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

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First published 1937 (DOST Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Bak, n.1 Also: bake (baik), back; pl. bakkis. [ME. bak, bake, bakke, back(e, bac, OE. bæc (ONhb. also bæcc), ON. bak.]

1. The back of the human body.1375 Barb. vii. 460 (he the bak strak evyn in twa); x. 723 (he till his bak had set a tre). a1400 Leg. S. vi. 664 (in at the bak throw the body); xl. 651 (the face to the bak it had). c1420 Wynt. i. 368 (bak and bowalys all to brussyde); 450 (bak and buttoke bath wes bare). c1475 Wall. ix. 509 (tyll a wall thai haiff thar bakkis set). c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 236 (quhill his bak werkit); xxviii. 29 (thocht a man haif a brokin bak). 1513 Doug. ii. vii. 52 (thai sal ws rendir thir harnes of thar bakkis). 15.. Clar. iii. 1066 (full monie ane Saracine lay deid on his bake). 1555 Peebles B. Rec. 222 (ane sark quhilk he tuk of hir bak). fig. a1400 Leg. S. xxix. 303 (Forton turnyt hyr bak one hym). 1535 Stewart 22310 (that we may haif thair bakis at the wall). a1568 Bann. MS. 48 b/69 (Deid hint him be the back).1569-73 Bann. Memor. 167 (to lay vpoun the shuldearis of ane infant in the credill, a burding quhilk hir bake could not beir).a1585 Maitland Maitl. Q. xvii. 17 (and thy bak be at the wall).

b. In comb. with side (also side and bak).c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxii. 57 (thai tirvit him bak and syde); lii. 19 (I wald scho war, bayth syd and back, weill batteret). c1552 Lynd. Mon. 3894 (thay scurgit him, boith bak and syde).

c. In comb. with bed, denoting possession or provision of clothing and bedding.a1400 Leg. S. xii. 100 (in ane array in bak & bede). c1420 Wynt. i. 698 (thai ar cled in bestys skynnys, bak and bed). a1500 Henr. Orph. 418 (to haue distresse on bak and bed and burde). 1568 Prot. Bk. T. Johnstoun 109 (to cleith the said Margaret in bak and bed). a1570-86 Maitland M. Fol. xcv. 38 (thai leif thame nocht on bed nor bakis).

2. In prepositional phrases: a. On (one's) bak, of something supported or carried.a1400 Leg. S. xix. 254 (as I had borne one myn bak the warld hale). 14.. Acts I. 304/2 (a byrthyng on a manis bak). c1420 Wynt. v. 1341 (mare chargis on his bak to lay). c1500-c1512 Dunb. xiv. 39 (brattis on beggaris bakkis). c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2522 (ane dede image borne on burges backis). a1578 Pitsc. I. 209/20 (the preist syne gat him on his bak). 1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Pede (ane pedder quha beirs ane pack vpon his bak).

b. At the (or his, etc.) bak, denoting position behind.a1400 Leg. S. x. 435 (a felone freke that come behind at the bak). c1420 Wynt. viii. 3786 (his men, that he wend at his bake war then). 1513 Doug. ii. xi. 77 (neir at our bak my spows ensewys); iii. x. 9 (the scheip him followyng at the bak).

c. Behind the (or his, etc.) bak; behind bakkis.a1400 Leg. S. iv. 124 (his handis bundyne behynd hys bak). 1389 Reg. Cambuskenneth 260 (baith before his ene and behind his bak). c1420 Wynt. viii. 2259 (behynd bakkis thai come on). 1456 Hay I. 30/15 (thai will bakbyte behind bakkis). Ib. 30/18 (behynd bak thai stang as ane edder). 1513 Doug. ii. ii. 3 (his handis behynd his bak hard bundyn). 1583 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 395 (closing the dure behind his bak). 1596 Dalr. II. 408/2 (quha was latne doune the wal behind bakis). 1608 Kinghorn Kirk S. 11 (out of sicht of the preachour and behind baks).

d. On bak (also of bak), aback, backwards.1375 Barb. xv. 484 (till put thair fais on bak). c1420 Wynt. iii. 852 (the lave on bak begouth to fle); iv. 735 (that nane off bak the flycht mycht ta). ?1438 Alex. ii. 3795 (to gar hir ga on bak). a1500 Rauf C. 696 (on bak thay him hynt). c1475 Wall. vii. 822 (the battaill on bak v akyr breid thai ber); xi. 91 (on bak he lap).

3. In phrases with verbs: a. To gif the bak or bakkis, to turn and flee.1375 Barb. ix. 269 (thai the bakkis gaf & to ga); xviii. 323 (thai gaf the bak but mair abaid). c1420 Wynt. viii. 4525 (thai tuk the flycht and gave the bak). 1513 Doug. ix. xiii. 39 (forto gif the bak and fle away); x. xi. 106 (this schaddo gaif the bak and fled). 1531 Bell. Boece I. 229 (the Scottis gaif bakkis). 15.. Clar. iii. 404 (all the heathinis gave thair bake and fled). a1578 Pitsc. I. 55/17 (they gaif baikis). 1596 Dalr. I. 165/13 (thay gaue backis).

b. To ta(k) or turn the bak, in the same sense.1375 Barb. xii. 78 (thai in hy tuk all the bak); xvii. 124 (thai haly the bak can ta). c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 2231 (thai torned thare bakis and to go). c1420 Wynt. vii. 633 (the bak thai turnyd, and fled); viii. 2170. 1558-66 Knox II. 67 (quhen thay began to turne backis).

4. The back of an animal; the skin or fur of the back.1374 Exch. R. II. 466 (in empcione de c bakkys de grece). c1420 Wynt. i. 763 (the tother [horn] on hys bak he strekys). a1500 Henr. Fab. 329 (Bawdronis the vther [mouse] be the bak hes hint). a1500 Seven S. 563 (the herd clawit him [a boar] softly on the bak). c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 364 (behynd doggis bakkis). 1531 Bell. Boece I. 18 (ane red lioun dingand his bak). c1552 Lynd. Mon. 3122 (oxin hydis, weill sewit togydder, bak and sydis). 1600 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 154 (over the bak of the horse). 1649 Cupar Presb. 147 (Elspet layd hir hand wpon hir [the cow's] bake).

5. The back, or reverse side, of a thing.1514 Edinb. B. Rec. 152 (vpoun the bak of his bill send to the provost). 1531 Reg. Dunferm. 362 (the watter to have passage fra the bak of the coill). 1549 Compl. 56/13 (the schaddou of the bak of the mune). 1554 Edinb. B. Rec. 289 (for the making of the stane dike and for devattis to the bak thairof). 1582–3 Misc. Spald. C. V. 55 (for pik to the bak of the orlage). 1609 Acts IV. 409/1 (on the bake of the saidis writtis). 1644 Douglas Corr. 253 (delyuir this as its derect on the bake).

b. Bak or edge, one thing or the other.1540 Lynd. Sat. 404 (we sall never sleip ane wink, till it be back or eadge).

6. The upright back of a chair or of a grate.(1) 1507 Dunferm. B. Rec. 163 (a stuyll wytht ane bak).(2) 1610 Hist. Kinloss A. p. xii.
Ane irne bak for ane chemlay
1620 Edinb. Test. L. 332.
Ane irone chimnay, ane pair of irone rakis and ane irone bak
1630 Bamff Chart. 222.
Ane chimey of yron with standing raxes, and ane Flanders bak
1661 Lamont Diary 139.
A new chemlay … with a high backe, all of iyron, behinde

7. A backer or backing; (a) support.a1500 Rauf C. 845 (thow hecht na bak heir to bring).1558-66 Knox I. 89 (three hundreth men, without knowledge of any back or battell to follow). 1600-1610 Melvill 113 (they gatherit that the Kirk haid a bak). 1610 Misc. Hist. Soc. II. 204 (the protestantis having the bak and support of strangers). 1640 Baillie I. 272 (so Pym and his back were removed).

8. The time after a certain hour.1608 Peebles B. Rec. 358 (fra Fryday at xij houris bak).

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"Bak n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Sep 2023 <>



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