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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LAIR, n.1, v.1 Also lare, layer; lear. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. The act of laying down; specif., in bleaching, of cloth laid down at one time to be bleached.Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (March) 12:
Any who incline to send Cloth to the same Field are desired to send it soon for the first Lair.

2. The place where anything is laid down, in various technical usages; (1) in pottery: the place where earthenware vessels are baked or glazed after dipping.Gsw. 1843 Children in Trades Report (2) i 75:
One boy is required to every four men; his occupation being to carry the goods when made to the “lear” to anneal.
Ib. k 22:
I clear the lair for dipping.

(2) A piece of ground on which coal was piled by the bearer under the old system of mining.Lth. 1800 D. Bremner Industries (1869) 8:
It is agried that every Birer shall keep her own Border or Lair.

(3) A place where mussels are stored for bait (Mry.1 1925).

3. A bed, or couch. Rare or obs. in Eng.Ayr. 1784 Burns Elegy R. Ruisseaux i.:
Now Robin lies in his last lair.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A hard bed is called an ill lair.
Sc. 1831 Carlyle Sartor Res. i. iii.:
Hunger-stricken into its lair of straw.
w.Sc. 1869 A. MacDonald Settlement (1877) xii.:
Drowsy and stupid, they rose from their lairs, rubbed their eyes, and looked around.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 205:
My lair is in a foreign land.
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 104:
Amang the blankets in my lair I'll sleep fu' bien.
Abd.27 1950:
She's nae in a gweed lair = She is ill and not progressing. Often used of a woman who has had a bad confinement.

4. A place where animals lie down; a fold or enclosure for cattle or sheep (Sh. 1960, obsol.), freq. in place-names (Lth. 1960).Sc. 1729 W. Macintosh Inclosing. 265:
If it ly very flat, and subject to be wet in Winter, it is not a wholesome Lair for Sheep.
Bwk. 1781 Caled. Mercury (24 March):
From that in a line to the Lamblayer at the top of the hill; and then in a line west from said Layer to the Clints March.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 151:
I'm gaun to the hill-side, thou sodger-gentleman, To shift my sheep their lair.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck I. 287:
An' do thou give to the puir stray thing a weel-hained heff and a beildy lair.
Rxb. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. I. 211:
Three lambs I hae on Crawbrae lair Will no be worth a benty-strae.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 38:
To keep that hunder nowt separate frae the rest o' the cattle, baith in the lairs an' in the parks at Aberspendie.

Comb. lair-breacker, an unruly animal that breaks out of folds.Wgt. 1702 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 27:
Beasts that are lair-breackers, and no deyck will turn them.

5. One's last resting-place, a grave, specif. a burial-plot in a graveyard. Gen.Sc. Also attrib.Bnff. 1703 Ch. Grange (Cramond 1898) 69:
The officer was appoynted not to brake up ground to bury any within the church that are not heritors, or have not right, till they secure for the payment of the lare silver.
Gsw. 1721 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909) 111:
To take up ane accompt of the dimensions and extent of the lares and burial places in the Northwest Kirkyeard.
Dmb. 1730 in G. Eyre-Todd Byeways (1900) 183:
All . . . should pay in to the kirk session a shilling for each graff or lair possest or claim'd by them.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 81:
The new settlers are, however, taking off layers at the new church-yard of Doune.
Rnf. 1815 W. Finlayson Rhymes 27:
We may be biggin' castles in the air, When death is howkin' for our banes a lair!
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle 247:
He has a lair i' the auld kirk, aside's feyther.
Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne 177:
Noo that ye're a proprietor in the parish ye're entitled to a lair in the kirkyaird.
wm.Sc. a.1930 N. Munro Looker-on (1933) 99:
I have just been to his funeral in the Necropolis, where he lies . . . on the other side of the hill from the lair of his partner, old Macaulay.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 112:
Again the earth above the lair was turned over, and again the sad little procession wound up the Dundonald road and another chapter was closed.
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 32:
Yer lair's on the Holy Isle?
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 98:
We shauchelt there
stairched, stiff suits, stiff hair slairged owre
wi Brylcreem, sleekit dacklin feet
'fore God's oorie lair.

Combs.: (1) lair-holder, the owner of a burial plot in a cemetery; (2) lair-neighbour, one who is buried in an adjacent grave; (3) lair-pin, a metal tally stuck on a lair to indicate its number; (4) lair-stane, -steen, -stehn, a grave-stone (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1960).(1) Sc. 1864 N. B. Mail (2 Nov.):
The sub committee of the lair-holders.
(2) Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales Grandmother 183:
Jenny Geddes is comin' to be her lair neighbour.
(3) Sc. 1956 Bulletin (15 Aug.) 3:
They saw a boy enter the cemetery, pick up a lair pin and belabour the headstones with it.
(4) Abd. 1702 Rec. Old Abd. (S.C.) II. 158:
From James Conquergood for a quarters lare stone on his wyfe[s] grave . . . £2 13 4.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 49:
Wash the wart with water that has collected in the carved parts that are found on some old “layer” stones.
Rxb. 1900 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. XXXII. 97:
The “lairstane” of Walter Scott of Goldielands.
Abd. 1924 Trans. Bch. Field Club XIII. 43:
I wud jist 'a' teen 'im to the kirkyaard an' latten 'im see's lairsteen.

6. A part of a peat-moss: (1) allotted to each tenant on an estate from which he may cut fuel (ne.Sc., Uls. 1960); (2) on which each tenant lays his peats to dry (n.Sc. 1960). Dim. lairach, id., mossy ground (Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Sc. Songs 31). Cf. 2. (2).(1) Abd. 1723 S.C. Misc. (1935) I. 45:
To fill up their pots, levell their lair behind them.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 8:
Each of whom usually had his croft or piece of land to till and his “lair” in the moss to furnish him with fuel.
Bnff. 1929 Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 110:
I howkit peats an' keest them fae the lair.
Abd. 1955 Buchan Observer (4 Oct.):
Many villagers worked their own lairs, but men who were fully employed at their own trade hired a mosser to do the cutting for them.
(2) Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 74:
I've seen them tumblin i' the lair On braid day-light wi' buttocks bare.
Sc. 1841 Quarterly Jnl. Agric. XII. 145:
The lair or ground on which the peats are to be laid for drying.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 100:
Oor fouck are at the hill the day fillin' the lair.
Sc. 1897 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 193:
The “bank,” or open wall of moss, is very low, and the peats are laid in piles on the top of it, and now wheeled out and spread over the “lair,” as in Scotland.
Bnff. 1926 Banffshire Jnl. (4 May) 6:
The wheel of his barrow sinks to the axle in the soft “lair”.
Abd. 1959 People's Jnl. (1 Aug.):
Some o' the mair forcey chiels hid hame their first cuttin' afore the hiner-en' o' June an' the lair full't ag'in.

II. v. 1. To lay down, to place in position, specif. of a mill-stone (Abd., Ags. 1960).Abd. 1948 Huntly Express (16 Jan.):
Perhaps the operation requiring most skill then as now in the oatmeal miller's craft was the proper picking and dressing of the grinding stones and the lairing or setting of them.

2. To drive cattle or sheep to their folds. Hence lairer, lairing-staff, a stick used by herd-boys for this purpose (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 311).Rxb. 1767 Craig & Laing Hawick Tradition (1898) 252:
That part of the Common called the west end of the little Bailie Hill, where Mungo Armstrong used to lair the black cattle under the charge in the middle of the day.

3. To lay in the grave, to bury (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Ags., Fif. 1960).Edb. 1779 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 119:
Nor care tho' a' her sons were lair'd Ten fathom i' the auld kirk-yard.
Sc. 1935 W. D. Cocker Further Poems 74:
In the Kirk-yaird, Smoored wi' the leaves that fa' at the end o' the year, My auld man's laired.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alexander Scott in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 70:
Laired in Langholm [poem title - Note: On 13th September 1978 Hugh MacDiarmid was buried in his birthplace, Langholm]

[O.Sc. lair, a cattle fold, 1513, a grave, c.1420, peat-drying site, 1615, peat-bank, 1641, to lie resting, of cattle, 1591, lair-silvir, 1508, lair-stane, 1588.]

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"Lair n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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