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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BEN, BENN, adv., prep., adj. and n.1

1. adv. lit. Inside, indoors, within; further into an apartment, in or to the best room; in the direction of the speaker; in Mining: back from the shaft towards the workings. Gen.Sc. Used on the sea it means “towards land.”Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 37:
Then up I took my Siller Ca' And whistl'd benn whiles ane, whiles twa.
Sh.4 1934; Cai.5 1928:
“Come awa ben” is an expression of welcome.
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 165:
So I taks her ben trow. Shö wis a bright, spaeky kind o body, an aa da time I wis tryin tae guess what local connection shö might hae.
Mry.(D) 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. ix.:
Come awa' ben tae yer steel here, Jamie, an' sit doon.
Abd. (Cove) 1914 T.S.D.C. I. 19:
Sail ben — i.e. towards the land.
Ags. 1896 J. M. Barrie Margaret Ogilvy i.:
The coming of the chairs seems to be something I remember, as if I had jumped out of bed . . . and run ben to see how they looked.
Ags. 1929 W. L. Anckorn in Scots Mag. (May) 142:
Ask the lassie into the front room an' I'll be ben as soon as I gi'e ma hair a redd.
wm.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report 97:
The bottomer hooks on their whirley to the engine-rope and returns them with an empty one, with which they set off at a run back into the mine, or what they call "ben."
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 29:
Fetch the lad ben, McKillop. Be cannie wi him. (Duncan McKillop goes into the room. To Janet) Hae a blanket and bowster haundie.
Gsw. 1987 James Kelman Greyhound for Breakfast (1988) 50:
Then he got up, leaned in to kiss her forehead. I'll away ben and let you sleep.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders i.:
Keep far ben in your ain hoose at hame when the Marshalls ride!
Slk. 1914 Southern Reporter (17 Dec.) 9/2:
“The Lord be praised,” said Mrs Scott. . . . “C'way ben, Sandy, an' we'll tell the granny.”

fig. or partly fig.Sc. 1708 First Earl of Crm. in Earls of Cromartie (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 58, with notes by A.C.M.:
I hear that my (no very invidious [enviable]) office as justice generall is talkt of as ambulatory [impermanent]. I'm sure that in law it is not, without a crime [and so to describe it is a crime]; and if the Claime of Right [Act of Sc. Parl. 1689 declaring the rights and liberties of Sc. subjects] be a hedge [protection] it is farr benn in it [the independence of my office lies in the very heart of it].
Knr. 1925 “H. Haliburton” Horace in Homespun 113:
Than this, we'll get nae farrer ben; An' sae, like reasonable men, Let's keep oor hopes within oor ken.

Hence benward, benwart (Sc. 1825 Jam.2), benwuth, benwith, adv. and adj., inwards, inward.Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. of Christ i. xi.:
Hoo can a man bide lang i' saucht, wha mells wi' ither fouk's affairs, an' wi' things ootside o'm, an' takes-na tent o' the benward sel?
Bnff.4, Bnff.7 1912:
Benwuth, benwith, inward.
Rnf. 1841 R. Skimming Lays 24:
When Satan benward lookit.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae 'Tween Clyde and Tweed 87:
But when his thinkin' took the ben-ward airt, He fund it through a dram. [O.Sc. has benwart, inwards, Rauf. C. 131 c.1475 (S.T.S.).]

2. prep. Through (a house) to the inner room and in the modern “but and ben” house gen. in or to the best room; towards or nearer the speaker or a given point.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
And brought them both “ben the house,” to use the language of the country.
Abd. 1930 D. Campbell Kirsty's Surprise 35:
There's naethin' but the birr o' a motorbike scoorin' ben the heich road.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 24:
I wis biding at 19 Ferries Crescent at this time. There were a faimily of lassies bade ben the hoose frae us and they were aa very nice, hard-working girls and every een of them wis a filleter.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 27:
Actin like this at your age! you've still goat Mum's phoatie oan tap ae the tv...ah bet ye anythin ye sit starin at it mair than ye look at the set! Ye should chuck it oot, or at least pit it away in a drawer ben the hoose! ...
em.Sc. (a) 1895 “I. Maclaren” Days of Auld Lang Syne 123:
He's sittin' ben the hoose.
Edb. 1991:
Ma mither's ben the room.
Peb. 1929 Sc. Readings (Paterson) II. 84:
She went ben the back, and oot comes a curly-heided furriner.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 123:
"Aye it is. Is he ben the shop?" James indicated the adjoining room.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 22:
Bar the cooncillor's wife who, wi' propriety
Will tak' you ben the parlour, dust the chair
Afore she says "Noo park your erse doon there".
Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 83:
When we all had dined, the table and most of the chairs were piled 'ben-the room', and the festivities again began.
Gsw. 1966 Archie Hind The Dear Green Place (1984) 187:
'I often wonder at that lamp shade, the big one, of orange coloured silk with the tasselled frill, remember, that hung round the gas light, ben the room, in Faither's?'
Gsw. 1978 James Kelman in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 75:
Gis straight ben the toilit. Sits doon in that oan the lavatri pan.
Gsw. 1984 James Kelman The Busconductor Hines 53:
When she came in he went ben the front room to take off his suit.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine 20:
An' the orra lassie was ben the spence, singin' the young Simpson to sleep.
Dmf. 1894 J. Cunningham Broomieburn viii.:
He gaed ben the hoose an' sat doon by the fire-side.
Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 53:
For wow he's [New Year] a camstarrie callan', An' gars us a' keep ben the hallan. [Well into the house so as to escape the draught, hence, behind the hallan. G.W.]

3. adj. Inner, interior.

(1) Describing the best room or end of the house. This is the most gen. usage.Sh. 1918 T. Manson Humours Peat Comm. I. 161:
She busied herself in getting things set in the ben room.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 12:
Beyond the mid-gable was the ben-end, which was reached through the cellar door [door into the hall in the old houses].
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 16:
'And how are you all?' asked Bella when they were all ensconced in the ben room.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes I. xxix.:
In the ben-end (the inner, originally, hence better room) there was no light.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. of an Old Boy iv.:
And in John's ben-end or parlour were gathered on Sunday evenings all the boys and girls.
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheephead, etc. 86:
An' frae the ben-room window.
Rxb. 1898 R. Murray in Hawick Arch. Soc. Trans. (Nov.):
The other apartment, or “ben-end,” was entered from the shop.

fig. The best part (of a thing).n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
The ben-end of one's dinner, the principal part of it.

Hence (a) benner, compar., further in; (b) benmost, benmaist, benmist, furthest in, in the second inner room; (c) bennermaist, furthest in of all. All may be used fig.(a) Sc. 1820 Edb. Mag. LXXXV. 423/2:
A grousome droich at the benner en' Sat on a bink o' stane.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 107:
Ben the house young Peggy slips, Thro' the benner bole she ventures.
(b) Abd. 1924 J. Wight in Swatches o' Hamespun 76:
The fiddlers, already seated on an improvised platform at the “benmist gale [gable].”
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 19:
Bit stull an on I'll see,
In my min's benmost neuk, I'll sweir,
Like bleezin cwyles o caal green fire
Yer twaa een glowerin straacht at me.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. of Sc. Life and Character 88:
As she sits i' the benmaist bit neuk o' oor biel'.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 40:
an sempil quaitness haudin aathing thare: lift, yird an craig intil the yae thing made
as bricht tae benmaist as tae ootward sicht,
makkin the hert lown tae, an the saul skire.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 75:
Alane, it breirds in benmaist chaumer
o the mind.
The seedlin thocht airts ti the licht ti
fin its soul.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 29:
Ah! Weel's me on your bonny buik! The benmost part o' my kist nook I'll ripe for thee.
(c) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 317:
Frae the cheek o' the cutchock [blazing fire], i' the bennermaist end o' my pantry.

(2) Describing the kitchen (contrary to gen. usage).Abd. 1925 (per Mry.2):
In the Garioch (Aberdeenshire) the but en' o' the hoose was the room or parlour end, and the ben [end] the kitchen or living-room.
Bch. 1924 J. Wight in Scots Mag. (Sept.) 442–443:
The “ben” end was the kitchen, and the “but,” or “horn-eyn,” was the room at the opposite gable.
[In the old Sc. farm-house or cottage, the outside door opened into the but, from which people passed by another door into the ben. If there was another room beyond, it was called the far ben. Ben comes from O.E. be-innan, binnan, O.North. bionna = inside, and but from O.E. be-ūtan, būtan, outside. In the modern house, the but is gen. the kitchen end and the ben the parlour, the two being separated by a passage, in the middle of which is the outside door. The change in the position of the rooms has in some districts led to confusion in the use of the old names — e.g. in Bnff. (see Gregor D.Bnff. 218), in Bch. and the Garioch for older speakers the but is the best room and the ben the kitchen; others follow the gen. usage and others again are rather indefinite. All, however, use “a but and ben” to describe the modern two-roomed cottage. See But.]

4. n. Elliptical use of the adj.Sc. 1809 Sir J. Carr Caled. Sk. 405:
A tolerable hut is divided into three parts: a butt, which is the kitchen; a benn, an inner room, and a byar, where the cattle are housed.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xii.:
He turned . . . to reconnoitre the ben, or parlour end of the house.
Sc. 1904 A. Geikie Sc. Reminisc. 300:
Many a time have I slept in the little box-bed in her “ben.”
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 7:
The house . . . consisted of only two rooms, a but and a ben. (Gl. but, kitchen, ben, inner apartment or best room.)
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Gl. 3:
Ben, the inner part of the house.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 53:
Ben. An inner room or apartment leading off from that (= the but) entered by the main door; also, a room on the opposite side of the passage from the but.

Phrases: (1) A-benn, in the best room.Mry.(D) 1824 J. Cock Hamespun Lays 128:
She striv'd a wee to smore her spleen, An' hide it frae the wives a-benn.

(2) Ben-a-hoose, in the best room.Mry.(D) 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 109:
Beanie met us in the passage. “He's ben-a-hoose,” said she. [Also known to Slg.3 1934.]
s.Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 149:
My faither, frae the ben-a-house, would have cried out.

Used as adj. meaning “in or for the parlour” before such words as breakfast, breid, woman, etc.Abd. 1903 Abd. Wkly. Free Press (29 Aug.) (E.D.D. Suppl.):
Aw wis hearin' ye're aye gyaun owerbye t' Easty's efter the ben-a-hoose 'oman.

(3) Ben inno, further in than.Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London, etc. (1869) 13:
To sit ben inno the guidman upo' the best bink o' the house.

(4) Ben inowre, (draw) near, hither.Sc.(E) 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah lvii. 3:
Bot the lave o' yersels, come ben inowre.

(5) The-ben, in the interior apartment (Ags. 1825 Jam.2). For there ben.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 28:
Then says to Nory, rest you bony hen, An' tak a piece, your bed's be made the-ben.
Abd.(D) 1867 Mrs Allardyce Goodwife at Home ii.:
An' will ye jist step but the hoose: For there's nae fire the ben. [Occurs in O.Sc. in the form thair ben from early 16th cent.]

(6) To be far ben, (a) to be in favour; to be intimate with; (b) Used of a very devout or saintly person.(a) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
It is said of one, who is admitted to great familiarity with another, who either is, or wishes to be thought his superior; He is far ben.
Ags. 1891 A. Lowson Tales, Leg. and Trad. of Forfarshire 11:
You were very far ben in the esteem and affection of the old man. [Also for Per. 1915 J. Wilson L. Strathearn 197 and for Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 53.]
(b) Abd.9 1934:
“Aye, the auld elyer (elder) is gey far ben” — i.e. in great favour with his Maker.
em.Sc. (a) 1894 “I. Maclaren” Bonnie Brier Bush 193:
We imagined an outer court of the religious life where most of us made our home, and a secret place where only God's nearest friends could enter, and it was said of Burnbrae, “He's far ben.” [Also known to Slg.3 and Lnk.3 for Lnk. and Lth.]
(c) deeply versed, having profound or esoteric knowledge (Ork., Abd. 1975). Ayr. 1844 Ayrshire Wreath 132:
"How's the wife an' the bairn?" I was as far ben as himsel-I kenned he meant the fiddle an' the bow.

(7) To come ben, (a) to be forward in wooing; (b) to be advanced, to come to honour.(a) Abd.(D) 1929 W. Robbie Mains of Yonderton 58–59:
Fan an 'oman comes t' be o' the borders o' forty years auld . . . if she gets the vera least encouragement, she comes that fest ben on a body 'at sometimes a man hardly kens fat he's aboot.
(b) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore Invocation:
Leed [speech], that well might help him to come ben, An' crack amo' the best o' ilka sex.

(8) To go far ben, to gain favour.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 282:
There is a Person well I ken Might wi' the best gane right far ben.

(9) To win ben, to gain favour, or position.Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality viii.:
They are but in the court of the Gentiles, and will ne'er win farther ben, I doubt.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 58:
O dinna look ye pridefu' doon on a' aneath your ken, For he wha seems the furthest but, aft wins the farthest ben.

Combs.: (1) Ben-by, in the inner room.Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 43:
The coat ben-by, i' the kist-nook, That's been this towmonth swarmin, Is brought yence mair thereout to look.

(2) Fer ben, shrewd, far-seeing (w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 53).

Ben adv., prep., adj., n.1

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