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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HAG, v.1, n.1 Also hagg, haag, haug.

I. v. 1. To chop (wood) (Dmf., Kcb. 1956); to hack clumsily (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 250; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 28; m. and s.Sc. 1956); applied by miners to the hewing of coal with a pick (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 34). Also used fig. = to bungle, to “make a mess of,” and in combs. hag(g)in-blade, -knife. Common in several Eng. dials.Sc. 1727 P. Walker Remark. Passages 80:
But let them hag and hash on, for they will make no cleanly Work, neither in State nor Church.
Sc. 1732 P. Walker Life D. Cargill 53:
The hangman hash'd and hagg'd off all their heads with an ax.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 222:
The whole town was in an uproar, some would go with picks and spades and hag him a' in pieces.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 47:
His hagin-blade, or keen or blunt.
Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 88:
But time it works sic alterations On States an' Empires, an' on Nations; Rives an' hags down vast dominions.
wm.Sc. 1827 T. Hamilton Cyril Thornton (1848) xlvi.:
There's a lang scaur frae yer gab to the corner o' yer ee, just as if ye had gotten a claut wi' the haggin' knife.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
That chief sin, that he should have a hand in hagging and hashing at Christ's Kirk.
Kcb. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 109:
The Scotch Borderers cam doon on them every wee while an herry't them, an haggit their heids aff.
Tyr. a.1929 J. C. Clark Knockinscreen Days 9:
She'll not get another stick the day without she sends you out to hag it yourself.

Hence hagger, something that hacks, fig. a sword.Sc. 18th c. Bonnocks of Barley Meal (Chapbook) 3:
With my swaggering hagger hanging down to my heel, I will whang a' their bonnocks o' Barleymeal.

2. To cut down trees, strip off, dry and stack the bark, saw up and sort the timber. Vbl.n. hagging (e.Lth. 1848 A. Somerville Autobiog. Working Man 98). Hence hagger, a woodcutter, one who uses an axe or hatchet (Lnk. 1825 Jam.; Ayr.4 1928).

3. Combs.: (1) hag-airn, a blacksmiths chisel fixed upright on the anvil on which he cuts nails from the heated iron rod from which they are made, a “hardy” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); (2) hag-block, a chopping block on which firewood is split (Uls.3 1929; Dmf. 1956); (3) hag(g)-clog, -log, -stock, id. (sm.Sc. 1956); the form hagelog given in Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 251, may be a misprint; (4) hagman, (a) a woodcutter (Lnk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 36; Sc. 1808 Jam.); (b) one who sells wood he has cut himself (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.); †(5) hagwife, a woman who cuts or prepares meat, a female butcher (Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 208). The meaning however is not clearly established.(2) Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 375:
In wet weather, Hughie's shop was well stocked with visitors; so much so that he could scarcely get the use of his hag-block.
(3) Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxxv.:
I could hear him at the hag-clog where we cut the branches and wood into billets.
(4) (a) Sc. 1749 Letter in Atholl MSS.:
There is in the Wood of the Connine 500 Bolls of Bark; And that 10 pealers and 1 Hagman and one Chatter will Cut and Peal a fifth part of it in 20 Days.
Sc. 1799 W. Nicol Practical Planter 302–3:
Three classes of people are employed [for the operation of barking]: the hag-men, or cutters; the carriers; and the barkers.
(5) Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 208:
I maun hae a hagwife or my mither die, for truly she's very frail.

II. n. 1. (1) A stroke with a sharp, heavy implement such as an axe or cleaver (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Also fig.Slg. 1902 W. C. Paterson Echoes 18:
Lest some sic hags his heart should stoun, He sell't the beast in a neebourin' toun.

(2) A notch, hack (Sc. 1825 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 34); the mark left by an axe-stroke (Tyr. 1929 per Uls.3; Dmf., Kcb. 1956); gen. in proverb. phr. to strike, put, etc. a hag in the post or jamb, to make a mark in memory of an outstanding event, fig. and sometimes ironically (wm. and sm.Sc. 1956). Cf. Cruik, I. 7. (5), Hack, n.1, 8.Sc. 1702 R. Blau Libamina 41:
Strike a hagg in the post.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xxi.:
I'm sure the post should get a hag when we hear o' him coming wi' hundreds o' pounds in his pouch.
Lnk. 1825 Jam.:
“He may strike a hag i' the post,” a proverbial phrase applied to one who has been very fortunate.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 309:
“A hag in the post,” a phrase used . . . in irony, for a great wonder.
Uls. 1993:
Pit a hag in the post.

(3) A wedge-shaped portion, chunk. Cf. Hack, n.1, 3.Dmf. 1956:
To tak a richt hag oot o' a cake = to cut an enormous wedge.

(4) A pin projecting from a carpenter's bench used to steady the piece of wood being dressed (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1956). Phs. a different word.

2. (1) The cutting or felling of a certain quantity of timber (Sc. 1808 Jam.); that portion of a wood which is set aside each year for cutting (Sc. 1799 W. Nicol Practical Planter 300; Mearns 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1710 Fountainhall Decisions II. 574:
It was not enough that it was sylva caedua, and fit for cutting, unless it were begun to be cut down in haggs.
Lnk. 1747 Caled. Mercury (14 Dec.):
That the Growing Woods in the high Parks of Hamilton . . . are to be exposed to Sale by way of publick Roup. . . . either in Wholesale or by Parcels, or Hags, as the Purchasers shall incline.
Dmf. 1779 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (27 April):
Woods in Annandale to be sold . . . five, six, or seven years, as may be agreed on, will be allowed for cutting them in so many different haggs.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley lxiv.:
He lies a' day, and whiles a' night, in the cove in the dern hag.
Arg. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (21 Jan.) 4:
With regard to the oak woods, . . . they will be divided into 21 hags, and from that time a hag of nearly 30 acres can be cut down every year continually.

(2) Ground enclosed for the protection of new growth after felling (Sc. 1818 Sawers).Sc. 1733–4 J. Cockburn Letters (S.H.S.) 7:
This management will make a very great Improvement to a Hag of Wood.

(3) Brushwood, branches of felled trees used for fuel or firewood, “sometimes [called] auld hag” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1956). Hence haggie, adj., fit for firewood. Also used fig. in phr. to clear the hag, to clear all out of the way (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 251).Ags. 1820 Montrose Chron. (11 Feb.) 97:
A Quantity of Wood, fit for Roofing and Paling. Also a Quantity of Hagg.
Sc. 1854 H. Miller Schools (1860) 36:
The spectre . . . asked, as Christy might have done ere the fatal accident, for a share of the brushwood. “Give me some of that hag,” said the ghost.
Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 70:
The fec o't thrivin' moss and haggie wood.
Ags. 1894 J. Inglis Oor Ain Folk 15:
The fresh young sprouts, that took the place of the old tangled “hagg,” after the purifying flames had passed over it.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 99:
His business 'tis to sned the larick trees For lichened hag to stake his early peas.
Mry. 1921 M. M. Dawson Tinkers Twa 45:
The wa's are turf an' the roof is hag.
Kcd. 1929 J. B. Philip Weelum o' the Manse 17:
Then came the hen-house, and the series of arrangements ended with a heap of firewood called the hag.

(4) Combs. and attrib. uses: †(a) hag(g) house, a wood-shed; (b) hag path, a path through a copse; (c) hag pile, -stack, a pile or stack of firewood (Mry.1 1925, -stack; Kcd., Ags., Dmf. 1956); (d) hag-wood, “a copse wood fitted for having a regular cutting of trees in it” (Sc. 1825 Jam.).(a) Sc. 1706 Foulis Account Bk. (S.H.S.) 435:
To John King to goe seek for thack to theik the haghous, coatchhous, and washing house.
Edb. 1733 A. Grant Univ. Edb. (1884) II. 192:
No. 61: The Hagg House. [Foot-Note: — The “Hagg House” may have been a chamber used for storing firewood.]
(b) Sc. 1889 Blackwood's Mag. (Dec.) 826:
The poacher . . . will at evening pass under the wood and down by the “hag” path.
(c) Ags. 1882 Brechin Advertiser (12 Dec.) 3:
But I'se wager Meggie Barry never teld ye aboot a callant 'at hid 'imsel in 'er father's hag-stack.
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xii.:
Betsy slipped very quickly round to the hag pile for sticks to set the fire up.
(d) Bwk. 1809 J. Kerr Agric. Bwk. 334:
Remains of ancient oak forests . . . which have grown up into a kind of copse, or what is termed in Scotland hag woods.

3. (1) A soft marshy hollow piece of ground in a moor, e.g. where channels have been made by water or where peats have been cut; “moss-ground that has formerly been broken up; a pit, or break in a moss” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1893 W. Laidlaw Poetry and Prose (1901) 21; Peb., Arg., Ayr., Kcb. 1956). Also used attrib. and in such combs. as moss-hag (Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 224, -haug), peat-hag, etc. Now Gen.Sc. Also found in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.T.Misc. 147:
The wind's drifting hail and sna', O'er frozen hags, like a foot ba'.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 24:
Rabby got aff at the gallop on his gray powney west the hags an o'er by Whitehill shough.
Ayr. a.1796 Burns 3rd Ep. to J. Lapraik ii.:
May Boreas never thresh your rigs, Nor kick your rickles aff their legs, Sendin the stuff o'er muirs an' haggs Like drivin wrack!
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
The persecuted remnant were warstling wi' hunger, and cauld, and fear of death, and danger of fire and sword, upon wet brae-sides, peat-haggs, and flow-mosses.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Cam. Preacher's Tale (1874) 218:
I am sure if I gang near Crake's Moss it will lair me amang the hags and quags.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xxxviii.:
We caught a glimpse of the dim country of hag and heather that lay beyond.
Sc. 1914 M. Spence Flora Orcad. lxxxix.:
The summit peat is rent and torn with great open “hags” or channels.
w.Lth. 1930 West Lth. Courier (3 Jan.):
He crawls among the heather, Hides in a mossy hag.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 78:
In many cases water was the obstacle, particularly in the old peat mosses where the fuel had been cast, leaving haggs five feet deep, black and dangerous under a cover of moss.
Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 181:
Often the "hag" was so deep that the peat cutter had to hand up the wet "divots" to the workers on the bank.
Ags. 1990s:
Hag: n. place where peat has been dug.

Hence haggy, full of hags or pot-holes.Sc. 1794 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 624:
The night was neither warm nor dry, The road was rough an' haggy.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 62:
He thocht he had yet to cross A haggy, benty, splashy moss.

(2) A hillock of firmer ground in a moss (Cai., Ags., Slg., Clc., Rxb. 1956).Sc. 1805 Scott Last Minstrel iv. v.:
He led a small and shaggy nag, That through a bog, from hag to hag, Could bound like any Billhope stag.
Sc. 1854 G. W. Melville Tilbury Nogo II. 316:
The moss or bog being very soft and treacherous, and the little knolls of soft ground — Scotticè, “hags” — being at that exact distance apart which tempted the ambitious sportsman to a leap, not always a successful one.

(3) “A ledge or shelf of turf and earth overhanging the side of a stream; a turf-clad projecting river-bank” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1956).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 24:
He tous'd the deil roun Criffle-screel, And owre the Cairnsmuirs three, Down heuchs and craigs — and glens and hags.
Ayr. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 157:
But through the rough moss, and owre the hag pen, Ye drown the ill anes in your watery den!
s.Sc. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. II. 203:
On Cauldcleugh's wild haggs roun' the coome o' the steep.
Rxb. 1901 N.E.D.:
There will be trout lying under the hag there.

[O.Sc. hag, from 1456, to hack, hew, cut, hag(ge), 1540, a notch, hag-iron, 1624, hag-stoke, 1542, hag(ge), 1641, a portion of trees marked for cutting, hag-hous(e), from 1633, a wood-shed, hag, 1530, a break in a moss; O.N. hǫggva, to strike, smite, fell trees, hǫgg, a stroke, blow, a cutting down of trees, a cleft in a mountain.]

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"Hag v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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