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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.

HESP, n.2, v.2 Also †hisp; heisp; hasp. Cf. Hank, n.1

I. n. 1. A length of yarn (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, hasp), gen. consisting of 12 cuts or the fourth part of a spindle (Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VI. 43), but strictly consisting of 2 hanks or one half of a spindle, i.e. 7200 yards of linen (see Spinle, n. 4.). Definitions vary in different localities (see quots.); a hank or skein of yarn, thread, or wool of this length (Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc., Cai., Ags., Fif., wm.Sc. 1957). See Cut, n.1 In commercial practice the term was seldom used and hence the later imprecision of its meaning.Abd. 1716 Sc. N. and Q. (Ser. 1) II. 89:
A little hesp of Yairn.
Edb. 1739 Cal. Mercury (29 Jan.):
A Forty Shilling Land of old Extent, and paying yearly of free Rent . . . 3½ Dozen of Hens, and 8 Hesps of Yarn.
Ags. c.1740 Sc. N. and Q. (Ser. 1) X. 93:
In Rossie's garret: So many hisps sevenfold for working fowling nets.
Abd. 1748 Abd. Journal (6 Sept.):
54 Hesps of Thread were stole from the Bleaching at Marnoch Kirk, they consisted some of 3, some 6, some 7, and some of 8 Cuts in the Hesp, the Hesps were 3 Qrs. long; some of them were 2 Ply, and some of them 3.
Ayr. 1793 W. Fullarton Agric. Ayr. 78:
1 cut, is equal to 5 score threads, or turns of the reel; — 2 cuts, make one hear; — 12 cuts, one hank, hasp, or slip; — 4 hanks, or 48 cuts, one spindle.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 6:
And thrice his dearest nearest gear — Maun through the hasp o' green yarn pass.
Ork. 1913 Old-Lore Misc. VI. i. 27:
One of these bars of wood was firmly fixed, and the other worked on a pivot to allow of the hesp being easily slipped off the reel.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Hesp, a skein of yarn, as much as is required in making one ell of kleth; from 400 to 500 threads according to their thickness.

2. Used fig. in phrs.: (1) a ravelt (or ra(i)velled) hesp, a tangled hesp, a confused, obscure state of affairs, a difficult situation, quandary (Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc., Cai., Ags. 1957); occas. without qualifying adj., id. Cf. v.; (2) to pit one's ain hand to one's ain hesp, to settle one's own affairs, mind one's own business.(1) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 375:
You have got a revel'd Hesp in Hand. That is, you have engag'd in an intricate Business.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 86:
Among us a' a ravell'd hesp ye've made, Sae now, put too your hand, an' help to red.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 301:
The ravelled hesps he makes them clear, And reds them out.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
Speak her fair and canny, or we will have a ravelled hasp on the yarn-windles.
Clc. 1850 J. Crawford Doric Lays 43:
We hae a tangled hesp to win' In this auld-farrant warl'.
Ags. 1873 T. Watson Poems, etc. 119:
Here was a ravelled hasp redd up wi' a vengeance.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 106:
He made a ravelled hesp o' their lives.
(2) Sc. 1826 Blackwood's Mag. (Oct.) 585:
“I'll help ye hame . . .” “I am much obliged to you . . . but I'll try to gar my ain shanks serve my ain turn, and ye may e'en put your ain hand to your ain hasp, my friend.”

3. Of other materials besides yarn: a tuft, a small bunch.Ags. 1824 Montrose Characters (1880) 29:
Like hasp of lint when through the heckle wrung.
Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 136:
As sure as that baird o' yours has an awfu' resemblance to a heisp o' meadow-hay.

II. v. To become entangled, of thread; also fig., to get into difficulties, to be involved in a trying situation. Found only as ppl.adj. hespit (Ags. 1957).Fif. 1919 T.S.D.C. III. 17:
A weaver with a bad web, a man troubled with family or money matters may say, “I'm awfu' hespit.” “He's sair hespit wi' yon wife o' his.”

Hence hesper, a hard thing to do; a difficult person to get on with (Uls. 1931 North. Whig (5 Dec.) 13).Uls. 1924 North Whig (5 Jan.):
One sometimes hears a dialogue like — “What kind of a wife has Joe got?” “My, she's a hesper!”

[O.Sc. hesp, etc., a hank of yarn, from 1565, hesper, 1645, an implement for making hasps of yarn; North. Mid.Eng. hasp, a.1400, c.1440, hespe, Mid.Du. haspe, O.N. hespa, id. The word may be the same in orig. as Hesp. n.1, the other Teut. langs. having similar developments of meaning, ? from the catch on the reel which indicated the measure of the yarn. Cf. Hesp, n.1 4.]

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"Hesp n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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