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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.

YAIRN, n., v. Also yaren, yearn (Kcb. 1703 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1909) 14, Sc. 1729 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) IV. 26; Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 129), yearin (Ags. 1718 Dundee Charters, etc. (1880) 168); yeren-; as v., yirn. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. yarn (Abd. 1716 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) II. 89; Slg. 1717 Trans. Slg. Arch. Soc. (1926) 44; Kcb. 1895 Crockett Bog Myrtle ix.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein, Rxb. 1942 Zai; Ork., Cai., m., s.Sc. 1974). See P.L.D. § 48.1.(2). [jern]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., now rare in colloq. use: wool in its finished state to be used for knitting or weaving.Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 185:
She bought “Alloa yarn” and knitted cosy under-garments.
Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 22:
A c'ue o' yairn, a ball of wool.

2. Combs.: (1) yarens, yarlin(s), see (8); (2) yarn-clew, a ball of knitting wool (Sh. 1974); (3) yarnel(l), yarnets, see (8); (4) yarn fair, a fair for the sale of home-spun yarn and also cloth made from it; (5) yarn-hose, see quot.; (6) yarn-nag, a ball of wool. Cf. Nag, n.3; †(7) yearn-searcher, an official who examines (linen) yarn for its quality; (8) yarnwin(d)(s), yeren-, yerna-, an instrument for winding yarn into skeins of specified lengths, a yarn-reel (Cai.8 1934, yerna-; Sh., Cai. 1974). Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. Also in reduced forms yarens, yerrins (Rs. 1921 T.S.D.C.), yarnits. Comb. yarn-blade, one of the spokes of the reel. Phr. to put a nicht on 'e yarnwins, lit. to pass the evening in winding yarn, hence fig. to spend a dull evening (Cai. 1905 E.D.D., Cai. 1974); (9) yarn win(d)le(s), -winnels, id., with reduced forms yarnel(l), and met. form yarlins (Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 38; Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.), the pl. form being freq. construed as a sing. Comb. yarn-winnle-blade, a spoke of the yarn-reel. See Windle, n.1(2) Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xxxiii.:
Like to the yarn-clew of the drowsy knitter.
(4) Lnk. 1880 W. Grossart Shotts 6–7:
Those yarn fairs are now relics of the past. . . . The Shotts yarn fair or market.
(5) Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. III. 296:
Stockings are frequently made of only two, and even of one thread. The latter are denominated “yarn-hose.”
(6) Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Sc. Songs. II. 372:
I lookit to my yarn-nag, And it grew never mair.
(7) Sc. 1765 Atholl MSS.:
Robertson is appointed Yearn Searcher.
(8) Ork. 1726 P. Ork. A.S. VI. 30:
One rell Yerenwinds and Sweroks.
Sc. 1842 Whistle-Binkie 92:
The aefauld yarn was ta'en awa', To the yarnits niest, to lay an twist.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (24 March):
Shü cam' butt wi' da yarnwinds.
Cai. 1916 John o' Groat Jnl. (14 April):
Yer going like a yarnwins — applied to a fussy person who rushed about from house to house.
(9) Abd. 1752 Monymusk Papers (S.H.S.) 16:
1 pair of yarlin bleds, . . . 3s 6d.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate v.:
God's sake speak her fair and canny, or we will have a ravelled hasp on the yarn-windles.
Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 101:
Forby an ark for hauden meal, A yarnwinnels an' a reel.
Sc. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 390:
Prior to the use of the yarn winnle blades, women counted the thread produced on their spinning-wheels by winding it between their left hand and elbow.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 19:
After being twined, it was taken to the “yarnell.”

II. v. To become coiled, ravelled or entangled, of string, thread, etc.Sc. 1905 E.D.D.:
He went to wind worsted, but it yirned and hindered him. He threw his line across the stream, but it caught a branch and got yirned (or yirned round it).

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"Yairn n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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