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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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About this entry:
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.

BENT, n. Used in St.Eng. as a name for coarse grass of a reedy or rush-like character; used also in the pl. the bents = the place where such grass grows. The early examples point to a northern origin. See D.O.S.T. and N.E.D.Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis s.v. Wyndilstrayis:
By bent we commonly understand, a kind of grass that grows in sandy ground on the Sea shore, quite different from Windle-streas, and consequently from what the Eng. call Bents.

Special Sc. usages:

1. A sandy hillock covered with bent grass. Gen. in pl. in collective sense.Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona xiii.:
No eye of ours could spy what was passing behind there in the bents.
Abd. 1867 Mrs Allardyce Goodwife at Home, etc. (1918) 38:
It often happened that the boats were in great danger in crossing the bar, and on these occasions the women used to assemble on the “bents,” tearing their hair, clapping their hands, and collecting a crowd about them.
Ags. 1918 V. Jacob More Songs of Angus 20:
The Esk ae side, ae side the sea whaur she's set her lane On the bents between.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 259:
Nigellus . . . hired some ill-deedy dyvours frae Irvine to waylay her on the bent of Ardeer.

2.  The slope or ridge of a hill; a hillside. Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xi.:
It's up Glenbarchan's braes I gaed, And o'er the bent of Killiebraid.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xviii.:
I hae taen the bent ower the Otterscaperigg a hundred times.

[Cf. Band, n.2, ridge of a hill; bent is prob. cogn. with bind, v.]

3. Phrases: (1) To go to the bent, to flee from danger.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1762) 79:
And wilily they shot the lock, And fast to the bent are they gane.

(2) (To take) to the bent, (a) to flee from danger; (b) to flee from one's creditors.(a) Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxv.:
Take the bent, Mr Rashleigh. Make ae pair o' legs worth twa pair o' hands.
(b) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act I. Sc. ii. in Poems (1728):
With glooman Brow the Laird seeks in his Rent: 'Tis no to gi'e; your Merchant's to the bent.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man II. 319:
This enables him to cheat his neighbours for a time; and . . . he takes to the bent, and leaves them all in the lurch.

4. Combs.: The following are found in Sc: (1) Bent bands. (See quot.)Ork. c.1912 J. Omond Ork. 80 Years Ago 17:
Bent bands made into ropes were used as tethers, bands for tying cattle and horses, hoods or hinges . . . in short it was both twine and rope.

(2) Bent day, see quot.: Inv. 1921 Trans. Inv. Scientific Soc. IX. 287:
Another recognised holiday was known as "Bent" Day. In the olden days dried bent or rushes were strewn on the floors of all buildings, private and public. In the schools it was the custom to grant the children a holiday three or four times a year, when, armed with sickles, they proceeded to the country to get bent for the school.

(3) Bent-links, sand-dunes covered with bent. See Links. Ork. 1766 P. Fea MS. Diary (31 Aug., 3-4 Sept.):
Began to the Bent Links. . . . Done with the Bent-links. Some of my men pletting Bent after Brakefast.

(4) Bent-moss, “a soil composed of firm moss covered with a thick herbage of bent” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.2). [E.D.D. gives this as obs.]Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr 35–36:
Bent moss, prevails . . . in the county of Ayr. . . . It makes excellent fuel, affords a tolerable pasture, for sheep and Galloway cows, and it is capable . . . of yielding good crops of grain and rich grasses.

(5) Broad bent, “psamma arenaria, R. and S. — Shetland, Edmonston MS.; not Scotland generally” (Sh. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant Names 66).

(6) Fly-bent, “given (in 1889 Bwk. Nat. Club Proc. 473) as an Upper Liddesdale name for purple melic, Molinia cærulea. My inquiries in the precise locality have failed to corroborate this assertion” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 135).

(7) Flying-bent, “species of dead bent blown about by the wind, especially in spring-time” (Ib.).

(8) Narrow bent, “elymus arenarius, L. — Scotl. Edmonston's MS.” (Sc. 1886 Britten and Holland Eng. Plant Names 38).

(9) Sweet bent, “luzula campestris, Willd. — Ayrsh.” (Ib.).

(10) The mother of bent, “elymus arenarius, L. — Outer Hebrides, Macgillivray, Journ. Nat. and Geogr. Science, ii, 93” (Ib.).

Hence benty-knot, “a tough patch of bent, Juncos squarrosus. Usually pl.” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 54).

[O.Sc. bent, bynt, a kind of coarse grass; a place covered with coarse grass, a field, a moor, as in Sc. and mod.Eng. O.E. beonet, found in place-names. Cf. Ger. binse.]

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"Bent n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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