Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
Hide Quotations Hide Etymology
About this entry:
First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.
BIRN, Bern, n.2 [bɪ̢̈rn, bʌrn, bɛrn]
1. The scorched stem of heather which remains after the smaller twigs are burnt.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. iv.:
Nae Birns, or Briers, or Whins e'er troubled me.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 82:
The lasses bidding do, an' o'er they gaes, An' of bleech'd birns pat on a canty bleeze.Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Gloss. 3; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Birns, roots of burnt heath; or rather, the stronger stems of the heath that remain after the smaller twigs are gone.em.Sc. 1920 J. Black Airtin' Hame 141:
Meal and water were well stirred with some handy heather “birn,” and partaken of with keen relish by the thankful wayfarer.Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 37:
Threescore o' bobbins, ten o' pirns, An auld blunt ax for hackin' birns.Gall.(D) 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 192:
The next time he saw her she was . . . tryin tae roast a half herrin on the heather birns amang the asse.Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 344:
It is said of a niggardly frugal person, “It's a queer brae that he couldna get a bern off.”
2. A burnt mark, a brand on parts of the bodies of animals for identification of ownership.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act III. Sc. ii. in Poems (1728) II.:
Fourscore of breeding Ews of my ain Birn, Five Ky that at ae Milkin fills a Kirn, I'll gi'e to Peggy that Day she's a Bride.Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery ix.:
I have left him [a fat bullock] in the upper cleugh as . . . he is marked both with cut and birn.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 56:
Birn. An identification mark on sheep, made by burning.
Hence the phr. skin and birn to express completeness or totality.Sc. 1718 Ramsay Chr. Kirke iii. xv. in Poems (1721):
The Smith's Wife her black Deary sought And fand him Skin and Birn.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxiv.:
Do ye think our auld enemies of England . . . cares a boddle whether we didna kill ane anither, skin and birn, . . . all and sindry.?
You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.
"Birn n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2023 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/birn_n2>