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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.

CABER, KABER, KEBAR, n. Also in forms cabre, cabir, cabar, cabber, cauber, kebbar, kebber, kebbo, kebbre, keebar. [′kɑbər, ′kebər, ′kibər, ′kɛbər]

1. A long, heavy pole, usually made of a pine or fir tree; esp. in phr. to toss the caber, to throw such a pole so that it lands on the thicker end and falls away from the thrower, a contest in Highland games, the winner being he who throws the “caber” farthest. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1909 Colville 67:
It's a ticht caber 'at has neither knap (knot) nae gaw (crack, flaw) in't.
Abd. 1928 Abd. Press and Jnl. (22 Oct.) 6/5:
The haill rick-ma-tick o' the moleskin-breekit chiels sittin' on't as gin't wis a caber for the sawpit!
Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 39:
They say he brags the kintra side To draw the sweer-tree, putt the stone, Or toss the caber on the green.
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head and Trotters 37:
Hammers, and cumbrous caubers now Like willow wands are swingin'.
Gsw. 1711 Burgh Records (ed. Marwick 1908) 674:
Item, at the canale cutting of cabers, sharping them at the end.
Kcb. 1896 S. R. Crockett Cleg Kelly xxviii.:
I could toss the caber with any man.

2. A beam, rafter (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Ags.1, Fif.10 1938), specif. a side or subsidiary rafter, in contrast to the Couples or main rafters;  "the small wood laid upon them [the rafters], immediately under the divots or thatch" (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, cabir, kebber). Sc. 1718 Ramsay Chr. Kirke iii. xviii. in Poems (1721):
They frae a Barn a Kaber raught.
Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 121:
Rory Fraser, shoemaker, his daughter, and two children . . . were sitting aloft on twa or three deals, placed on the kebbers of the house, wi' the water up at their feet.
Abd. 1707 Sc. N. & Q. (1st Ser.) X. 45: 
To the Fire house 1 Cupple, Pans, Roofs and Cabers, 9½ trees.
Mearns 1857 A. Taylor Lummie 3:
The floor o' clay was never sweepit; Black draps frae sooty keebars dreepit.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Traditions 69:
Then there were laid on the kebars, parallel to the couple-legs.
Fif. 1938 St Andrews Cit. (29 Jan.) 3/5:
This pauky display o' Saundy's wut Raised up sic a cheer that the kebbors shuk.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 18: 
But ah! when he cam' to his ain native biggin' The thack was a' aff't, an' the cabers were bare.
Ayr. (?1786) publ. 1799 Burns Jolly Beggars (Cent. ed.) second recit.:
He ended; and the kebars sheuk Aboon the chorus roar.
Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. Ayr 114: 
Over these were hung sticks about the thickness of a man's arm, called cabbers; and smaller ones set on the top of the wall were termed upstarts.
Rxb. 1820 in Edin. Mag. (June) 533/2: 
[The wind] gard the divots stour off the house riggins and every caber dunner.

3. “Used in some parts of S[cot]. for a large stick used as a staff” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, cabir); “a clumsy, unwieldy stick” (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68, caber); “a twisted stick” (Cai.4 c.1920, cabre). Known to Abd.22 1938.

4. “The transverse beams in a kiln, on which the grain is laid for being dried” (Sc. 1808 Jam., cabir). See also kill-kebbers, kiln kebbars, s.v. Kill, n.1 Ags. 1752 Inventory of Biggings (per Fif.1):
To a corn kilne with Simmers and Cabers.

5. In pl.: “the thinnings of young plantations” (Sc. (Highlands) 1879 Jam.5, kebbres). Not known to our correspondents.

6. Applied fig. (1) to persons: a big, coarse, clumsy man (Bnff.7 1925; Bnff.2, Abd.2 1938); “a strong person of a somewhat stubborn disposition” (Bnff. 1880 Jam.5; 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 92, kebbre); (2) to horses: “an old lean useless horse” (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68, cabre; Bnff.2 1938).(1) Mry.(D) 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sketches viii.:
Ay, he was a roch cabar, fond o' the dram.
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems and Songs 136:
Weel, tak thee that! — vile ruthless creature! Sic fate to ilk unsocial kebar, Who lays a snare to wrong his neighbour.
(2) Bnff.7 1925:
Far got ye that great muckle caber o' a horse, Soothie?

7. Combs.: †(1) kaber-feigh, the contest of “tossing the caber”; (2) caber-tree, pole used for tossing at Highland contests (Bnff.2 1938).(1) Sc. 1860 A. Leighton Trad. Sc. Life 74:
You, the strong Alister, the first o' climbers, the champion at the wrestle, and the king at the kaber-feigh, what lie ye there for?
(2) Bnff. 1901 J. S. Rae in Bnffsh. Jnl. (3 Sept.) 6:
Ho! redd ye my lads for a reel on the heather A toss o' the hammer or caber-tree rare, O!

8. One of the main antlers of a stag. Hence deriv. caberslash, a deer with switch horns, i.e. antlers without branches. ne.Sc. 1904 W. M. Smith Romance of Poaching 72: 
Farquharson told him that he had just killed a stag which had a very singular head of eleven points with three horns. A thick malformation, ten inches long, tapering to a point and slightly spiral, grew forward between the main cabers, forcing them right and left, and causing them to grow almost horizontal.
Ags. 1958 C. Gibson Highl. Deer Stalker 106: 
They shot a stag as well, that day-a wounded "switch" or "caberslash." which had apparently wandered over from an adjacent forest.

[O.Sc. caber, cabir, cabber, a pole or spar, a long slender tree-trunk, freq. used for a rafter; first quot. 1505 (D.O.S.T.). Gael. cabar, a pole, rafter, antler, cabar féidh, the antlers of a deer, the slogan of the MacKenzies. Caberslash is a corruption of Gael. cabarslat, 'rod horn', i.e. straight, without branches.]

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"Caber n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 May 2024 <>



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