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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

WHANG, n., v. Also whaing, wang, wheang, †quhang (Sc. 1808 Jam.); wh(e)ing, whyng; wha(u)nk (sm. and s.Sc.); ¶hyank (Per. 1902 E.D.D.). See also Thwang and for n.Sc. forms Fang, n.2 [ʍɑŋ; sm., s.Sc. ʍeŋ, ʍɪŋ, ʍɑŋk]

I. n. 1. (1) A thong, a long narrow strip of leather (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249; Sh., Ags., Per., w.Lth., Ayr. 1974), used in making shoes, as a band, strap, etc. Also attrib. Adj. ¶whangy, made from a strip of leather. Also in Eng. dial.Arg. 1725 Stent Bk. Islay (1890) 278:
All shoemakers to work the common whang work at a shill: Scots per every single pair.
Gsw. 1749 Scotsman (31 Aug. 1934) 11:
8 sword whangs at 18s. Scots.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man (1972) xxvii.:
Raip-ladders, or rather whing ladders, for climbing ower the wa's.
Sc. 1825 Jam. Proverb:
They are ay at the whittle and the quhang, i.e. always in a state of contention.
Sc. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy 371:
He's taen four-and-twenty braid arrows, And laced them in a whang.
ne.Sc. 1832 A. Beattie Poems 127:
His joints, like whang o' souple slack, Fell in a dwaum just wi' the fright.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 329:
Ye cut lang whangs aff ither folk's leather.
Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 118:
Shoo them wi' hemp-thread and shoo them wi' whang.
Sc. 1912 Rymour Club Misc. II. 148:
Thro' frost and snaw to Kate I gae, Drawn by a whing o' Cupid's lingle.
Sc. 1966 Scotland's Mag. (March) 27:
One end of a whang or strong piece of string was next looped to the top knob and wound tightly round the grooves, beginning from the bottom and working up. Then with a firm flick we set the peerie off on the pavement quickly detaching our whangy accelerator.

Combs. and phr.: (i) spur-whang, a spur-strap; (ii) to tie one's hair without a whang, to deceive one (Fif. 1825 Jam., “a cant phrase”); (iii) whang-bit, “a bridle made of leather” (Jam.) but prob. rather a curb strap for a horse; (iv) whing-ladder, a ladder made with strips of leather.(i) Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xxxvi.:
There are strapping lads enough would have rid us of him for the lucre of his spur-whang.
(iii) Sc. 1733 Orpheus Caled. ii. 99:
A Pair of Branks, yea and a sadle, . . . A Whang-bitt and a Sniffle-bit.
(iv) Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man (1972) xxvii.:
They are for making raip-ladders, or rather whing-ladders.

(2) a strip of dried skin, gen. of an eel or a sheep, used as a hinge for a flail (Sh. 1974).Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IX. 234:
The eels skins are valuable to the farmers for making whangs or bindings to his flails.
Ayr. 1828 D. Wood Poems 59:
A white sheepskin for makin' whangs, To tie the flail.
Sh. 1934 Scotsman (30 Aug.) 11:
In Shetland the hinged part of the old-fashioned flail for beating grain was frequently of “whangs” made from the sinews of a whale.

(3) a leather bootlace (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.: Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., whaing, whing; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 16; I., m.Sc. (whang), s.Sc. (whing) 1974), extended to mean any kind of shoe-tie; a lace in gen. Combs. whing-hole, an eyelet in a boot or shoe through which the lace is threaded (m., s.Sc. 1974); whengie [ < whengee], id., fig. an opening in the lower part of a field-dyke for sheep to pass through, a sheep-hole (Lnk. 1948); also as a place-name, The Whangie, a split rock through which a path runs, in the Kilpatrick Hills in Dmb.Rxb. c.1730 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1972) 14:
For gray thrid whings . . . 2d.
Ayr. 1828 D. Wood Poems 70:
He naething said, but down did cour, Tied his shoe whang.
Sc. 1844 Chambers's Jnl. (29 June) 401:
With quarter boots and whings in them.
Sc. 1854 Hugh MacDonald Rambles Round Glasgow 328:
In width the Whangie, as this terrible fissure is called, varies from 2 ½ to 10 feet; its medium depth being about 40 feet, while its length is 346 feet. ... Save a stunted rowan-tree or two, projecting from the rifted summit of the chasm, the Whangie is utterly devoid of sylvan adornment.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 2:
The hobnailed boots laced with “Whangs”.
Dmf. 1912 J. & R. Hyslop Langholm 722:
Bootlaces (“whaings” we called them).
Rxb. 1924 Kelso Chronicle (25 July) 2:
It wad be a better plan to strip off the whingholes an' tell the cobbler to mend thae buits.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 188:
The divil a see till tie my whangs I cud do.
Sc. 2004 20 Feb :
John suggested a walk to The Whangie at the club night. I had heard of this strange rock formation and wanted to see it for myself. The legend has it that the devil was late for a meeting at a witches' coven, and he went swooping round the hill in such a hurry that his tail caught and sliced open the hillside. Apparently Whangie means slice but we think it is because the first person who discovered it couldn't think of a better name ... a bit like thingy.

†(4) a razor-strop.Sc. 1746 D. Warrand Culloden Papers (1930) V. 206:
To a case of razors and a whang . . . 5s.

(5) a thong for whipping, a whip-lash (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249).Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 189:
Then wi' a' souple leathern whang He gart them fidge and girn ay.
Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 49:
Baith fools an' knaves you crousely bang, An' wightly wag the skelping whang.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 29:
At every stripe o' the inevitable and inexorable whang, the skin flipes aff frae nape to hurdies.
Ags. 1850 J. Myles Dundee Factory Boy 9:
The canes and “whangs” of mill foremen were then used on helpless factory boys.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 182:
Lang we've thol'd baith rung and whang.

(6) “Anything of a long and supple nature” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 472); a rope, halter; a length of twist tobacco (Sh. 1974); the penis (m.Sc., Slk. 1974).Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar xxxvi.:
When did ye ever hear that a whang or two of hemp crippled a man for life.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 184:
Can ye credit such wickedness? But he's the worse. Major Weir the great sodger o Christ, that'd dip his whang intae ony flesh he could get in his hauns.

(7) “a term of abuse — applied to a female” (Ork. 1929 Marw.), poss. a different word.

2. (1) A long narrow strip of land.Rxb. 1778 Session Papers, Memorial W. Dickson (26 Feb.) 5:
These two rigs of land in that part of the fields of Kelso, called Short Wheings.

(2) A long stretch of rather narrow road, a “ribbon”, specif. in phr. The Lang Whang, a name for the old Edinburgh-Lanark road, esp. the stretch between Balerno and Carnwath where it passes over open moorland (m.Lth., Lnk. 1974).Sc. 1823 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 714:
He's gaun into Edinburgh, by Douglastown, and through by Carnwath and the Lang-whang.
Sc. 1861 J. Brown Horae Subsecivae 211:
The wilds of Dunsyre or the dreary Lang Whang.
Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 131:
I couldna hae seen a hyestalk on the Lang Whang Road.
Knr. 1917 J. L. Robertson Petition 65:
O the witchin' line o' the Lang Whang Road Is a sicht for an exile's ee —.
m.Lth. 1957 Scotsman (4 Jan.) 4:
The Lang Whang is a road that lives up to its name, for it winds like a snaking whip thong over the windswept northern foothills of the Pentlands.

3. (1) A large thick slice, gen. of something eatable, esp. cheese (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 472; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., whang, whank; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 249; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Wgt. 1956, whaing). Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Fig. in phr. to cut a whang frae a new cheese, to take a woman's virginity.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 82:
The twa, with kindly sport and glee, Cut frae a new cheese a whang.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair vii.:
Wi' sweet-milk cheese, in monie a whang.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems II. 11:
For dauds o' bannocks, whangs o' cheese, Their pouches a' they sought ance.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Tales (1837) I. 264:
A good whang of solid fish.
s.Sc. c.1830 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 86:
At the birth of a child, the gossips after having a good blow-out with merry-meat orders the husband or father of the newborn child, to present his shootin'-cheese and cut the “whang of luck”, for the young unmarried women in the company.
Sc. 1836 Chambers's Jnl. (9 April) 88:
I showed him a whang of a bear bannock, meaning that I didna care a farthing for him.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iii.:
In her pouch she carried a sonsey pease-meal scone, an' a wordy whang o' skim-milk cheese.
Hdg. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rural Rhymes 197:
Plates heaped high with scones and cheese, cut up into ready whangs.
Wgt. 1893 A. Agnew Hered. Sheriffs II. 348:
I've gien him a bannock, and a whang o' flesh forbye.
Dmf. 1915 D. J. Beattie Oor Gate En' 26:
The toodies were being screwed oot o' a big whank o' dough.
Bnff. 1922 Banffshire Jnl. (21 Feb.) 6:
A whang o' blue hame-made cheese, an' a bottle o' reamy milk.
Sc. 1964 Weekly Scotsman (4 Feb.) 9:
Whangs of Shortbread, buttered scones and Dundee cake.

(2) In gen.: a large amount or number of anything, a chunk, a sizeable slice (wm.Sc. 1974).Ayr. 1841 J. Paton Songs 30:
And cuttit off a cursed whang.
Abd. 1918 W. Mutch Hev ye a Spunk? 13:
An' fou I captured sic a whang They socht me to explain.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 15:
Alang wi' birsled tatties, neeps, An' whang o' ither stuff in heaps.
Gall. 1933 Gallov. Annual 23:
For Drury's awa' an' has ta'en A whaunk o' the aul' world wi' him.

(3) transf. A big hefty person, a lump of a man.Ags. 1888 Arbroath Guide (26 May) 3:
A muckle whang o' a bobby took me to a hotel.

4. A stroke, blow, buffet; a cut with a whip (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 472; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929; Rxb. 1942 Zai; I., em.Sc., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1974). Also in Eng. dial.Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
A whank aneth the haffets.
s.Sc. 1833 Border Mag. 228:
She brought me such a whang wi' her wing as she rushed enraged by.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lads' Love iii.:
Trying to edge near enough to the De'il to get a good satisfactory “whang” at him.
Sc. 1904 R. Ford Hum. Stories II. 89:
But men-fouk, when fechtin', stick mair by the whangie, A hug an' a thump, an' a dour collieshangie.
Ork. 1910 Old-Lore Misc. III. iv. 209:
I gave them a whang with my stick.

II. v. 1. tr. or absol. (1) To cut in chunks or sizeable portions, to slice (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Peb., Slk. 1825 Jam.; em.Sc., Rxb. 1974); to take lumps from, to eat greedily into. Deriv. whanger, a knife used for carving or slicing meat (Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man (1972) iv.) but see etym. note.Sc. a.1743 in D. Herd Sc. Songs (1776) II. 131:
We'll live a' the winter on beef and lang-kail And whang at the bannocks of barley-meal.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 139, 187:
Who kindly flings them mony a crum O' kebbock whang'd. . . . To Walker's he can rin awa There whang his creams an' jeels.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 41:
Whang down the cheese like peats.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 101:
We'll whang the kebbock wi' the knife.
s.Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 277:
The sheep, roasted, or rather broiled was subjected every now and then to an incision from the large whangers or knives.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 27:
Though unco jimp Life's whangit slice.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 40:
No bein' whang'd oot o' granite rock.

(2) to cut with a slicing movement, to slash, chop, snip; freq. of cutting down or off vegetation.Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 125:
Younkers ply their reaping heuks In whanging down the ripen'd grain.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 320:
The barber syne croppit him cleverly: He whang'd off his nose.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin vii., xxix.:
He sent me up for the sheers, wherewith he whankit them aff, juist as if they had been a wheen beasin' steeks. . . . Whankin' doon whatever opposed my progress — corn thristles, carldoddies, brume-cowes.
Gall. 1888 G. G. B. Sproat Rose o' Dalma Linn 242:
Wi' a pair o' guid horses I whanged owre the sod.
Dmf. 1915 J. L. Waugh Betty Grier vii.:
He pu'd a turnip, an' was juist gaun to whang off the shaw.

Hence whankie, n., a sickle-blade mounted on a long handle for cutting down thistles, inaccessible twigs, etc. (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Lth., Bwk., s.Sc. 1974).

2. To move (something) with sudden force, to thrust, push, pull, etc. with a jerk (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Kcb. 1899 Crockett Black Douglas xix.:
Whang the steel bolt through his ribs.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The dentist whankit oot ma tuith.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 65:
The sea's skin is nickit wi white slits.
The gowfer's club heid whangs the souchin baa.

3. intr. To move suddenly or with rapidity, to jump, start, etc.Gall. c.1820 Bards Gall. (Harper 1889) 98:
Nor fret then, to get then, A “Sax-in-han'” to ca'; To whang up, an' bang up, Amang the gentry a'.

4. To beat, whip, flog, lash with or as with a thong or whip (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Knr., Fif., Rxb. 1974, whank), to batter; fig. to trounce, defeat, worst. Vbl.n. whanking, a thrashing (Rxb. 1972 Hawick News (7 Jan.)). Deriv. whanker, a large or imposing specimen of its kind, a thumper (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Bwk., wm.Sc., Wgt., Rxb. 1974).Ayr. 1786 Burns Ordination iii.:
Heresy is in her pow'r And gloriously she'll whang her.
Rxb. 1807 J. Ruickbie Wayside Cottager 175:
Tho' I get my hurdies whankit.
Abd. 1820 A. Skene Poems 27:
Wha smugglin' devils kept in awe, An' did them whang.
Kcb. 1883 G. Murray Sarah Rae 47:
No Morrison nor Craig will whang us, My bonnie stane.
Ags. 1889 J. Fotheringham Carnoustie Sk. 99:
The pupils were taught and whanged for a half-penny per week each.
Kcd. 1897 Bards Ags. (Reid) 155:
We micht own it was wrang the birkie to whang.
wm.Sc. 1998 Alan Warner The Sopranos (1999) 138:
Kylah took a step forward, the phone in one hand, thrown outwards so's it wanged the kiosk glass.

III. int. With a clatter; bang! thump!Kcb. 1895 Crockett Men of Moss Hags xxiii.:
Whang! Doon on the hearthstane fell my souter's elskin.

[O.Sc. quhayng, a strip of leather, 1513, variant, also in n.Eng. dial., of Eng. thwang, thong, O.E. þwang, id. The e, i forms prob. derive from O.N. þvengr, id. See T, letter, 9. (2) (v). Meanings 4. of n. and v. may however be partly imit. and the form whanger s.v. II. 1. may be associated with O.Sc. quhanger, 1541, quhanȝear, 1584, a knife, dagger, a variant of Whinger, q.v.]

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"Whang n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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