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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CRAIG, CRAG, Craige, Kraig, Kraeg, n.1 Angus Gl. (1914) gives the spelling kraeg and J. Nicolson in Yarns (1937) 37 gives kraig for Sh. [kreg]

1. (1) A cliff on the sea or mountain-side. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 286:
Nae Mastive minds a yamphing Cur; A Craig defies a frothy Wave.
Ork. 1908 J. A. Pottinger in Old-Lore Misc. I. v. 173:
He craaled roond a muckle nose o' the craig.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 67:
It . . . springs oot in a hale, solid spoot — loupin' fae the tap oot by fae the craigs.
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
craigs, crags sea-rocks, cliffs.

(2) A projecting spur of rock. Gen.Sc.Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 78:
She reach'[t] the high hill-head, Whare the grey craig hings o'er the river's bed.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 44:
And, for a bield to kep the win', A muckle craig owerhung the burn.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Election Ballad (Cent. ed.) xviii.:
As Highland craigs by thunder cleft . . . . Hurl down with crashing rattle.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 3:
Upo' the cliff Within a hallow craig where none dare go, The eagle has his haunt.

(3) In pl.: rocky ground (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940).Sc. 1729 D. Defoe Journey Scot. (1732) 2:
The Crags are hard stony Rocks, not high, and thinly cover'd with Grass, through which the Rocks appear like a Scab.
Sc.(E) 1864 D. M. Ogilvy Poems (1873) 130:
Oh leeze me on the bonny flower That blooms on craigs and fells.
Abd. c.1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1751) 5:
And hunting hares through craigs and rocks; This was his game.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) II. 152:
When I cam on to the craigs at the weil o' Pool-Midnight, the sun was shinin' bright.

(4) A rock used for quarrying.Sc. 1700 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S. 1937) 68:
To procure me some pyrites — that yellou, shining, cubicall substance that is in sclates and their craigs.
Gsw. 1717 Burgh Records (ed. Marwick 1908) 617:
Lykewise that the craig is wrought only in such parts thereof where it is easiest to manage.

2. Stone, regarded as a material.Dmf. 1817 W. Caesar Poems 66:
I think they a' behaved well, They hae na hearts like craig. [This use is recorded for Mid.Eng. (1482) in Paston Letters, No. 861, III. 285: “a stoon morter of cragge” (N.E.D.).]

3. Applied to a curling-stone.Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 165:
Bentudor a Riscarrel crag, Twice up the ice hurled he.

4. In pl.: (1) rock-fishing (Sh. 1913–14 J. M. Hutcheson W.-L.; Sh. 1986); (2) applied to a farm or dwelling near the cliffs (Bnff.2 1940).(1) Sh.(D) 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 32:
Their mode of fishing was no doubt of the most primitive kind, particularly rock fishing — or craigs.
(2) Lnk. 1838 McIlwham Papers (ed. J. Morrison) Letter i. 12:
Our auld frien' Wilson, o' the craigs, has aye noo an' then been senin' me a copy.

5. Phrases: †(1) craig leave coal (see quot.); (2) to go to the craigs, “to fish with a rod for coal-fish from the rocks” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.).(1) Clc. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 634:
The stipend consists of 24 bolls of barley . . . with a glebe of about 4 acres of good land, and what is called craig leave coal, that is, free coal, except paying the collier, which is about one-third part of the value.

6. Combs.: (1) cra(i)g-and-tail, a geological formation consisting of a hill or ridge with a steep rock-face at one end sloping gradually towards the other in a mass of drift or moraine, caused by the obstruction and splitting of a glacier by hard rock. The Old Town of Edinburgh is a typical example; †(2) craig flook, the rock-flounder, Pleuronectes limanda (Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife and Kinross 51); (3) craig-herring, the allice shad, Alosa alosa; †(4) craig-lug(ge), “the point of a rock” (Sh. 1808 Jam.; Sh., Ork. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (5) craig mail, an impost on stone taken from a quarry; (6) craige pick, bitumen; (7) craigsitting, craigasoad, -sod, -stane, kraegsten, “a rock on the seashore from which angling is carried on” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), craiga-sod, s.v. kregasod; 1914 Angus Gl., kraegsten). See also Bersit; (8) craigsman, a cragsman (Sc., Sh. 1825 Jam.2; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Bnff.2 1940).(1) Sc. 1815 Trans. Royal Soc. Edb. VII. 201:
A series of low hills, possessing the characteristic forms of craig and tail which belong to those in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh.
Sc. 1966 G. P. Black Arthur's Seat 181:
Such an assemblage, produced by an obstruction in an ice-stream, is termed a "crag and tail" structure, and that formed by and around the Castle Rock of Edinburgh is the most perfectly developed example of this structure known.
Slg. 1880 W. Nimmo Hist. Slg. (Gillespie) II. 172:
The well-known phenomenon-the "Crag-and-tail", so well seen at the castles of Stirling, Edinburgh, and other places, where the solid rock has protected the softer stratifications lying on the south-east side.
(3) Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife and Kinross 52:
The Shad, or Mother of the Herrings: I suspect, this may be that which our Fishers call the Craig-Herring, which they say is more big, than four Herrings, with Skails as large as Turners, which will cut a Man's Hand with their Shell.
(4) Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork., Zetland, etc. 140–141:
As some express it, Every craig-lugge makes a new Tide, and many Craigs and Lugs are there here.
Abd. 1852 A. Robb Poems 123:
For her I'd jump the Craiglug frae, Or climb to Hadden's heigh lum head.
(5) Dmb. 1794 D. Ure Agric. Dmb. 35:
The people in the neighbourhood have a right to quarry stones, upon paying the tenant in Merkins a craig mail of a shilling per chalder of stone, as a recompense for surface damages.
(6) Sc. 1701 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S. 1937) 177:
The workers of the lime stone made use of it for cutts and bruises . . . and call it craige pick.
(7) Sh. 1899 Shet. News (21 Oct.):
It is well known that proprietary rights were claimed in craigsittings, — to which the cup-hole was merely an adjunct. In the memory of the last generation there were even sanguinary encounters to establish the right when it had been invaded.
Sh.(D) 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 34:
The craigstane or bersit was to the ancient dweller of our islands what the fishing boat is to the modern fisherman. [Also craiga-soad, p. 32.]
(8) Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary (1818) vii.:
I was a bauld craigsman . . . ance in my life, and mony a kittywake's and lungie's nest hae I harried up among thae very black rocks.

[Celtic in origin, cf. Gael. and Irish creag, which is a reduced form of carraig (MacBain). O.Sc. has crag (esp. in place-names), from c.1145, but the form craig does not appear until 1535; in sense 2. crag is found 1533; also cragleif, leave to dig coal from a “heuch,” 1504 (D.O.S.T.). Gael. creag would give Sc. craig, which may, however, be a reg. development of older Sc. crag. Eng. crag is a Northern borrowing.]

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"Craig n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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