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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STANK, n.1, v.1 Also staank (Sh.), †stanck. [stɑŋk]

I. n. 1. A pond, pool, small semi-stagnant sheet of water (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 196, 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), esp. one that is overgrown and half solid with vegetation, a swampy place. Gen. (exc. Sh.) Sc. Freq. in place-names. Also fig. Also dim. stanky. Hence stankish, of water: somewhat stagnant (Watson).Sc. 1726 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 189:
All the adjacent ground is boggy and full of stanks.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 92:
“Keuff!” quo' the Muse, “if this your thanks, Gae strain them thro' the Stygian stanks.”
Dmf. 1825 Carlyle A History of the First Forty Years of his Life (Froude) I. 296:
To plash and sprawl along with them through every stank to which their love of provant leads them.
Slk. 1828 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xiii.:
The creature took across a mire, a perfect stank.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 61:
The guides led on through moors and stanks.
Ayr. 1848 J. Ramsay Woodnotes 160:
By sedgy pools and reedy stanks.
Fif. 1938 St Andrews Cit. (15 Oct.) 4:
Considering using for a football field the ground known as “The Stanks.”
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick vii.:
A naisty yowm comin' aff 'e stanks o' the Moss o' Lenabo.
wm.Sc. 1988 Scotsman (30 Jul) 4:
Once upon a time, within a half mile square of my house, I could have watched dragonflies, in a score of places, for every worked-out quarry pond and stanky produced them in some abundance.

Hence combs. (1) stank-hen, and reduced or dim. forms stank(ie) (-hen), the water-hen, Gallinula chloropus (Slk. 1825 Jam.; Dmf. 1865 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 57; e.Lth. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 178; Lnk. 1897 Annals Sc. Nat. Hist. 216; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ayr. 1929 Paton & Pike Birds Ayr. 210; Ags. (stank-hen), Per., Fif., Lth., wm., sm. and s.Sc. (stankie (-hen)) 1971); an angling fly made from a water-hen's feather (Rxb. 1949, stankie); (2) stank-lochen, “a dead lake covered with grass” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 436).Sc. 1766 T. Reid Works (1863) I. 47:
A bird called a stank hen. It is a water fowl, less than a duck.
Gall. 1889 Bards Gall. (Harper) 161:
The loch famed for powheads an' stanks.
Ayr. 1921 A. Murdoch Ochiltree 12:
The eggs of the “stankie hen.”
Lnk. 1928 W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane 70:
Where wild ducks and stankies found a quiet resting-place.

2. (1) A ditch, an open water-course, freq. applied to a natural stream which has been straightened to form a boundary or to function in a drainage system (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 212; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 180; Ayr. 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 187; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., n., em.Sc.(a), sm. and s.Sc. 1971). Combs. stank-bank, stank-side, the bank or side of a ditch. Also fig.Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 273:
There is 3 plum imps in the wester stank.
Gsw. 1728 Records Trades Ho. (Lumsden 1934) 138:
For cleanseing the stank att David Main's midding.
Ayr. 1784 Burns Twa Herds v.:
Nae poison'd soor Arminian stank. He let them taste.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 71:
They lap the stanks wi' nimble sten.
Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 245:
To effect a more complete drainage of the meadows, by widening, straightening, and deepening the centre stank.
Ags. 1880 Arbroath Guide (9 Oct.) 4:
His mill it stood at auld Millgate, A wee besooth the stankie.
Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 57:
There were meadow stanks at each side of the street.
Sc. 1903 A. Whyte Apostle Paul 111:
It is then that I sit down at a stank-side with poor Lord Brodie.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS. i.:
A' the stankbanks an' dykesides had tae be shorn an' ta'en ticht up.
Edb. 1924 Scotsman (23 July):
The burn known as the Stank, which runs into the Water of Leith.
Sh. 1940 J. Gray Lowrie 78:
Ta tak a hanndfoo o' hush oot o' dis stank.
Abd. 1950 Buchan Observer (22 Aug.):
Gin the puddock croot be at the lip o' the stank, it'll be a weet spring.

(2) fig.: an obstacle, hindrance, difficulty, most freq. in phr. to lowp a stank, to circumvent obstacles, to achieve an object or a stage towards it, to get something done (Abd. 1971). See also Lowp, v., B. 9.(11).Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 200:
He helpit mony een owre a stank 'at mith' a' stucken bit for him.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxx.:
It's a muckle stank luppen onygait tae get a' this steer throwe the cuntra pitten behan'.

3. (1) A gutter or drainage channel in a byre (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); (2) a street gutter (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 268; e. and wm.Sc. 1971); a grating in a gutter leading to the drain below (Gsw. 1931 H. S. Robertson Curdies 87; wm.Sc. 1971); a grating over a well in a pavement which gives light to a basement flat (Gsw. 1933). Comb. stanklid, the grating over a drain. Phr. doun the stank, lit. and fig., irretrievably lost, gone for good, squandered, of money, etc. (m.Sc. 1971).(2) Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xiv.:
Moshy in the back-coort, and puttin bunnets doon the stanks.
Gsw. 1937 F. Niven Staff at Simson's iii.:
They stood on the baker's stank.
Gsw. 1950 H. W. Pryde McFlannel Family Affairs 144:
A whole pound note down the stank, to say nothing of that halibut for your tea.
Lnk. 1958 Scotsman (15 May):
He had put them down a stank below the Central Bridge.
Gsw. 1992 Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing! (1993) 202:
Easily done, what with the kiddiewinks having some innocent fun by battering me with snowballs and stanklids.
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 8:
There's a wean staunin' there, lookin' doon a stank,
Ma shillin's lost, it was fur a goldfish fur ma tank.
Arg. 1993:
The three pounds went down the stank.
Sc. 1995 Daily Record (11 Aug) 59:
It's just that they know if Goram as much as strains an EYEBROW between now and a week on Wednesday they'll be watching ten million smackers disappear down a Cypriot stank.
Gsw. 1996 Glaswegian (18 Apr) 8:
In this day and age there is no reason for any man to look like he would disappear down a stank if he got a little too close.

4. A surfeit, a bellyful, more than enough For this sense-development cf. Eng. dial stank, a dam. Cf. v., 2.(2) below.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 180:
A ga' 'im a stank for aince.

II. v. 1. (1) To dig ditches in (ground), to drain (land) by means of open ditches (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 212, 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., Cai. 1971); to surround with a ditch or moat. Deriv. stanker, a person employed to dig ditches.Abd. 1749 Philorth Baron Court Book MS IV 15:
A contribution of money to pay the said stanker. [employed to dig ditches in the Fraserburgh moss]
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (18 March):
Hit wid set dee better til a' staankid whaur da grice rötid up da side o' da rig.
Sc. 1936 J. G. Horne Flooer o' Ling 27:
The thocht o' your auld stankit biggin Wad gar me grue.

(2) To bury, esp. a dead animal (Ork. 1971).

2. (1) To dam or bank up, to make a head of water (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.); to choke. Also in Eng. dial. Ppl.adj. stankit, of persons: choking by swallowing liquid too quickly (Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.), of a water-channel: blocked (Kcd., Ags. 1971).Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah xli. 18:
The wust lan', I'se turn't till a stankit loch.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 41:
He took twa or three ill-natured rives o' a sheed o' bread, an' a gullar o' tea, an' fair stankit himsel! It gaed doon the wrang road, an' Sandy was nearhand chokit.

(2) fig. To sate with food, satisfy appetite (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Ppl.adj. stankit, replete with food, gorged (Abd., Ags. 1971).

[O.Sc. stank, a ditch, pond, a.1400, to make a ditch, 1466, to surround with a moat, 1535, Mid.Eng. stank, O. Fr. estanc, Fr. étang, a pool, Lat. stagnum, id.]

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"Stank n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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