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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HANK, n.1, v. Also †hawnk and hunk (ne.Sc.). Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a loop, coil. Hence (1) Phrs.: hank o' fish, half-a-dozen fish looped on a string (Mry. 1911 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 109); hank o' trouble, difficulty, dilemma; the light (or heavy) hank of a job, the light (or heavy) part of a job or “end of the stick” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 81:
The men, that wad be noblest, An' speel the very sky, May hae some hanks o' trouble Afore they gang as high.

(2) Specif.: a skein of yarn of a certain length, varying according to the material, worsted, wool, linen, or cotton, and to the period, for which see quots. and Cut, n.1 With the change in making up yarn from length to weight, the word now connotes a certain weight. The discrepancies in the quots. are chiefly due to the fact that hank and hesp were freq. confused, in regard to linen yarn. A hank was an eighteenth part of a spindle of cotton (see Spinle). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1721 Rec. Conv. Burghs (1885) 273:
The short reel be one quarter long, one eln about, have six score threeds in every cut, three cuts to the hank, and eight hanks in the spindle; and the long reel be half eln long, tuo elns about, having six scor threeds in the cut, six cuts to the hank, and eight hanks in the spindle.
Edb. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (28 March):
All Thread manufactured in Scotland, is to be made up agreeably to the following standard: Ounce Threads. The Hank or Skein to contain 1 yard circumference, 40 threads in the Skein. Stitching or Pound Threads. The Hank or Skein to contain 2 yards circumference, 20 threads in the Skein. Lisle Threads. The Hank or Skein to contain 26 inches circumference, 24 threads in the Skein.
Abd. 1776 Abd. Journal (21 Oct.):
A Part of the first [crop of flax] being already dressed, produces Six Hanks in the Pound, without going above the Grist.
Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. III. 300:
Each spyndle [of linen yarn] contains four hanks, and each hank 12 cuts of 120 threads 90 inches in length.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sk. from Nature 166:
There's bodkins, thummels, hanks o' thread, There's awfu' whangs o' cheese an' bread.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 85:
The chaps wha selt the lint in stricks, An' coft the yarn in hanks, man.
Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 111:
She gars me rin, she gars me wait, She gars me haud the hank for glee.
Sc. 1869 D. Bremner Industries 165:
The [woollen] yarn requiring to be dyed is reeled into “cuts,” and “hanks” of three, four, or six “cuts,” as found most convenient.
Ags. 1883 Brechin Advertiser (9 Jan.) 3:
I've kent auld wives 'at keepit an auld horse shoe an' a bunch o' roddens tied thegither in a hank o' red wirset an' hung on the back o' the byre door.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxi:
Do you see that hank? . . . But it's all a fankle, as ye see.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xi.:
As the auld saying gangs, bleach your warst hanks in your ain yaird.
Abd. 1952 Buchan Observer (26 Aug.):
3 ply Fingering Wool, 50 shades, at 1/- per 1 oz. Hank. . . . 3 ply Wheeling Wool, Grey, Navy, Lovat, Marls and Heathers, at 1/10½ per 2 oz. Hank.

Phrs.: (a) to ha'e or haud the hank in one's ain hand, to have control, be master of a situation; (b) to keep one's hand at one's ain hank, to mind one's own business; (c) to redd the hank, to clear up a difficulty, explain matters.(a) Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. i.:
If ye had held the hank in yere ain hand, ye couldna hae guided the steeds of fortune's chariot better.
ne.Sc. 1888 D. Grant Keckleton 14:
Believin' that I had the hank o' circumstances fairly in my ain han', an' cud win' the thread just as I wished.
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. v.:
Noo that Robbie's awa' she has the hank in her ain hand.
(b) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 139:
Keep your ain han' at your ain hank, Nor fash wi' fremmit matters.
(c) Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 11:
I'm queer mysel' about the head, An' kenna wha the hank can redd.

(3) A loop for securing a gate or door, etc. (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1956). Common in Eng. dials. In pl.: the iron mountings on a swingle-tree (Kcb.10 1956, obsol.).Ork. 1734 in P. Ork. A.S. (1923) 65:
Three sufficient harrows and harrowing irons, . . . six Coulters and one Sock, and two Culters and four Socks, three lives, four pairs of hanks, five forks, three bolts.

(4) Dim. hankey, a train of sledges on an ice-slope. Dmf. 1915 D. J. Beattie Oor Gate-En' 18:
Maybe a dizen mill yins wad come dirlin' doon the Brae in what was kent as a "hankey".

2. Fig. Hold, influence, control (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 12). Now dial. in Eng. Phr. to hae nae hank in one's hand, to be a spendthrift, to squander recklessly (Dmf. 1954).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 201:
If you will tell your Secret to your Servant, you have made him your Master. For having that hawnk over you he will be saucy.
Sc. 1771 Smollett H. Clinker II. 201:
Humphry had this double hank upon her inclinations.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxxviii.:
The Antiquary . . . was delighted with the hank this incident had given him over the young sportsman.
Ayr. 1855 H. Ainslie Sc. Songs 72:
An' the braes where we sat, An' the broom-covered knowes, Took a hank on this heart I ne'er can unloose.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (8 Nov.) 3:
He is far in the glimmering twilight of life and has but a feeble hank on this world.

3. A hesitancy in speech, natural or affected (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 12; Rxb., Slk. 1956), in the Ayr. 1788 quot. with a play on meaning 1.; hesitation in gen., delay.Ayr. 1788 J. Lapraik Poems 31:
I love a friend that's frank and free, Who tells to me his mind: I hate to hing upon a hank, With hums and has confin'd.
Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (May) 121:
Mind now, no hank about it! If any of them say you can't go, you'll come straight back and say so.

4. Fig. A predicament, dilemma. Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xiii.:
Your story puts me in a hank.

II. v. 1. To gather into coils or hanks, to loop (I.Sc., Ags., m.Lth., Bwk. 1956). Phr.: to hank aff, to unwind (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)).Sc. 1727 A. Law Educ. Edb. (1965) 226:
The twisting of threed bleching milning Hanking or Reeling Back rowing and upmaking of the same.
Dmb. 1879 J. Napier Folk-Lore 159:
In my grandfather's house, between sixty and seventy years ago, on the 31st December (Hogmanay), all household work was stopped. rock emptied, yarn reeled and hanked, and wheel and reel put into an outhouse.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 13:
“Na! feth I!” I says, “Boy! aald Rasmie is feft,” Dan he hankit his tail ower his elbik and left.
Ork. c.1912 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 26:
I remember . . . going to have a ride on his white horse. I had hanked up the horse hair tether.

Hence hanker, one who makes or throws hanks or coils; a quoit-player (Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (19 Sept.) 3).

2. To fasten, secure, link, esp. by means of a loop (Sc. 1808 Jam.), lit. and fig. Now dial. in Eng.; to tie tightly, to constrict (Ib.; Mry.1 1925; ne.Sc., Rxb. 1956); to grip, cripple (with pain). Ppl.adj. hankit, constricted, of the chest with a cold (Abd. 1956).Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore 52:
And till him straight, and binds him o'er again, Till he cry'd out with the sair hanking pain.
Ags. 1812 R. Wighton Beggar's Son 48:
Sometimes losses too wi' lennin' But his purse he never hanks.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 63:
If baith my han's were hanket hard an' fast.
Rxb. 1875 N. Elliott Nellie Macpherson 43:
Cadger Willie carries them in a creel by main strength and a piece rope hanket tae the hanils.
Ags. 1883 J. Kennedy Poems 84:
Sic a waefu' wanworth meddler Weel deserves a hankit craig.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 40:
Hankin' thae facts wi' the souch o' the win', We ken that it's summer though far in the toun.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 189:
But on the peak o' its Steeple — for a' I was worth — I was hankit an' close pris'ner held!
Gsw. 1948 Bulletin (7 May):
I'll fetch a trailer to hank on ahint ye, an' ye can gi'e me a hurl.
Abd.30 1956:
The bairn's hankit intae claes that's ower little for her.

3. tr. and intr. To entangle, catch or be caught, as by a loop, to hold up (Mry.1 c.1925; e. and sm.Sc., Rxb. 1956); also fig.Sc. 1744 E. Erskine Works (1871) III. 201:
The heart of the bride being thus hanked or catched with the glory of the Bridegroom.
Sc. 1749 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 101:
At a cut-head, in one of the Earl's [coal] works, the winlass turned about, and continued running till the rope hanked.
Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 35:
Meg, rinning like a flea in a blanket, Her coats upon a lang nail hanket.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A man is said to be hankit, when he has so engaged himself to a woman, that he cannot recede without the breach of faith, and loss of character.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate xxx.:
If you will put your plough into new land, you must look to have it hank on a stone now and then.
Sc. 1847 Tait's Mag. (Oct.) 659:
What's the use o' them [trees], I should like to ken, but just to hank our lines and spoil our fishing.
Ags. c.1885 J. S. Cadell Fisher-folk 50:
Div ye no see the line is hankit?
Gall. 1930 H. Maxwell Place-Names Gall. 242:
Sheephank [a place-name]. A place on the sea-cliff where sheep are apt to be “hanked” or caught.
s.Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (Sept.) 133:
“I'm hankit, man — the breest,” . . . Backburnbus was struggling with his waist-coat, which had pocketted one of the fir spurs.
Sc. 1956 J. Wood Seine Fishers vi.:
We must know the nature of the bottom itself; for the sharp leaning rocks can hank our gear.

Phr.: to hank ane's hand, to stay one's hand, to cease work.Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
He hanked his hand; hank dy hand a “halicrack”! hold on! stop for a minute!

4. With about: to hang around, to loiter.Sc. c.1716 Hogg Jacobite Relics (1819) I. 111:
He'll fley away the wild birds that hank about the throne, My bonny cuckoo, when he comes home.

5. Of speech: to stutter, to stammer (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1956). Cf. Hanker.

[O.Sc. hank, c.1420, a coil or loop, 1501, a skein of gold or silver wire or thread, 1569, a skein of thread, yarn, etc.; from a.1400, to catch as if in a noose, make fast, lit. and fig.]

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



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