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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BARLEY-BRACK(S), BARLA-BRACKS, BARLO-BROCK, BARLEY-BROK, BARLA-BREIKIS, Bollo-brock, n. Also barley-branks (Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 151).[′bɑrlo-′brɔk Ork.; ′bɑrlĕ-′brɑk(s) Sc.]

1. A cry for a truce at a game.Ork. 1929 Marw.:
Barlo-brock, = the Eng. barley! a cry for a truce when playing a game [Sanday]. bollo-brock [′bɔlo-′brɔk] [Rousay].
Ork.1 1933:
“Barley-brok” was what we said at school as a signal that truce was over, but the word was little used, as compared with barleyplay; it must have been dying out, I think.

2. A game. (See first quot.)Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Barla-breikis, barley bracks. A game generally played by young people in a corn-yard. Hence called Barla-bracks about the stacks, S. B. [i.e. northern Sc.]. One stack is fixed on as the dule or goal; and one person is appointed to catch the rest of the company, who run out from the dule. He does not leave it, till they are all out of his sight. Then he sets off to catch them. Any one, who is taken, cannot run out again with his former associates, being accounted a prisoner; but is obliged to assist his captor in pursuing the rest. When all are taken, the game is finished; and he, who was first taken, is bound to act as catcher in the next game.
Sc. 1837 R. Nicoll Poems (1843) 81:
At barley-bracks, we laughin' chased each kimmer we could see.
Mearns 1905 W. Macgillivray Rob Lindsay and his School 25–26:
The fun of running about with them all among the whins playing at steek an' hod (hid [sic] and seek), tig, barley-brack, and other children's games and amusements I greatly enjoyed.
Ags. 1816 G. Beattie John o' Arnha' 22:
Wi' warlocks whirl at barley-brack.
Ags. a.1877 A. Whamond James Tacket (1878) x.:
Tammy Taepiece, Betty, myself, and several others, were playing at “barley-bracks round the stacks,” in the miller's cornyard.

[Obs. in s.Sc., obsol. in n.Sc. Found also in O.Sc. barlabreikis, -breks. “Sum rynnis at barlabreikis lyk rammis,” A. Scott a.1568. For prob. origin see Barley, n., and break — lit. break the truce when the game begins in the stackyard. The game is played differently in England (see E.D.D. and N.E.D.).]

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"Barley-brack n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Apr 2024 <>



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