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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BUT, BUTT, adv., prep.1, adj., n.1 [bʌt]

I. adv.

1. Out; into the kitchen or outer room. Gen.Sc.Sh.(D) 1898 J. J. H. Burgess Tang 193:
“Geng but, faeder, an tak midder wi you,” she said in a low voice, and the old folk went into the kitchen.
Mry.(D) 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sketches x.:
Gae awa' butt tae the passage there an' dreep a meenit.
Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden xv.:
I ran but to the shop.
Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 95:
Gaang but. Go into the outer room.
Peb. 1793 Peggy's Myll (ed. R. D. C. Brown 1832) lxxxvii.:
Kynd Is'bel brocht the bottyl butt.
Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr 115:
The people in the in-seat saw butt to the byre, and the inhabitants of the byre and stable, could look ben to the in-seat.

Phr.: but an' ben, (1) backwards and forwards; from the kitchen to the best room; also fig.; (2) at opposite ends (of the same house, passage or landing).(1) Ork.(D) 1907 J. T. S. Leask in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. I. ii. 63:
Dey sowt an' sowt waan an' oonwaan, but an' ben, . . . bit nae hair o'm fand dey.
Abd. c.1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1800) 11:
Young Jock within wou'd fain be out, An' but an' ben made sic a rout Wi' hands an' feet.
Edb. 1865 M. Barr Poems (1870) 157:
When we were bits o' bairnies, an' toddlin' but an' ben.
Rxb. c.1885 W. Laidlaw Poetry and Prose (1908) 27:
I've searched my mind, baith but an' ben, For something new.
(2) Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 19:
This hoose is yours, the gear, the folk
Ootside an in, baith but an ben.
Bch. 1928 (per Abd.15):
Two farmers, joint tenants, but each occupying different rooms in the farmhouse, "eest te bide but an' ben."
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 41:
Timothy Timmertaes, as he ca's himsel, - lives but-an-ben wi' me on the same passage.
Cld. 1887 Jam.6:
Ken her! we leeve but an' ben wi' ither.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch (1935) 118:
She was alone, for the sick woman was but-and-ben.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xviii.:
Now, butt an' ben the Change-house fills.

2. Into the parlour (Bnff.2 1937). Rare in this sense; cf. Ben, adj. (2), and etym. note.Fif. 1899 “S. Tytler” Miss Nanse vii.:
And when they were in the inn at Boar Braes they invited but (into the parlour) all the glaikit inn lasses.

I. 3. Idiomatic use at the end of a phr. or sentence, sometimes as an intensifier.m.Sc. 1994 Peter McCarey in Daniel O'Rourke Dream State 25:
"Then the door flies open and he bursts in from nowhere" So what but. What do you mean so what? A lot of folk bought this paper
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
Ye need tae mind yer rollers but,
They aye catch oan the windae frame.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 169:
'You can get maist things on video these days. Ye have tae look aroon but.'
Edb. 1992:
It wisna ma fault, but.
Edb. 1995 Irvine Welsh Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996) 102:
Gilchrist, his sidekick, moved to another school in another part ay the toon. That cunt I did meet up wi again. Him and the slags.
That wis later but.
wm.Sc. 1979 Robin Jenkins Fergus Lamont 8:
"Oh, Fergie, you're a real braw wee kiltie!' 'Whaur's your sporran but?'
wm.Sc. 1991 Liz Lochhead Bagpipe Muzak 36:
towards that pig with a knife stuck down his sock.
Kilt suited him, but. Unlike ma da.
Gsw. 1984 James Kelman The Busconductor Hines 11:
Naw I'm no. Wish to christ I was but. That's the trouble with nowadays, you can't even get fucking drunk.
Gsw. 1988 George MacDonald Fraser The Sheikh and the Dustbin (1989) 132:
"Ah dinnae mind that, but. Fella's entitled tae his opinion,..."
Gsw. 1991 John Burrowes Mother Glasgow 151:
' ... The old man? A bit more doted. Stays with the sister out in the schemes. He's fine, though. Lost, but. Nae corner to stand at. ... '

II. prep. Out or away from the speaker or spectator; across; along. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1, Lnk.3, Arg.1 a.1835 J. Grant Tales of the Glens (1836) 58:
I min', as my father gaed but the trance till's bed, he bade us a' gang hame like gude bairns, and nae brak the Sabbath day.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 68:
When you have taken your ideas of the eighteenth century from Gainsborough and Reynolds, it is difficult to place those ladies - hard-wearing and hard-working, of iron frame and character, who look as if they could have drilled a staff of domestics but and ben the house.
Bnff.(D) 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 15:
I see them yet ae summer day come hodgin' but the fleer.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 74:
[Lindy] lifts up his head, an' looking butt the floor, Sees Bydby standing just within the door.

Phr.: but the hoose, — house, but-a-hoose, in or into (1) the kitchen or outer end of a two-roomed cottage; known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Ags.1 1937; (2) the best room (ne.Sc.); known to Bnff.2 1937.(1) Abd. 1900 A. Paterson in Bnffsh. Jnl. (19 June) 3:
The guidman and guidwife generally, as I have said before, breakfasted “but-a-hoose.”
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 85:
Jist rap her oot — she's but the hoose, An' brawlie kenn'd she o' your comin'.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail I. viii.:
Gae but the house, and see gin the supper's ready.
s.Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 291:
At the end o' the quarter, the lazy taupie butt-a-house maun walk aboot her business.
(2) Abd.15 1928:
In Buchan to “gang but-a-hoose” is to go into the best room, or room at the opposite end from the kitchen, or “ben.”

III. adj.

1. Outer, outside; pertaining to the “but” or kitchen (Abd.19, Fif.10 1937). Cai.7 1937 gives but en' only.Sh.(D) 1918 T. Manson Humours Peat Comm. I. ii.:
I would ask him to remember he is not in the butt end of a crofter's house, talking with his neighbour.
Ork. c.1912 J. Omond Orkney 80 Years Ago 8:
We must step warily, as over the but door is the halan' or boards on which the hens sit.

Hence butter, compar. adj., outer; in quot. below prob. = that part towards the sea.Mearns 1880 W. R. Fraser Hist. of Laurencekirk xx.:
The east or . . . the “butter,” end of the town, has been . . . completely transformed.

2 “Applied [in ne.Sc.] to the part of the house furthest from the kitchen” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 218; Bnff.2, Abd.22 1937), i.e. the best room. See also Ben, adj. (2).Sc. 1894 Stevenson W. Hermiston viii.:
She saw but the blank butt-end where she must crawl to die.
Abd.(D) 1875 W. Alexander Life among my Ain Folk (1882) vii.:
The corpse was laid out in the “but” end of the house, and there the “kistin'” took place.
Abd. 1900 A. Paterson in Bnffsh. Jnl. (19 June) 3:
The “but end” or parlour was ceiled, but in “the ben,” as the kitchen was termed, the bare, soot-blackened rafters were visible overhead.
Abd.13 1910:
Here but was applied to the parlour or room, although we don't use the word now since the new and larger cottages were built.

IV. n. The kitchen or outer room of a two-roomed cottage; an elliptical use of the adj. Gen.Sc., except for Edb. and Arg.Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xii.:
Caleb . . . found himself behind the hallan, or partition, from which position he could, himself unseen, reconnoitre the interior of the but, or kitchen apartment, of the mansion.
Bch. 1929 W. Littlejohn Buchan Cottar Stories 18:
The but or kitchen end had a lum as an egress for the reek.

Hence butwards, adv., towards (near) the “but” of a cottage or the outer part of a room.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 122:
To this auld Colen glegly 'gan to hark, Wha' with his Jane sat butwards i' the mark.

Comb.: but-house, -hoose, idem.Ork. c.1912 J. Omond Orkney 80 Years Ago 8:
Most old farm houses were built on the same general plan — a long straggling row of buildings consisting of barn, stable, ben-house, but-house and byre.
Fif. 1881 W. D. Latto in Edwards Mod. Sc. Poets III. 39:
An oot-hoose, an in-hoose, a but-hoose, an' ben.

V. In phr. but and (a) ben, butt and benn, a two-roomed cottage. Gen.Sc. Also 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 80:
There are two styles of house and both are a development of the but and ben of Sir Archibald Grant's time. The but and ben had two proper rooms - a kitchen and, beyond it, the bedroom for the master and mistress. The older children and domestics slept in the loft above. Now of the present styles the first is an ampler form of the but and ben - the single storey with attics lit by skylight windows. The second is of two storeys and skylit attics.
ne.Sc. 1991 Alexander Hutchison in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 101:
Scrunty hens roon but-an-bens,
the quines that winna show.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xvi.:
If he could get one end of a “but and a ben” cottage . . . he would have been well content.
Abd. 1980 David Toulmin Travels Without a Donkey 21:
I was born in the but-and-ben with its gable to the roadway and lived there till I was nearly eight years old.
m.Sc. 1983 Frederic Lindsay Brond 155:
Tumbled stones of a ruined but and ben cottage were almost buried among chickweed and dandelions.
Per. 1732 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. 384:
No bothy but my own, which indeed is a very good one, having a But and a Ben.
Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 339:
A room and kitchen, or what in the language of the place is stiled a but and ben.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 56:
For mair an mair heard in oor glens,
an taucht in the schuil ti oor weans,
wi barely a stammer,
they speak english grammer [sic],
back hame, in their wee but-n-bens.
w.Sc. 1865 R. Buchanan Idylls and Leg. of Inverburn (1882) 134:
Almost before I knew the work was done, I found him settled in this but and ben.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 62:
... Mary declared as she stood inside the lobby between the new butt and benn and looked to left and right.
w.Dmf. 1908 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo (1912) ix.:
I had got a nice wee but and ben at the east end o' the Dry Gill.

[O.Sc. has but(t), adv. and prep., also but and ben (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. bute, early buten, O.E. be-ūtan, būtan, būta, already in use as prep. as well as adv. See also etym. note to Ben, adj.]

But adv., prep.1, adj., n.1

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"But adv., prep.1, adj., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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