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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GEAR, n., v. Also †geer, †geir; ¶gier (Sc. 1791 in Child Ballads No. 184 iii.), ¶gaer (Ags. 1846 G. Macfarlane Rhymes), ¶gare (Ork. 1893 Sc. Antiquary viii. 56). [Sc. gi:r, but em.Sc. (a) + ge:r; Sh., Ork. gje:r]

Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. Possessions in gen.; wealth, money. Often in exprs. goods (guids) and gear, warl(d)'s gear, worldly possessions, money and property. Also in n.Eng. dial. Gen.Sc.Wgt. 1711 in Stat. Acc.2 IV. 14:
John Stuart, . . . about anno 1685 . . . was stript of all his goods and gear.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 41:
While we are bisy gathering Gear, Upon a Brae they'll sit and sneer.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Ep. to Young Friend vii.:
And gather gear by ev'ry wile, That's justify'd by Honor.
Fif. 1798 R. Flockhart Sk. of Times 9:
Our forefathers now, well I trow, Spent not their gear as we do now.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 6:
He saw at least ae specious charm — The lassie's gear wad stock a farm.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxvi.:
O Jeanie woman, ye haena lookit — ye haena seen the half o' the gear.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 113:
I wiss the readers o' the Club . . . routh o' warl's gear, an' content, whilk's . . . twa o' the greatest blessin's oon'er the sun.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. & Poems 128:
Fer shü hae's gear (No 'at I care) An' kye baith milk an' forrow.
Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 58:
“Ye'll get but scant warld's geir there,” said Kirkton.
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 59:
Indebted to him to the hin'most shaird, An' last half plack o' a' my guids and gear.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 15:
Sae the sax days' darg o God is skailt.
An brocht by fire tae nocht again.
But Lord, sae great thy gear ye'd loss
A thoosan warlds an hardly ken!

Hence geary, adj., wealthy (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 248). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 10:
A hairy man's a geary man, but a hairy wife's a witch.

2. More specif.: movable property, effects, household goods, livestock, etc.: “odds and ends lying about” (Abd., Ags. 1954). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. (mainly n.) dial.Sc. 1712 Sc. Courant (9–12 May):
There is to be sold the whole Stock of Geir of the said Room of Kingledores, and Craig Kingledores.
Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 11:
A sword, a pistol, and a gun . . . A new blew bonnet and cockade . . . Was a' the gear that Johny had.
m.Lth. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) lvi.:
And how the packman, Rabie Gray, Beguil'd a wife the ither day; For he did gar her sweetly pay For crackit gear.
Ayr. 1803 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 115:
Border wights, . . . troop'd about, in winter nights, To gather nolt and soudron geer.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 165:
For weel we ken your errand here, You came to steal our horn'd gear.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 14:
They begoot tae tear the gear oot o' the hooses like mad.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped i.:
“So soon,” says he, “as I am gone, and the house is redd up and the gear disposed of.”
ne.Sc. 1929 M. W. Simpson Day's End 53:
His pipes awyte, were a' his gear — But his kilt was the tartan o' the Gordon clan.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 101:
The dreams we dream, the joys we crave, The gowd, the gear, an' a' the lave.

3. Harness, traces for a draught horse (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.). Common in Eng. dial.

Comb. gear-powl, ? the shaft of a cart. Dmf. 1820 Letters T. Carlyle to his Brother (Marrs 1968) 53:
It would do your heart good to see me placed upright like a gear-powl, over against a chair.

4. (1) Stuff, material, in gen. (Fif.13, Rxb.4 1950; Sh., Cai., Bnff., Ags., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s); also of things (Ags, Ayr 2000s). Sometimes used in a depreciatory sense = rubbish (Cai.7, Abd.27, Ags.18 1954). Also fig.Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 48:
How, for the gear that Simmers bring, She's hardly match't by ony.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 2:
I here wha sit am coarser gear than you.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxv.:
“There goes Ringan's pick-axe!” cried Edie; “it's a shame . . . to sell siccan frail gear. Try the shool.”
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 82:
Baith rotten banes and ither gear, May wealth o' them betide.
Rnf. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 53:
For ribbons, dolls, and a' sic gear she doesna' care a preen.
Abd. 1873 J. Ogg Willie Waly 74:
Weel I wat, they [verses] are fusionless gear.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 122:
Gude gear gangs into little bouk. [Mod.: guid gear (gangs) in sma' (little) buik, applied to a small but capable person (Abd.27, Slg.3, Edb.1, Ayr.8, Wgt.4, Rxb.4 1954).]
Sc. 1994 Daily Record 29 Jul 26:
Thousands have had to face learning that they'll never grow taller than an average eight-year-old. And many people grow up brilliant, proving the old Scots saying: "Guid gear goes into small bulk."

†(2) Stuff for eating or drinking: food or drink; crops, grain, etc. Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 36:
“Gueed speldings, fa will buy.” An', by my saul, they're nae wrang gear To gust a stirrah's mow.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 132:
I'm sure, on him I sanna spare A bicker o' guid reamin' gear.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 129:
Stegh the loun weel wi' haimart gear, It kens nae marrow.
ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 143:
Such as preferred “a drap o' the raw geer,” or ale to the toddy, received it.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders iv.:
There were . . . two kinds of the lads who bring over the dutiless gear from Holland.
Abd. 1923 H. Beaton Benachie 112:
Seen, fin butter cam', it was saft, fenless gear.
Ork. 1930 Orcadian (13 Feb.):
In a wet harvest sheaves so secured in good time kept the “gear” in good fettle.

5. With neg.: the smallest quantity, an atom, in such phrs. as †(1) fint a gear, nae — —, devil a bit; cf. Fient, n., 2. (1); (2) naither gear nor guid, nothing at all; “neither one thing nor another” (Bnff.2 1946). See Guid.(1) Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings 17:
A house was naething to maintain, The fint a gear!
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 225:
Nae ae gear o' mehls-corn's gehn our's craig for twa days.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 364:
Onything they get ower handy they think nae gear aboot.
(2) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 225:
There's naither gear nor gueede i' the hoose.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
Ye stupid snite, comin' awa tae muck a henhoose wi' naeder gear nor guid tae muck it wi'.

6. Phrs. & Combs.: †(1) as sure as ony gear, as sure as anything (Sc. 1900 E.D.D.); (2) gaun gear, see Gae, v., B. III. 3.; ‡(3) gear-gatherer, a money-making man, a hoarder of wealth (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff., Abd., Fif. 1954); ppl.adj., vbl.n. gear-gatherin, accumulating wealth; a girl's “bottom drawer” (Fif. 1954); ¶(4) gear-gift, heritage; ¶(5) gear-pock, money-bag.(3) Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce II. viii.:
A douce, weel-tochered, auld lass-a great gear-gatherer.
Abd. 1954 Huntly Express (23 April):
He wis o' the gear-gatherin' kin'.
(4) Sc.(E) 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxi. 5:
O' wha fear thy name, the gear-gift ye hae gien me.
(5) Hdg. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes 58:
They toil'd in hundreds, grit an' sma', To heap your burstin' gear-pock!

II. v. 1. To adorn, dress. Vbl.n. gearin', clothing. Also in n.Eng. dial.Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop Poems 117:
Wha focht maist when at the schule, 'Bout her geerin' aye wad blaw, Lee, and ca' the maister fool.

2. To equip. Arch. Obs. since 15th c. in Eng. Vbl.n. gearin', equipment, tackle.Sc. 1833 Fraser's Mag. VIII. 650:
We accordingly geared ourself, and, switch in hand . . . sallied out.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 197:
Let our youngsters kick the mools, They're gear'd for life's braw race.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 51:
She baitit his lines, an' leuk'd after his gearin'.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 81:
Saxteen stanes, apairt fae gearin', Sat the Laird upon his beast.

[O.Sc. has gere, geir, geere, gear, etc., dress, personal equipment, from c.1420, apparatus, tackle, from 1375, personal possessions, from a.1500, live-stock, 1584; gerit, provided with arms and armour, from 1456.]

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"Gear n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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