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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.

ELSHIN, n. A shoemaker's awl (Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr., Gl. 691; Ayr.3 1912; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork.5, Rxb.4 1950). Also †elson, †elsyn (Sc. 1808 Jam.); †elchin (Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 65); elshon (Ags. 1929 Montrose Standard (19 April)); †elshun, s.Sc.; elsin, s.Sc., Uls.; elison, elli(e)son, ellisin, ne.Sc.; ailsen; †a'lson (Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' 4); †alshin (Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 45; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein); alishin, †alison, †allisjon, †al(l)ishen, ellis(h)en, ellishin, †elishant, Sh. [′ɛl(ɪ)ʃɪn, ′ɛl(ɪ)sɪn Sc., but em.Sc.(b), Rxb. + ′ælʃən and Sh. + ′ælɪʃən, ′ælɪsən, ′ælɪsjən]Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 344:
Nor Hynds wi' Elson and hemp Lingle, Sit solling Shoon out o'er the Ingle.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
But he's as gleg as MacKeachan's elshin, that ran through six plies of bend-leather.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Gathering of the West i.:
I see more gentility in a pestle and mortar than a tar barrel, and little difference between an ellwand and an elsin.
s.Sc. 1835–40 J. M. Wilson (ed.) Tales of the Borders I. 42:
Dinna ye disgrace your faither by makin' bickers like the Coopers o' Nicolwood, or pinglin' wi' an elshin like the souters o' Selkirk.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 22:
Andra noticed 'at the' wur t'ree elsins sticked i' the sae-tree.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 104:
For peerie slip an bit o shaal Aa-thing frae füd doon ta da aal, Da ellishin.
Kcb. 1895 S. R. Crockett Moss-Hags xxiii.:
The elshin that had stottit on to the floor.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 21:
The cauper left his turnin' lay, the sooter wasna slaw To fling his lapstane in the neuk, the elshin, birse an' a'.

Phrs. and Combs.: 1. elshin box, a box for holding awls (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk.2 1950); 2. elshin-heft, (1) the handle of an awl; for sense of Dmf. quot., see quot. under 3. Hence ailsen-haftit, shaped like an awl-handle, fig. of a woman: pregnant; †(2) “the old designation for a jargonelle pear, from its resemblance to the haft of an awl” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, elson-); 3. elshin shaft = 2. (1); 4. Deil's elshin, the Shepherd's Needle, see Deil, n., VII. A. 11.; 5. to look ellishins at, to look “daggers” at.1. Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 83:
Ane ca's a thing like elsin box, That drools like corn pipes Fu' queer that day.
2. (1) Dmf. 1805 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 701:
An' ailsen-haftit hizzies fail Her greedy gapein' gab to feed.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 66:
And Willie thought him brawly sped, Nae room to doubt his courage left, His Jenny like an elson-heft.
s.Sc. 1835–40 J. M. Wilson (ed.) Tales of the Borders I. 67:
In his opinion, there was mair to be made by making elshin-hefts than by writing ballants.
(2)Sc. 1802 W. Forsyth Fruit Trees 91:
Elshin Haft, or Good-Man Pear; a long Pear, flat towards the eye.
3. Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 16:
Made Janet . . . grow like an Elshin shaft, and got his Maggy wi' bairn forby.
5. Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. and Poems 79:
He sat an' coffed an' lookit ellishins at Arty.

[O.Sc. elson, etc., from 1506, elshin, from 1577; Mid.Eng. elsyn(g), c.1440, Mid.Flem. elsen, Mid.Du. els(s)en(e), id.]

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"Elshin n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Oct 2022 <>



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