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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TOUN, n., v. Also toune, toon; tun (I.Sc.). Dims. touny (Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 89), toonie (Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 116; Ags. 1897 Bards Ags. (Reid) 133; Abd. 1922 Weekly Free Press (4 Feb.) 2), toonickie (Abd. 1925 Banffshire Jnl. (21 April)), toonockie (Abd. 1921 Swatches o' Hamespun 8), toonikin (Sh. 1963 New Shetlander No. 67. 30). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. town. [Gen.Sc. tun]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a burgh, a municipality, but freq. applied to a large village without corporate status. The toun freq. connotes the nearest city as opposed to the smaller neighbouring burghs. See also burrowstoun s.v. Burgh, 3. (11), guid toun s.v. Guid, adj., 7. (28). In Sc. combs. and derivs. (the form toun's being more freq. than in Eng. See -S, suff.): (1) toun's bairn, a native of a particular town (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (2) town-beagle, = (18); (3) toun's bodie, a town-dweller, an inhabitant of a town (I., ne.Sc. 1972); (4) town champion, the chief male participant in the festival of riding the Marches at Musselburgh, whose ceremonial duty is to defend the town's claim to its lands against anyone who challenges it; (5) toon-close, an alley or narrow street in a town. See also Close, n.1; †(6) town's cowlie, a contemptuous name given to a town boy not a member of the school by the boys of George Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh (Edb. 1859 F. W. Bedford Heriot's Hosp. 345). See Cowlie; (7) town(‘s) drummer, a drummer employed by a burgh to make proclamations to the beating of his drum. See Touk, n.1; (8) toun end, the end of or egress from a town. Now only dial. in Eng. Also attrib.; (9) toun fit, the lower end of a town, the foot of the town. Gen.Sc. Freq. in place-names (s.Sc. 1972). Hence toun-fitter, one who lives there (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (10) townsfolk, townspeople, inhabitants of a town. Gen.Sc. See Fowk; (11) toongate, -gait, the main street of a town or village (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also attrib.; (12) town guard, -†guaird, a body of male citizens enrolled for police duties in large towns in the 18th c.; specif. in Edinburgh a corps of army veterans under arms enlisted for this purpose (see Gaird, n., B. 1.); (13) town('s)- Despite quot, is there not a distinctive between town-hall in Sc. and in Eng. which usually means a large public hall, and Sth. Ery. where it means the municipal offices, administrative centre? ha, a town-hall. Also in Yks. dial.; (14) toun heid, town head, the higher or upper end of a town, common as a place-name, as in Glasgow, Jedburgh, etc. Gen.Sc. Hence toun-heider, one who lives there (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); †(15) toun herd, the public herdsman who looked after the cows of a small town or village on the common pasture ground; (16) toun('s) house, a town hall, the headquarters of the municipality. Gen.Sc. and U.S. Obs. in Eng. Cf. Tolbooth; (17) tounie, quasi-dim. form, but prob. rather a Sc. variant of Eng. townee, an inhabitant of a town (Sh., Abd., Ags. 1972); transf. a town pigeon (Dmb. 1964); †(18) toun(s)-keeper, an official acting as a kind of constable whose chief duty was to keep order in the streets and deal with beggars or other troublesome persons; (19) toun('s) officer, an official attending on the provost, magistrates and councillors of a burgh in the Council Chamber and at public functions; (20) town('s) piper, a bagpiper in the employment of a town council. See also Piper, 1. Combs. (11); (21) town potatoes, potatoes grown by arrangement between townspeople and neighbouring farmers (see quot.); (22) toun-rat, -rot(ten), = (12). See Ratt, Ratton; (23) tounser, toonser, a town dweller as opposed to a countryman or member of a fishing community, gen. used disparagingly (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1972). Also attrib. and in Eng. dial.; (24) toun sergeant, †-serjeand, †-gand, = (19), in Dundee and Aberdeen; (25) toon-snail, one who prefers town- to country-life, implying a lethargic nature; (26) toun's speak, the talk of the town, the local scandal (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Ags., Per., s.Sc. 1972); (27) toonwith, town-wards, in the direction of the town. See -With, suff. m.Sc. 1982 Douglas Fraser in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 8:
I've settled doun upon the toun;
I warsle on wi' thrift.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 26:
'What in the world are you doin' up there Matt Gilmour?'
'My heaven man, you've never seen sic a view as this. The whole toon's stretched oot afore me. Here, come up and see for yoursel' ... '
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 29:
The toon's deid still, road and street
Abd. 1991 George Bruce in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 22:
She tell't him the A68's for lifts. Noo
in Lon'on toun she's in the moneys there,
and her wi freens.
m.Sc. 1991 Donald Campbell in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 91:
But, oh my freens, I'll tell ye this anaa!
Edinburrie toun's no aye sae bonnie, douce and braw!
Bnff. 1993:
The Toon (both capital Ts) refers to Aberdeen by North-Easters.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 53:
In Steenhive, fowks war beginnin tae steer, rinnin like rats amang the grummel, caain fur their faimlies an friens. Wi the pooer aff an the mains brust, I kent I'd nae chance o gettin a message throw tae the toun.
Gsw. 2000 Herald (2 May) 19:
The three-day fest is free and happens mainly in the Callendar Park, the big hoose and estate of a former laird o' Falkirk. The blossoming of a festival in the central toon might fill the gap for those who still miss Glasgow's Mayfest and can't wait for the Edinburgh fest.
Abd. 2000 Herald (18 Sep) 21:
"But I'll block the road wi' my coos. I'm entitled to block the road for 10 minutes to let them cross. And if you think that's nae enough, dinna worry. I'll let them oot one at a time and gie them ten minutes each."
Could the taxi drivers block the bus lanes in the Toon? "Nae bother."
Ags. 2000 Montrose Review (16 Nov) 15:
And warming to the theme of town councillors, many of you will have fond memories of the original Gable Ender, ... a glib-gabbit clashie and nemsie with a rare North Eastern interest in the clishmaclaver o' the toun.
(1) Fif. 1799 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (10 Sept.):
Our town's bairn Admiral Mitchell, and his gallant associates.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 82:
M'Ghee, our ain toun's bairn.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iii.:
A kindly Scot himsell, and a toun's-bairn of the gude toun.
Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights 184:
Though nae a “toun's-bairn” o' yer ain.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 135:
Toon's bairns an' bodies.
(2) Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie viii.:
Town-beagle Bob, wi's cheekies buffin'.
(3) Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare viii.:
Town's bodies ran, an' stood abiegh.
Gsw. 1872 J. Young Lochlomond Side 35:
Hoo's a', toun's budies? whaur away?
Sc. 1896 J. Buchan Scholar Gipsies 82:
“Ye'll be a toon's body?” “Well, I've lived in towns.”
(4) m.Lth. 1935 Scotsman (14 Aug.):
The Provost [of Musselburgh] then ordered the Town Champion and the Turf Cutter to set out on their round of the burgh boundary . . . the Champion being in a full suit of armour and carrying a spear.
(5) Ags. 1918 V. Jacob More Songs 28:
They gae'd frae mill and mart; frae wind-blawn places, And grey toon-closes.
(7) Gsw. 1701 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (B.R.S.) 343:
To touns drummers there yearly pensione.
Edb. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (25 Nov.):
The Chief Magistrate of Leith sentenced the town drummer and one of the town officers to be imprisoned, for posting up play-bills in different parts of the town on Sunday.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie viii.:
Town-drummer Tam, wi's drummie ruffin'.
Sc. 1872 C. Gibbon For the King i.:
The town-drummer at their head.
(8) Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 126:
Gawn down by the Town-en'.
Lnk. 1820 Trials for High Treason (1825) II. 238:
I heard them mention going to the town-end.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. ii.:
Down the street to the town-end port.
Lth. 1882 P. McNeill Preston 20:
Loud he began, and sae shrill he sang, That he gar'd the toon end a' ring.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 103:
On her return from the Laigh Toon-end.
Sc. a.1937 Our Mither Tongue (MacWhannel) 87:
It's a weary road to my ain toon-end.
(9) Sc. 1827 Scott Surgeon's Daughter i.:
From the Townhead to the Townfit.
Dmf. 1894 J. Cunningham Broomieburn 10:
Let's danner doon tae the toonfit.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xiii.:
Tweesht the quarry and the town foot.
(10) Abd. 1920 M. Argo Makkin' o' John 15:
Yon toon's fowk are aye yap.
Ags. 1927 V. Jacob Northern Lights 30:
The yett was wide but the kirkyaird bars Had gotten their toonsfowk fast.
(11) Rxb. 1762 Session Papers, Petition A. Scott (16 July):
The entry into the said house was off the town-gate by the easter gavel.
s.Sc. 1817 Blackwood's Mag. (May) 155:
Their gable-ends, backs, or corners, turned to the street or toun-gate.
Slk. 1874 Border Treasury (22 Aug.) 48:
Owre great a haste he aye was in To care for toon-gait clash an' din.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chronicle (18 Nov.) 4:
The gaily beribboned ball should be thrown up at the “toon gate” by the oldest man in the village.
(12) Sc. 1704 Burgh Rec. Edb. 75:
He had disbanded ten men off the toune Guaird.
Edb. 1788 H. Arnot Hist. Edb. 506:
The number of this corps, which is called the Town Guard, has been very fluctuating.
Rnf. 1792 R. Brown Hist. Paisley (1886) II. 35:
In order that the town guard may be on a respectable footing for the safety of the inhabitants, all heads of families shall mount guard.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian iii.:
These frail memorials of the old Town-Guard of Edinburgh.
Rnf. 1840 J. Mitchell Wee Steeple's Ghaist 41:
Your toon guard was swept away. And in its place a queer display O' chiels now tread.
Sc. 1856 R. Chambers Trad. Edb. 172:
One of the characteristic features of Edinburgh in old times was its Town-Guard, a body of military in the service of the magistrates for the purposes of a police, but dressed and armed in all respects as soldiers.
(13) Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 91:
He took his seat at the Town's-ha', Amang the Bailies.
(14) Dmf. 1746 R. Edgar Hist. Dmf. (1915) 22:
The street called the Townhead.
Clc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (3 Oct.):
The haill Subjects in the Town-head of Alloa.
Rxb. 1827 R. Chambers Picture Scot. I. 93:
There have not been more instances of Town-heid folk descending to the lower part of Jedburgh, than of Town-fit folk ascending to the Town-heid.
Lnk. 1867 W. A. Cowan Hist. Lanark 81:
The next halt is at the ‘townhead,' where the grand procession is formed.
Rxb. 1923 Kelso Chronicle (26 Oct.) 4:
There are very few “toon-heiders” astir as yet.
Sc. 1966 in Robert Fergusson (Smith) 187:
Baxter's bylies, aa the haill jing-bang O' toun-heid patrons.
(15) Sc. 1760 Session Papers, Wedderburn v. York-building Co. (10 Jan.) 24:
To send his Cows to pasture on Tranent Moor, under the Care of the Town-herd of Tranent.
Rxb. 1767 Craig and Laing Hawick Tradition (1898) 236:
About the year seventeen hundred and ten, Walter Scot was Town Herd of Hawick.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxvii.:
Tammy Tout, the town-herd, as he drove out the cows in the morning.
Rnf. 1875 R. Brown Hist. Paisley Gramm. Sch. 160:
We came into the possession of one of the large horns used by the town herds, with the date “1721” cut into it.
(16) Sc. 1715 J. Sinclair Memoirs (Abbotsford Club) 13:
A very numerous mob who opposed his goeing to the Town-House.
Lnk. 1753 Caled. Mercury (2 Jan.):
[A] violent Explosion split the Bell of the Townhouse.
Sth. 1761 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 300:
Incarcerate within the Town House of Dornoch.
Ags. 1772 Dundee Charters, etc. (1880) 167:
Below the Piadzas of the Town House.
Gsw. 1858 “Shadow” Midnight Scenes 110:
Yes, we got something aff the toon-house.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb ii.:
To point out to them the “Toon's Hoose,” and the “Cross.”
Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Poems 114:
The fiddler then, an' ba'-men chiel's, Play round the toun-house, lichtsome reels.
Fif. 1933 Hist. Mon. Comm. Fife 285:
The Tolbooth or Town-house dates from about the beginning of the 18th century.
Ayr. 1957 Ardrossan Herald (30 Aug.):
Provost, Magistrates and Couneillors paraded from the Townshouse to Irvine Old Parish Church.
(17) Abd. 1956 Press and Jnl. (10 March):
Some of these residents were formerly “toonies,” though many regard themselves more as living in a suburb of the city.
(18) Edb. 1775 Caled. Mercury (13 Sept.):
Yesterday, by the activity of James Stewart, town-keeper, William Macghie, late hangman in Glasgow, was apprehended.
Ags. 1787 G. Hay Arbroath (1876) 279:
It was agreed to contribute £2 towards a “town-keeper,” who was “to prevent the inhabitants from being infested with vagabonds.”
Ags. 1830 Perthshire Adv. (18 Feb.):
A poor labouring man named Lamb has been appointed to the office of town-keeper, and is doing ample justice to his calling. During this past week several individuals were fined for riding on their carts on the public street.
Fif. 1886 A. Stewart Dunfermline 29:
Only one man was “town-keeper” at that time.
Ags. 1891 J. G. Low Mem. Par. Ch. Montrose 157:
A functionary who bore the name of “town's keiper ” or “bum the beggars,” as he was locally called. The “keiper” was furnished with garments something akin to the Town officers.
(19) Sc. 1711 J. Kirkwood Hist. 27 Gods Lnl. 23:
William Higging Bailie, was the Chief, if not the only Person that acted with the Town-Officers in this Affair.
Slk. 1744 Session Papers, Emmond v. Magistrates Selkirk (19 June) 28:
The Town-Officer came and warned him to come to a Council.
Mry. 1762 Elgin Kirk-Session Rec. (Cramond 1897) 339:
To traverse the streets with the town's officers and to inspect some suspected ale houses.
Gsw. 1762 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (25 Jan.) 78:
Scarlett blew cloath and blew shalloon furnished for town officers, drummers and others.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie vi.:
Running errands for town-officers.
m.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 268:
The whole cavalcade being preceded by the town-officers, with their ancient Brabant spears.
Rxb. 1965 Hawick Express (21 July) 4:
Rob Tinlin whae was the toon's officer an the pairish beadle.
(20) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 7:
The town's piper, wi' a blatter, Whummelt and skail't the halie water.
Per. 1836 G. Penny Traditions 39:
The Town Piper. Down to the year 1800, in addition to a drummer, the town [Perth] had an official under the above title.
Rnf. 1902 R. D. Mackenzie Kilbarchan 281:
[Habbie Simson] combined the occupation of butcher with the office of town-piper.
(21) Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 30:
Town potatoes, planted on farms in near neighbourhood to towns and large weaving villages, and being the result of a mutual contract between the farmers and poorer classes of inhabitants.
(23) Abd. 1949 Huntly Express (25 Feb.):
Many new words and “toonser” expressions.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (29 Dec.):
A toonser! — that's fat she's mairried — a toonser!
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 23:
Toonser lads that had, nae doot, some capers o' their ain.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 99:
He was a rather grippy kind of chiel and very much intae the wyes of the scaldie folk. He worked at a factory in Aiberdeen and he liked fit-ba and times he would mate aboot with the flatties and sometimes spake like them. Lockie didnae behave like the toonsers in the least bit. Never mind, the twa lads got on weel enough and very seldom fought with een anither.
ne.Sc. 1994 Press and Journal (22 Jun) 16:
Is there a difference between a rowie and a buttery? That is the question. I had assumed they were one and the same, but that the buttery was the country monicker and the rowie the word used by Toonsers.
ne.Sc. 2000 Herald (16 Jun) 18:
Ruth Wishart is a toonser as much as I am and Lord Watson of Invergowrie is, and we all know as little about rural matters as each other.
Edb. 2004:
When Ah wis a bairn aw ma Musselburgh relatives cried me a Toonser.
(24) Abd. 1710 Burgh Rec. Abd. (B.R.S.) 340:
The towne sergeands to break the casks they find contrair to this act.
Ags. 1776 First Hist. Dundee (Millar 1923) 156:
The Magistrates have five Toun Sargents to serve them, who are all uniformly cloathed in Blue cloaths mounted with Blue & White lace, with a Silver laced hat.
Abd. 1962 Abd. Univ. Review (Autumn) 311:
Town Sergeants date back to at least the 16th century. They attend the Lord Provost, Magistrates, etc., when required and are present at all official processions.
(25) Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes xli.:
I'm a toon-snail. The country's for calves and geese.
(27) Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 112:
It took ower the fields, toonwith, like a very bird.

Phr.: up the town, into or in the town (centre).Gsw. 1983 James Kelman in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 70:
Around then Young Cecil started playing in a private club up the town where Wee Danny had played once or twice but not very often.
Edb. 1994 Gordon Legge I Love Me (Who Do You Love?) 50:
And you know it was just as well it was the day she asked 'cause I was just heading up the town for messages, and that's why I had the money.
Edb. 1995 Irvine Welsh Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996) 198:
I couldn't go out but I couldn't stay in; no wi that shite gaun on. So one day I ventured out and took a bus up the toon.

2. (1) An area of arable land on an estate, with associated common grazing rights, occupied by a number of farmers as co-tenants living in clusters of houses and usu. farmed in whole or in part on a run-rig system, common throughout Scot. in the first half of the 18th c. As the agricultural revolution spread over the Lowlands these holdings were gradually enclosed, rearranged and reallocated as single units corresponding to the modern farm to which the name toun was transferred (see (2) below). The old system however survived in outlying areas as the Highlands and the Northern and Western Isles into the 20th c. and to these the name township came to be applied in the 19th c. (see (4) below).Sc. 1718 Nairne Peerage Evid. (1873) 34:
The particular touns lands milnes and others above specified.
Kcd. 1733 Urie Court Bk. (S.H.S.) 150:
Each tennent within the touns of the lands of Ury.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 13:
When Helenore a gangrel now was grown, And had begun to toddle about the town.
Ork. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 132:
In one town of land, as it is called, consisting of about 60 acres, and with 8 farmhouses, besides cottagers houses.
Sth. 1820 J. Loch Acct. Sth. 49:
A certain district was let to the whole body of tenants resident in each “town,” who bound themselves, conjointly. and severally, for the payment of the whole rent.
Inv. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence I. 740:
It is impossible for us to work the small piece of land we have got, because we have never got a road made through the town.
Sh. 1898 W. F. Clark Northern Gleams 60:
At da fit o' da toon dey wir a naesty bugg.
Ork. 1911 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 6:
The parishes in Orkney were at that time divided into Townships. There was, for example, the toon o' Aikerness which consisted of the farm of Aikerness and the cot houses of Lawgae, Henley, etc. . . . The toon o' Stenso had four farm houses.
Ork. 1952 H. Marwick Farm-names 216:
The term tunship itself is an English compound, and was rarely, if ever, used in Orkney, where the local term was simply ‘toun' or ‘toon'.

(2) A farm in the modern sense (see (1) above), esp. the houses and buildings and the immediately surrounding area (Sc. 1825 Jam., 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 726; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc., in the earlier examples not always distinguishable from (1). See (3) below.Sc. 1720 T. Boston Memoirs (1853) 392:
I went in to the barn at the end of the town.
Abd. 1764 Caled. Mercury (5 Mar.) 116:
The lease of the town of Longleys, a part of said estate, expires at Whitsunday 1769.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 19:
A' the light hippet hussies that rins between towns at een.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Cotter's Sat. Night iv.:
Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin A cannie errand to a neibor town.
Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 5:
An' cadge the craps, fan cuttit down In hairst, hame o'er unto the Town.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxiii.:
Two or three low thatched houses, placed with their angles to each other, with a great contempt of regularity. This was the farm-steading of Charlie's Hope, or, in the language of the country, ‘the town'.
Dmf. 1817 W. Caesar Poems 60:
The barn-door key he threw them down, Bade them tak a' about the town.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 126:
My corn's close tae the toon this year.
Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 184:
A bitter tear fa's my face doon to see ye leave your lang-lo'ed toon.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chronicle (5 April) 4:
The story was quickly through the “toon,” as the farm places are termed.
Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (8 Dec.) 5:
The word “town” in the sense of farm stead, usually surviving in the names of old farms in a form such as Smithstown, Brownstown, and so on.
Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 330:
He didn't look long for a toun of his own.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 69:
As to the rest of the estate: scattered throughout it were "touns" or townships, each consisting of about eight houses, with or without lums.

(3) Specif. in Sh., the arable enclosed ground of a farm. Comb. toun-rigs, id. Adj. toonie, of animals: reared in the toun.Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 414:
If a Shetlander incloses land from the scathold, and surround it with a fence, it is still called a Town.
Sh. 1949 P. Jamieson Letters 220:
Da müddoo in the lower toon of his neighbour's croft.
Sh. 1968 New Shetlander No. 86. 16:
Ta tak me toonie lambs ta da roop.
Sh. 1971 New Shetlander No. 97. 29:
He set up stooks in coontid traves i da lower toon rigs.

(4) The cluster of houses belonging to the tenants of a toun and others more loosely associated with it, a hamlet in gen. Common as an element in place-names and in combs. as kirk-toun, fish(er) toun, etc., see Kirk, n.1, III. 48., Fish, n., 3. (9).Abd. 1796 Session Papers, Leslie v. Fraser (28 March 1805) 212:
Being asked, whether he means, by calling part of Fraserfield's property the town of Bridge of Don, that it is a village, or that it is a farm commonly called in this part of the country a town? depones, That he means it as a village.
Sh. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 242:
Whether the crofter's house stands alone, or forms one of a little group of dwellings, the small cluster of buildings is called a “town” or “toon”.
Sc. 1963 N.E. of Scotland 88:
‘Touns, or townships, each consisting of about eight houses, although occasionally there were many more so that the ‘toun' became a small hamlet with its smith, weaver and tailor as well as the truly agricultural population of tenants, sub-tenants, cottars and grassmen (or women).
Sc. 1971 Scotsman (27 Sept.) Suppl. iii.:
Photographs of sons and daughters in the academic robes of graduation day in the homes of kirktowns, fishertowns and farmsteads.

(5) Combs., phrs. and derivs.: ‡(i) a clean toon, a farm which all the hired servants have left at one term (Abd. 1972); (ii) down-the-town, at the lower end of a toun (sense (1)); (iii) ferm-toun, = (2) above. See also Ferm, n.1, 2. (11). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc.; (iv) to keep toun, to take temporary charge of a farm in the absence of the farmer and the other servants (Abd. 1972). Cf. (viii) below. Also in form toon-keep; (v) toondie, -y, = (viii) (Abd. 1972). See -Die, suff.; (vi) toun-dyke, the wall enclosing the arable ground on a Shetland farm (Sh. 1972). See (3); (vii) toon-en(d), a row of cottages, usu. on a farm; (viii) toun-keeper, the person left in charge of a farm when the rest of the household are away (ne.Sc. 1972). See also (iv); (ix) toun(s) land, the land of a toun in senses (1) or (3) (Sh. 1972); (a) specif. in Ork.: land cultivated in run-rig by the tenants of the toun, as opposed to toonmal below (Ork. 1923 Sc. Hist. Review XX. 19); (b) the common grazing ground of a farming community; (x) toun-loan, -lon, an open space round a farm-stead or hamlet (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); ne.Sc. 1972). See also Loan, n.1, 1. (6); (xi) tounmal, -mail(l), -mall, -mel, -mill, -moll, toomal, tumail, tumale, towmale, to(u)mel, tumult, toonwall, tunwel, freq. in pl.; in I.Sc., a piece of land round each farmstead of a toun, held in continuity by the tenant (Ork. 1929 Marw.), now surviving gen. as a field-name (I.Sc. 1972). The second element represents O.N. vǫllr, field; (xii) town muir, the common pasture land of a town, village, or township; (xiii) toun raw, a row of cottages in a toun (sense (1)). Phr. to thraw oneself out o' a toon raw, to do something to incur the displeasure of a community and so be ostracised among them (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); (xiv) township, tun-, = (1) above, q.v. Gen.Sc., esp. in regard to Highland areas, of a community of crofters and smallholders farming independently but with common grazing rights; (xv) tounskerrie, a sea-taboo word for a cock (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), tunskerri, ‡Sh. 1958). For the second element cf. Sh. Norn kelli, a seagull, kalli, a gull's cry; (xvi) tounwall, tunwel, = (xi); †(xvii) winter-town, the arable part of a farm as opposed to the summer pasture or shieling (see quots.).(i) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb viii.:
Peter Birse was about to make a ‘clean toon' of his servants.
Abd. 1963 Buchan Observer (11 June) 6:
“She wants a clean toon,” said Rab to his men, “we'll a' hae tae go' lads.”
(ii) Dmf. 1820 J. Johnstone Poems (1857) 134:
Auld Blench, too' our down-the-town cottar.
(iii) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 81:
A farm toon they ca'd Bonnshie.
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. vii.:
A farm toon only two park-breaths awa'.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 23:
He routit oot the haill fairm-toun To reenge the country up an' doon.
Sc. 1943 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 193:
Everybody around every farm toun glad to be immensely busy.
(iv) Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert iv.:
Only the bailie an' the third horseman are toonkeepin' this sair Sunday.
Ayr. 1933 Kilmarnock Standard (17 June):
My grieve's off work, and there's nobody to keep toon for me.
Abd. 1952 Huntly Express (21 Oct.):
The foreman of those days was a horseman and he had to be on duty in the evenings and take his turn of “keepin' toon” at week-ends.
(v) Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 8:
I see fat his keepit you toondie the nicht.
Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (6 Nov.):
What a difference now, where there may be but a single “toondy” and that too not for Sunday alone, but actually from 12 noon Saturday to Monday morning.
(vi) Sh. 1768 Hjaltland Misc. (1937) II. 120:
Bounded by that part of the foundation of the old Toun dyke of Voe.
Sh. 1869 J. T. Reid Art Rambles 24:
A species of supernatural beings in Papa Stour so numerous and even dangerous, that a person could not go beyond the “town-dyke” after twelve o'clock at noon.
(vii) Abd. 1922 P. Macgillivray Bog-Myrtle 64:
When he cam' in by oor toun end To buy a sou o' hay.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 29:
Sour an' dour wis a' the fowk At oor toon-en'.
Uls. 1957 J. J. Abraham Surgeon's Journey 18:
Half a dozen cottar houses in a row or “toonen”; and these were situated in either side of a loanin through the middle of the farm.
(viii) Abd. 1925 Sc. Farmer (28 Feb.):
It was part of the bargain that he should act as “town-keeper” every alternate Sunday.
Bnff. 1961 Stat. Acc.3 297:
Free weekends for farm servants mean the farmer must be “townkeeper”.
(ix) Gall. 1724 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1933–5) 247:
Mr. Basil Hamilton warning all the tenants of four or five townlands, Mr. Murdoch warning all the tenants of two townlands, Mr. Murray of Cavens warning about thirty families, and Broughton is warning all the tenants of — townlands, being the vast and large tract of land besides what he formerly had inclosed.
Ork. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 28:
Part of this townland was formerly a “mortification”.
Cai. 1875 Trans. Highl. Soc. 179:
In every townland there was what was called the Mains. . . . The proprietor retained the mains in his own hand.
Sh. 1945 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 84:
Here the seals would . . . lie watching the folk of the Sands flitting their kye and sheep on the green “toon-lands.”
(b) Peb. 1884 J. Grosart Poems 12:
When oor toon's kye to Edderston toon's land were driven.
(x) Fif. 1812 W. Tennant Anster Fair 24:
Hobbling in each town-loan in awkward guise.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
A small hamlet with an old-fashioned “toon-loan” fringed by a few large ash and plane trees.
(xi) Ork. 1721 H. Marwick Merchant Lairds (1939) II. 36:
The Cotter Toumel of hetle pays yearly to Elsnes . . . 2 meil.
Ork. 1766 P. Fea MS. Diary (26 Feb.):
Done with the Tumel of Inglea and sown it.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 427:
A piece of green pasturage, never dug up, that surrounds the Shetlander's farm-house, which he names his ‘town mails'. On this spot horses are tethered, when wanted for immediate use.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (20 Aug.):
Ta lat da bits o' toonmills be rötid aff o' da shannel be a raag o' a grice.
Ork. 1904 W. T. Dennison Sketches 9:
I wur mellan clods wi' me eldest brither on me fether's toomal.
Ork. 1923 Sc. Hist. Review XX. 19:
‘Towmalls' or small fields close to the various houses. These towmalls consisted of the best land and were not shared in runrig, but usually belonged entirely to one proprietor.
Sh. 1956 Shetland News (4 Dec.):
The short grass on the toonmals.
(xii) Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xlvi.:
We had likewise feued out to advantage a considerable portion of the town moor.
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 81:
At the back of Auchnabreac, town-muir and bonny place.
(xiv) Ags. 1813 J. Headrick Agric. Forfar 561:
A township is a farm oecupied by two or more farmers, in common or in separate lots, who reside in a straggling hamlet or village.
Inv. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (15 July) 4:
Glenlui, Boline, and Laddy, all situated in Sleisgarrive of Glengarry, in separate townships, and under small tenants.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x.:
He len-it a hantle to the toonship, an' leeft a vast o' property forbye.
Sc. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Report 17:
The Highland ‘township', of which much has recently been said and written, has never possessed any corporate existence in the law of Scotland. It has been, as far as the law is concerned, simply a farm or part of a farm, occupied in common or in division by several tenants. In former times, in almost every case, it comprised both arable and pasture lands used in common. . . . Toward the close of the last and in the earlier part of the present century, the arable lands of the township have, except in very rare cases, been ‘lotted,' or permanently defined and attached to separate tenancies. . . . The pasture lands, where they have not been absorbed by the adjacent sheep farm, are still used in common as of old.
Inv. 1936 St Andrews Cit. (26 Dec.) 5:
At the upper end of the township — as these coteries of crofts are termed.
Ork. 1952 H. Marwick Farm-names 220:
In Orkney, for the most part, each tunship abutted on a beach — either of the sea or of a loch — and its lands ran up to the “hill.”
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 69:
As to the rest of the estate: scattered throughout it were "touns" or townships, each consisting of about eight houses, with or without lums. A toun was in fact a farm - even today we still speak about a farm steading as the farm-toun. The simplest sort of toun was a farm leased to one tenant, usually for five years, He then sub-let portions to families, who paid a rent, partly in kind and partly in service.
Sth. 1964 Scottish Studies VIII. 180:
The agricultural townships surviving from before the Clearances or established as a result of the Clearances.
Sh. 1971 New Shetlander No. 97. 28:
Da foys or sprees dat enlivened da lang winter nights ida toonship.
Sc. 1985 Eric Richards and Monica Clough Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914 170:
There is evidence that subtenants were made direct tenants progressively through the second quarter of the century, and that 'lotting of townships' proceeded pari pasu. .... Before 1848 Polbain township had been let to a tenant with power to sublet.
(xvii) Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XII. 476:
The best land . . . on which they lay out all their dung . . . and is under a perpetual rotation of crops. This division of the farm is called the Wintertown.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 335:
From that season [spring] until the approach of harvest, the winter-town, as it was called, was only visited occasionally by the men to collect fuel, to weed and take care of the crop.
Sc. 1910 D. Campbell Reminisc. 46:
The shealings might be adjacent to the winter-towns or 10 or 20 miles away.

3. The people of a farm or small estate, a household.Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 49:
The brave young laird and a' his toun.

4. By metonymy: public excitement, a local sensation, a furore (Ags. 1972).Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy x.:
Soon there was a town about, it, for one day ladies would find that they had been bowing to the son thinking he was the father, and the next they wouldna speak to the father, mistaking him for the son.

5. In pl.: the name of a ball game like rounders (Ayr. 1895 J. Walker Old Kilmarnock 65).

II. v. With out: to farm out, to settle or employ (a person) on a toun.Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 241:
He, wha had been toun'd out wi' tenants, Wou'd soon be head man to the laird.

[O.Sc. toun's bairn, 1641, toun end, 1497, toun heid, 1589, tounland, 1606, towmal, 1483, town officer, 1586, toun pypar, 1600.]

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



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