Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

CLACHAN, Clachen, Clauchan, n. [′klɑxən]

1. A hamlet, village, gen. containing a church; “a small cluster of cottages” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.). Orig. used only in the Highlands, but later spreading all over the Scottish mainland. Known to Bnff.2, Fif., Ags. and Kcb. correspondents 1940. “There are no clachans in Orkney” (Ork.1 1939). Also used attrib. Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 77:
The Gauger's the mightiest man in the clachan!
Ayr. 1787 Burns Death and Dr Hornbook (Cent. ed.) iii.:
The clachan yill had made me canty, I was na fou, but just had plenty.
Kcb. 1824 P. McKinnell (ed.) Mountain Dew 225:
The little clauchan of Tynron-kirk.
Dmf. 1724 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 349:
The town of Tarbert and clachen of Kilhalmanell.

2. A village ale-house, an inn. Sc. 1852 H. Miller Schools and Schoolm. xii.:
We baited at the clachan of Kinlochewe — a humble Highland inn, like that in which we had passed the night.
Sc. 1897 Prof. MacKinnon in N.E.D.:
It used to be said that the three requisites of a Highland village were a church, an inn, and a smithy; hence the contextual use of clachan both for “the church” and the “public house.”
Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 149:
At Meg's warm clachan, doon the brae.

[O.Sc. clachan, clauchan, clachen, a hamlet or small village, earliest date 1459 (D.O.S.T.). Gael. clachan, kirk or kirk town, from Gael. clach, a stone (MacBain); Irish clochán, stepping-stones. It is supposed that clachan, applied first to the standing stones raised by the Druids for religious purposes and regarded, even in Christian times, with superstitious awe, was later used to denote a graveyard, and then a village containing a church.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Clachan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Jul 2020 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: