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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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


1. That part of a bagpipe, with fingerholes, on which the melody is played. Gen.Sc.Sc. c. 1760 Joseph MacDonald ed Roderick D. Cannon Joseph MacDonald's Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe (c.1760) (1994) 76:
In the Low Country (where they use Bellowses to their Pipes) having no musick in the Style of this Instrument, they have enlargd the Compass of it by adding Pinching Notes, for the better Imitation of other Musick. By this their Chanter has the most of the Flute Compass.
Sc. 1841 New Statistical Account of Scotland: parish of Duirinish, county of Inverness (1845) 339:
... the names of some of the caves and knolls in the vicinity still point out the spots where the scholars used to practise, respectively on the chanter, the small pipe, and the Piob mhor, or large bagpipe, before exhibiting in presence of the master.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 98:
He that's scant o' wind should na meddle wi' the chanter.
Sc. 1988 Roderick D. Cannon The Highland Bagpipe and its Music (1990) 12:
The chanter is of course the most critical part of the whole assembly. It is also the most fragile, and this is one reason why old chanters are much rarer than old sets of drones. But another reason is that chanters are not generally thought to improve with age.
Sc. 2000 William Donaldson The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society 1750-1950 470:
Since the flow of sound from the chanter or melody pipe is continuous and dynamic levels cannot be varied, then various devices involving duration and harmony must be used in order to achieve this.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. of an Old Boy App. 293:
Syne the Dickmont-Law Piper, wi' chanter and drone, He raised sic a skirl as thrilled Rob tae the bone.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 145:
The piper's arm, wi' roarin glee, His chaunter set a skirlin.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Poor Mailie's Elegy viii.:
O' a' ye Bards on bonie Doon! An' wha on Aire your chanters tune!

2. Also practice chanter, a separate pipe of lower pitch, with a softer reed used for learning and practising bagpipe fingering.Sc. 2005 William Donaldson Pipers: A Guide to the Players and Music of the Highland Bagpipe 8:
First of all comes a period of intensive instruction and practice in order to master basic finger technique. For this a quite separate little instrument called a practice chanter is used. This is a miniature version of the pipe chanter. It is blown directly by the mouth through a blowpipe which expands into a cap, containing a reed often nowadays made of plastic.

3. A singer.Sc. 1995 Herald 24 Feb 17:
She started at the top early, for possessed of a splendid voice, with a large range, and nae shame - Philomena isnae blate and liked performing from the very first - she moved from being a rare chanter at a party to being very professional indeed. So professional that she could sing the American girl country singers into oblivion.
Sc. 1996 Observer 9 Jun 7:
A thoroughly decent man, he laughed easily, enjoyed life, and was that phenomenon which seems automatically to endear itself to Glaswegians - a rare chanter (a good singer).
Sc. 1999 Daily Record 20 Apr 22:
"My father was a rare chanter. He had a voice that, when I heard Pavarotti, I thought, 'oh it's the same warm feeling you get from the sound of the voice'.

[From Fr. chanteur, Lat. cantator-em. Not recorded in O.Sc., but D.O.S.T. gives chantrill, a chanter for a bagpipe, with one quot., 1677, for which cf. Fr. chanterelle, a decoy bird, the highest-pitched string in a stringed instrument (Hatz. and Darm.).]

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"Chanter n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Apr 2024 <>



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