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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MASON, n. Used as in Eng. = a stonemason, a Freemason, in Sc. combs.: 1. mason's bread, a mixture purporting to be oatcake given as a practical joke to an apprentice mason when passing out as a journeyman (see quot.) (Ork. 1962); 2. mason's fit, a mortar-board, a shallow tray with a handle protruding downwards from the centre, used by a mason for holding mortar (Abd. 1962), hence mason's fit gless, a broad, shallow, long-stemmed glass (Abd.1 1929); 3. mason's ghost, the robin redbreast (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., ‡Slk. 1962). See quot.; 4. mason-lodge, a Freemasons' lodge or meeting place. See also Lodge; 5. mason's mear, (1) a wooden trestle used by masons to support scaffolding (ne.Sc. 1962). See Mear; (2) a hod (Kcb.3 1939); 6. mason's mell, a whisky bottle shaped like a mason's mallet or hammer (Bnff. 1962). See Mell; †7. mason's rap, an early morning knock to rouse a workman, from the necessity of using all available daylight in the mason's working day; 8. Mason's Reel, a dance traditionally associated with Freemasons' gatherings; 9. mason('s) word, a secret word given to a masonic initiate. Cf. horseman's word s.v. Horse, n., 2. (34), and Word; any secret pass-word.1. Ags. 1932 Our Meigle Book 131:
Afterwards [the apprentice] was offered “Mason's bread”, which consisted of a mixture of mustard, pepper, and salt.
3. Rxb. 1915 Jedburgh Gaz. (17 Sept.) 3:
The Mason's Ghost: I have heard this ominous name applied in Jedburgh to the harmless Robin-redbreast, with allusion, I believe, to the fact that during frosty or snowy weather, when masons are unable to work and therefore stay more at home, the emboldened bird, unable to get its natural food (i.e., worms, &c.), may be said to “haunt” dwellings, frequently also entering them, in search of sustenance.
4. Sc. 1797 Monthly Mag. III. 215:
In some Mason Lodges in his neighbourhood, Burns had soon the fortune . . . to gain the notice of several gentlemen.
5. (1) Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 1:
The mason's mear syne he set up in the closs An' coupit the ladle fu' keen.
6. m.Sc. 1922 J. Buchan Huntingtower vii.:
A pot-bellied whisky decanter of the type that used to be known as a “mason's mell”.
7. Bwk. 1794 A. Lowe Agric. Bwk. 54:
Day-labourers have long kept these hours [6 a.m. to 6 p.m.], to which they were accustomed from being employed by gentlemen, and living long within the sound of the six o'clock bell, or a mason's rap. Shearers (reapers) work in harvest from sun-rising to sun-setting.
8. Kcd. 1955 Mearns Leader (9 Dec.) 5:
An old masonic custom was observed, when, on the stroke of midnight the brethren draped their aprons and sashes on their partners and, with lights dimmed, the company danced the Mason's Reel.
9. Sc. 1729 in R. F. Gould Concise Hist. Freemasonry (1920) 189:
It was reported of two entered apprentices from the Lodge of Kilwinning, “that they had a competent knowledge of the Secrets of the Mason Word”.
Sc. 1755 Scots Mag. (March) 133:
After the oath, a word in the scriptures was shewed me, which, said one, is the mason-word. They saw that Boaz is the mason-word, and Jachin a fellow-craft-word.
Per. 1766 A. Nicol Poems 83:
The Mason-word, (says one) I know as plain As any Brother in the Mason's train.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Deil xiv.:
When Masons' mystic word an grip In storms an' tempests raise you up.
Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 224:
“Ah ha!” thinks the wife, “I've gotten the mason's word at last; the deil gi'e them joy that telt it!”
Sc. 1955 Pick & Knight Freemason's Ref. Bk. 172:
Mason Word. What constituted this specially Scottish feature cannot be exactly determined today. It may have consisted of two words; it was probably associated with a sign. It was clearly esoteric and presumably used as a means of recognition.

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"Mason n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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