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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
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Spin, Spyn, v. Also: spyne, spine. P.t. span(e. P.p. spun, spun(n)e, spwn, spone, spunnyn, spundin. [ME and e.m.E. spinne (c1290), spynne (14th c.), spin (1562), spyne (1608-14), OE spinnan, MDu., MLG spinnen, ON spinna.]

1. intr. To spin, to form a continuous thread by drawing out the fibres of a suitable material such as wool, flax, etc.; to be engaged in the occupation of spinning. Also const. with or on a rok (= distaff) or spindill, or at a … quheill.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xviii 465.
I … led myn lyfe thare … Myn met of[te] thygand, [sa] that I … seldyne spane for my fud
c1420 Wynt. v 5087.
Set wp hyr quheyll, let hyr ga spyn
c1420 Wynt. vi 265.
Hys dochteris he kend to wewe and spyn, As pure wemen thare met to wyn
c1475 Wall. i 244.
A roussat goun of hir awn scho him gaif … Gaiff him a rok, syn set him doun to spyn
c1475 Wall. i 248.
He … span full conandly
a1500 Bk. Chess 642.
To gar instruct thaim … To schaipe and sew to spyn & weif perfyte
1513 Doug. iv Prol. 48.
Luf, … Thou techit Hercules go lern to spyn
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Matth. vi 28.
Behald ye the lillies of the feelde, … thai trauale nocht, nouthir spynnis
a1538 Abell 48b.
Narses … wes callit owt of Ytale be Justynis wife biddand him cum hame & spyn to hir
1633 Peebles B. Rec. I 372.
These bairnes … to be bund for ane yeir to the small quheill in the hous to be erectit to lerne the young anes to spyn
?a1648 Polemo-Mid. 82.
Quæque novit spinare, & longas ducere threedas
1651 Nicoll Diary 61.
Sum pure pepill quha wer spyning that day loist thair quheillis and wer brokin
1665–7 Lauder Jrnl. 55.
Ye sall find verie few women beggers … who wants their rock in their bosome, spining … as they walk
proverb. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1479.
They have manie fleid hart that spinnis
(2) c1420 Wynt. iii 721.
His oys wes mare wytht rok to spyne Than landys to the crowne to wyne
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 108/46.
Wyvis thus makis mokkis Spynnand on rokkis; Ay rynnis the fox Quhill he fute hais
1549 Compl. 29 marg.
Sardanapalus … clethit hym in vemens claitis & span on ane roc
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 3330.
As ane woman he wes cled … And … wes syttand, With spindle, and with rock spinnand
1608 Dundonald Par. Rec. 160.
Faultis delaitit: … Bessie Findlay … to spin on hir rok on the Sabboth
1633–4 Peebles B. Rec. I 419.
Gewine to the parrente of thes that spane at the wisserit quheill

2. tr. To spin (flax, wool, etc.). Also absol. Also to spin a rok, to spin the quantity of wool, etc. on a distaff.(1) c1420 Wynt. v 5049.
He Wald cum and … Be mesoure and be evyn weycht, To gywe hyr wemen tow to spyn
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1830.
The lynt ryipit … His wyfe it span, and twynit it in to threid, Off quhilk the fowlar nettis maid
1530 Edinb. B. Rec. II 40.
That na maner of persoun … gif ony woll to card or spyn … bot gif it be till honest wedowis
1566-70 Buch. Comm. on Virgil Georgics iv 335.
Carpebant: carminabant (wer teasing, spinning)
1594 Edinb. Test. XXVI 268.
Thrie stane wecht of hoising Frenche gray woll being spwn reddie for claytht making price of the stane wecht thairof being spundin xij li.
1637 Aberd. B. Rec. III 110.
All personis quha ar sound in bodie and healthfull, wha willinglie will be content to kaird and spin wooll
1657 Glasgow B. Rec. II 358.
Many poore people … buyis that commoditie [sc. lint] to spine and mack yairne therof as the only mein of ther lyvlihood
1682 Craven Ch. in Orkney 101.
William Marwick … was imprisoned because he said in face of Session that hemp or lint was not spun that would be a sackcloth to him
absol. 1601 Edinb. B. Rec. VI 307.
To bring hame sic personis as can begyn upone Scottis wool to … fyne it, caird, kame, spyn, weive [etc.]
(2) 1620 Perth Kirk S. MS 6 June.
The said Jonat … waild now and than cwm and spyn hir rok in his hous
1670 Kingarth Par. Rec. 61.
[She] depond … that she saw nothing but only standing on the floor and she spining her rock

b. fig. Of the Fates: To bring about (a person's death); to appoint (a person's lot in life). c1590 J. Stewart 191/4.
The greatest soucie nixt eternall gloir Quhartill ilk nobill nature sould pretend, Is that guid name thair doings may decoir, Quhan that the parks hes spone thair fatall end
1580-92 James VI Lusus Reg. 37.
My greifis are but begunne, Thus castin in my lukelesse lotte that vofull Veirdis haue spunne

3. a. Const. in(to): To convert (lint, etc.) in(to) (thread, etc.) as in 2 above. Also absol. b. To weave (a garment, fabric, etc.) from such threads. c. To form (a thread).a. 1478 Acta Aud. 67/1.
A stain of lint spunnyn in ȝarne
1652 Black Bk. Kincardineshire 21.
Bundles of lint, … to be spun into thread
absol. c1420 Wynt. ii 271.
The wemen … Scho gert … be wyrkand, And mast in wolle to keme and spyn, And clathys wewe to be cled in
b. 1513 Doug. x xiii 141.
Hys cote of goldyn thredis brycht Quhilk hys moder hym span [L. tunicam molli mater quam neverat auro]
1560 Rolland Seven S. 6366.
Fra he and the king did twin In deid I trow … He had ane vthir wob to spin
a1568 Scott xxx 7.
Than is his weid of vertew spune
c. a1538 Abell 48b.
He send to answer and said to hir I sall spin ane threid & of it mak ane wob at yow
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 418 (W).
Quhairfoir hes Attropus the knyfe? I trow thou can not tell, That but it, wald cut it, That Clotho skairse hes spun

4. To spin out, to protract or prolong (an activity, etc.). (See Rok n.1 1 c.) 1658 R. Moray Lett. fol. 78.
I must let myself spin out my letters as long as there is a yirn of tow in my rock
1759 W. Robertson Hist. Scot. ii Wks. (1813) I 106.
Under his management the negociations were spun out to a great length

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"Spin v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jan 2023 <>



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