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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MAIDEN, n., v. Sc. usages, now mostly obs.:

I. n. 1. Sc. deriv. and combs.: (1) maiden-chance, a first chance or opportunity; (2) maiden cummer, a young woman who acts as attendant to the mother at a christening. See Cummer, n.2, 1. and (8); (3) maiden egg, the first egg laid by a hen (Kcb. 1897 66th Report Brit. Ass. 471); (4) maiden fish, ? the skate, Raja batis. Cf. (5) and 7.; (5) maiden flounder, a young flounder, Platichthys flesus (Ags. 1962). Cf. (4) and 7.; (6) maiden('s) hair, the coarse sinews in certain cuts of beef when boiled (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Mry., Kcd. 1962); (7) maidenheid, -head, (i) = 5. below; (ii) the cowrie shell (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Wgt. 1959). Cf. Gael. maighdea(la)g, id., maighdeag, a maiden; (8) maiden-kimmer, = (2) (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 336); (9) maiden mylies, see Midden; (10) maiden pie, a dish eaten on the day after a penny wedding (see quot.); (11) maiden ridge, a party of three young unmarried women working together in reaping a ridge of grain; (12) maiden set, a set of dancers composed entirely of unmarried women; (13) maiden skate, a young specimen of the thornback ray, Raja clavata (Fif., Lth. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1887 Sc. Naturalist 15), also of the skate, Raja batis and similar members of the ray species; (14) maiden steen (see quot.) (Abd. 1962); (15) maiden trace, orig. the procession of bride and bridesmaids at a wedding, later the pipe tune played as an accompaniment to this (see quot.); (16) maiden woo, ? a variety of cotton grass, Eriophorum. Cf. luckie's oo s.v. Luckie.(1) Dmf. 1861 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 114:
Yer ain lug 'se get the maiden chance, Loot doon and hear me.
(2) Sc. 1710 Caldwell Papers (M.C.) 265:
A few days after this the same company was asked to the Christening, which was all-wise in the Church; all in high dress; a number of them young ladys, who were call'd maiden Cummers. One of them presented the Child to the Father.
Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage II. xi.:
As for the kirsnin, that was aye whar it sude be — i' the hoos o' God, an' aw the kith an' kin bye in full dress, an' a band o' maiden cimmers aw in white.
Mry. 1828 J. Ruddiman Tales & Sk. 240:
The opening prayer was first given by the clergyman; then one of the maiden cummers, or god-mothers, in this case an interesting girl, of about fourteen years of age, took the infant from the capacious lap of the officiating goddess . . . and delivered it into the hands of the father.
(4) Ags. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XI. 256:
Stone-fish, and maiden-fish.
(5) Ib.:
Craig-flounder, and maiden flounder.
(6) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 336:
Maiden-hair. — The muscles of oxen, when boiled, termed fix faux, towards the border; it is called maiden-hair, from its resembling in colour the hair of a maiden.
(7) (i) Dmb. 1900 J. G. Frazer Golden Bough II. 185:
In other farms on the Gareloch the last handful of corn was called the Maidenhead or the Head.
(10) Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. X. 102:
Pennie Waddings. The parties, being servants, bid each as many friends as they please, then the masters bid as many as they think proper. Then they go to the butcher and a spirit shop: and buy beef and drink. They appoint a person to sell the goods out at the public price. The lasses pay 4 pence more than the lads; which is laid out on a Maiden pie to be eaten on the auld waddin day.
(11) Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm III. 1051:
What is called a maiden-ridge, of 3 young women, will beat a bull-ridge, of 3 men, at reaping any sort of corn, on any given day.
(12) Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Lady Jean's Son xi.:
One [dance] called “the maiden set”, for the dancers admitted no married woman into their ranks.
(13) Ork. a.1795 G. Low Fauna Orcad. (1813) 168:
The young, or, as the fishermen call them, the maiden skates, are very good eating.
Lth. 1837 Wernerian Soc. Mem. VII. 437:
The young specimens from a foot to a foot and a half in length, are named maidens or maiden skates, and are considered the best size for the table.
(14) Abd. 1951:
Maiden steen. A building stone newly hewn, that has not been used before. It is unlucky to use in a new building stones that have been salvaged from an old one.
(15) Rnf. a.1670 in J. Watson Choice Coll. (1706) I. 32:
She [Kilbarchan] hath lost her Game and Grace, Both Trixie, and the Maiden Trace.
Rnf. 1808 in J. Paterson Sempill Poems (1849) 90:
It was the custom at Kilbarchan in former times, says Mr Millar, “for the bride and her maidens to walk three times round the church before the marriage was celebrated led on by the piper, who played some peculiar tune on the occasion, which got the name of the Maiden-trace”.
(16) Cai. 1829 J. Hay Poems 74:
Marshmallow root, trifula blue, An' smooth lamb's tongue, an' maiden woo.

2. A title given to the eldest or only daughter of a landowner or farmer (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1962). Also ha'-maiden, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer who sits apart from the servants. See Ha, n., 2. (1).Sc. 1824 Eppie Morie in Child Ballads No. 223. xii.:
In came the maiden of Scalletter, Gown and shirt alone.
Bwk. 1825 Jam.:
Ha-maiden. A phrase introduced when farmers began to have a but and a ben. Hence a proverb; “A ha'-maiden, and a hynd's cow, are ay eatin'”.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxiii.:
They say he's gyaun to get your maiden yon'er, an' that Gushetneuk's to be pitten tee to Clinkstyle, to mak' a richt fairm to them.
Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 8:
Who sees must love an' be her thrall, The Maiden o' Locharmick!
Abd. 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War 39:
Oor maiden's neist, ye've heard o' her, new hame fae buirdin' squeel.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
Though I say't masel, I lookit weel ance, forbye bein' the maiden o' Boggieneuk o' three ploo's na less.

3. A servant-girl, a maid (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Ags. 1962). Arch. in Eng.Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 186:
She smasht a plate oure the maiden's powe.

4. A maiden lady, an old maid (Abd., Ags. 1962). Maiden's bairn, = auld maid's bairn. See Maid, 1. (1). Phr. to gae maiden, to remain single.Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 36:
The maiden's bairns is a' unco weel bred.
Sc. c.1783 Twa Sisters in Child Ballads No. 10 B. xv.:
Your cherry cheeks an yallow hair Gars me gae maiden for evermair.

5. The last bunch of corn to be cut on a particular farm at harvest time, frequently shaped and decorated in the image of a maiden and regarded as a symbol of the corn spirit (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 254; ‡ne., em.Sc.(a) 1962). Hence, by extension: the harvest-home feast and celebrations, the Kirn. In mod. usage occas. applied to the last load of corn to be brought home at harvest time (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 257; Fif.17 1951).Per. 1734 Atholl MSS.:
3 Bottles of Whiskie to the shearers when they got his Graces Maiden . . . 0. 3s. 0.
Sc. 1786 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 42:
For now the Maiden has been won, And Winter is at last brought in.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 550:
The fortunate lass who took the maiden was the Queen of the feast.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 144:
The master has them bidden Come back again, be't foul or fair, 'Gainst gloamin', to the Maiden.
Gall. 1822 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 421:
This is the handful of oats which has been cut last the preceding harvest dressed up into the shape and designation of a maiden.
Ags. 1830 A. Balfour Weeds 166:
According to general custom, a handful of oats in the straw, fancifully plaited and decorated with ribbons, was fastened to the wall above the mantel-piece, as last year's maiden.
Fif. 1864 St. Andrews Gaz. (1 Oct.):
The “Loans' maiden” is not a mere sham, as too many of our “maidens” are now-a-days, but a thoroughly substantial affair, and partakes largely of the “patriarchal feasts” of the past.
Per. 1885 E. J. Guthrie Old Sc. Customs 130:
It was generally so contrived that this [maiden] fell into the hands of one of the prettiest girls in the field; it was then decked up with ribbons, and brought home in triumph to the sound of bagpipes and fiddles. A good dance was given to the reapers, and the evening was devoted to merriment. Afterwards the “Maiden” was dressed out, generally in the form of a cross, and hung up, with the date attached to it in some conspicuous part of the house.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 190:
At the cutting of the corn, he said, the last sheaf was taken by the youngest person in the field; it was bound in the shape of a woman and called the clyack sheaf, or the maiden.
Fif. 1962 Scots Mag. (June) 210:
The lucky one who brought the Maiden got a silver piece and a dram. The Maiden was plaited and hung on the kitchen ceiling till next harvest, for luck.
Fif. 1992 Sheila Douglas ed. The Sang's the Thing: Voices from Lowland Scotland 93:
There was Maidens - efter the harvest, the big thing, ye ken, the hairvest hame - but we cried them Maidens.

Combs.: (1) maiden clyack, see quot. and Clyack (Bnff.2 1928; ne.Sc. 1962); (2) maiden day, the day when the last sheaf of the harvest is cut (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (3) maiden feast, the harvest-home celebrations; (4) maiden night, the night of the harvest home; (5) maiden play, = (3) (Ags. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XI. 361); (6) maiden rip, = (7); (7) maiden sheaf, the last sheaf of corn to be cut (see quot.); (8) tattie maiden, the festivities following the end of the potato harvest. See Tattie.(1) Abd. 1900 Trans. Bch. Field Club V. 217:
The Clyack was either known as the Maiden or the Carlin Clyack, the former when the harvest was early, leaving a long go o' hairst, and the latter when the harvest was late.
(3) Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 550:
It was, till very lately, the custom to give what was called a Maiden Feast, upon the finishing of the harvest.
(4) Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 152:
They are fell doul'd an' weary This Maiden-night.
(5) Ags. 1879 J. Guthrie Poems 43:
The corn's a' in, the stacks are bound, And tatties pittit weel, When Messnie's maiden-play comes round, Wi' mony a dance and reel.
(6) Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 12:
She grips some stalks and twists the maiden rip In triple strands.
(7) Abd. 1948 Abd. Press & Jnl. (4 Nov.):
The traditional maiden sheaf, busked in red apron and white lace, was carried in the Grand March.
(8) Fif. 1830 A. Stewart Dunfermline (1889) 34:
The “'tattie howkin'” in October, followed by the “'tattie maiden”, or harvest home, was a great occasion to old and young.

6. A wisp of straw, fitted in an iron hoop and dipped in water, used by a blacksmith as a sprinkler to temper the heat of his fire (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).

7. A not-fully mature specimen of various species of ray, esp. the thornback ray, Raja clavata or the skate, Raja batis. See also 1. (4), (5) and (13).Ork. a.1795 G. Low Fauna Orcad. (1813) 168:
Rays of all shapes and dimensions are here called Skates, or thornback skates, only the young of all are called maidens.

8. An instrument similar to the guillotine, introduced in the 16th c. by the Earl of Morton and used to inflict capital punishment upon persons of rank. Hist.Sc. 1706 T. Morer Acct. of Scotland 32:
But the Instrument to execute the Nobility is much before our Axe. 'Tis called the Maiden, and is a broad Piece of Iron about a Foot square, exceeding sharp on the lower part, and loaded above with such a weight of Lead that you can scarce lift it.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 140:
He that invented the Maiden, first hanseled it. Viz. James Earl of Morton, who had been for some Years Governour of Scotland: but was afterwards cruelly, and unjustly, run down by a Party, as many have been since.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 75:
Now strike my finger in a bore My wyson with the maiden shore, Gin I can tell whilk I am for.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags lv.:
I should lay my head beside an Earl's on the block of the Maiden.
Sc. 1902 Sc. History & Life (Paton) 289:
Up to 1710 the maiden, which had been made in 1565, was used; and under its blade 120 persons, including Regent Morton, had surrendered their heads, which were thereafter placed on the Netherbow on a pike in the Tolbooth.

9. One of the two upright posts of a spinning wheel in which the ends of the yarn-spindle rest (Uls. a.1908 Traynor (1953); ‡Sh. 1962); also a free-standing tripod with a vertical spindle on which a yarn-bobbin revolved while being unwound (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 336).Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 71:
I wis juist taen it aff o' a bag o' wirsit it wis com frae sooth, an' hung it frae me haand apo da maidens o' Kirsie's wheel.

10. Mining: “iron frames or standards carrying pillow blocks of pithead pulleys” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 44).

11. A stick of some sort used in baking, ? for stirring dough, or phs. a rolling-pin.Mry. 1708 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 212:
A baken table, with a pill, colraik, and maiden.

II. v. tr. To act as a maiden to (a child) at baptism. See n., 1. (2).Lnk. 1825 Jam.:
The phraseology is: To maiden the wean.

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



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