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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CLOSE, CLOSS, Kloss, n.1 This word had orig. a different connotation in different districts, but in Mod.Sc. the uses have become largely confused, and often almost impossible to distinguish. Some of the examples quoted below might belong more properly to another sub-section. Dim. clos(s)ie. [klos, klɔs]

1. A courtyard; an enclosed space adjoining a house. Chiefly Edb., but known to Cai.7, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1936. Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923) gives the meaning of “an area in front of a house” as obs. Obs. in Mod.Eng.Sc. 1702 T. Morer Account 73:
The Pride of Edinburg is the Parliament-Yard, or Close as they call it.
Sc. 1933 E. S. Haldane Scotland of Our Fathers iv.:
Wynds were often so narrow that a cart could not pass along them, and out of these opened “closes,” or courts, in the centre of which was a dunghill.
Edb. [1825] R. Chambers Trad. of Edb. (1869) 12:
For an inn, he would have had the White Horse, in a close in the Canongate.
Edb. 1929 Edinburgh 1329–1929 385:
The most serious overbuilding in Edinburgh, however, was that which took place in the closes. Under the combined pressure of war and increase of population, the old and narrow gardened enclosures were gradually covered with buildings which were approached from the street by a narrow pathway.

2. (1) “A farmyard; the yard round which the farm-buildings are arranged” (Mry.1 1914; Bnff.2 1942). Fairly common in most parts of Scot. Used also in Kent and Sussex (E.D.D.). Ork.1 1942, however, says: “in smaller (croft) houses the ‘close' was usually a passage between the dwellinghouse and byre, etc.”Abd. 1723 Fintray Ct. Bk. (S.C.) 44:
He heard a hurly burly and tumult in the closs.
Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 35:
The mull cam' dirlin' throwe the closs, an' i' the cornyard steid.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 268:
As best suited with the cleaning of the close twice a year.
Ayr. 1858 M. Porteous Real “Souter Johnny” 17:
The little building [Ballochneil old farmhouse] is yet to be seen, standing on the opposite side of the “closs” or courtyard of the steading.

(2) “An enclosure (usually covered) for sheltering cattle” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Borders 1917 Border Mag. (Aug.) 192:
Cattle are housed comfortably in stone-built closes, bedded to the knees in golden oat-straw.

3. The passageway leading into a courtyard; any narrow passage or alley. Later extended to a narrow lane with houses on each side; “a narrow street” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kloss); “used of the wider openings in the old town which would lead to several tenements or houses and yards” (Edb.3 1929). This meaning later spread from Edb. to all old Sc. towns, although such “closes” are tending to disappear through slum clearance schemes.Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 122:
I wis just gain ta say, 'at dey wir some mair o' dy freends comin' up da closs, an' I toucht doo micht care ta see dem.
n.Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters North Scot. (1754) I. 63:
[In Inverness] a little Court or a turn-again Alley, is a Closs.
Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 44:
They huntit him thro' ilka clossie an' lane.
Ags. 1762 in J. M. Beatts Municipal Hist. of Dundee (1873) 121:
That all persons within this burgh make the street clean before their own doors and gates, alswell doors within closses as on the fore streets.
Ags. 1891 J. M. Barrie Little Minister (2nd ed.) i.:
All Thrums was out in its wynds and closes.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 8:
Hugh Hardie needed a ghost: one that would appear down a half-lit close at ten o'clock at night, and have people jumping out of their skins.
Edb. 1779 H. Arnot Hist. Edb. 233:
The ridge of this hill forms a continued and very magnificent street. From its sides, lanes and alleys, which are here called wynds and closes, extend like slanting ribs.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xx.:
The Boar's Head Inn . . . was little better than any of the nuerous taverns that kept discreet half-open doors to the wynds and closes of the Duke's burgh town.
Rxb. 1833 Mrs Hall Sc. Borderer (1874) 12:
The prospect was bounded by the opposite houses of the Dean's Close.

4. (1) The entry to a tenement house, the open passage-way giving access to the common stairs and the floors above. Chiefly Gsw., wm. and sw.Sc., but known to Abd.19 and Lnl.1 1936.Sc. 1993 Scotsman 23 Aug 1:
Police and fire brigade enquiries were focusing on furniture set ablaze in the common close of the three-storey block of six flats, ...
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 113:
"No here, though," she objected. "Come up this closs, whar thir'll nobody see iss."
m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 9:
He wandered down his hallway to the front door, from where he could hear the echo of voices in the spiralling close below.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
The guid thing aboot a guid hing is
Ye can see whit's cumin up yer close, be prepared n that.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 5:
I lived in Lacy Street before and it was great; there were only 3 closes in the street and the women used to go out and play skipping, kick the can and play jumping ropes and everything.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 53:
If ben the laich closs ye're intendin' to gang, Mak' a boo to the roof, an' ye'll no dae faur wrang.
Gsw. 1931 T. Smellie in Glasgow Herald (3 Nov.) 5:
The common entrance to a tenement is a “close.”
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 154:
Hey Chanty! It was Smit. He had appeared from a close.
Gary scowled at him: What you wanting ya wee bastard?
Gsw. 1988 J. F. Hendry in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 6:
They took me to the close. It was a nice close with pipe-clayed stairs and a railing with a polished wooden top you could slide on, until you came to the brass knobs that served no purpose I could see, except to act as painful brakes.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 20:
Hauns aff. Noo get back up that close.
Gsw. 1990 Tom Rae in Joy Hendry Chapman 60 67:
"Ah'm no gonny get intae bother just because of you."
"Ach away, Alec, ye sound just like the night we wur aw up the close wi wee Mary Goodwin."

(2) A flat or the flats to which a close gives access (see (1) above).Sc. 1993 Herald 29 May 2:
Dr Haire's mother lives up a close in Port Glasgow, and latterly he had been living with other relatives in a modest terraced council house.
Abd. 2000 Herald 27 Mar 20:
We met some of the sparkling young things that live up those closes paved with gold. One young accountant with a team of international financial bandits complained to the Farmer about the amount of tax she had to pay.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 17:
close This word applies to the common entrance and hallway of a tenement building and by extension takes in all the flats and occupants of the building as a unit: 'Everybody in the close is getting new windows.' 'Stop shouting - the whole close'll hear you.' The word "up" is usually used in connection with entering or living in a close: 'He's went up the wrang close.' 'She stays up our close.'

5. Phrases: (1) craig's-close (closs), see Craig, n.2 and v.; (2) in the wrang close, in an irretrievable predicament, in grievous error (ne.Sc., wm.Sc. 1975). Cf. (3); (3) to be up a clos(i)e, of persons: (a) “to be in a quandary, to be in a hopeless position” (Arg.2 1936); (b) “to be quite wrong” (Kcb.1 1936). Also used impers.: it's a' up a closie (wi'), it is a hopeless position, a poor outlook (for); known to Bnff.2, Abd.19, Lnl.1, Lnk.3 1936.(2) Sc. 1723 3rd Letter to Rev. T. Linning 5:
When the Sentence of the Presbytery about his Exculpation, was read to him, he said, They would find themselves in the Wrong Closs.
(3) Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden iii.:
Gin ye dinna belang to the Established Kirk, it's a' up a closie wi' ye.

6. Combs.: (1) close entrance, = (4); (2) close-foot, the end of a “close” furthest from the street; (3) close-head, closs-, (a) the entrance to a passage or alley; (b) transferred to the crowd of people that congregates there; (4) close-mooth, close mou', closemouth, the entrance to a “close”; (5) close stairs, the stairs in a tenement building.(1) Cai. 1939 Neil M. Gunn Wild Geese Overhead (1991) 84:
...the women were blowzy, with slumped bodies, and stared at them from close-entrance or other point of gossip.
(2) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet, Letter vii.:
I had no mind . . . to confirm the report . . . which had probably spread from Campbell's close-foot to the Mealmarket Stairs.
(3) (a) Ags. 1762 in J. M. Beatts Municipal Hist, of Dundee (1873) 121:
That all hucksters . . . pay the Thesaurer one yearly duty of twenty shillings Scots for the liberty of keeping their stands foregainst their own doors or closs-heads.
(b) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian v.:
Sic men as Duncan Forbes, and that other Arniston chield there, without muckle greater parts, if the close-head speak true, than mysell, maun be presidents and king's advocates.
(4) Bnff.(D) 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 35:
We've flitted, lad, we've flitted, We've left the auld close mou'.
wm.Sc. 1995 Robin Jenkins Leila 115:
At a closemouth a young Chinese man was waiting for them.
Gsw. 1977 Alan Spence in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 152:
At the closemouth, a few peering faces, a handful of confetti, a huddle of children waiting, eager, for the scramble of loose change.
Gsw. 1984 Moira Burgess in Alexander Scott and James Aitchison New Writing Scotland 2 5:
They're everywhere. Sitting in closemouths, scouting about the back courts.
Gsw. 1988 J. F. Hendry in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 6:
In the end they spoke to a neighbour, and left me sitting in the closemouth, on the red steps, waiting again.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 199:
Now at ilk corner [they] ready staund, Or i' the close-mooths keep sentry.
(5) Abd. 2000 Herald 22 May 17:
Then he got an old pram and filled it with other veg and, though it was hard work getting up and down the close stairs, he soon found he could fill the pram twice a day.
m.Sc. 1996 Christopher Brookmyre Quite Ugly One Morning (1997) 1:
From the overture of fresh vomit whiff that greeted you at the foot of the close stairs, through the mustique of barely cold urine on the landing, to the tear-gas, fist-in-face guard-dog of guff that savaged anyone entering the flat, it just told you how much fun this case would be.

[O.Sc. clos, close, closse, an enclosed space (adjacent to a house or other building); an enclosure, court or courtyard; a narrow space between buildings and giving access to these; an entry or passage. Close-fute and close-heid are also given (D.O.S.T.). Mid.Eng. close, clos, n.Mid.Eng. cloise; O.Fr. clos, Lat. clausum, an enclosed place.]

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"Close n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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