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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.

CLACHAN, Clachen, Clauchan, Claughan, -ing, n. [′klɑxən]

1. A hamlet, village, gen. containing a church; “a small cluster of cottages” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.). Orig. used only in the Highlands, but later spreading all over the Scottish mainland. Known to Bnff.2, Fif., Ags. and Kcb. correspondents 1940. “There are no clachans in Orkney” (Ork.1 1939). Also used attrib.Sc. a.1774 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 95:
I think thou're the flower of the claughing.
Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 77:
The Gauger's the mightiest man in the clachan!
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 61:
"Ye can depend on Donald Ferguson," the fowk in oor clachan eesed tae say. "Ye cud set the stars an navigate bi him, he's that perjink an punctual."
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 75:
They sailed past creeks and fisher clachans where beachcombers and bairns waved them by.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 7:
The weill-kent faces o sociable neibours and mony
anither drappt in frae toun or clachan.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Death and Dr Hornbook (Cent. ed.) iii.:
The clachan yill had made me canty, I was na fou, but just had plenty.
Ayr. 1821 John Galt Annals of the Parish (1978) 135:
The term clachan was beginning by this time [1795] to wear out of fashion; ...
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
clachan a hamlet.
Kcb. 1824 P. McKinnell (ed.) Mountain Dew 225:
The little clauchan of Tynron-kirk.
Dmf. 1724 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 349:
The town of Tarbert and clachen of Kilhalmanell.

2. A village ale-house, an inn.Sc. 1852 H. Miller Schools and Schoolm. xii.:
We baited at the clachan of Kinlochewe — a humble Highland inn, like that in which we had passed the night.
Sc. 1897 Prof. MacKinnon in N.E.D.:
It used to be said that the three requisites of a Highland village were a church, an inn, and a smithy; hence the contextual use of clachan both for “the church” and the “public house.”
Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 149:
At Meg's warm clachan, doon the brae.

3. In pl.: stepping-stones. Bte. 1713 Rothesay T.C. Records (1935) II. 612:
These parts called the Clachans quher runing water runs.
Bte. 1721 Session Bk. Rothesay (1931) 364:
The broken claughans hindring people's attendance on the ordinance in stormie and especially rainy weather.

[O.Sc. clachan, clauchan, clachen, a hamlet or small village, earliest date 1459 (D.O.S.T.). Gael. clachan, kirk or kirk town, from Gael. clach, a stone (MacBain); Irish clochán, stepping-stones. It is supposed that clachan, applied first to the standing stones raised by the Druids for religious purposes and regarded, even in Christian times, with superstitious awe, was later used to denote a graveyard, and then a village containing a church.]

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"Clachan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Apr 2024 <>



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