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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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.

QUERN, n.1, v. Also kwern (Ork.); quearn, quairn; hwern (I.Sc.); quarn (Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) II. 250), querren- (Abd. 1925 Greig and Keith Last Leaves 111); quiern (Sc. 1763 R. Kirk Secret Commonwealth (1815) App. 57); quirn (Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 298), queern. Dims. quernie (Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads II. 355; Mry. 1825 Jam.); quernock (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.). Deriv. kwerno (see I. 1. (2) (ii)). Sc. forms and usages. [kwern. In sense 2., kwirn (ne.Sc.), ′kjurən]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a primitive type of hand-mill for grinding corn, etc.; also of smaller hand-mills, e.g. for snuff (Kcd. 1843 J. Anderson Black Bk. (1879) 12; Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 10; ‡Abd., Kcb. 1967). Sc. combs. and phrs.: (1) quern-bink, a stone or ledge on which the quern was kept and used. See Bink, n.1, 2.; (2) quirn-fish, (i) the brill, Scophthalmus rhombus (Ork. 1891 Harvie-Brown and Buckley Fauna Ork. 284); (ii) the turbot, Scophthalmus maximus (Sh. 1808 Jak. (1928), kwern-fish; Cai. 1967), from their round shapes. Also kwerno, id. (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (3) quairnhouse, an apartment or recess in which a quern is kept (Ork. 1710 P. Ork. A.S. XII. 57, Ork. 1967); (4) quern-ledder, -le(a)ther, kwern-, = (1) (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork.5 1950). The second element appears to be a variant of Lewder, n., 5.; (5) quearn pick, a small hand-pick for cleaning and sharpening quern-stones; (6) quern's ee, the hole in a quern through which the grain to be ground is fed. Phr. lying on a quern's ee, see quot.; (7) quern-shaped flounder, see (2) (ii) above and Gael. lèabag-bhrathainne, id., from bràth, quern; (8) quernstane, Sc. form of Eng. quernstone.(1) Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. i. 22:
On the ben side of the gable, and in the centre of the wall, there was a recess called the quern-ledder or quern-bink, where the burstin' and the malt made from bere were ground.
(4) Ork. 1946 Ork. and Sh. (Hist. Mon. Comm.) I. 54:
In the walls [of an Orkney farm house dating c.1700] are a number of rectangular recesses, some of which are aumbries, others nests for geese, while two with rounded backs, known as the “sae bink” and the “quern ledder”, accommodated a water-tub and the stone hand-mill.
(5) Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A.S. I. 65:
An quearn pick weighing Six Merks.
(6) Sh. 1961 Scottish Studies 184:
“Lying on a quern's e'e” was a phrase sometimes used, which denoted that fish were lying in a very small area.
(7) Sc. 1875 W. A. Smith Lewsiana 39:
The turbot is known as the “quern-shaped flounder,” from its circular shape.
(8) em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 110:
Frae muckle warld tae muckle warld, bairnie tae mither,
spicket tae seiver, onding tae quernstane,
sae Scotlaun's fowk, skailt frae ae clood or ither
intil a sheuch descrives them as her ain.

2. Transf. the stomach of a fowl, the gizzard (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Cai.4 1920; ne.Sc. 1967, queern) from its similarity in function to the corn-grinding mill.Abd.15 1924:
Some aul wifies eest tae mak yirnin wi' the in-skin o' a hen's kweern.

3. = 1. (2) (ii) (Cai 1967).

II. v. To grind in a quern. Rare.Sc. 1793 J. L. Buchanan Travels 157:
They quern as much grain as their diets require.

[The long vowel form is found in O.Sc. queirn, 1596.]

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"Quern n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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