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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

MEAR, n. Also meare, meer(e), meir, mere; mehr. Dims. mearie (Bnff. 1853 Banffshire Jnl. (3 May)), meerie (Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 120; Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 103); mearock (Gsw. 1872 J. Young Lochlomondside 54); marey (Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 277); marie (Gsw. n.d. Fly not Yet (Chapbook) 3). Sc. forms of Eng. mare. [Sc. mi:r; em.Sc.(a) me:r. See P.L.D. § 88 (3).]

Sc. forms of Eng. mare.m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 48:
King Sillersecks rade his gray meare
aff til the birkenshaw
m.Sc. 1994 John Burns in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 24:
Jock had talkt tae it an clappt its neck afore bending doun tae look at its feet. Syne the meer had caummed doun an Jock gat ready tae caa the shuin ontil't.
Abd. 1994 David Toulmin in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 73:
And if a coo lost a calf, weel that was anither set-back. And if ye got a horse or a mere lyin deid wi' grass-sickness that juist aboot put ye oot at the door.

Sc. usages: 1. As in Eng.; specif. in various proverbial expressions.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 275:
Owe the Mare, owe the Bear, let the Filly eat there. Spoken when we see a Man's Goods squandered by his own people.
Abd. 18th c. Byron Don Juan (1822) x. note:
Brig o' Balgownie black's your wa' Wi' a mither's ae son and a mear's ae foal Doun ye sall fa'.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxvii.:
There's sma' sorrow at our parting, as the auld mear said to the broken cart.
Uls. 1886 W. G. Lyttle Sons of the Sod ii.:
Money maks the meer gang, it's true, but it niver made a lad or lass happy yet.
Bnff. 1890 Trans. Bnffsh. Field Club 61:
The blind mear's first in the mire.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 19:
“The better horse is the gray mear”, The neebours said.
Sc. 1922 J. Buchan Huntingtower x.:
Mrs Morran was moved to observe that there was “naething sae bauld as a blind mear”.
Abd.4 1929:
Fat's their meerie the day may be your horsie the morn. (One gloating over another's loss or downfall may himself be in a worse position soon).

2. Sc. phrs.: (1) Tamson's mear, walking, on foot, Shanks' pony (Abd., e. and wm.Sc. 1962); (2) the tail of John Frost's gray mare, a cluster of icicles; (3) to give somebody the wind of the mare's tail, to ride off leaving someone behind; (4) wha has lost his mare?, why all the hurry and fuss?(1) Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xix.:
Tamson's mear would never be the thing for me.
(2) wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 57:
The Westport well . . . had an irregular train of silvery-looking icicles hanging from the spout, long and flaky, and such as the children in some parts of Scotland call the tail of John Frost's gray mare.
(3) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 32:
I'se gie you the wind o' the mare's tail, and gar ye wammel hame an' a' your wate coats about you.
(4) Lnk. 1806 J. Black Falls of Clyde 175:
“Wha has lost his mare?” “James bad me tell you, fast as ye can scud, To follow him this moment doun the wood.”

3. Fig.: an implement used as a support or to carry a load; specif. a wooden trestle, such as is used by a mason to support scaffolding (wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 508; ne.Sc. 1962), also in comb. meer-foot; a wooden support for the shafts of a two-wheeled cart to keep it in a level position for loading when no horse is harnessed in it; a bricklayer's hod (wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 508). Deriv. marefu', as much as a hod will hold.Gsw. 1739 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 23:
The tacksman to be obliged at his entry to grant recept to the master of work for the whole weights, balks, broads, dails, flakes, meer feet, &c., belonging to the trone and weigh house and fish mercat.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals xxxvi.:
The three were seated aloft, on a high stage, prepared on purpose, with two mares and scaffold-deals, borrowed from Mr Trowel the mason.
Fif. 1823 W. Tennant Card. Beaton v. iv.:
I think I set my apron and my mare as weel as you your apparel. . . . I've a marefu' o' as good lime here as ever cam out o' a lime-kill.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
We took roon the cairts to the barn door and set them on timmer mears ready for loadin'.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 170:
An' ye hid as mony aul' barrows an' mason's meers set up to haud the rope aff o' the grun'.

4. A nickname for an inhabitant of the Ork. parish of Rousay (Ork. 1962).Ork. 1883 J. Tudor Ork. and Shet. 614:
Rousay — Mares. The inhabitants of this island are so called, because, at least so says tradition, when they wanted to establish a breed of horses on the island, they sent a Moses Primrose sort of fellow to buy at the nearest fair, who purchased a lot of mares, but forgot all about there being any need of stallions.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 320, 326:
Tell 'im gin 'e winna voo tae hae wir dialec ta't i' the skeuls, there's naither a stirlin', gruely belkie, . . . mare or bluidy puddin 'll vote for 'im. . . . A ald Rousa mare ca'd Jeems o' da Bu.

5. Sh. usage: a machine for twisting fishing lines; the beam which supports the water-wheel of a horizontal mill (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1962).Sh. 1939 A. C. O'Dell Hist. Geog. 154:
In the past the mane and tail hairs of the ponies were spun by a spinning “mare” into a line for the fisheries.

[O.Sc. mere, a mare, c.1420, meir, a trestle, 1577.]

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"Mear n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Dec 2022 <>



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