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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

GIRN, n.2, v.2 Also †girne, †gurn; grin (sm.Sc.). [gɪrn]

I. n. 1. A snare, variously made, with a running noose, for catching animals, birds or fish; “a snare made by stretching lines across a hoop and tying running loops or horse-hair on to the strings” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), also gird-an-girns, id.; “a snare on the end of a fishing rod, for catching trout in deep pools” (Ayr.1 1910; Slk. 1949). Also fig. = a trap. Gen.Sc.Rnf. 1716 W. Hector Judic. Rec. (1878) 102:
James Gardner, Blackholm, deponed negative, except ane Hare with a Girne.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 177:
Wha set their Gowden Girns sae wylie, Tho ne'er sae cautious they'd beguile ye.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 26:
Against thy life he lays the noosing grin.
Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (April) 55:
Civil law . . . a desperate foumart trap — a cursed gird-an-girns to grip all kinds of spulziers.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xlv.:
Mr Hickery rose to offer some apologys but, perceiving I had now got him in a girn, I . . . would not permit him to proceed.
Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1856) III. 226:
Fishin . . . sometimes wi' the baggy-mennon — and sometimes wi' the sawmon-rae —. . . or a girn!
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xvii.:
He discovered four dainty cutties, wi' the brass wire girns still roond their craigs.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 8:
Ae morn grim Death — that poacher fell — Gat Kirsty in his girn hersel'.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 46:
When Sandy set a girn, the very shilfas seemed to ken That the hair-loops wadna grip them.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 146:
Early on a fine morning he was working at the end of the house making a 'grinwan' - a willow rod with a hair noose for catching trout - to take down to a deep pool in the burn.

Phr. & Comb.: (1) grinwan, a stick to which is attached a girn for catching fish; see Wand; (2) marble and the girn, a game of skill.(1) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 483:
Am making a bit grinwan to mysell to tak down wi' me to a deep pool . . . fu' o' trouts.
(2) Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 167:
The “marble and the girn” with a prize of 3d. if you succeeded in leaving the “bool” in the girn.

2. “A twitch for holding the nose of a restive horse” (Arg.1 1937, Arg.3 1954), “the noose which is made with a halter and put in a horse's mouth” (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl; gurn Arg. 1993).

3. A drain for a wound, a seton (Borders 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1716 J. Moncrief Poor Man's Physic. 3:
A Seton, or Girn in the Neck [as a cure for epilepsy].

II. v. To catch in a girn, to snare (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 243, grin; Ant. a.1873 F. Grose Gl., Add.; Cai. 1900 E.D.D.; Abd. 1922; Cai., Fif., Arg., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1954); “to catch trouts by means of a noose of hair, which being fixed to the end of a stick or rod, is cautiously brought over their heads or tails; then they are thrown out with a jerk” (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags., Bwk., Dmf., Slk. 1954). Fig. to ensnare, to corner (a person) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Nhb. and Shr. dial.Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 205:
They . . . laid baits that girn'd maist ilka head.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms ix. 16:
The Lord is kennet bie the juudgemints that he deth; the wicket is girnet in the wark o' his ain han's.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 27:
He was a terr'ble callan' for doos, and didna swither lang . . . aboot girning ony strange anes that cam aboot the doors.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly xiii.:
He had been “girning” sticklebacks and “bairdies” in the shallow burns about the Loch of Lochend.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 4:
A met twae awfih sairious-on chiels, rale leike as ther seam was ti girn the bits o moppies skiltin aboot.
Lnk. 1928 W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane ix.:
He was full of expedients for gripping trout and girning rabbits.

[O.Sc. gyrne, girn, a noose, snare, to ensnare, from c.1400; O.North. giren, a trap, a met. form of O.E. grin, Eng. dial. grin.]

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"Girn n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Oct 2022 <>



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