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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.

WHIN, n.2 Also whine, ¶whind; whun. [ʍɪn, ʍʌn]

1. The common gorse or furze, Ulex europaeus (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 190; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson, whun; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen. (exc. ne.) Sc. and in n.Eng. and Ir. dial. Rarely applied to broom, Genista (n. Ork. 1974). For ne.Sc. forms see Fun, n.1 Freq. in pl. for a clump or area of whins and in place-names. Also attrib.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 23:
Driving their Baws frae Whins or Tee, There's no ae Gowfer to be seen.
Abd. 1746 Monymusk Papers (S.H.S.) 168:
Hedges of quick or whines round all above.
Sc. 1766 Caled. Mercury (19 Feb.) 86:
The narrow road leading through the whins or furze on the sea-side.
Ayr. 1791 Burns Tam o' Shanter 93–4:
Thro' the whins, and by the cairn, Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn.
Edb. 1798 H. MacNeill Sc. Muse (1801) I. 135:
On Aichil's whin-flower'd fragrant brae.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian ix.:
The two urchins might be seen seated beneath a bush of whin.
Edb. 1851 A. MacLagan Sketches 19:
The schule-callants, in roarin' crowds, Dash down through the whuns like tempest clouds.
Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 28:
Yellow whin-blumes thro' the snaw Are blithely peerin'.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xii.:
The linky, boggy muirland that they call the Figgate Whins.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 263:
They made a bed o' gerse an whuns an dry sticks.
Abd. 1922 M. E. Angus Lilt 4:
A bunch o' the floorin' whin.
Lnk. 1951 G. Rae Howe o' Braefoot 119:
For weeks before the burning we gathered branches (“whuns” according to Braefoot speech) and laid them on the huge pile.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 7:
Though there are good pockets of land, the rocks too often stand out of the soil and the whins wait at the dykesides to recapture the fields.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 54:
The rule, perhaps universal, certainly holds good here, that the poorer the land, the smaller the farms; and the quality of the land here can be judged by the acres of whin and broom whose golden flowers could be seen from Inverness in the month of May.
Slg. 1966 Stat. Acc.3 202:
The new townships began to make their appearance at Bannockburn and Whins of Milton.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 295:
As he set off for home there was just enough light for him to see the whins and tussocks of heather at his feet.
Sc. 1991 William Wolfe in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 65:
The whins are gowd at nune, nae clud in sicht
Yit daurk the lift, for goddesses faa bluidan.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 23:
If warlocks, witches or wizardrie
Sud terrifee Torphins,
The Terrible Three tae its aid they'd flee,
Haive witches tae the whins!
Sc. 2000 Herald (31 Oct) 14:
Mr Mackenzie said: "Whenever they see a groundsman cutting whin or broom, they're on to him at once.

2. In combs. heather-whin, moor-, moss-, the petty whin or needle green-weed, Genista anglica (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 51).

3. Combs., derivs. and phrs.: (1) as close as a whin, very secretive or uncommunicative; (2) through the whins, used fig. of an unpleasant or painful experience, as a dressing-down, etc., in phrs. to come, gie, tak (someane) through the whins (Slg., Lth., wm. and s.Sc. 1974). Cf. throu the muir s.v. Muir, 2. (1); (3) whin-bus(s), -bush, a furze-bush (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Cai., m. and s.Sc. 1974). Comb. Whin-bush Club, a Lanarkshire club of the late 17th and early 18th cs. (see Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 210). Phr. to flee up like a whun buss, to fly in a passion, from its inflammability when set alight; (4) whin-chacker, -checker, -chucker, (i) the whinchat, Saxicola rubetra (Sc. 1882 Jam.; Bwk. 1889 G. Muirhead Birds Bwk. I. 41, -chacker; Lnk. 1897 Annals Sc. Nat. Hist. 204, -chucker; Cai., Per., Fif., Lnk., Wgt. 1974); (ii) the hen stonechat, Saxicola torquata (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). See Chackart; (5) whin-clocharet, = (4) (i) (Ags. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 11). See Clocharet; (6) whin-cow(e), a tuft or branch of furze (Per. 1974). See Cow, n.1; (7) whin dyke, a fence consisting of gorse-bushes (Cai., em.Sc. (a), Lth. 1974); (8) whin fed, fed on gorse, pastured on moorland; (9) whin-howe, a mattock for uprooting gorse-bushes (Gall. 1974); (10) whin-lintie, the whinchat, Saxicola rubetra (Abd. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 11; Ags., Rxb. 1974); the linnet, Acanthis cannabina (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1889 G. Muirhead Birds Bwk. I. 168; Lnk. 1897 Annals Sc. Nat. Hist. 208; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (11) whin-mill, a grinding apparatus used for crushing gorse as fodder (see quots.). Obs. exc. hist.; (12) whinnie, (i) adj., composed of or overgrown with gorse, freq. in place-names. Gen.Sc.; also fig. bristly, unshaven; (ii) n., (a) a moor, heath or place covered with gorse; (b) the hedge-sparrow, Prunella occidentalis (w.Lth. c.1900 Scotsman (5 Aug. 1945) 7); the whinchat, Saxicola rubetra (Slg. 1867 Zoologist II. 889); (13) whin pounder, a crusher for pounding gorse (Ayr. 1928). Cf. (11); (14) whin-root, a gorse-root; see also 1951 quot.; (15) whin-scroab, a stump of gorse. See Scroab; (16) whin-sparrow, the mountain- or tree-sparrow, Passer montanus (Sc. 1825 Jam.); the hedge-sparrow, Prunella modularis (Fif. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IX. 233; e.Lth. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 28; Kcd., Fif., Lth., Wgt. 1974); (17) whin-stack, a stack or pile of dried gorse to be used as fuel; (18) whin-(w)rack, the creeping soft-grass, Holcus mollis, “so called because it is found to occupy places whence whins have been removed either by uprooting or burning” (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 212). See Wrack, n.1, 5.(1) Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xiii.:
Goudie's as close as a whin and likes to keep everything dark.
(2) Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St Patrick II. x.:
He'll staun us a stieve warsle or we wun on his tap, but we'll surely gi'e him through the whuns at the lang run.
Edb. 1829 G. Wilson Sc. Laverock 163:
His wife comes aften thro' the whins, Wi' hunger-bitten-qualms.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxxvi.:
Ye may as weel gie our freen here through the whins, for providing naebody to succeed her in Whinnyside.
Sc. 1891 N. Dickson Kirk Beadle 144:
He got away from the manse without being ‘taken through the whins'.
(3) Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 81:
Ye glowr like a wild-cat out of a whin-bush.
Abd. 1766 Abd. Journal (14 April):
The body of a new-born male infant, much bruised about the head, was found in a whin-bush near the Kirktown of Monymusk.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxvii.:
There may be ane o' his gillies ahint every whin-bush.
Fif. 1862 St Andrews Gazette (8 Aug.):
Wi' that she flew up like a whun buss, an' ca'd me every thing but a gentleman.
Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 227:
Pleadin' at the law is like fechtin' through a whin-bus', the harder the blows, the sairer the scarts.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 49:
Heavy, blinkin' e'en, juist like a hoolet lookin' oot a whun buss.
wm.Sc. 1959 A Sang at Least 39:
Flowers o' the whin-buss in the dyke.
Uls. 1987 Sam Hanna Bell Across the Narrow Sea 104:
'Last night's ding wasn't the work of MacCartan's people. No doubt the marauders were sib to Turlough. Like our own Hielan' gentry they're as mixed throughother as sheep's wool on a whinbush -'
Uls. 1992:
My hair looks as if it came through a whinbush.
Sc. 1994 Herald (17 Jan) 14:
Taken aback when Hjerstedt's tee shot at the short seventeenth cleared the green into an incongruously Scottish-looking yellow flowered whinbush, Lanner half-hit a No. 9 iron shot that was lucky to travel 100 of the intended 145 yards to the flagstick.
Edb. 2004:
I got ma legs aw scratched runnin through a whinbush.
(6) Sc. 1739 D. Hume Descr. Crimes (1797) I. 30:
He had chased the devil through the muir in another shape, “like a man with a whin-cow in his hat,” and who suddenly vanished from before him in the pursuit.
Sc. 1826 Scott Journal (28 Feb.):
If you would have a horse kick, make a crupper out of a whin-cow.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin i.:
Petawtis-peelins, kail-castocks, chappit whincowes.
(7) Ayr. 1838 J. Morrison McIlwham Papers 13:
To tak up a fause name, an' use it as a poacher wud a whun dyke, to shoot owre at a hare or a paitric.
Uls. 1886 W. G. Lyttle Sons of the Sod xxix.:
As suin as ye hear the shot, slip doon through the lang meedow an' lie doon aback o' the whundyke.
Bwk. 1927 R. S. Gibb Farmer's 50 Years 91:
In my time very few of the whin-dykes were of any use as fences.
(8) Gall. 1932 A. McCormick Galloway 221:
His pownie, which was a notoriously fast yin o' what was kent as the ‘whin fed' breed.
(9) Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 11:
Graips, scythes, whin-hoes, an' water pails.
Gall. 1901 Gallovidian III. 73:
They set aff for the crock pig, takin' an aul' whun howe to hoke it up wi'.
(10) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 256:
Havoc-burds. Those large flocks of small birds which fly about the fields after harvest; they are of different sorts, though all of the linnet tribe. Whunlinties form the greatest number.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 237:
Some birds alighted in your cherry-tree, which from a flirt of a wing I suspected to be either goldspinks or whin-linties.
Kcb. 1896 A. J. Armstrong Kirkiebrae xxxii.:
A whin-lintie was liltin' doon the crafts.
Bwk. 1911 A. H. Evans Fauna Tweed 88:
The Grey, Brown, Red, or Rose Linnet, as it is indifferently called in England, is the Lennart or whin Lintie of the Tweed area.
Peb. 1939 Border Mag. (Nov.) 173:
The linnet (whin-lintie), less common since the days of advanced farming.
(11) Abd. 1793 Trans. Bch. Field Club XIV. 76:
Carrying wood for the whine mill.
Kcd. 1893 C. A. Mollyson Fordoun 188:
With a plentiful supply of oilcake and other nutritious feeding stuffs there is no place now for the whin-mill.
Sc. 1913 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VI. 79:
The whin mill was built after one or two types; the most common consisted of a circular stone, shaped somewhat like a mill[s]tone, standing on edge, with approximately a diameter of four feet and a thickness of a foot. In the centre of the stone a hole was cut, through which a shaft about fourteen feet long was fixed. One end of the shaft was attached to an iron pin firmly fixed into an earth fast stone, and the other end was fitted with tackling to which a horse could be yoked. The gorse shoots were then thrown into a circular trough or course, where they were crushed as the mill-stone slowly revolved.
(12) (i) Rxb. 1715 Stitchill Court Book (S.H.S.) 171:
They are being conveined at the instance of the Procurator ffiscall for cutting of whins in the whinnie park.
Sc. 1755 Session Papers, Grant v. J.P.s Hdg. (14 Nov.) 6:
A whinny field lying upon his Estate.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 25:
Forth frae the whinny brae the maukin steals.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxxv.:
There's a mine o' copper ore aneath the whinny-knowes.
Ags. 1861 R. Leighton Rhymes 24:
It [nose]'s wide as the chimlie, it's red as an ember, And has to be fed like a dry whinnie fire.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 44:
Nae doot, nae doot, when I lookit very closely, there was a wee bit whinnie here an' there.
Uls. 1886 W. G. Lyttle Sons of the Sod xxix.:
Better till gang for a walk at the whunny nowes.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 9:
Scootin' doon a whinny glen.
(ii) (a) Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Poems 81:
Days, when on the whinny, We toiled to gather rack.
(14) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 28:
There war nae carts wi' wheels in a' the parish, nor harrows wi' airn teeth, but carrs and harrows wi' teeth o' whunroots.
Uls. 1951 E. E. Evans Mourne Country 177:
Tough whin made a serviceable tiller on a small boat: indeed old fishermen would refer to the tiller as “the whun root.”
(15) Wgt. 1726 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 38:
Cutting and away taking of Whinds and Whin scroabs out of his parks of Clarie and pennynghame.
(16) Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gaz. (14 May):
The egg of the whin-sparrow was found unbroken.
(17) Edb. 1703 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1967) 44:
The petitioners and the whole neighbourhead wer greatly exposed to fyre from the contiguous whin stackes at the said closs and other adjacent places.
Edb. 1727 Caled. Mercury (24 Aug.):
The Whinstacks and the Combustibles that lay there in great Heaps, eminently endangered the whole City.

[O.Sc. quyins, 1542, whine, 1628, of uncertain origin, prob. Scand., the word being common in n.Eng. dials. and place-names, North.Mid.Eng. quyn, whynne, = 1. N.E.D. compares Norw. dial. kvein, hvine, a kind of wild grass, agrostis, but not applied to the whin genus. Cf. also Sw. dial. hven, moorland pasture.]

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"Whin n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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