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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).

Lern(e, Leirn(e, Learn(e, Lairn(e, v. Also: leyrn(e, larn(e. P.t. and p.p. lernid, -it, -yt, leirnit, etc.; p.t. also leirnd(e, p.p. also lernt. [ME. lerne(n, leerne, early leornie(n, leornen, etc., e.m.E. learn(e, OE. leornian (ONorthumb. liorniᵹa) to learn.]Not recorded in Sc. in any of its senses until the late 15 th c. and at first less common than the synonymous Lere v.

I. To learn.

1. tr. To learn by instruction, study or experience. = Lere v. 6.(a) a1500 Colk. Sow ii. 168.
Be this said taill thow sall Lerne fyve wittis
1490 Irland Mir. in Sc. Ant. XV. 4.
To submyt you humylly to Jesus and lern his law
1518 Selkirk B. Ct. fol. 63.
The said Wolliem … to lern and ws his craft as prentis be the spac of sex ȝeris
1570 Leslie 58.
The … erle … havinge lerint [sic in pr.] experience … refusit to brek his ward
1600 Hamilton Facile Tr. 46.
Wemen, wha can not sew, cairde, nor spin without thay lerne the same of vther skilful wemen
1602 Crim. Trials II. 421.
Quhilk craft he lernit fra the Devill his maister
(b) 1549 Compl. 8/23.
The Egiptiens var inducit … to leyrne sciens, craftis, and mecanyke occupations
1560 Rolland Seven S. 407.
Ane hous … Quhair at quyet the child may leirne his lair
1568 Peebles B. Rec. 73.
My fadir … may nocht sustene me to hald me at the scoillis … to leirne vertu
a1585 Maitl. Q. xxxv. 188.
Socrates wyise thocht na dispryis To leirn at hir prudence
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xlii. 1.
A bony ‘No’, with smyling looks agane, I wald ȝe leirnd
(c) 15.. Dum Wyf 34.
[G]if thow will counsell keip [And] learne weill quhat I say
15.. Clar. v. 341.
Thair men micht have learnit courtisie
a1599 Rollock Wks. II. 629.
All young men … may learn a lesson at Peter
1640 Dundonald Par. Rec. 466.
No certaine number of lessons can be appointed for them quho learns Scots to get
(d) 1600-1610 Melvill 783.
Mair … guid lairneing [was] forget in ane oulk, nor wes … lairnit in a moneth befoir
1618 Glasgow Trades House 81.
He had lairnet his haill grammer and was reddie … to go to the colledge
c 1680 Ravillac Redivivus (1682) 45.
You know I came to England to larn the language

b. To learn (how) to do something. = Lere v. 6 b. Also with the infin. understood. 1513 Doug. i. Prol. 112.
Kepand na sudron bot our awyn langage, And spekis as I lernyt quhen I was page
Ib. ix. 92.
Thus … I lernyt to help all tholis aduersyte
Ib. vi. ix. 191.
Be myne exampill all wightis … Lernys … to hant justice and rycht
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 288.
Amang the rest, schir, lerne to be ane kyng
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i. 455.
Quha wald exaltit be, Go learne at Christ, to lead humelytie
1567 G. Ball. 183.
Quhair thay in thair exile Leirnit better till vnderstand The trew word of Jesus Christ
1568 Peebles B. Rec. 73.
To sustene me at the scoillis quhairthrouch I may leirne to minister the ewangell of Jesu Christ
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 122 (T).
Learne … to knave thy sell
c1600 Montg. Suppl. 199/32.
For I hawe leirnid to countt my kinch
1616 Macritchie Gypsies 96.
[Accused of having] leirnit to take proffeit of thair nyghtbouris cornis and ky of the saids Egyptians
1657 Balfour Ann. III. 48.
The eldest sonnes of noblemen … to sitt in the housse and heire, quherby they might learne how to carrey themselues in tyme to come

2. intr. To acquire knowledge, receive instruction or training, study, learn (at or from a person or other source of knowledge). = Lere v. 7. a1500 K. Hart 656.
Barnis ȝoung suld lerne at auld mennis sculis
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 4609.
That Pape red neuer the New Testament; Gyf he had lernit at that lore, He had refusit sic vaine glore
1566 Inverness Rec. I. 136.
His son quha is lernand wyth the said George at the brebnar craft
c1475 Wall. (1570) vii. 671.
Togidder … thay had bene, Lernand [MS. Lerand] at scole in to thair tender age
a1586 Lindsay MS. 17.
Thai … will not leirne becaus thai deinȝie not demand nor spere
1679 Mcward Tracts 113.
That we may learn at them, and … know how to carry and acquit ourselves

3. tr. To get to know (of), be informed (of), ascertain (a fact). With noun or noun clause as object. = Lere v. 8. 1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 143.
And gif I leirne ony thing heir, I will mak ȝow memoriall at euin
a1570-86 Maitl. F. clxx. 62.
Sene ȝe haue leirnit ȝe ar the Lordis elect
1586 Waus Corr. 365.
In case I had lernit off your ll. said bedfallow aye thing mycht proffeit my ladye
1595 Moysie 122.
To try and learne gif Angus resorted theare
1629 Maxwell Mem. II. 202.
As to my Lord of Nidisdeillis awin turneis, sua far as I can larne, thay go hardle
1630 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 322.
So far as I cane lairne … thais monyes will nocht be gottin from her in ane freindlie maner

b. To lern owt (for), to find out, discover. 1586 Waus Corr. 365.
I travellit with hir to lern owt your ll. mynd yitt I fynd I was mett with lyik craft I brocht
Ib. 366.
I am maist assurit nane wilbe ane hinderer … and in case your ll. fynd it nocht sway I wald be glaid to lern thame owt, for it may happin they imploye me in the lyilk ado
1703 New Mills Manuf. 344.
To sie if he cann learne out for ane sober man fully seen in the makeing of broad cloath … and quhat such a man may ingadge for to serve in this place

II. To teach.

4. To teach (a lesson, a subject, a craft or skill, etc.); to teach (a person a thing). = Lere v. 1. 1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 159.
Leyd, lern me ane other lesson, this I ne like
1516 Selkirk B. Ct. fol. 51 b.
The said William sal tak Johne Champnaye … to prentes to lern him his skenarcraft
1549 Compl. 14/18.
He beleuis to leyrne Annibal the prettik of the veyris
Ib. 15/29.
It is grit folye to thy philosophour til vndirtak to leyrn the ordiring of battellis vitht in his solitair achademya
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4593 (Ch.).
My gudame the Gyre Carling Leirnde me the prophesie of Marling
1573-1600 Burne in Cath. Tr. 126/28.
Godfatheris ar obleist to learne thame quhom thay hald in baptisme the formes of prayeris
1591 Bruce Serm. 164.
What should this lear nus? This visitation of the king's learns us twa necessare lessons
1608 Dunferm. B. Rec. II. 50.
John Mathesoun wrytter that came to learn bairns the art of wrytting
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 995.
I will learne yow ane other use, nor wasch your feit in the kirne
1640 Dundonald Par. Rec. 467.
Let the maister … point out the faults [in writing] and learn them by ocular demonstratioun in his own practeise before them
1649 Brechin Presb. 17.
John Donaldson, … confessing charming … was asked who learned him that arte
?1661-5 M. Bruce Soul-Confirmation (1709) 10.
The devil has learned the professors in Scotland a brave trick of it now
c1695 Satire on Stair in Bk. Pasquils (1827) i. 49.
His mother's tongue learn'd him his father's law
1700 Kingarth Par. Rec. 214.
The Session approves of sending a person to learn the quest[ions]

b. To instruct or to show (a person) (how) to do something; also, to induce. Also with the infin. understood.(1) 1513 Doug. xii. ix. 3.
Quhat god sall now … me lern in metyr to declar Sa feill … slauchteris?
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 350.
Lerne me for to be content, Of quyet lyfe, and sobir rent
a1570-86 Arbuthnot Maitl. F. xxx. 147.
Truble … lernis ws to muse apone the deid
1602 Crim. Trials II. 422.
The Devill … lernit him to tak southe-rynnand watter to cuir the saidis diseissis
1633 Peebles B. Rec. I. 372.
The small; quheill … to be erectit to lerne the ȝoung anes to spyn
1639 Old Ross-shire II. 10.
[That] the best trained … men in the companie be electit as dreilmasters and lerne the companie to dreil and handil thair armes
(b) 1549 Compl. 182/1.
He … neurissit tua ȝong corbeis … and he leyrnit them baytht to speik
1567 G. Ball. 4.
The Lordis prayer … quhilk Christ leirnit vs to pray
1570 Sat. P. xv. 32.
Tak the turtill ȝow amang To leirne ȝow how to murne
1572 Ib. xxxiii. 371.
Leirne ȝour bairns to saw and teill
1540 Lynd. Sat. 494 (Ch.).
I sall leirne ȝow all kewis how to do
(c) 1583 Ayr B. Ct. & Council Bk. 28 Aug.
To learne thame to sing
1598 James VI Basil. Doron 84/3.
Learne your nobilitie to keipe youre lawis als præciselie as the meanest
a1598 Ferg. Prov. (1641) 21.
Ye learn your father to get bairns
?1672 M. Bruce Sermon in Edinburgh 4.
They'll gar us take up our lodging in Virginia to learn us to be more loyal
1697 Foulis Acc. Bk. 218.
To Jamie Gray to buy a sheep head and soap to learne him to barbarize
(d) 1602 Dundonald Par. Rec. 14.
The said Bessie askit at the said Kaithrein quha larned hir to do so
(2) 1597 Crim. Trials II. 27.
Scho … fyrit the water, and brunt stray at ilk newke of the bed, as the said Michael had leirnit hir

c. With noun clause as object: To instruct or inform. a1500 Henr. Fab. 626.
All the planetis … in quhat degre Thay wer ilk ane, as Lowrence leirnit me
1551 Hamilton Cat. 242.
He hes lernit thé quhow thow sulde praye
1567 G. Ball. 11.
Christ … leirnit vs quhat we suld say, Syne hecht to heir vs mercyfullie

5. To teach or instruct (a person). Also const. in (also to) a subject, craft, etc. = Lere v. 2.(1) c1500-c1512 Dunb. liii. 9; Ib. 30.
He leuket as he culd lern tham a
1549 Compl. 14/5.
Quhen ane ydiot … presumis to teche or to leyrne ane man that hes … experiens
1579 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 106.
That na maner of scole maisteris … be permitted to instruct or lern ony youthheid … except [etc.]
1591 Ib. V. 45; 1673 Ib. X. 145.
[The senior apprentice] may be helpand and learne the young prenteis
c1590 Fowler I. 325/3.
Such warning did me learne, Such warming did me harme
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1333.
Sillie bairnes are eith to learne
1688 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII. 251, 261.
She acknowleged … that she is a witch and was acqwaint with that Margaret McLane who learned her; … the minister … asked hou did she lairne her
(2) 1531 Bell. Boece (M) I. 73.
Thir preistis war institute … to lern the sonnis of nobill men in vertew and science
1557 Inverness Rec. I. 10.
He ressaid to hym in prenteschip Jamie McDone to hef lernit hyme to the brebner craft
1606 Edinb. Test. XLI. 113 b.
Tutrix testamentar to … thair lawfull barnes … to lerne and trane thame vp in godlines and vertew
1672 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. MS. 28 Feb.
The webster tred wherin the said James binds … him to instruct and learne the said Johne … faithfullie
1698 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds II. 761 (9 Nov.).

6. Passive, with the person taught as subject. = Lere v. 3.a. (1) 1533 Bell. Livy I. 45/6.
I can nocht afferme that Numa was lerned ony maner of way be Pithagoras
1540 Lynd. Sat. 620 (B).
War ȝe weill lernit at luvis lair
1562-3 Winȝet II. 50/31.
For quha wes bettir leirnit than wes this man? quha in the diuine and humane materis wes mair exerceit?
a1578 Pitsc. I. 160/5.
The said bischope … requirit … gif the … ȝouth [were] brocht wpe and leirnitt conforme to the order that was taine in the kirk of God
?1549 Monro W. Isles 24.
Selccheis, whilkis are slain with doges lernt to the same effect
16.. Crail Squaremen 27.
Act that ane prentis learnitt with in the toun sall nott be mead frie till [etc.]
c1650 Spalding I. 318.
Quhair ony persone nocht lernit within the colledge sould be preferrit befoir personis educat and brocht wp thairin
(2) 1559 Reg. Privy S. V. i. 144/1.
Ane Instructioun for Bairnis to be lernit in Scotis and Latene
1576 Prot. Bk. T. Auchinlek i.
We … vnderstanding our louit Thomas Auchinlek … to be sufficientlie instruktit lernit and exercesit in his grammer and humanitie
a1578 Pitsc. I. 160/12.
He was ane mane weill leirnit in the civill lawis
1666 Caldwell P. 136.
My two saids doghters … are to be … learned at schooles in all good breading
b. (1) 1513 Doug. ix. viii. 123.
The Troianys, that … Be lang vsage of weir war lernyt and kend Quhou thai thar town … suld defend
(2) 1531 Bell. Boece II. 483.
He was weil lernit to fecht with swerd, to just, to turney
Id. Livy I. 24/18.
The Poticianis, lernit to mak sacrifice in this wise be King Evander
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 613.
Lyke one stirlyng or ane papingay, Quhilk leirnit ar to speik be lang vsage
1662 Forbes Cantus (ed. 1666) xlix.
All you that be batchelors, Be learn'd by crying Will … to remain so still
1697 Glasg. Univ. Mun. I. 458.
That black Bettie be learned to … shew with the needle well
(3) 1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 618.
Thair Holieglas begane his gaidis, As he was learned, amangis the laidis

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"Lern v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Aug 2022 <>



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