Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KEN, v., n. Also kenn (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), kain (Fif. 1863 St Andrews Gazette (19 Dec.)), kin (Ags. 1888 Barrie Auld Licht Idylls viii.), keen (Abd. 1692 A. Pitcairne Assembly (1722) 19), kjen (Sh. 1931 Shetland Times (14 March) 7). Gen.Sc. Now obs. or arch. in Eng. [Sc. kɛn, ken, I.Sc. kɪn, ki:n]

I. v. 1. (1) To know, be aware of, apprehend, learn (a fact). Gen.Sc. Pa.t., pa.p. ken(n)t, kint, ken(d), kenn(e)d, keened. The neg. is freq. formed by the suffixing of -na, Ork. -no (Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 64, kinno). Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 67:
But now I'm gaun I kenna whither.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 129:
Tho' gude joot binna kend to rumble Your weym within.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Death & Dr Hornbook i.:
Ev'n ministers, they hae been kend, . . . A rousing whid at times to vend.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf ii.:
It will do the auld wife's heart gude — mair by token, when she kens it comes frae you.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xcix.:
I kenna how it was, that at the time I didna experience such a sorrow as I should have felt.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 1:
I kenno why they wur sae mad for de Croon.
Bch. 1913 W. Fraser Jeremiah Jobb 8:
Aw niver kint afore Aw wis sae gleg i' the uptak'.
Sh. 1924 J. Hunter Sk. and Poems 109:
He saidna muckle, only tratened me never ta lat it be ken.
Sh. 1951 Sh. Folk Bk. II. 67:
Dey spo weel at keen.

Phrs.: (a) to ken aa about that, = (d) (Fif. 1960); (b) to ken anither o't, to see the other side of a question; to know a different version of a story; (c) to ken o' anesel, to be aware consciously or intuitively, to have instinctive knowledge (Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 213; Bnff., Abd. 1959); (d) to ken o't, to know by dire experience, to suffer for one's actions, often in threats of punishment or retribution (I.Sc., n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., Ayr., Slk. 1959). (b) Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xi.:
It is ae thing to read aboot love in novells . . . but when it yokes a-gnaw, gnawin' at yer heart, like a moose at a bit toastit cheese, it lets ye ken anither o't.
Abd.31 1959:
Aabody said the bairnie wis his, like, bit I kent anither o't.
(c) Sh. 1898 W. F. Clark North. Gleams 93:
Afore I kent o' mysel, I'd lost a' knowledge o' whaur I wis.
Abd.31 1959:
I ken o' masel' 'at I'm ower stoot tae win by ye on 'e stair.
(d) Id.:
Ye fairly ken o't fin the dentist 's howkin intae yer teeth.

(2) Used ellipt., with omission of a word such as deil, guid, etc., in phrs. kens faar, -how, -whae, -what, -when, goodness knows where, etc. (Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 13; Abd., Ags., Lth. 1959). Rxb. 1806 J. Hogg Poems 76:
[She] would gie kens what for ane.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 21:
A didna ken a grain o odds o'd for aa A hedna seen't threh kens-whan.
Bnff.2 1945:
I'm lookin' for my glesses, bit kens faar I've pitten them.

2. To know (a person or locality), to be acquainted or familiar with; to recognise, identify. Gen.Sc. Sc. a.1719 Pills to Purge Melancholy (Durfey) V. 89:
And there he kenn'd a well fair Lass, When it was almost dark, Sir.
Ayr. 1773 Weekly Mag. (7 Jan.) 237:
I ha'e hard tell (said I) o' something they ca' maskerades, where fock did na ken ither.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Death & Dr Hornbook xiv.:
Ye ken Jock Hornbook i' the Clachan.
Sc. 1806 Sir Patrick Spens in Child Ballads No. 58 G. 12:
Whare will I get a bonny boy That will gang up to the tap-mast, See an he ken dry land.
ne.Sc. 1848 Chambers's Jnl. (24 June) 414:
She kens maistly naebody, puir thing . . . and she's whiles no sensible forby.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (19 June) 529:
That wad ha' gien 'im a merk to ken 'im as lang as he leeved, if it had only hutten 'im.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. of Hermiston viii.:
Excuse a daft wife that loves ye, and that kenned your mither.
Ags. 1916 V. Jacob Songs of Angus 7:
They turned their faces southward frae the glens they aye had kent.
Lnk. 1932 Border Mag. (Feb.) 22:
I was at the scule wi' the feck o' them, an', looking back ower seeventy years keened them a'.
Abd. 1959:
He was that changet, I harly kent him.

Ppl.adj. ken(n)t, ken(ne)d, well-known, familiar, having a certain fame or reputation (Gen.Sc.), as for good workmanship (Uls. 1953 Traynor), hence skilful (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Sh., Lth. 1959). For kenned mark, kent —, see Kenmark. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 83:
What cast has fashen you sae far frae towns? I'm sure to you thir canna be kent bounds.
Sc. 1796 Edb. Mag. (March) 239:
The old woman asked who they were? They answered kent folk.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 54:
I hear but kent voices: — kent faces I see.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
I had troubles in gaun up, whilk makes me blither of travelling wi' kend folk.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 293:
We may wander even on kend grun; so I may run myself wrong in Gallowa, a land I weel ken.
Lnk. 1863 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie (1876) 115:
Listen aye for some kent fit when nae ane's on the street.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xvii.:
Bauldy has been a kenned phrase-maker for the last forty year.
sm.Sc. 1922 R. W. Mackenna Flower o' the Heather xxviii.:
“Wha may ye be?” she said. “Ye ha'ena' a kent face.”
Abd., Fif. 1959:
He's a kent hand at the job. It's fine tae see a kent face.

3. To make known. Only in phr. be it kend, as in proclamations, etc. (Sc. 1722 Munim. Gsw. Univ. (M.C.) 478), corresp. to Lat. scito, etc., in charters and the like. Rxb. 1710 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1902) 53:
Be it kend till all men be thir presents.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 127:
To a' men living be it kend The Session now is at an end.

4. Sc. Law: to recognise (a person) as legal successor to an inheritance, esp. to ken a widow to her terce, to assign to a widow in intestacy the life-rent of the third part of her husband's heritable property, till 1924 adjudicated by a Sheriff and jury and now by an action of declarator. Sc. 1754 Erskine Principles ii. ix. § 29:
She [the widow] can only possess with the heir pro indiviso, and so cannot remove tenants, till the Sheriff kens her to her terce, or divides the land between her and the heir.
Sc. 1896 W. K. Morton Manual 156:
Should parties stand on their legal rights, the widow, having no title of possession, resorts to the procedure of “kenning to a terce” before the Sheriff. Under this she is first served to the terce by the verdict of a jury, finding as matter of fact, that she was the wife of the deceased proprietor, and that he died infeft in certain lands, which verdict gives her a title to possess jointly with the heir. The Sheriff thereafter “kens to the terce,” or divides the land between her and the heir, by setting aside two-third parts to the heir and one-third part to her.

5. Vbl.n. ken(n)in(g), -en, -an, (1) (a) recognition, acquaintance (n.Sc. 1959). Also in pl.; (b) understanding, power of apprehension, senses (Sh., Cai., Abd., Lnk. 1959); (2) a very little of anything (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Sh., Cai., Ags., Fif., Lth., w. and sm.Sc. 1959), a trifle, a slight degree, a trice. Also adv. Found also in n.Yks. dial. (1) (a) Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 51:
An' mony a bailie, I aver, Within my kennin's ne sae clever.
ne.Sc. 1836 J. Grant Tales 195:
I tint a' kennin's o' him.
Fif. 1859 P. Landreth Joseph Spindle (1911) 30:
Ye'll be naething the waur through life . . . for hae'n some kennins o' gude leather.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin viii.:
We werna juist far eneugh into ilk ither's confidence an' kennins for gaen to that extremity as yet.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 43:
An' never a flail strak' on ane o' them tae me kennin'.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 121:
I cam' in contact at this time wi' yin or twae ither masons I had had but slicht kennen o' before.
Bnff. 1949 Banffshire Jnl. (29 Nov.):
To such extent was he dressed almost “oot o' kennin',” that he failed to recognise himself when passing a full length mirror in the hall.
Sh. 1958 Shetland News (30 Dec.) 4:
He'd a great kennin aboot the ruins of the Pictish brochs or “castles.”
(b) Dmf. 1874 R. Reid Moorland Rhymes 69:
A dwawm cam' owre my kennin', and I saw a boat gaun doon.
Ags. 1897 G. A. Graham Where the Heather Grows 177:
There is a kenning between lovers.
(2) Ayr. 1787 Burns Unco Guid vii.:
Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang, To step aside is human.
Dmf. 1831 Edb. Ev. Courant (22 Sept.):
Two excellent lots were sold — the one at ¥3. 16s., and the other within a kennin' of ¥4 per head.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders i.:
It's virtuous to do a sheep a good turn, but a kennin' uninterestin'.
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 199:
Whup! in a kennin', neck and heels, Aneth thon roarin' traffic's wheels The feck o' them is swirl'd!
Sh. 1919 T. Manson Peat Comm. II. 188:
Juist a kennin, mind, dat's da genteel wye.
m.Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (April) 13:
No a soond forbye a bit grunt here an' there frae a beast that was a kennin' ower fu'.

II. n. Knowledge, acquaintance, comprehension, insight (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Slk. 1959); the scope or bounds of one's understanding, knowledge, or experience; a piece of knowledge. Freq. in phrs. (not) to ken a ken, to ken one's ain ken(s) (Uls. 1953 Traynor; ne.Sc., Per., Lth., Bwk., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1959). Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 214:
Bumbaz'd he loups frae sicht, and jooks his ken.
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poetry I. 60:
Strong giant life, ayont thy ken, Is stalking at thy side.
Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Nov.) 203:
May nane o' you ever ken my ken, that fearfu' hour.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 116:
And ladies fair . . . On scenes sae wild their winsome looks do len, They seem sae unco to their lawlan's ken.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller 95:
For, ah! there's a friend that the warld wots nae o', Wha brightens her ken, and wha lightens her wo.
Gsw. 1863 W. Miller Nursery Songs 54:
Ilk ane kens their ain ken, Tho' sair to thole an' hide it.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 139:
His common sense, his tender heart, His piercing ken, an' a' that.
Lnk. 1888 R. Young Love at Plough 128:
Love reigns throughout in but an' ben, Although we're twa we've but ae ken.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo iv.:
Dootless she kenned her ain ken best.
Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 106:
Nae a ken kent I aboot it.

Hence ¶kenless, adj., unknown. Abd. 1845 P. Still Cottar's Sunday 178:
The glen maun be nameless an' kenless to a'.

[O.Sc. ken, to know, in various senses, from 1375, Mid.Eng. kennen, O.N. kenna, to know, recognise, perceive, make known. O.E. cnnan, to make known, survives in v. 3. Ken has superseded knaw, O.E. cnwan, in mod.Sc.]

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"Ken v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Oct 2021 <>



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