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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STRING, n., v. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. In combs. and phrs.: (1) string-girse, couch-grass, Triticum repens (Bnff., Abd., Kcd., Ags., Slg. 1971); (2) string-measure, the measure of the quarter girth of a log as taken by a string passed round the circumference; (3) string-reader, in lacemaking: the operative who read the patterns directly on to the strings of the handloom (Ayr. 1971); (4) to go to the end of the string, to go as far as one can or dares, to go to the limits of conduct; (5) to take the mealpowk by the string, to take to begging.(2) Per. 1831 Per. Advertiser (27 Oct.):
A large quantity of larch, that squares from 6¾ to 9¼ inches, string measure.
(5) Sc. 1842 R. M. McCheyne Memoirs (Bonar 1881) 267:
Do not go to the end of the string, that is, going as far as you can in dallying with temptation.
(5) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 378:
On a brother of his who had a small farm, he often insisted to take the meal-powk by the string, and follow him, as his trade was much better than farming.

2. A section or portional length of a fishing-line (see quot.) (ne.Sc. 1971).Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS.:
The fishing-line is not all one piece. It is commonly formed of five or six pieces. In Collieston, the piece is called a “cut”; in Pittulie and Rosehearty, a “string”.
e.Sc. 1971 Scottish Studies XIII. 6:
As a datum a string (of approximately 60 fathom) can be said to have 100 hooks and 10 strings can make one line. These figures are specific for Eyemouth, for instance, but variations range from Gamric which has only 5 strings (of 100 hooks) to a line, to Arbroath which has 7 strings (of 200 hooks).

3. Of rain: a continuous fall, a torrent.Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 176:
The rain cam' pourin' down in strings.

4. In pl.: an inflammation of the intestines in calves.Rxb. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 149:
Calves, during the first three or four weeks, are sometimes seized with an inflammation in the intestines, provincially called liver-crook or strings.
Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 356:
Unless calves are fed with the milk of their own dams, warm, they are liable to a particular distemper of a convulsive nature, called the strings.

5. A road crossing a water-shed or hill-ridge (Ayr. 1971). Hence Gael. sreang. a ridge. Freq. in place-names in W. Scot.Arg. 1889 Lord A. Campbell Waifs I. 28:
She fled with the precious deeds across the String of Lorn.
Bte. 1958 W. & A. K. Johnston Gazetteer Scot. 226:
The String, mountain road, island of Arran, from Brodick to Blackwater foot.

6. I.Sc. usage, after Norw., O.N. streng(r): a strong tide or current, gen. one off a headland or in a strait (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., string of tide, 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1971). Phr. to cut da string, see 1878 quot. (Jak.).Sh. 1863 St Andrews Gazette (9 May):
On crossing what fishermen call “a string of tide,” formed by a headland or ridge of rocks jutting out into the ocean.
Sh. 1878 Chambers's Jnl. (21 Dec.):
They are veritable voices of the sea, and Shetlanders speak of them as “the string of the tide,” and crossing them is called “cutting the string.”
Sh. 1964 Nordern Lichts 53:
Whin men socht der livin among da strings o da Rowst.
Sh. 1969 New Shetlander No. 89. 13:
In a string of tide where a sea might break in any direction.

7. Sexual desire, libido, in phr. to find a string (Kcb. 1971). Cf. II. 5.

II. v. A. Pa.t. strang (Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 9; Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (1905) 258; s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 208; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., ne.Sc. 1971); pa.p. strong strung (Gen.Sc.); weak stringed (Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poet. Wks. 84).

B. Usages: 1. To knit or plait into a string or strip, to make laced fringing or tape. Vbl.n. stringing, ornamental lace or tape (Ags., Dmb. 1971).Bwk. 1707 A. Thomson Coldingham (1908) 56:
The Burlawmen, ordains the herds to forbear their working of stringing when they are employed about the herding of the beasts, and if any herd after the date hereof shall be found working of stringing shall be amerciate in 40 sh. Scots.
Sc. 1722 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 14:
Where gat ye that braw blew Stringing, That's at your Houghs and Shouders hinging?
Ags. 1848 Feast of Liter. Crumbs (1891) 34:
A bunch o' spunks or bawbee ballan', Or hank o' stringin'.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 60:
“Strippit stringin',” and tapes of various colours.

2. To move forward in a line or file. In Eng. gen. of hounds.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 257:
And ay she cries, “Hurly Hawkie, String, string awa hame to the milking loan.”
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xii.:
It was bonny to see them [soldiers] come stringing down.

3. Of seedlings, esp. turnips: to sprout in a line along the drills (Bnff., Abd. 1971).Abd. 1904 Banffshire Jnl. (4 Oct.) 2:
But noo the men the neeps were hyowin' For they were stringin weel an' growin'.
Abd. 1954 Huntly Express (4 June):
Turnips are “wearin' in,” as farmers say, and early sown ones can be seen stringin' in the dreels.

4. To join in a string or bunch, as in Eng. Comb. stringin ingans, the game of leap-frog (Abd., Kcd. 1971).

5. To feel concupiscent (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Hence stringie, adj., libidinous, lustful (Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) S. 161). Cf. I. 7.

[O.Sc. stringing, tape, 1593.]

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"String n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Oct 2023 <>



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