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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DEN, n.1 and v.1

1. n.

(1) A narrow valley or ravine, usually wooded, a dingle. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Also in Nhb. and Cum. dial.Sc. 1803 Braes o Yarrow in Ballads (ed. Child) No. 214.A. xii.:
As she went down yon dowy den, Sorrow went her before, O.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter iv.:
At length, our course was crossed by a deep dell or dingle, such as they call in some parts of Scotland a den, and in others a cleuch, or narrow glen. It seemed . . . to be steep, precipitous, and full of trees.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 146:
The nests o' linties, doon In some deep den among the broom.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 III. 298:
The church . . . is upon a small hill, on each side of which there is a den.
Edb. 1816 J. Aikman Poems 126:
And spread desolation around and afar Through flourishing village and vine shaded den.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To W. Simpson x.:
We'll sing auld Coila's plains an' fells, . . . Her banks an' braes, her dens an' dells.

(2) The “home” or place of safety in games. Gen.Sc. Also in Nhb. and w.Yks. dial. Cf. Dell, n., idem.Arg. 1900 R. C. Maclagan Games Arg. 22:
Equal sides being chosen, a den . . . sufficiently large to contain the whole of the side who are “in” is fixed.

(3) The forecastle of a herring boat (Cai.7 1940; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 237).Arg.1 1937:
Away intae the den an' fetch oot ma oilskins; the sea's risin' an' there's rain tae wunard.

Hence den-stair, “the stair in a decked fishing-boat” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.).

2. v. To hide (oneself); to escape into a den, “often applied to the fox” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2).Sc. 1813 A. Cunningham Songs 18:
Erewhile the hare denn'd close from view, Licks from her fleece the clover dew.
Lth. 1885 “J. Strathesk” Blinkbonny 138:
Eh, but foxie's owre gleg for him! he's denned.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize I. 86:
The bailie should hasten on before, or den himself among the brechans by the roadside.
Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays 50:
We've den'd 'aneath the blooming slaes, And row'd amang the ferns.
Slk. 1883 J. Currie Poems and Songs 165:
An' lauchs, while 'is heid 'neath 'is daidle he dens.

[Den in sense (1) of the n. occurs in O.Sc. c.1575, but is found in place-names from 1170. The word is a variant of O.Sc. dene, Mod.Eng. dean (from O.E. dȩnu, a valley), the vowel having been shortened in unaccented position in place-names. The v., however, is from Mid.Eng. dennien, to shelter as in a cave or den, O.E. denn, a den, lair, cogn. with dȩnu, a valley.]

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"Den n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Dec 2022 <>



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