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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

COUPLE, CUPPLE, n. One of the pairs of sloping rafters, forming two sides of a triangle, which support the roof of a building (Bnff.4 1926, cupple; Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.13, Slg.3, Arg.1 1940); a pole or prop for a river salmon-net. Gen. in pl. (Cai.1 c.1920, couples; Ags.17 (cupples), Kcb.10 1940; Uls.2 1929). Cf. Kipple. [′kʌp(ə)l]Sc. c.1706 First Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Crm. (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 484:
As a mult or fyne, he caused tack away the couples of a barne as a lasting tokin of his power.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 18:
An' dan de rafts [beams] teuk fire an' de couples teuk fire.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays and Leg. of the North (1908) 30:
The thack and divots o' the shop Were hardly worth a thrum, An' twa three shillings wud repair The couples an' the lum.
Abd. 1795 Session PapersLeslie v. Fraser (29 March 1805) 109: 
Between these poles and the land, there are couples fixed in the ground for supporting said net, being eight in number, declining in height towards the land.
Ags. 1873 Arbroath Guide (14 June) 3/4:
Its floor has sunk deep in the wet slimy soil, And the drops frae the cupples fa' dreepin'.
Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 140:
The oak couples were of a circular form, lined with wood, and painted in the taste of the times.

Combs.: (1) couple bau(l)k, cupple back (balk) = Bauk,1 n., 2 (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1940); (2) couple-fit, the foot of a rafter. Also fig. as in quot.; (3) couple-leg, cupple —, one of the pair of rafters forming the “couple” (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Fif.10 1940); †(4) couple-yill, “a potation given to house-carpenters at putting up the couples or rafters on a new house” (Teviotdale 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.).(1) Ork. c.1912 J. Omond Orkney 80 Years ago 14:
The soople swings above and behind your head and comes down with a whack on the head of the sheaf, not your own head, and not the cupple backs.
Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 231:
Syne I cut the ceilin' aboon the bed — pat a door atween the twa chair backs — laid a caff-bed on the door — set the wife an' little anes aboon that — and then gaed up mysel' to the couplebaulk, an' held the door firm wi my feet, an' had an axe ready to cut the hoose roof in case o' need.
Bnff. 1887 J. Yeats in Trans. Bnffsh. Field Club 69:
At last one night he reasted the mill and hid himself in a straw casie, which rested on the couple bauks.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 67:
With a rope he tied it to the cupple balk in the stable.
(2)Kcd. c.1840 Jervise MS.
The joining of the hill and sky. "It's closin in aboot the couplefeet an' that's an ill sign o' t."
(3) Ork. 1908 J. T. S. Leask in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Sh., etc. I. viii. 325:
Dey bed i' ae end an' the coo an' yow i' the ither, wi' da fools api' da twart-backs, an' a footh o' rattans playan digeedoo aboot da couplelegs i' the aisins.
Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 231–232:
We ware lang in this way, an' I cheered them the best I could, an' telt them the hours every noo an' than by my watch, that I hang up on the couple-leg i' my sight.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. 10:
The roofing “cupples,” firmly embedded in the walls at bottom, were fastened with wooden pins a-top to a short cross bar, the roof-tree extending from end to end of the house over this bar, and between the points of the cupple legs.

[O.Sc. has coupill, 1496, couple, 1639, cuppill, c.1420, cup(p)le, 1522, a pair of sloping rafters, or one of these (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. cuppil, coupill; O.Fr. *copla, cople, from Lat. copula (Hatz. and Darm. s.v. couple).]

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"Couple n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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