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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WAULK, v. Also waulk(e), wauck, walk, waak, wawk, wa(c)k, wake; ¶wauch. [wɑ:k, wǫ:k]

1. (1) tr. and absol. To full (cloth), to make (cloth) thick and felted by a process of soaking, beating and shrinking (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., waak; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., n.Sc. 1973). Vbl.n. waulking, ppl.adj. waukit, -ed, fulled (Sc. 1880 Jam.), matted, shrunk and thickened in washing, of cloth (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 467; Dmf. 1920; I., n.Sc., Ags., wm.Sc. 1973). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. The process was performed by hand in the Hebrides until fairly recently to the accompaniment of rhythmic Gaelic songs to coordinate the movements of the waulking team.Sc. 1703 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 334:
To my good doughter for serge waking and litting 2 duc[adoons].
e.Lth. 1703 Trans. E. Lth. Antiq. Soc. IV. 28:
A thicke wacked blankett.
Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour (1785) 205:
Wawking cloth, that is, thickening it in the same manner as is done by a mill. Here it is performed by women, who kneel upon the ground, and rub it with both their hands, singing an Erse song all the time.
Sc. 1815 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 853:
In waulking, the women sit on the ground round a board, or a frame of wicker-work, on which they dash the cloth in measured time to the animating jorram or luinneg. The leader of the band sings the stanza, the whole band unite in the chorus, which is loudly repeated three times.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 58:
Folks threw aside their waukit duds, And on wi' iron claes, man.
Peb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 III. 16:
Wauking and dyeing are carried on.
Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Inglismill 32:
His coat an' breeks war' o' a lichtly blue Weel waukit, an' the pick o' hame-grown woo.
Ork. 1913 Old-Lore Misc. VI. ii. 87:
Following this process, which was called “scooring ”, came “the wauking o' the wab.”
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 23:
Ma flaaneen serk's aa up ma back an 's hard as buckram; it's been aa waakeet i the wesheen.
Sc. 1928 A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica I. 306:
After the web of cloth is woven it is waulked, to thicken and strengthen and brighten it.

(2) intr. Of cloth: to shrink as a consequence of being wetted (Sc. 1808 Jam.; I., ne.Sc. 1973), also with in (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai), up (Sh. 1897 Shetland News (9 Oct.)).Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie iv.:
It can be managet b' usin' the weeirs a wee thochtie rooner, an' then the stockin' has room t' wauk a bit.
Rnf. 1873 J. Nicholson Tibbie's Garland 52:
What made the days shorter when winter drew near? Quo I, it maun be they wauk in wi' the rain.

(3) Fig. To drub, beat, chastise (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen. in phr. as to wauk one's hide, id.Sc. c.1715 Jacobite Relics (Hogg 1819) 122:
We'll wauk their hydes and fyle their fuds, And bring the Stuarts back again.

Combs. and derivs.: (i) waulker, a fuller of cloth (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. and as the personal name Walker. Freq. attrib. as in waulker-burges, -mistery, -trade; (ii) waulking-board, a long grooved board on which cloth is waulked. Cf. (iii); (iii) waulking-frame, a frame, orig. of wicker-work, on which cloth was laid to be waulked. Cf. (ii) and (vi); (iv) waulkin-mill, a fulling mill, a mill in which cloth is shrunk. More freq. in form waulk-mill below; (v) waulking-song, any (Gaelic) song sung by a team of women engaged in waulking, gen. one of which the rhythm suits the motions involved, different songs being used for different stages in the process. Gen.Sc., liter. and hist. See A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica (1928) I., IV.; (vi) waulking-wicker, = (iii); (vii) waulking-woman, one of a team of women, esp. the leader, engaged in waulking cloth; (viii) waulk-mill, †-miln(e), †-mylne, = (iv) (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 467, wauch-; Kcb. 1900; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; ne.Sc., Per., wm.Sc. 1973), surviving in many places as a farm-name. Hence waulk-miller, -millart, a fuller, waulk-milling; (ix) walkster = (i).(i) Edb. 1702 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1967) 6:
John Callendar late deacon of the waulkers.
Ags. 1707 Dundee Charters, etc. (1880) 163:
David Niccoll, present deacon of the waker trade of Dundie.
Edb. 1725 J. Colston Guildry Edb. (1887) 130:
Isobel McNab, relict of George Pearson, wauker burges.
Ags. 1764 Session Papers, Waulkers Dundee v. Brown (2 Feb.) 2:
The next part of the Waulker-mistery consists in the tenting, racking, pressing, and sheering of the cloth.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 149:
They scour'd their din skins as a wauker does worsted blankets.
Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 108:
The wauker would be making his appearance with his old switch-tailed mare, having a load of blankets, etc. piled up on her back.
(ii) Sc. 1928 A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica I. 306:
Occasionally the waulking-board is laid on the ground, and the women work the cloth with their feet.
(iii) Sc. 1928 A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica I. 306:
The frame on which the cloth is waulked is a board some twelve to twenty-four feet long and about two feet broad, grooved lengthwise along its surface. The waulking-frame is raised upon trestles, while the waulking-women are ranged on seats on either side.
(iv) Sc. 1838 Whistle-Binkie II. 89, 118:
Her tongue gaun like a waukin' mill. . . . Like the thud o' a waulkin mill beetle.
(v) Sc. 1887 Trans. Gaelic Soc. Inv. XIII. 201:
The waulking songs that they would be expected to sing.
Sc. 1909 M. Kennedy-Fraser Songs Hebr. I. 161:
Waulking songs of various types are used in the course of shrinking one and the same web of cloth.
Sc. 1934 Times (26 Sept.) 6:
The Barra choir of children gave a very good rendering of their waulking song.
Sc. 1969 J. I. Campbell and F. Collinson Hebr. Folksongs 22:
The subject of no waulking song known to us is older than the downfail of the Lords of the Isles (i.e. the end of the fifteenth century).
(vi) Arg. 1918 N. Munro Jaunty Jock (1935) 158:
A web of tartan filched from a weaver's waulking-wicker.
(vii) Sc. 1928 A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica I. 306, IV. 89:
Generally the waulking-women are young maidens, a few married women of good voice being distributed among them. . . . There was a ‘bean luathaidh,' waulking woman, to lead the waulking.
(viii) e.Lth. 1700 Records Conv. Burghs (1880) 299:
The West Mill, and the East or Kirk Mill, with ther common walk mill and houses thereto belonging.
Bte. 1720 Session Bk. Rothesay (1931) 358:
Thomas Heman, wakemiller in Rothesay.
Sc. 1737 J. Dunbar Industrious Country-Man 44:
You must put it in the Wake-Mill, which will beat out all the Grease and Stuff that lurks in the Cloath.
Arg. 1753 Scots Mag. (July) 338:
Angus Macdonald waulk-miller in Auchosragan.
Dmf. 1775 Dmf. Weekly Mag. (7 Feb.):
The Waulk-Mills lately built by the town of Dumfries, consisting of a Pushing-mill and a Falling-mill.
m.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 133:
The noise of the wauk-mill no longer reminds the passenger of its existence.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes lxii.:
There's a lassie run by like a maukin, wi' a splash at ilka fit like a wauk-mill.
Rxb. 1875 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 34:
Their legs flauchen like the jams of a waukmill.
Ags. 1893 Brechin Advert. (2 May) 3:
The wauk mill means a mill faur woollen gudes, such as blankets, were sent to be shrunk after they cam' back frae the weavers.
Bwk. 1905 R. Gibson Old Bwk. Town 218:
Dyeing was an important part of the equipment of the early Waulk Mills, so common in the country. Their name signified their purpose, which was to waulk — thicken — and scour woollen clothes.
Per. 1949 Scots Mag. (April) 1:
The hamlets — with their wauk-milling, dyeing, malting.
(ix) Bnff. 1721 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith (1880) 97:
David Clerk, walkster at Keith.

2. By extension: to make matted, hard or rough, by continual use, friction or weather conditions, to make (the skin) calloused with hard work (Sc. 1825 Jam.), now gen. in ppl.adj. waukit (Ayr. 1912 D. McNaught Kilmaurs 296; I., m.Sc. 1973). Also fig. Deriv. waukitness, callosity of the skin (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Comb. waukit-woo'd, having the fleece thick and matted, of a sheep.Ayr. 1786 Burns Vision i. vi.:
I heaved on high my wauket loof, To swear by a' yon starry roof.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 166:
His waukit loofs were in a blister.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ii.:
A waukit-woo'd wedder, and a pair o' shambling shears.
Dmf. 1874 R. Reid Moorland Rhymes 29:
Tae the chastenin' o' Thy rod I turn my waukit side.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (10 March):
What sall dey be, waakid laek a ox lug?
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 64:
He reeve his waukit tappie.
Sc. 1931 Modern Scot (April) 20:
This auld breist that waukit was lang syne.

[O.Sc. walkmyl, 1418, walk, to full cloth, 1488, walkit, of cloth, 1490, Mid.Eng. walked, id., orig. the same word as Eng. walk, to go on foot, O.E. wealcan, to roll, toss about, wealcere, a fuller. Cf. also M. L.Ger., Mid.Du. walken, to full cloth, which may have influenced the semantic development. Walker, in place-name, 1337, as a surname, 1365.]

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"Waulk v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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