Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PEN, n.1, v.1 Also penn; ¶pain. Sc. usages.

I. n. 1. A plume, feather; the quill or barrel of a feather (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 74, 1880 Jam.; Sh., Ork., Fif., Lnk., s.Sc. 1965). Obs. or dial. in Eng. Phr. a buss o pens, a bunch of wing feathers used as a duster (Ork. 1965). For maester-pen see Maister, n.1, 6. (9).Ork. 1701 H. Marwick Merchant Lairds (1936) I. 7:
Si to get Sum Corbis pens to me.
Ork. 1747 P. Ork. A.S. XII. 50:
3 bundles of geese pens, ane old trunk with feathers.
Bnff. 1782 Caled. Mercury (14 Aug.):
The ploverons an' the skair muir-hens May sit at eise, an' pike thair pens.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 81:
What gars ye flutter roun' your hens? Ye'll dirty a' your bonny pens.
Sc. 1831 Blackwood's Mag. (May) 860:
Hector is here chicken-hearted — crowed-down — cool in the pens — fugy, as the cockers say.
Sh. 1871 R. Cowie Shetland 89:
Having no catheter, he relieved the patient with a “haigrie's pen” (i.e. a heron's quill).
Knr. 1895 H. Haliburton Dunbar 79:
And next she crowned the eagle King of Fowls, And gave him vision far and speed of pens.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (16 April):
Da bairn toucght da maa's penn wis faaen frae a angel's wing.
Dmb. 1958:
That is a nice pen you have in your hat.
Sh. 1961 New Shetlander No. 56. 25:
Hit aye üsed ta git bunged up noo an dan wi sly, an watter-clocks, an skories' pens.

Comb. and phr.: (1) pen-gun, ‡a kind of pop-gun or pea-shooter made from a bird's quill (Sc. 1825 Jam.), freq. in phr. to crack (talk, etc.) like a pen-gun, to keep up a continuous flow of talk, to chatter, talk without stopping (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Lth. 1965); hence fig. a chatter-box, a loquacious person; (2) Pen Nibs, In pl., rhyming slang for Hibs s.v. Hibernian.; (3) phr. to be in one's pens, -pains, to be dressed in one's Sunday best, “done up to kill”.(1) Fif. 1718 Burgess Ticket Buckhaven 1:
Bourtrie Guns, Bane Guns, Quite [sic for quill] Guns, and Pen Guns.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Cracking like a pen-gun, and skirling like a pea-hen for the haill night.
Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 35:
Pen-Guns are made and fired at the season when the turnip first comes to market, which turnip, cut in thin slices, and bored through with the quill, forms the charge.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize II. xxii.:
A man weel stricken in years, but of a youthy mind, and a perfect pen-gun at a crack.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin vi.:
He sat on the board, snuffin' an' crackin' like a pen-gun.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iv.:
Wheesht, wumman, wheesht, hoo's a body to collec' his thochts, an' your tongue gaun like a pen gun?
Cai. 1903 E.D.D.:
A pen-gun is usually made from the larger bone of the wing of a goose, and is charged by boring into a turnip or a potato.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xxi.:
Jinnet was crackin' awa' like a pengun wi' some auld wife at the sherp end o' the boat.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls 98:
What you want's a pen-gun and a wheen peas to pap sparrows wi'.
Bch. 1941 C. Gavin Black Milestone vii.:
The laddie and Jock was sittin' here newsin' like pen-guns.
Abd. 1981 Christina Forbes Middleton The Dance in the Village 67:
Weel, we walked alang in the bonnie clear nicht
An' she news't like a non-stop pen gun
She telt me aboot bein' presentit at Court
An' o' fashionable pairties an' fun.
(2)Sc. 2000 Daily Mail 21 Oct 92:
Only last month he spoke at a grand reunion of Hibernian players - he refers to them as 'the Pen Nibs' - in a hospitality suite at Easter Road.
Sc. 2001 Edinburgh Evening News 23 Oct 21:
... was Will Shakespeare a Hibby? Sensational pictorial evidence that landed on my desk today suggests that the bard did, indeed, have a sneaking for the Pen Nibs.
Sc. 2002 Daily Star 20 Apr 64:
Three losses in four doesn't instill too much faith in Hibs, but if Motherwell are as inept as at Tannadice, there can be only one winner. Super Soccer reckon the Pen Nibs are 5-6 but we know they should be shorter, don't we?
(3) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 158:
On Tuesday speer for Jeany Gradden. When I i' my pens ween to be.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 94:
An' gang unto the Kirk wi' him. See his queentra queans, . . . When they were i' their pains.

2. Transf. (1) As in Eng., a writing implement orig. made from a quill. Combs. pen-point, a pen-nib (n.Sc., Ayr. 1965); pen-straker, the yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella, so called from the irregular black streaks on its eggs, like the strokes of a pen. Cf. Eng. dial. writing lark, writing-master, id. Deriv. penner, pennirt, a cylindrical box of wood, metal or horn for holding pens, a pen-case (w.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 98; ‡ne.Sc. 1965); by extension, jocularly, a top-hat, from its shape. Dim. pennarie (ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 78).Per. 1737 Ochtertyre Ho. Bk. (S.H.S.) 42:
For a white iron penner . . . 2d.
Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 499:
Heels-o'er-gowdie cowpit he, And rave his guid horn penner In twa that day.
Bnff. 1850 W. Barclay Schools Bnff. (1925) 47:
There was nothing on them [desks] but “penners,” long black cases for holding pens and “skilies”. This was the origin of the name given to the long silk hats of the time, which men wore at funerals.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlii.:
I div not believe but the lid o' the penner's been amo' the aise, an' my vera memorandum book blottit oot o' ken.
Sc. 1884 Chambers's Jnl. (25 Oct.) 686:
Hitherto, iridium has been used solely for pen-points.
Abd. 1901 A. Paterson Monquhitter 72:
The quills when not in use were kept in small tin cylinders, designated “penners”.
Abd. 1912 J. Stephen Donside Lilts 31:
Wi' hat baith lang an' wide at croon — Perhaps 'twull be a penner.
Mry., Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C. 17:
A whinlinnet or yellow hammer . . . Penstraker refers to the streaks on the eggs, about which there is a crucifixion tradition.
Bnff.2 1930:
The gweed-man aye pits on his penner on Saicrament Sunday.

(2) by extension, a lead or slate pencil. Obs. in Eng. Combs. keelyvine pen, see Keelivine; pencaum, a slate pencil (Fif. 1921 T.S.D.C. 17). Also caumpen, id. (Ib.), see Cam, n.1, 2.; skeely pen, id., see Scailie.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
The Duke of Argile . . . wrote your name down with a keelyvine pen in a leathern book.
Lnk. 1919 W. Wingate Poems 74:
Keps, skeely pen, pencils, and white peerie-string.

(3) a small spoon or similar object for taking snuff, orig. one made from a quill, a snuff-spoon (Ork., Bnff. 1965), also sneeshin pen, snuff pen, id.; a spoonful of snuff. Applied by extension to food or drink, in phr. to tak a gae or guid pen-fu, to be a hearty eater or drinker.Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 29:
Now, o' the snish he's for a dose; Wi' pen just rising to his nose.
Cai. 1829 J. Hay Poems 18:
Sae social in your arm chair Wi' pen and guid snuff mill.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xi.:
Mithna a body gae the length o' takin' the fu' o' a sneeshin pen?
Ayr. 1873 A. Aitken Poems 84:
Tak' a penfu' [of snuff], never think O' dearth.
wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.:
“He whiles taks a gae pen-fu',” i.e. more than enough of liquor; or, with a touch of humorous exaggeration, “His pen-fu's a chapin jug.”
Knr. 1890 H. Haliburton In Sc. Fields 98:
The pinch was conveyed to the nose by means of a bone snuff spoon or pen.
Abd. 1920 R. H. Calder Gleanings II. 9:
Nae worth a dyte, a dockan, a preen heid, a sneeshin' pen, an auld sang, a tinkler's curse.
Fif. 1946 J. C. Forgan Maistly 'Muchty 18:
He filled his nose wi' pens o' snuff to gie'm a guid beginnin'.

(4) the stalk of a plant or vegetable (wm.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ayr. 1930), a stalk of straw, etc. (Bnff.4 1926). Comb. pen-wet, a diseased or mouldy condition in sheaves of grain caused by damp (see 1851 quot.).wm.Sc. 1773 Sc. Farmer I. 562:
He drew his hand across the bottoms [of the sheaves], to open the pens of the straw a little.
Sc. 1818 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 330:
A beggar received nothing but a kail-castock, or pen, that is, the thick rib up the middle of the colewort stalk.
Sc. 1851 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 365:
It is this inclined position of the outside sheaves that prevents the rain finding a passage along the straw into the very heart of the stack, where it would easily find its way, were the sheaves inclined downwards to the centre of the stack, and where it would soon spoil the corn. The sheaves that are so spoiled are said to have taken in pen-wet.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
The winnister wis coontit a very handy thing in yon day though it only blew oot the caff and the cuffins or pens as they were ca'd.

(5) a small neatly-made person or animal (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 124); “an old saucy man, with a sharp nose” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 378).

II. v. 1. To pluck (a fowl) (Kcb. 1965).

2. To take snuff with a quill-spoon or pen (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Ork. 1965).

[O.Sc. pennair, pen-case, 1470, pen(nys), c.1500, (one of) the flight feathers of a bird, O.Fr. penne, feather, quill, Lat. penna, feather.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Pen n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: