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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).

MAINS, Also maines, maynes; double pl. mainses.

1. The home farm of an estate, cultivated for the proprietor, still surviving throughout Scotland as a farm name in the form Mains of — in n.Sc. and as — Mains in the rest of Scot. (see Scottish Studies III. i. 98), although the farm may no longer be attached to a mansion house. Also used attrib. and as an epithet for the farmer of a mains, acc. to the Sc. idiom of calling a farmer by the name of his farm.Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
We call the place where the Lord or Heritor of the ground resides, or wont to reside himself, the mains; and frequently also the ground belonging to it has the same denomination.
Sc. 1734 J. Spotiswood Hope's Practicks 124:
Maynes, . . . the Lands adjacent to the Mansion-house, which were ordinarly laboured by the Proprietor's Servants, for the Use and Maintenance of the Family, in our Charters called, terrae dominicales.
Sc. 1743 J. Cockburn Letters (S.H.S.) 85:
In the Mainses, such as Robert and David Wights, they had better give each of their Cottars a good Cock Chicken.
Cai. 1774 Weekly Mag. (13 Oct.) 79:
We maun . . . till and harrow his mains . . . cast and carry his peats, lead his middings, . . . and this stops nothing of our rents.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vii.:
I am no clear if I can pleugh ony place but the mains and Mucklewhame.
Sth. 1820 J. Loch Acct. Sth. App. II. 29:
The farm of Kintradwell . . . was granted in wadset many years back. By the wadsetter it was let to a tenant, who again sub-let it. . . . It was divided into three portions. The mains, which remained in the hands of the tacksman — Wester Kintradwell, . . . and Easter Kintradwell.
Sc. 1864 Jnl. Agric. 515:
There was a good deal of land on that estate which had been for a long time in cultivation, particularly about the “mains” farms.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xiii.:
What was that ye was sayin', Mains?
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 19:
There were no more than nine bit places left the Kinraddie estate, the Mains the biggest of them, it had been the Castle home farm in the long past times.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxx.:
“A've news tee ye, Mains”. “The deil a bit”, replied Mains.

2. The outbuildings of a farm, as distinct from the farmhouse; specif. that part of them occupied as the sleeping quarters of the farm servants (w.Lth. 1962).Lnk. 1708 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 18:
But if he be a tasker in mains, wher he getts constant thresheing all the winter tyme, then he is to work and serve in all necessar husband work.
Kcd. 1722 Elphinstone Bk. (Fraser 1897) II. 276:
In the gairden mains: — Two old timber beds. A naprie press. A pair of cart wheels ringed.
n.Sc. 1734 W. Fraser Chiefs of Grant (1883) II. 427:
The dyckers are building the division in the mains that goes by the barns.
e.Lth. 1761 D. Defoe Tour Gt. Brit. IV. 70:
Every Nobleman's House hath what they call the Mains, where their Land-Labourers, Grooms, and every Body belonging to the Stable and Poultry, reside.
m.Lth. 1795 G. Robertson Agric. m.Lth. 40:
A Farmer's mains, as it is here called, consisted formerly of a set of low buildings, in the form of a square.
e.Lth. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (19 July) 1:
Long Newton contains about 600 Scots acres. . . . There is a dwelling-house and mains lately built on the farm, with a water thrashing machine.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 215:
After we had had oor tea, I gaed ootby, an' took a bit turn roun' the mains.
Sc. 1933 E. S. Haldane Scotland of our Fathers 295:
With the developments of the new century [i.e. the 19th] the barns were separated from the house, the dwelling-house was improved, etc. . . . The improved farms became what were called farmers' Mains.

[Aphaeretic form of domains, O.Fr. demeine (Eng. demesne), Med.Lat. dominicum, “the lord (of the manor)'s lands”. In O.Sc. in place-names from 1410.]

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"Mains n. pl.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Aug 2022 <>



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