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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

BRITCHIN, BRITCHEN, Britchan, Brechan, Brechen, Bree(t)chin, n. and v. [′brɪtʃɪn, Sc.; less comm. ′britʃɪn., ′brɪ̢tʃən, ′bretʃən]

1. n. Eng. breeching, the strap passed round the breech of a shaft horse to let it push backwards. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1935 Sc. Notes and Queries (March) 40:
Like Tam's horse, better i' the britchan than the collar.
Ork. c.1912 J. Omond Orkney 80 Years ago 19:
The hems were of wood and the britchin of old rope-yarn plaited.
Cai. 1916 Old Caithness Croft in John o' Groat Jnl. (14 April); Cai.7 1936:
In Caithness, however, the “brechan” is the appliance fixed to the saddle, and goes round the animal's hind-quarters, and is used for keeping the vehicle back when coming down a declivity.
Mearns 1933 “L. G. Gibbon” Cloud Howe 61:
There was still a britchen or so in the shop and a fine bit bridle.
Lth. 1831–1841 “J. Strathesk” More Bits from Blinkbonny (1885) vi.:
The breechin was wider than ony he ever saw.

2. v.

(1) tr. To fasten a horse to the shaft by means of the breeching strap.Bnff.(D) 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel fae Hame 30:
An' as he steed tae wite his draucht, Back chined and britchened tae the shaft.

(2) intr. To push back by means of this strap; to lean upon, hang back, refuse to budge; also used fig. See 3. Phrases.Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 66: 
'In tho' we hid him up, he micht brechen on's.
Abd. 1922 Abd. Weekly Press (7 Jan.) 3/1:
Th' nobeelity ken brawlie 'at they sit on a gey shakky seat eynoo, an, they'll gyang a gweed bit on th' Leeberal lines afore they britchen.

3. Phrases: (1) to back in the britchin', to hang back, hesitate (Bnff.2 1936); also fig.; (2) to hing in or on the breechin, idem. Known to Bnff.2, Ags.1, Kcb.9 1936. Also fig.; (3) to sit i' britchin, — into the breetchin', to refuse to move (Bnff.2, Ags.1 1936); also fig., to be lazy.(1) Abd. 1918 W. A. Mutch Ay, ay, hev ye a Spunk? 15:
The park ayont — neep reet — was roch a bit, But neen o's backit in the britchin' yet, The Gordons skelpit on in style het fit.
(2) Bwk. 1930 A. A. Falconer W.-L.:
He was keen enough to begin wi, but when he ken't the price he begood to hing in the breechin about it.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 108:
I never stood to fidge an' fling, Like jads that take the fret, That I've seen on the breechin hing When they were hard beset.
(3) Abd. 1912–1919 Buchan Proverbs in Rymour Club Misc. II. 183:
Gin ye look the ither road she sits into the breetchin' — (said about a lazy servant).
wm.Sc. 1835–1837 Laird of Logan I. 161:
Tuts man, come awa; we'll no let ye sit down i' britchin that way.

4. Combs.: (1) breechin-breeks, “harness round hinder part of horse” (Ayr.4 1928); (2) britchen-cleeks, hooks on the shafts of a cart to which are attached the chains from the “britchen.”(2) Mearns 1857 Stonehaven Jnl. (14 May) 4/1:
The britchen-cleeks and cadden-nails Like hammers thumpit.

[Earliest quot. in N.E.D. for breeching is 1515–1524. Not given in D.O.S.T. O.E. brēc, pl. of brōc, trousers, hind-quarters. Cf. Breek, n.1]

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"Britchin n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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