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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

WEAN, n. Also wane (Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 129), waen (Ayr. 1819 Kilmarnock Mirror 233; Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Paddy McQuillan 11), wain, wayne (Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 16), wen (Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (3 Jan.); we'an(e) (Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 15; Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 123), we'en (Abd. 1852 A. Robb Poems 24), wein (Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken iv., ix.). Dim. forms wean(n)ie, weanock (Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 201). A nonce pl. form weanses is found (Ib. 151). [m.Sc. wen; Per., Ags., n.Sc. ′wɪən, the two words not having completely coalesced to form a monophthong.]

A child, esp. a young child before its teens (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; m.Sc. 1973). The word developed in wm.Sc. and is now fairly gen. in m.Sc. In the other dialects the form is not common and is still thought of as two distinct words. See Bairn, Littlin. Also in n.Eng. dial. Combs. gran(d)wean, a grandchild, laddie-wean, lassie-wean, boy-, girl-child.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iii. ii.:
Troth, my Niece is a right dainty we'an.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 12:
The dentyest wean bony Jane fuish hame.
Sc. 1785 Burns Scotch Drink xii.:
When skirlin weanies see the light, Thou maks the gossips clatter bright.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvi.:
As sure as I live he's been the father of the lassie's wean.
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 155:
One wished them “thumpin luck and fat weans.”
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals x.:
It was just a yird toad and the laddie weans nevelled it to death with stones.
Slg. 1845 Justiciary Reports (1844–5) 488:
When she came to herself she cried “Whaur's my wean? ”
Uls. 1869 D. Herbison Snow-Wreath 121:
We've got a cauld hearth-stane, John, Without a frien' or wean, John.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 107:
A glum an' fractious wean.
Gall. 1888 G. G. B. Sproat Rose o' Dalma Linn 53:
There were four wee weans roun' a cot-hoose door.
Slg. 1901 R. Buchanan Poems 74:
Happy gran' weans jumping round you.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xv.:
Men-folk are often like that about lassie-weans.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 4:
Noo the toon is fair asteer, The weans rin doon the street.
wm.Sc. 1946 H. Reid Big Adventure 39:
A wee wean was greetin', her heart like to break.
Slk. 1964 Southern Reporter (26 March) 9:
I often wonder if we do not cast aside the worries of our weans as being of no account.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 143:
... a wean and a baby whose names he had not caught, and the dour halflin' Bryce, who had looked him up and down and seemed as if he might have checked his teeth or hooves before taking him on to labour.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 3:
Can you bring the wean up well
When you're scarce mair than a lassie yoursel'?
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 49:
He rushed to the oven, grabbed the handle and held the pan in the air. The wean was pulling at his trouser-leg, she gripped the material.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (27 Jan) 10:
One Labour MP commented: "They must have thought he [Lord James Douglas-Hamilton] was a big wean."
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 1:
Picture it. The Calton. Fair Fortnight. 1937. Full of Eastern promise. Wimmen windaehingin. Weans greetin for pokey hats. Grown men, well intae their hungry thirties, slouchin at coarners, skint as a bairn's knees.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 25:
Our mither tongue wis dung doun
in Scotland bi John Knox.
Juist tae mak shair
it bided yirdit
the weans got thir licks
frae the dominie
for yasin the auld leid
Sc. 1991 Scotsman (21 Sep):
Telling a plain tale is not easy. Comedy is simple, just make 'em laugh. In tragedy, just make 'em cry. But your plain tale of day-to-day doings, having wains, getting by, that takes real talent.
Slg. 1991 Janet Paisley in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 128:
Ah'm stood there like a wane wi a burst balloon.
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 5:
My wean, whit's that smell, wir ye playin' in the midden?
Gsw. 1994 Carol Ann Duffy in Daniel O'Rourke Dream State 5:
...The Catholic's spanking wains are marked
by a bigot's thumbprint dipped in burnt black palm.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 7:
But it's no that when you're sick, though, eh? You dinnae even git up! Ye jist lie thair, rollin aboot an moanin aboot how yir gaunnae die, then ye spew up aw ower the bed! Pig! So ma mother should gie you sermons! Ye act like a piggin wean!
Sth. 1996 Eddie Davies in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 123:
'Where've you been, you bastards?' father shouted as we came in the tent. 'We got some scones,' we said 'up at the keeper's house.' 'Your mother and the weans hae starved all day for youse!' he thundered - but he could see something was up!
m.Sc. 1998 David Millar in Donny O'Rourke and Kathleen Jamie New Writing Scotland 16: The Glory Signs 119:
That wean's not far off the age those two lassies were back then. She keeps asking to go out, into town.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 12:
Tho' maist o us arnae miners ataa,
we've learnt o a time fast slippan awa
an Airmadale weans aa yae day micht be
aware o thir gaed-afores' history.

Derivs.: (1) weanhood, childish; (2) weanish, childish (Slg., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1973). Rare; (3) weanly, childish (w.Lth., wm., sm.Sc. 1973); weak, feeble, puny (Fif. 1825 Jam.). Superl. weanliest.(1) Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 113:
First at's weanhood let's begin.
(2) Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne 51:
Where Mary's concerned he's a'maist weanish.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 153:
Imagine any of the guys seeing him! No chance. She was just too wee, or she acted too wee; weanish, too weanish.
(3) Sc. 1813 The Scotchman 90:
The stawin o a weanly and wanwordie greenin for revenge.
Gall. 1832 J. Denniston Craignilder 74:
But sword or axe gied weanly whacks Compared wi' Geordy's flail, man.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms cxix. 130:
Fu' clear comes a blink o' yer words, makin wyss the weanliest chiel.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters v.:
Paidling in a burn's the ploy for him. He's a weanly gowk.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 53:
It didna' soun' nice, juist a wheen weanly clavers.

[A reduced form of Wee + Ane. O.Sc. wyne, id., 1624.]

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"Wean n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2022 <>



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