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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MERSE, n. Also mers(s). [mɛrs]

1. Flat, alluvial, freq. marshy land bordering upon a river, a river estuary or the sea, specif. applied to the land (partly reclaimed) bordering the Solway Firth (Dmf. 1825 Jam.; sm.Sc. 1962). Freq. attrib. in combs. merse -ground, -land, id.Dmf. 1739 A. Steel Annan (1933) 81:
They have unanimously Resolved to . . . Build a New Schoolhouse in the Burgh's Common Loaning leading towards the Merse, commonly called the Minister's Merse.
Dmf. 1788 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (15 Jan.):
To be Let . . . the lands of Kingholm, consisting of 41 acres, 1 rood, and 18 falls, of arable land, and 33 acres, 2 roods, and 10 falls, of merse ground, adjoining the Dock of Dumfries.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 234:
There's a maid has sat o' the green merse side Thae ten lang years and mair.
Dmf. 1825 J. Mitchell Scotsman's Library 337:
Along the banks of the Nith, near its mouth, there is no inconsiderable portion of merse land. . . . Much of this merse land being still overflowed, in very high tides, has not been brought into tillage.
Kcb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 245:
The merse is valuable pasture.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 232:
Whun mair nor half-wey through the merse, Puir Pistie gat a fearfu fricht.
Dmf. 1954 Dmf. & Gall. Standard (2 Oct.):
In response to inquiries concerning the public rights on the Merseland at above it is considered necessary to draw attention to the fact that the Caerlaverock merselands, which comprise those extensive areas of grazing land bordering the Solway Shore between the mouths of the rivers Nith and Lochar and which are marked on the Ordnance Survey Maps as “Merse” and “Saltings”, are the private property of his Grace the Duke of Norfolk.
Dmf. 1957 Ib. (2 Nov.):
The Dock is still natural merse, with an irregular shoreline eaten by the river into shallow bays and points.

2. A flat and fertile hollow between hills (Dmf. 1825 Jam.).

3. Specif., gen. with def. art., used as a place-name for the area of Berwickshire which lies between the Lammermuir Hills and the Tweed, sometimes extended to apply to the whole of the county. Attrib. in comb. Merse-man, an inhabitant of this region. For phr. howe o' the Merse, see Howe, n., adj.e.Lth. 1722 Caled. Mercury (9 April):
Last Week, Mr John Cockburn Junior of Ormistoun was unanimously elected a Member to the ensuing Parliament for the Shire of East Lothian. As was also Bailzie of Jerviswood, for the Shire of the Merss.
Slk. 1753 in Chambers's Jnl. (11 April) 240:
To a Mers-man a black mear, at £5. 1s.
Bwk. 1794 A. Bruce Agric. Bwk. (App.) 94:
The county of Berwick, or Merse, as it is sometimes called.
s.Sc. 1827 R. Chambers Picture Scot. I. 78:
She took her Culross girdle, which is said to have been extensive enough to toast eighteen bannocks of the Merse's mak at once.
Bwk. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 72:
The people of these provinces [Berwickshire and Lothian] have been characterised by some hobnail wit as Loudon louts, Merse brutes, Lammermuir whaups.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 105:
A Merse mist alang the Tweed In a harvest mornin's gude indeed.
Sc. 1933 Batsford & Fry Face Scot. 69:
From Coldstream to Berwick, the fertile levels of the Merse spread northward from Tweed to the foothills of the Lammermuirs.

[O.Sc. mers, = 3., 1375, mersk, id., 1363, O.E. męrsc, marsh. For similar loss of [k] see Buss, n.1, Ass, Mense.]

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"Merse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Dec 2022 <>



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