meal marriage, a poor marriage, not one likely to bring wealth or position. Per. 1802 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 77:
That would be no great marriage, what Lucky Murray of Crieff used to call a bear meal marriage.

(15) †Bear-meal-raik. (See quot.)Lnk. 1825 Jam.2:
Bear-meal-raik. A fruitless errand; supposed to originate from the disappointment of one who goes out in quest of oatmeal, and is obliged to satisfy himself with barley-meal.
[See Raik.]

(16) Bear-meal-wife. (See quot.)Ags. 1825 Jam.2:
Bear-meal-wife, a woman who cannot pay what she owes. [Cf. (15) above.]

(17) bear-measure, the system of dry measure used for bear. See Tables of Measures. Kcd. 1809 G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 98:
35 to 45 bolls of shells, bear measure, to the acre.

(18) Bere-, beer-mell, a mallet or hammer for beating the husks off bear.Abd. 1931 A. T. McRobert in Abd. Press and Jnl. (2 Feb.):
Some one, I noticed recently, suggested in your columns that he had seen a “bere-beater” produced from the “crap o' the wa'.” What I fancy he saw was a “bere-mell,” an earlier device — home made — for the same purpose.
s.Sc. 1916 T. Wilkie in Bwk. Naturalists' Club 98:
He took up the beer-mell (a large hammer of wood) and threw it down among their legs.

(19) Beer-pottage, bear porridge (Abd.13 1910).

(20) Bear-pundler. (See quot.)Ork. 1866 Edm. Gl.:
Bear-pundler, an instrument used for weighing barley.
[See Pundler, n.2]

(21) Bear-root, bar-reet (crap). The first crop after bear. [′bɑ:r ′rit (old), ′be:r ′rit, ne.Sc.]ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of the N.-E. of Scot. 179:
The lea was ploughed and sown with oats. This crop was called the “ley crap.” The next crop was also of oats, and was named the “yaavel crap.” At times a second “yaavel” [see Awal(d), n.2] was taken. The land was then manured and sown with bere. The crop which followed was the “bar-reet crap,” and was of oats.
Abd. c.1760 Minutes of Farm. Club in Trans. Highl. and Agric. Soc. XIV. (1902) 81:
As soon as the bear is carried into the yard, the oxen plough begins the tillage for next crop with the bear-root.
Bch. 1735 Gen. View Agric. Bnff. (1812) App. 37:
[The three parts of the infield]: bear-land, bear-root and awal bear-root.

(22) Bear sconns, cakes made from bear.Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecd. 125:
Wha'e'er can find said twa-year-auld lad littleane . . . shall hae for reward quall [sic] bear sconns.

(23) Bear-, beer-seed.

(a) Barley or bigg.Fif. 1823 W. Tennant Cardinal Beaton Act IV., Sc. iii.:
The shower'll do muckle guid to the beer-seed. — It's been a sair drowth this three weeks.

(b) The season for sowing bear or for preparing the ground for it.Abd. c.1760 Minutes of Farm. Club in Trans. Highl. and Agric. Soc. XIV. (1902) 81:
When the bear-seed is over, the oxen plough enters to the faugh and the horseman to the casting and leading muck-fail [mixture of dung and turf].
Ags. 1830 A. Balfour Weeds and Wildflowers 127:
But we've nae simmer now to what I've seen, when the owsen-pleugh was in the yoke at the bear-seed by the time that the sun appeared in the lift.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 4:
It's wearin on now to the tail o' May, An' just between the bear seed and the hay.

(24) †Bear-seed-bird. (See quot.)Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 51:
Bear-seed-bird. The yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava Linn.

(25) Bear-skeiters, -skyters. (Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora Mry. 11) (See quots.) [′bi:r ′skəitərz]Mry. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant Names 30:
Bear-skeiters [i.e. barley-shooters]. Heracleum Sphondylium.
Mry. 1914 T.S.D.C. I.:
Bear-skyters. Cow-parsnip.

(26) †Bear-stane, — -stone. (See quots.)Sc. 1797 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 561:
It is what was formerly called in this country a bear stone . . . hollow like a large mortar, and was made use of to unhusk the bear or barley, as a preparation for the pot, with a large wooden mell, long before barley-mills were known.
Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Bear-stane. A hollow stone anciently used for removing the husks of bear or barley.

(27) Bear trough, a stone trough formerly used for husking bear. Cf. bear-stane in sense (26) above.Sc. 1833–44 Chambers's Edin. Journal I. 220:
“Tak care o' your fit and the bear trough,” cried one.

pew-bear, bear paid to a church in lieu of seat-rents (Sh. 1742 Hjaltland Misc. (1939) III. 49).

[O.Sc. bere, beir, etc., also bair(e), bayr; O.E. bęre, Gmc. *bariz.]

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"Bear n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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