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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BURN, v. Meanings and uses not found in St.Eng. For met. pa.t. and pa.p., see Brunt, v., and for combs. with pa.p., see Burnt.

1. Used pass.: to suffer (Abd.9, Fif.10 1937).Sc. 1808 Jam.:
One is said to be burnt, when he has suffered in any attempt. Ill burnt, having suffered severely.

2. “To deceive, to cheat in a bargain” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff.2, Abd.22, Fif.10 1937; Ayr. 1898 E.D.D.).Abd.2 1937:
Sandy was fair burnt wi' the auld coo he bocht.
Ags.1 1937:
Though he's been badly burnt mair than eence wi, his trokin, he winna tak a tellin.

3. “To derange any part of a game by improper interference; as, in curling, ‘to burn a stane,' is to render the move useless, by the interference of one who has not the right to play at that time” (Clydes. 1825 Jam.2; also known to Bnff.7 1912; Abd.2, Ags.1, Fif.10 1937); in bowling: to touch accidentally with the foot a wood belonging to one's own side. This wood has then to be removed from the green and is not allowed to count for that head. Often used as ppl.adj. (Kcb.9 1937).Sc. 1864 W. W. Mitchell Bowling 27:
When the jack or bowls are interfered with or displaced otherwise than by the effects of the play, they are said to be burned.
  Per. 1898 E.D.D.:
That stone's burnt. I saw you burn it wi' yer besom.
Arg.1 1937:
That's a burnt bool; aff the green wi't!
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 104:
When a stone in motion hits another in passing slightly, it is said to burn on it . . . and when a stone in motion hits the feet or the broom of any player, not on the same side of the game with that stone, it is allowed to be played over again; but if it hit one on its own side, it is thrown off the ice; for why it is a burnt-stane.

Phrs.: to burn the end, a term in bowls: “to drive the jack out of bounds” (Slg.3 1937); burnt end, also at carpet bowls (see quot.). w., sm.Sc. 1975:
If for instance the bowls are accidentally disarranged during an end, everyone says "burnt end!", which means that you lift the bowls and start the end over again.

4. To light up water when fishing at night in order to attract and spear the fish. Gen. in phr. to burn the water, which is used also in Eng. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Lnk.3 1937. Cf. Bleeze, v.1, 1.m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 69:
Puir Jamie's killed. A better lad Ye wadna find to busk a flee Or burn a püle or wield a gad Frae Berwick to the Clints o' Dee.
Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 591:
The fishers follow the practice of their forefathers, angling, setting small nets in cairns, when the river is in flood, and killing them [fish] with listers, when the river is small and the evening serene; and this they call burning the water, because they are obliged to carry a lighted torch in the boat.

5. Phrases and combs.: †(1) burn-airn, a branding-iron; (2) burnie-tailie day, see quot.  (3) burnin' beauty, “a female who is very handsome. The idea is thus reversed; ‘She's nae burnin' beauty mair than me'” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B.); (4) burnin fire(s), euphemism for hell (often to a child) (Edb., Dmf. 2000s); (5) burning money, compensation paid by the Government for damage done by the Jacobite army in the rising of 1715, esp. in regard to the burning of Auchterarder in Perthshire. (6) burnin(g) shame, see Black, adv. (2); (7) burnin watter, sea-phosphorescence (Nai. 1886 Folk-Lore Journal IV. 7).  (8) burn-shin-da-eve, “a term for a woman who is fond of crouching over the fire” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); (9) burn the bible, see quot. (10) burn-wood, wood for fuel (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (11) to burn nits (nuts), a ceremony observed on Halloween, supposed to foretell the matrimonial fate of the younger members of the party. Gen.Sc.; (12) to burn tobacco, to smoke (Bnff.2, Abd.22 1937).(1) Abd. 1825 Jam.2:
“They're a' brunt wi' ae burn-airn,” i.e. They are all of the same kidney; always in a bad sense.
(2)Fif. 1954 Bulletin (6 April) 4:
In Kirkcaldy, the custom was carried a step farther, April 3 being known as "Burnie Tailie Day," the idea being to tie on a tail [to someone's jacket] and then set it alight.
(4)Sc. 1995 Daily Record 12 Jun 15:
Nobody really believes that you'll go to the burning fire for loving and living with the partner of your choice.
Sc. 2000 Daily Record 20 Apr 15:
Most of my young days were spent waiting for Auld Hornie to pitchfork me straight into the burning fire for nicking sweets or looking at naked ladies in Health and Efficiency.
Sc. 2002 Herald 31 Oct 16:
Surely it cannot be right that the committee which chooses the Moderator consists of 53 men and nine women? Even to raise this obvious issue is to trigger another enraged clubbing about the head and an invitation to spend eternity in the burning fires.
m.Sc. 1989 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay The Guid Sisters 81:
A Club! The quickest road tae the burnin fire.
Edb. 1989:
You'll go to the burnin fire if ye tell lies.
(5)Per. 1716 Stat. Acc.2 X. 288:
"Burning money," as it is called, was received by many.
(9)Abd. 1938 Abd. Press & Jnl. (26 March) 6:
Burn the Bible must have arisen out of the Reformation. All bonnets were piled one on top of the other to form a pillar. The boys joined hands in a circle and each pulled this way and that until one was tugged on to the bonnets and knocked over the pile. Then he dropped out, and the elimination continued until only two wrenched and wrestled with each other beside the bonnets.
(10) Sc. 1872 Trans. Highl. Soc. 211:
Fully 20s. per ton was given for beech burnwood.
Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork., Zetland, etc. 92–93:
There are no Pites [peats] in them, but many Ships being cast away upon them, the Inhabitants make use of the Wrack for Burn-wood.
(11) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween ii.:
Some merry, friendly, countra folks, Together did convene, To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks, An' haud their Halloween. [Ib. vii. Note: “They name the lad and lass to each particular nut, as they lay them in the fire; and according as they burn quietly together, or start from beside one another, the course and issue of the Courtship will be.”]
(12) ne.Sc. 1883–1886 D. Grant Chron. of Keckleton (1888) 29:
I wud gang in without the excuse o' requirin' to burn tobacco.

6. To make (the cords of a herring-net) hard and brittle by faulty barking (see quot.). Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. II. 211:
It is the custom of the herring fishers in Dunbartonshire and Argyleshire, to bark their nets first with these, and then to bark with oak; this prevents the oak bark from hardening, or (as they term it) burning their nets.

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"Burn v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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