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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.

MILK, n., v. Also milck(e) (Abd. 1712 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VII. 233), mulk (wm.Sc. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xvi.); mylk (Sh.); melk. Phr.: a face/look that wid turn milk, A very frosty look (Sh., Bnff., Ags., Edb., Ayr. 2000s). Sc. usages. [mɪlk, mʌlk; Sh. məiļk]

Sc. form of Eng. milkDundee 1990 Sheila Stephen in Joy Hendry Chapman 60 52:
" ... Eh'v oanly been behin' meh mulk an' roalls there ulkie moarnin fir the past ileevn yeair. ... "

I. n. 1. Combs.: (1) milk-and-breid, oatcakes crumbled in milk (Sc. 1798 Monthly Mag. I. 435; ne.Sc. 1962); (2) milk-and-meal, porridge boiled in milk (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 145); (3) milk-and-water, the cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis (Ags. 1962); sweet rocket, Hesperis (Id.); (4) milk-bake, a biscuit made with milk; (5) milk-beal(in), a festering at the side of the fingernail freq. caused by friction when milking, a whitlow (Ayr., Gall., s.Sc., Uls. 1962); (6) milk-bowie, a wooden bucket for holding milk (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1962). See Bowie, n.1, 3.; (7) milk-boyne, -boyen, -bine, -bin, a broad, shallow wooden vessel for holding milk (Fif., w. and sm.Sc. 1962). See Boyne, n., 1.; (8) milk-brose, a dish made by mixing boiling milk with oatmeal (I. and n.Sc., Ags., Per., w.Lth., Dmf. 1962). See Brose; (9) milk-broth, a broth made with barley and milk (see quots.) (Sc. 1825 Jam.; n.Sc. 1962); (10) milk-cellar, a small room, usually off the kitchen of a farmhouse, used as a dairy (Ork., Abd. 1962); (11) milk-cog, a wooden milking vessel (Ayr. 1928; ne.Sc., Per., w.Lth., Lnk. 1962). See Cog, n.1: (12) milk-cow, a milch cow (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 57). Gen.Sc., now dial. in Eng. Also fig.; (13) milk-denner, a one-course midday meal consisting of milk pudding (Abd. 1962); (14) milk-dey, a dairymaid (Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 107). See Dey; (15) milk-fostered, of a calf: hand-reared on milk; (16) milk gowan, see Gowan; (17) mil(l)-gruel, mylgruul [< milk-gruel], porridge made with milk instead of water (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Old-Lore Misc. VII. ii. 70, Sh. 1962). Cf. (2); (18) milk-handy, a milking vessel. See II. 2. (1) and Handie; (19)milk-herrie, see Herrie, n., 2.; (20) milk-house, a dairy (Per. 1737 Ochtertyre House Bk. (S.H.S.) 248; Sc. 1825 Jam.), a milk-cellar (see (10)). Gen.Sc.; (21) milk-keg, = (7); (22) milk-lue, adj., at the temperature of milk fresh from the cow, luke-warm (I.Sc., Cai. 1962); (23) milk madlocks, = (8) (Rnf. 1825 Jam.). Also madlocks; (24) milkmaid, in combs.: (i) milkmaid's eye, the germander speedwell, Veronica chamœdrys (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 151); (ii) milkmaid's path, the milky way (Sc. 1825 Jam.); ¶(25) milk-may, a milkmaid; (26) milk-meat, (i) = (2) (Cai. 1903 E.D.D.); (ii) bread sops covered with boiling milk (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.); broth made with skimmed milk (ne.Sc. 1962); (27) milk nurse, a wet nurse; (28) milk-pail, in fig. phr. to break the milk-pail, to lose a chief source of profit, to kill the goose that lays the golden egg; (29) milk parritch, -porridge, = (2). Gen.Sc.; (30) milk-plate, a large shallow glazed earthenware dish in which milk is kept to form cream (Abd. 1963); (31) milk pot, a vessel for containing milk, a milk-jug (Ork. 1962); (32) milk-potage, = (29) (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 70); (33) milk-saps, a dish of pieces of bread soaked in hot milk and sweetened (Bnff. 1880 Jam.). Gen.Sc. See Sap; (34) milk-sieve, a milk strainer (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.). Cf. (39); (35) milk-sile, = (34) (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Kcb., Rxb. 1962); (36) milk-soup, soup made with milk and †bread or rice, or with fish and milk as basic ingredients (Abd. 1962); (37) milk-span, a milk-pail (Sh. 1962). See Span; (38) milk-stoup, a milk-pail. See Stoup; (39) milk-sye, -sey, -†syth, and reduced forms mils(e)y, milsie, milcie; melsie; mul(l)sie; malsie, a milk-strainer (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also milk-syer (I.Sc. 1962). Attrib. in combs. milsie-clout, the piece of thin cloth used as a milk-strainer (Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs Gl., a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 201). See Sye; milsie-wall, a wall wholly or partly formed of criss-cross laths, arranged like the wires of a milk-strainer, a dairy wall ventilated with a wire gauze or perforated metal window (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); †a wall with crenellated battlements (Peb. 1825 Jam., obsol.); (40) milk woman, a wet nurse. See Green, I. 2. Comb.; (41) milkwort, -ort, (i) in pl.: the root of the harebell, Campanula rotundifolia (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.); (ii) the sun spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia (Dmb. 1900–61). Also in Eng. dial.(1) Rxb. 1820 Scots Mag. (April) 346:
She would tell them nothing more, than that she was getting milk and bread from her mother.
Abd. 1988 Jack Webster Another Grain of Truth (1989) 29:
I willingly joined in the ritual of 'milk-an'-breid', which amounted to a bowl of milk, into which a corter of oatcakes was broken and supped in hearty spoonfuls by young men who wanted to grow up with mush on their arms.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 21:
If it wasn't brose for dessert, it was 'melk an breid', oatcakes warmed at the fire and crumbled into a bowl of milk, sometimes with a dash of cream, sprinkled with pepper and supped with a spoon.
(4)Sc. 1763 Corresp. Boswell and Johnston (Walker 1966) 39:
The Currant Jelly, which with delicate milk-bakes has often regaled his friend.
(6) Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 213:
To bear the milk-bowie, nae pain was to me, When I at the bughting forgather'd with thee.
Sc. 1876 S. R. Whitehead Daft Davie (1894) 202:
She could handle a milk-bowie muckle better than a pen.
(7) Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize II. xx.:
All the stools and chairs in the house, with the milk and washing boynes upside down . . . as seats for the aged.
Dmb. 1827 W. Taylor Poems 56:
Tosh Mary . . . Wha aften did the kirn and milk-boynes fill.
Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 89:
The milk is . . . emptied . . . into a large “milk-boyen” or tub.
m.Sc. 1928 O. Douglas Eliza for Common xiii.:
An' I've some guid thick cream, for Jeannie at Hill-foot skimmed the best o' a milk-bine for me.
Dmf. 1997 Nell Thomson Spit the First Sook 10:
Then go to the milk hoose and add the very thick cream from the top of the milk bin.
(8) Lnk. 1882 A. Nimmo Songs & Ball. 194:
A pint o' milk-brose he did worry.
Abd. 1994 David Toulmin in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 74:
So ye got cabbage brose, kale brose, neep brose, melk brose and ordinar brose; melk broth and barley broth, leek soup, chappit tatties and skirlie or sise
(9) Abd. 1811 G. Keith Agric. Abd. 518:
The most economical way of using bear or barley, is when it is ground on a barley mill, and boiled as pot barley, . . . with a bit of meat where this can be had, or with milk, when it is called milk broth.
Abd. 1951 Hotch-Potch 5:
Followed by curds and cream, Milk Broth formed the Sunday dinner at many farms in the North East . . . 1 tablespoonful sugar. 2 ozs. barley. 2 pints milk. Good pinch salt.
Abd. 1954 Abd. Press & Jnl. (25 June):
Milk broth, breed an' cheese an' a gweed waucht o' milk wis the denner that eest tae be cairriet oot tae the hairsters lang, lang ago.
Abd. 1994 David Toulmin in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 74:
So ye got cabbage brose, kale brose, neep brose, melk brose and ordinar brose; melk broth and barley broth, leek soup, chappit tatties and skirlie or sise; ...
(10) Sc. 1787 Philosoph. Trans. LXXVII. 355:
A woman at a milk-cellar . . . was delivered.
(11) Kcd. 1899 A. C. Cameron Fettercairn 269:
Near the cross were exposed for sale a few tubs, butter-kits, and milk-cogues.
(12) Sc. 1796 Edb. Mag. (Dec.) 480:
Seven milk cows and a stirk.
Lnk. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 140:
What feck o' stirks an' milk cows hae ye?
Sc. 1862 Carlyle Fred. the Great (1872) XIII. i. v.:
Hanover was the Britannic Majesty's beloved son; and the British Empire his opulent milk-cow.
Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past and Present 131:
Hawkie is a good milk cow.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (2 June):
We niver hed a better mylk koo apo' da byre.
(14) Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 107:
When they came near the end o' their journey, To the house o' their father's milk-dey.
(15) Cai. 1929 John o' Groat Jnl. (25 Oct.):
Twa-three milkfostered calves for sale.
(17) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 188:
The Johnsmas at Midsummer, when they supped the “milgruel kits”.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (5 Aug.):
Could doo no mak wiz a pan o' mylgruul?
Sh. 1957 Sh. Folk-Bk. III. 18:
In Aithsting the end of the “sharin” was celebrated with de affsharin mil gruel.
(18)Slk. 1894 J. Bathgate Aunt Janet's Legacy 62:
Get the milk-handy, and come ben and haud the cannle till I milk the cow.
(20) Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 81:
A milk-house must be cool but free from damp.
Ags. 1860 A. Whamond J. Tacket ix.:
It was a long low thatched tenement containing a but and ben, with a middle apartment called the milk-house.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 3:
I . . . used sometimes to make a raid on the milkhouse.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lad's Love ix.:
The twa luggies o' new milk were spilled . . . when ye were carrying them into the milk-hoose.
Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (1 Aug.) 4:
Products that “came naturally” from the open hearth and the “milk hoose” of yesteryear when there was practically no access to factory dairy products.
Dmf. 1997 Nell Thomson Spit the First Sook 10:
Then go to the milk hoose and add the very thick cream from the top of the milk bin.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 6:
It's into the lang straucht streetch o the driveway
and roond by the byre, biler-hoose, open sties aside the hen run,
and into the auld fairmyaird wi surroundin stables, bothie,
granary and milkhoose.
(21) Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Tales 40:
The milk-keg standing on a chair with a piece of canvas over the top of it.
(22) Sh. 1900 Shetland News (18 Aug.):
Gang Mansie, or dan hit'll be cauld, hit wis bit mylk lue whin I set hit apo' da flör.
(24) (ii) Gall. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Nov.) 146:
That lang baldric o' stars, called the milkmaid's path.
(25) Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 243:
The plow-boy whistled at his darg, The milk-may answered hie.
(26) (i) n.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Milk-Meat. Milk and meal boiled together, and served up as a dish.
(ii) Abd. 1951 Hotch Potch 5:
If the guidwife was rather too thrifty and made the broth [milk broth] with skim milk the result was not so appetising and the farmhands termed it “milk-maet” in derision.
(27) Sc. c.1826 Earl Richard in Child Ballads (1956) II. 462:
My mither was a gude milk-nurse, She nursd the Earl of Stockford's daughter.
Rnf. 1880 W. Grossart Shotts 190:
He was boarded with Margaret Johnston, his “milk nurse”.
(28) Sc. 1831 Scott Journal (1 Jan.):
Cadell is of opinion if I meddle in politics, . . . I shall break the milk pail.
(29) Abd. 1811 G. Keith Agric. Abd. 518:
The most economical way of using oats, is to make them into meal, and mix them along with milk, slowly and long boiled. This is called milk-porridge, and is allowed to stand some time to cool before it is eaten.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 58:
The dog that gaed in there and came oot at Loudon Castle a' scadded owre with milk parritch.
(30) Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 23:
Ane o' the earthen-ware mulk plates.
(31) Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. 10:
Her under lip jutted out like the lip of a milk pot.
(34) Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm III. 900:
After it has cooled, the milk is passed through the milk-sieve into the milk-dishes.
(35) Dmf. 1788 Session Papers, Johnston v. Graham Proof 9:
A stoup and a milksile.
(36) Sc. 1767 Mrs Glasse Cookery 343:
Milk soop the Dutch way.
Sc. 1837 “Mrs. Dods” Manual 144:
Milk-Soup. Boil two quarts of milk, with a little salt, a stick of cinnamon, and a little sugar; lay thin slices of toasted bread in a dish . . . When the soup is ready to serve, beat up the yolks of five eggs, and add them to the milk . . . and pour it into the dish upon the bread.
n.Sc. 1960 People's Jnl. (14 May) 7:
I'd never heard of milk soup. . . . I was relieved to find when it was served up that it was only milky rice pudding.
ne.Sc. Ib. (28 May) 7:
Another milk soup — a general favourite — was made with flaked white fish, chopped hard-boiled eggs and parsley, slightly thickened with cornflour and served with “chappit” tatties.
(37) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 139:
About the middle of May the wives set their kirns, milk-spans and raemikles . . . in the well stripe to steep.
(38) Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 4:
An' sour-milk barrels twa or three, An' twa gude new milk-stoups.
(39) Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 174:
An ark, an ambray, and a ladle, A milsie, and a sowen-pail.
Per. 1737 Ochtertyre Ho. Bk. (S.H.S.) 248:
Milk House . . . 1 malsie.
Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 82:
It minds me o' a milcie-clout, Nae sooner fill'd than it rins out.
Sc. 1808 E. Hamilton Glenburnie ix.:
There has been lang a hole in the milk-syth, and I have never been at the fash to get it mended.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 151:
Ye're sair stress'd stringing the milsie.
Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 87:
The milk is . . . emptied through a very fine wire-cloth sieve (the “milsey”) . . . or else through a thin canvass cloth.
Arg.1 1930:
I heard an old woman quite recently say of a worn and frayed scarf: “It's a perfect mulsie cloot.”

Phr.: a face/look that wid turn milk, a very frosty look (Sh., Bnff., Ags., Edb., Ayr. 2000s).Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 14:
Faither Kelly came tae the door the other day tae ask if there wiz any word fae Spain, an gied me a look that wid a turnt milk when he saw the state a me.
Sc. 1998 Scotsman (27 Oct.) 14:
Good to get away from it all, eh? Only, I've got away from nothing, because Herself is sitting at the other side of the wee fold-down table with a face that would turn the milk. When I ask her tenderly what's wrong with her this time, she says it's hardly a holiday for her. She's still cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, making beds, the lot.
Sc. 2002 Daily Record (5 Jul.) 26-7:
The Fowler matriarch - and never was a surname more apt - has a face that would turn milk AND she wears a cardi that's been through the spin cycle once too often.

2. Derivs.: (1) milkness, the produce of the dairy, and the work connected with it; an animal's yield of milk (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 183); (2) milky, in comb. milky thrissle, — thistle, the milk-thistle, Carduus marianus (Rxb. 1915 Jedburgh Gaz. (10 Sept.) 2; Abd., em.Sc., Gall., s.Sc. 1962). Also in n.Eng. dial.(1) Edb. 1767 Caled. Mercury (11 July):
To be Sold, An Ass in good Milkness.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 83:
Afore lang days I hope to see him here, About his milkness and his cows to speer.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 213:
Crummie nae mair for Jenny's hand will crune Wi' milkness dreeping frae her teats adown.
Ayr. 1780 J. Mitchell Memories Ayr. (S.H.S.) 271:
But the chief dependence of the farmer in these quarters, for paying his rent, or for increasing his wealth, was upon the produce of the dairy, significantly called his “milkness”.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 3:
Row up the fleeces at the clippin', An' had the milkness a' in keepin'.
Ags. 1830 A. Balfour Weeds 125:
Butter's sae cheap it's hardly worth the kirning; an' cheese is at hauf naething; there's naething to be made o' milkness now.
Slg. 1841 R. M. Stupart Harp of Strila 18:
The auld guidwifie soon comes toddlin ben, To see last e'ening's milkness creamed wi' care.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x.:
A vera different seetivation fae slavin' on till ony ane, takin' chairge o' bestial, and milkness, an' a pack o' vulgar trag o' fairm servan's.
Abd.13 1910:
We hinna muckle milkness — not much milk, butter, etc.

3. A traditional custom observed annually at certain schools (see quots.). Also in pl.Lth. 1808 Jam.:
Milk. A day annually observed in a school, on which the scholars present a small gift to their master; in return for which he gives them the play, as it is called, or freedom from their ordinary task, and provides for them a treat of curds and cream, sweetmeats, &c. Sometimes they have music and a dance. This mirthful day has evidently at first received its designation from milk, as being the only or principal part of the entertainment.
Sc. 1818 Sawers:
Milk, Milks, an annual entertainment given by a mistress to her scholars, and to which they contribute a small sum of money.

4. The milt or spawn of a male fish (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1962).

II. v. 1. In Phrs.: (1) milk-the-kye, the stalk of the dock when bearing seed (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), phs. because children pull off the seeds with a movement similar to that of milking a cow; (2) to milk the tether, a supposed custom of witches, whereby they removed the milk from a neighbour's cow by going through the motions of milking a tether made of hair (Sc. 1808 Jam.).(2) w.Sc. 1879 J. Napier Folk-Lore 76:
During the winter, . . . the kye became yell, and the family were consequently short of milk. The cows of a neighbouring farmer were at the same time giving plenty of milk. Under these circumstances, the Highland lad proposed to his mistress that he would bring milk from their neighbour's cows, which she understood to be by means of the black airt, through the process known as milking the tether. The tether is the rope halter, and by going through the form of milking this, repeating certain incantations, the magic transference was supposed capable of being effected.

2. Combs. with vbl.n.: (1) milking handy, a milking pail (Kcb. 1962). See Handie; (2) milking kye, milch cows; (3) milking loan, the place where cows are milked. See Loan, n.1, 1.; (4) milking-shiel, a shed for milking. See Shiel; (5) milking-slap, a gap in a fence through which cows pass to be milked (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 327, Gall. c.1930). See Slap.(1) Abd. c.1760 Trans. Highl. Soc. XIV. 90:
The milking handy, pales, &c., as well as cogs are every male first cleaned from milk with cold water, then scoured with sand and after boiled in a large copper of clean water.
(2) Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 244:
Dey hid Fleckie an' Sholmie, an Essie, a' milkin' kye.
(3) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Galtov. Encycl. 257:
String awa, my crommies, to the milking loan.
(4) Ayr. 1796 Burns As I came o'er i.:
Kindly stood the milking-shiel To shelter frae the stormy weather.
(5) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 244:
The cauves brak through the milking slap, Their minnies' pawps they draw.

3. Of a cow or ewe: to yield milk (Sh., Abd., Kcb., Uls. 1962). Also in Eng. dial.Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 20:
How milk the kye? How draw the horse?
Sc. 1886 C. Scott Sheep Farming 178:
Some of the breeds of sheep milk very heavily.

4. To add milk to tea. Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial.Abd.31 1962:
Hiv ye milket the tea? Sugar yersel an' I'll milk ye.

[O.Sc. milk-cow, 1473, milk-house, 1685, milk-pottage, milk-syth, 1568, milking ky, 1604, milkness, 1493. For meaning I. 4., cf. Icel. mjólkvi, Dan. melke, L.Ger. melk, milt, and see note to Melg.]

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"Milk n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jun 2024 <>



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