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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WABSTER, n., v. Also wobster, ¶wibster, ¶wybister. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. (obs. since 17th c.) webster. [′wɑbstər, ne.Sc., Lth. ′wob-, em.Sc. (a) ′wʌb-. See Wab.]

I. n. 1. A weaver (Rs. 1703 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) 129, webster; Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 200, webster, 1825 Jam., wabster; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson). Gen.Sc., obsol. Also attrib., as wabster-body, -chiel, -craft, -lad, -loun. Freq. in derogatory phrs., esp. with reference to dishonesty. Now liter. or arch. For Jock Wabster see Jock.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 189:
He catch'd a crishy Webster Loun At runkling o' his Deary's Gown.
Kcb. 1729 Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 528:
To inquire into the circumstances of James M'Millan, wobster.
Sc. 1778 Faculty Decisions VIII. 19:
The incorporation of weavers in Glasgow, by their seal of cause, are vested with the exclusive privilege of carrying on the webster craft in that borough.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Willie Wastle i.:
Willie was a wabster gude, Could stoun a clue wi' ony body.
Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxvi.:
The like o' thae grit men wadna mind the like o' me, a puir wabster body.
Uls. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 65:
An' niest in text, comes wabster Jock.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 200:
Wabster lads now leave the loom.
Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (2 Jan.):
The ‘buxom lasses' in their teens, and the ‘wibster chiels.'
Sc. 1870 A. Hislop Proverbs 45:
As wight as a wabster's doublet, that ilka day taks a thief by the neck.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 307:
The greatest men in Gallawa whun A wus young wus the wabsters. They ca' them weavers noo.
Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray 62:
Layin' honest wobsters maist near idle.
Sc. 1964 Weekly Scotsman (21 May) 18:
Even earlier than their reputation for carpet-weaving, the “wabsters” gained renown by knitting Scotch bonnets, which somewhat resembled our modern-day Tam o' Shanters.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 9:
"You're to bide in the parish then, Frank Hay?"
"Aye my faither's bigged a cot up there by the Kirktoun; he's been a wabster to trade but he's meanin' to settle here and farm a bit."
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 56:
an oor green haunds raxin oot yin til ither
till hairst caas doon the simmers bonnie cloak
tae lay a carpet on the forest flair
that the maist eident wabster couldna mak.
Sc. 1996 Scotsman 3 Oct 18:
His Tale of Tod Lapraik, an episode of Catriona often anthologised in its own right as a superb tale of the supernatural, concerns a North Berwick "wabster" or weaver, Tod Lapraik, who at his loom goes into "dwams", ...

2. (1) One who winds the threads on the warp-beam for weavers (Ayr. 1951, obs.).Sc. c.1900 W. S. Murphy Textile Industries IV. 66:
In Scottish towns where handloom weaving was the principal industry there were men, called “websters,” who did nothing else but warp and beam yarns for the weavers. In some districts they were beamers merely.

(2) A knitter of stockings (Abd. 1825 Jam., wybister s.v. weaver). See Weave, v., 1.

3. Transf., a spider (Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems Gl.; Sc. 1825 Jam.; Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 308; em.Sc. (a), wm.Sc. 1973). Also in comb. spider wabster, id. See also Speeder, n., 1. Combs. (3).Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xxv.:
Down came a spider wabster as big as a puddock.
Sc. 1833 Chambers's Edb. Jnl. (May) 112:
Few hae seen the back o' thee [a cupboard], I trow, these twa days, but the wabsters and sclaters.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 28:
Fae oot a corner o' the wa', The wabster hings but winna fa'.
Sc. 2000 Scotsman 2 Dec 5:
The orb web is the most typical of the vertical silken arrays spun by spiders. This is produced by the garden spider that frightened Miss Muffet, it is also the "wabster" immortalised by William Soutar. The garden spider has a brown body on which there is a set of white dots, in the pattern of a cross. When disturbed, the garden spider oscillates both itself and its web.

II. v. To be a weaver, to work a loom; fig. to beat time with the feet like a weaver stamping on his treadles. Nonce.Sc. 1823 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) VIII. 39:
What is the lassie wabster-wabster-wabstering that gate for?

[O.Sc. webister, 1372, wobstar, 1494, wabster, 1587, a weaver.]

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"Wabster n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 May 2024 <>



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