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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BREIST, BREEST, n. and v. Also briest. Sc. forms of Eng. breast. Where the form breast is illustrated the meaning is peculiar to Sc. In Sc. the word has most of the meanings of Mod.Eng. See N.E.D. s.v. breast, n., 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8; v., 1, 2, 3, 6. The following are either more common in Sc. than in Eng. or are altogether peculiar to the former. [brist Sc., but ne. + briʃt]

Sc. form of Eng. breast.Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 44:
the lave shauchlin,
shauchlin forrit bairns claucht tae breists,
shauchlin forrit greiting feart - the brock
o a hellish gemme.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 9:
Siccan a lowe he brocht oot frae yir een,
sae strang the flain ma briest wes stoundit sair
an frae yir companie I fled awa
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 16:
Oh aye, he's away ower there beatin his breist lik naebody's business. You Tarzan, me beelin.
Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 28:
The eident licht endlang the simmer yird
Liggs sairly on a hert that canna see
Beyont the shaddaw in the valley's briest.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 9:
Sae I thankit him kindly -
syne he gied me the awfiest dunt
i the ribs, an there she stud -
a shilpit wee craitur wi naither
briests nor hurdies fit tae grace
the glossies lat alane the ploo.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 215:
Her hands folded across her breists? Her knees drawn up, like a bairnie in a wame? Her sumptuous hurdies and her cream-white thighs?

Sc. usages

1. n.

(1) A perpendicular face cut in a moss. Gen.Sc.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 454, s.v. underthoum:
Underfit peats, peat turf, digged beneath the foot, not in the common way of cutting them of [sic] a breest.
Gall. 1898 E.D.D.:
The “breast” is cut into gen. to a depth of from 3 to 5 feet.

(2) “A step or layer in a manure heap” (Bnff.2 1935); a section of hay in cubical form cut out of a stack. See Dass, n., 3. Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. N. Scot. II. 17:
Hay in the stack is always cut with a knife, in cakes, or cubical pieces, (breasts or desses as they are called in Scotland).
Ags. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 640:
The breast of the turned dung.

(3) “The desk board of a pew” (Abd.22, Ags.2 1935).Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 98:
An' some their heads laid on their looff, On their seat breast, an' sleepit.

(4) the front or projecting part of anything.

(a) The cobbled slipway forming the front of a harbour.Cai.7 1935:
E boatie's lyan at e breest o' e harbour.

(b) The gable of a house.Ork. 1771 P. Fea Diary (Dec.):
Done with the breast of the house.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
I was standan under the b[reest] o' the hoose.

(c) The front board of a cart.Bnff.2 1935:
Jeck cam' fusslin' hame sittin' on the breest o' his cairt.

(5) A panelled partition, specif. one enclosing a box-bed and cupboard attached (see bun' breist s.v. Bun', ppl.adj.1, 2. (1)). Hence breistin, id. (Abd. 1967). Abd. 1773 Fraserburgh Town Council Minutes MS 18 Nov :
Three pounds ten shillings sterling as the price of the Breast of the Bed & Closet which makes one side of the school room.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 8:
The houses were apportioned into different apartments by "breasts" or presses and beds with doors.

2. v.

(1) To spring up or forward; in the case of a horse, bringing the strain of the harness on the breast of the horse; to press forward, climb. Known to Abd.9, Ags.1, Slg.3 1935.Edb. 1929 (per Edb.1):
The bairn breistit up oot o' my airms and was nearly in the fire.
wm.Sc. 1927 J. Corrie in Scots Mag. (Dec.) 217:
An' yestreen when I breisted ower the hill Tae meet my Love, the Spring was in her prime.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Farmer's Salutation xiv.:
In cart or car thou never reestet; The steyest brae thou wad hae fac't it; Thou never lap, an' sten't, and breastet, Then stood to blaw.

(2) “To mount a horse by gripping the mane and wriggling over” (Kcb.9 1935).

Hence breestan-stane, “a mounting block” (Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2 1935).

(3) “To cut peats horizontally” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 218; Bnff.2 1935); to make a breist in a moss. See 1. (1). Sc. 1727 A. Steel Records Annan (1933) 69:
Ordain the haill proprietors of the abovementioned Skairs of Moss and their Tenants and Possessors thereof, sufficiently to breast their Respective Shares of the said Moss at the ends and outsides thereof and cast their Peats.

3. Phrases and combs.: †(1) breast-bore, “an instrument for boring” (Clydesd. 1825 Jam.2); †(2) breast-lace, corsage lacing to which ladies used to attach a small silk bag for money, notes, etc.; (3) breist o' the laft, front of the gallery in a church. Gen.Sc.; (4) breast-peat, a peat formed by the spade's being pushed into the earth horizontally. See 1 (1). Known to Bnff.2 1935; (5) breest-powl, “cross bar of pole secured to collars of horses” (Arg.1 1933; Kcb.9 1935); (6) breast-seat, front seat in the gallery of a church (Bnff.2, Abd.22 1935); (7) breist-spade, a kind of peat-spade (see quot.); (8) breist to breist, face to face (Abd.9, Ags.1 1935); †(9) breast-woddies, the harness round the breast of a horse [see Woddie]; (10) in a breist, — breast, abreast (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1, Lnk.3 1935); (11) to breed in ane's breist, to come into one's head, to occur to one.(2) Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery iv.:
I wasna sae tocherless but what I had a bit land at my breast-lace.
(3) Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann, etc. 10:
At rowp or preachin' the best ye'll hae, This warld or the neist ane's gear, The breist o' the laft on a Sawbath day.
sm.Sc. 1923 R. W. Mackenna Bracken and Thistledown iii.:
Aggie had not waited for him at the kirk door — she was already in her pew in the “breist o' the laft.”
(4) Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Gen. View Agric. Peb. 208:
A perpendicular face of the moss [is] laid bare, from which the digger, standing on the level of the bottom digs the . . . breast-peat.
(6) Abd. 1797–1881 Mem. of J. Geddes (1899) 29–30:
Possessed of a “breast-seat” in the loft of the church, “Hillocks” was also notable as a patriarch in his way.
(7) Bnff., Abd. 1969 Gailey and Fenton The Spade 182:
Two types of peat spades were (and are) in use, the 'breist spade' (breasting spade) and the 'stamp spade' (underfoot spade). The breasting spade was worked horizontally into the peat from the face or breast of the bank, the operator standing at the bottom.
(8) Sc. 1928 L. Spence in Scots Mag. (July) 273:
And as he turnit to flee, he cam' breist to breist wi' Rab Greig, the laird's servant.
(9) Abd.(D) 1767 R. Forbes Jnl. from London, etc. (1869) 15:
Sometimes the breast-woddies, an' sometimes the theets brak.
(10) Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 30:
We fixed oor baignets, speel't the trench, and chairged them in a breist.
Hdg. 1801 R. Gall Poems, etc. (1819) 38:
They held by ane anither's neive: Then a' at ance (it is nae jest) Moved slawly forat in a breast.
(11) Sc. 1765 Trial of K. Nairn 198:
It would never bread in my breest to keept [sic] out of the way.

[O.Sc. brest(e), breist, breest, n., the breast, the front or advanced part; v., to press forward (D.O.S.T.).]

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"Breist n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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