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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.

DURK, n.1, v. Also dirk, dork, †dirg. [dʌrk]

1. n.

(1) A short dagger worn in the belt by Highlanders. Also fig.Sc. 1724–27 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1762) I. 7:
On his gray yad as he did ride, With durk and pistol by his side.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
Een like a blue huntin' hawk's, whilk gaed throu' and throu' me like a Hieland durk.
Sc. 1994 Times 21 May :
On with sporrans, dirks and kilts. Off with trousers and underpants. Don't wear tartan if you're not allowed the Scots can sniff a McBogus a mile off.
Sc. 1997 Times 6 Aug :
Umabatha transposes Macbeth from the land of withered hags, dirks and kilts to that of dancing sorceresses with beaded hair and leopard-skin robes.
n.Sc. 1724 Hist. Papers Jacobite Period (N.S.C. 1895) 133:
The Arms they make use of in War, are, . . . a Pistol and a Durk or Dagger, hanging by their side.
ne.Sc. 1991 Alastair Mackie in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 68:
Spring that gies me a scunner, I've this
to say to ye; turnin some street corner
aa o a sudden I get stobbed thro wi the dirks
o your weird-like breerin.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 48:
The Dirkanglavies lowpit oot,
wi dirk an sgian du,
an hackit him frae craig tae fuit
an stickit him richt thro.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry xvii.:
Her tartan petticoat she'll kilt, An' durk an' pistol at her belt, She'll tak the streets.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders vii.:
There's mair need to be as quiet as an ash-leaf twirlin' to the grund in a windless frost. Tak' a durk, man, instead!
Slk. 1835 Hogg Wars Montrose III. 15:
Ilka man has a sword an' a gun, a knapsack an' a durk.

¶(2) Appar. a sort of clasp-knife.Ayr. 1795 Burns Letters (ed. Ferguson) No. 682:
He was despoiled of his durk, and that durk despoiled of its knife and fork, and silver mounting which had indeed been very rich.

†(3) fig.: a spoiling, a bungling.Edb. 1906 C. B. Gunn G. Heriot's Hospital 10:
This sudden stoppage of the singing in the Chapel was termed a “dirk”.

(4) A stab, prod (Sh., Ork. 1975). Fif. 1879 W. D. Latto Song Sermons 50:
When he was trying to separate the calves from the cows, one of the latter, that had "a noble head of horns", gave him a dork in the hinder-quarters.

2. v.

(1) To stab with a dirk, or with some sharp-pointed instrument (Kcb.4 1900, dirg).wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 97:
Among the heedless follies he committed in Appin in that spring of 1752 was to let fall that Red Colin Campbell was planning more evictions and that it would gladden his heart, and James Stewart's, to see the factor dirked.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 87:
Mischievous weapons, antick and droll, Was both for cleaving and for clieking, And durking too.

†(2) fig.: to bungle, to ruin.Abd. 1900 E.D.D.:
I've durket mysel'. He's dnrket that job.
Edb. 1845 F. W. Bedford Hist. G. Heriot's Hospital (1859) 346:
Cunninghame is a capital singer, though he dirkit the tune last night.
Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton 169:
He's aye douchie baith in Billy's and Cockie's, and dirks almost everything he tries in his ither classes.

(3) To cheat, outsmart, outwit, get the better of in a bargain or the like (Slk. 1967).

[Origin obscure. O.Sc. has durk, n., from 1574 (dowrk, 1557), v., from 1599. The word appears first in Eng. in the form dork, 1602, the 17th cent. durk being dropped in favour of Johnson's form dirk, 1755. Possibly a corruption of L.Ger. dolk, dulk, id.]

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"Durk n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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