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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

COCK, n.1 Uses of Eng. cock not found in Mod.Eng.

I. 1. A boys' game (see quot.). Known to Lnl.1 1936.Nai. 1894 W. Gregor in Trad. Games (ed. A. B. Gomme) I. 72:
One boy is chosen Cock. The players arrange themselves in a line along one side of the playground. The Cock takes his stand in front of the players. When everything is ready, a rush across the playground is made by the players. The Cock tries to catch and “croon” — i.e. put his hand upon the head of — as many of the players as he can when running from one side of the playground to the other. Those caught help the Cock in the rush back. The rush from side to side goes on till all are captured.

2. The circle at the end of the rink at which the stones are aimed in curling (Abd.22 1936).Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. (1817) xxxii.:
He just asked questions . . . about the folk that was playing at the curling, and about auld Jock Stevenson that was at the cock.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Tam Samson's Elegy (Cent. ed.) iv.:
When to the loughs the curlers flock, Wi' gleesome speed, Wha will they station at the cock? — Tam Samson's dead!
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 218:
A curler rare! he cares for nane When he stands at the Cock, man.

II. Phrases: (1) †black cock, a jocular name for a whisky bottle; (2) ¶cock-a-drule, a very small person; †(3) cock and feather, “a gill of brandy and a bunch of raisins, over which it was the custom to fee counsel in John's Coffee House, Edinburgh” (Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 4); †(4) cock and key, “a stop-cock” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); †(5) cock and (a) pail, spigot and faucet; †(6) cockfair o' Drumaddie, a fictitious fair; (7) cock, hen, birdie, a game (see quot.); (8) cock-ma-cap, a kind of toddy, a fortifying drink; †(9) cock-o'-crowdie, a term of commendation; used attrib. in quot.; (10) cock o(f) the north, (a) (i) a name given to the Marquises of Huntly; (ii) jocular nickname for someone in authority or someone very successful (Cai., Bnff., Dmf. 2000s); (b) the brambling, Fringilla montifringilla, “from the rich colours and beautiful markings of its plumage” (e. and s.Sc. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 64); (c) “a Bowmont valley name for the snowflake or snow-bunting” (Rxb. 1881 Kelso Chron. (Feb.)), Plectrophenax nivalis; (11) cocks-an'-hens, (a) “stems of the ribwort plantain, as used in children's play-fights; the game thus played” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); cf. III. 1 (1); (b) “laburnum (seeds or blossom)” (Ib.); (c) “the leaf-buds of the plane-tree” (Ib.); (d) “bird's foot trefoil” (Arg.1 1931; Kcb.9 1936), see quot.; (12) cocks an kames, see Kame, n., 4. (1); †(13) to be left nae a cock to craw, to be destitute, poverty-stricken; (14) to cast to (at) the cocks, see Cast, v., IV. 22.(1) Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy Geordie Chalmers 182:
Ony thing in the black cock the day?
(2) Slg. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 55:
A designation given to one supposed to be smaller than a dwarf. "Ye've spoil'd a droich, ye're a cock-a-drule".
(5) ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.-E. Scot. 194:
There was at the bottom of the utensil in which the cream was kept a small hole into which was inserted a short tube, stopped by a pin. This tube and pin went by the name of a “cock and pail” and served to draw off the thin sour part of the cream — the “wig.”, Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 176: Hey, just the thing, it fits like cock and pail.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ayrshire Legatees, Letter xxii.:
And a tree [barrel] of yill to stand on the gauntress [wooden frame] for their draw and drink with a cock and a pail.
(6) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 140:
Cockfair o' Drumaddie. When a farmer, for instance, has unsaleable goods in his possession, he is bid take them to this fair; when persons a bargain-making cannot agree, they tell others that they will at this fair; and when a young woman cannot get a husband, she is told that her only chance is at this place.
(7) Mearns 1935 Mearns Leader and Kcd. Mail (27 June) 7/2:
The game of making flat stones skip over . . . a pool used to be called “Cock, hen, birdie.” . . . I think the . . . game . . . got its curious name from the fact that the first splash was usually the biggest, the sort of splash that a cock might make. The next was not quite so big; and the last was just as small as a “birdie.”
(8) Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (10 April) 418:
'Janet's a grand hand at makin' a cock-ma-cap.' 'Hoo d'ye make it?' said I. 'A bottle o' yill hett, a gill o' whusky, a weelcuisten egg, an' plenty sugar.'
(9) Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 8:
A bonny cock-o'-crowdie place 'twill mak' Wi' kale before the grosets at the back.
(10) (a) (i) Sc. 1821 Battle of Sheriffmuir in Hogg (ed.) Jacobite Relics II. 5:
Wi the earl o' Seaforth, and the cock o' the north, But Florence ran fastest of a', man.
Sc. 1998 Herald (16 Mar.)  25:
The Castle Hotel mustn't be confused with the ruin of Huntly Castle, which you pass just outside the town, before you reach the long, straight drive to the hotel. This was the power centre of the Cocks o' the North, as the warlike clan chiefs were known, since Sir Adam Gordon was granted the Lordship of Strathbogie by Robert the Bruce.
Sc. 1998 Daily Record (14 Dec.)  9:
The chief of the Gordon Clan has been known as the Cock o' the North since the 16th century, due to the family's strength and prowess in battle.
The title was first attributed to George, Fourth Earl of Huntly in 1550, by Mary of Guise, the Scottish Queen mother.
(ii) Sc. 1997 Daily Record (26 Jul.)  8:
We Scots have always had a guid conceit of ourselves. Once our Parliament is up and running, we'll have even more reason to think we're Cocks O' The North.
Sc. 1997 Daily Record (26 Jul.)  8:
We've had the euphoria, the piper welcoming Donald as the Cock O' The North, the fizz party at Edinburgh Castle.
Sc. 1998 Scotland on Sunday (8 Feb.)  14:
The jingo bells are ringing. And the world's fate is now in the hands of such as President Zippergate and the Cock o' the North, Robin Cook.
Sc. 1998 Edinburgh Evening News (22 Dec.)  11:
But, far from being perceived as an annoying, upstart, braggart nation tucked away out of sight to the north of Hadrian's Wall, our cock o' the north strutting has engendered a certain fascination about us.
Sc. 2002 Scotland on Sunday (5 May)  17:
Maybe it was the euphoria of meeting new team-mates, but Graham was inspired to declare that he and his colleagues would be cocks o' the north when they start playing next season. "This is going to be the best team in Scotland. ..."
Abd. 1984 Robbie Kydd in Alexander Scott and James Aitchison New Writing Scotland 2 23:
I've woken up with this need to zimmer off creakily to the office to beard the Cock o' the North (Officer-in-charge, Big Charlie, Matron's hen-pecked 'old man' — what's in a name?). I'm not sure what I want to see him about, but he always knows everything, every single thing, without taking any part in decision-making.
(b) Bwk. 1882 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club IX. 504:
The Brambling, or Cock of the North, was rather a rare winter visitor.
(11) (c) Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 48:
In spring children rob the tree [Plane, Sycamore] of its leaf-buds, calling those which are partially expanded "cocks," and those which are less so "hens."
(d) s.Sc. 1936 A. Hepple Heydays (1953) I. 13:
It had a rambling garden with a little path up the middle of white pebbles, bordered by pink sea-thrift and those old-fashioned red daisies called 'cocks and hens'.
(13) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 249:
Or ha'd their clients i' the law 'Till they're nae left a cock to craw.

III. Combs.:

1. In plant names: (1) cock-fechters, “the stalk and seed-head of the plantain, Plantago major” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. s.v. kemp, n.1); cf. Cocks,, 1, and cocks-an'-hens (see II. (11) (a) above); (2) cock-head, “the herb All-heal, Stachys palustris” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); (3) cock-rose, “any wild poppy with a red flower; but most commonly the long smooth-headed poppy [Papaver rhœas]” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); cf. Eng. dial. coprose (E.D.D.); (4) cock's-comb, — caim, -kame, (a) “the Cuckow-Flower, Lychnis flos cuculi” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2, -caim); “Orchis mascula” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (b) “adder's tongue, Ophioglossum vulgatum” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); (c) a scarlet poppy, especially Papaver rhœas” (Bwk. 1886 B. and H. 113; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (5) cock's head, the wild poppies “Papaver Rhœas, P[apaver] dubium and P[apaver] Argemone” (Sc. 1886 B. and H. 114); also cock-head (wm.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 61); (6) cockweed, some kind of weed unidentified, ? = (2) above, the all-heal Stachys palustris (Ayr. 1889 Ellis E.E.P. V. 747).(3) Fif. 1882 “S. Tytler” Scotch Marriages III., Hamesucken viii.:
If anyone calls it desecration for small fingers to pull a white horse-gowan, or a blood-red cock-rose . . . then Birkenbarns Kirk-yard was desecrated.
(4) (b) Rxb. 1825 Jam.2 s.v. cock's-comb:
One of the bulbs of the root [of adder's tongue] is supposed to resemble the comb of a cock; and, if sewed in any part of the dress of a young woman, without her knowledge, will, it is believed, make her follow the man who put it there, as long as it keeps its place. The Highlanders make an ointment of the leaves and root, when newly pulled.
(c) Rxb. 1876 in Hardwicke's Science-Gossip 39:
The various scarlet poppies are “cocks'-kames.”

2. Other combs.: (1) cock-bird, a puny youngster; (2) cock-bird height, see quot.; (3) cock-broo, -bree, soup made with a fowl (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Fif.10 1936); †(4) cock-crow'n kail, “broth heated a second time; supposed to be such as the cock has crow'd over, being a day old” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2); given by Watson in Rxb. W.-B. as obs.; (5) cock-dunt, dim. cockie-duntie, a boys' game in which the players hopping on one foot try to knock their opponents off balance (Fif. 1975). See Dunt; †(6) cockee, = I. 2 above (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 140); (7) cock-fight, a boys' game (see quot.); Gen.Sc.; †(8) cock-fight dues, the carcases of the cocks killed in the Fastern's Even fights in parish schools, and claimed by the schoolmaster; (9) cock-fittin', nonce form of cock-fechtin, cock-fighting, the usual form of the expression, e.g. W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick (1955) iii., also in colloq. Eng.; (10) cock-hight, a curling term (see quot.); (11) cock-laft, the gallery in a church; Gen.Sc.; (12) cock-laird, “a landholder, who himself possesses and cultivates all his estate” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); known to Abd.19, Ags.1 1936; †(13) cock-melder, “the last melder or grinding of a year's grain” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); (14) cock-pad(d)le, “the Lump, a fish of the cartilaginous kmd, Cyclopterus Lumpus” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., -paddle; Bnff.2 1936; Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fif. and Kinross 52); (15) cock-raw, “sparingly roasted, or boiled” (Lnk., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2); given in Watson's Rxb. W.-B. (1923) as obsol.; (16) cock's eggs, small eggs without yolk (see quot.); known to Bnff.2, Abd.22, Fif.10 1936; (17) cock's eye, “a small halo that appears round the moon in certain states of the atmosphere. It is considered by fishermen as a sign of stormy weather” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 30; also Cai.7, Bnff.2 1936); (18) cock-shy, a term in the game of marbles: “nae cock-shies” (Gsw.1 1916), see Coakser; †(19) cock's odin, “another form of ‘hide and seek' universally common throughout the Scottish Lowlands” (L.Sc. 1868 Notes and Queries 4th Series II. 165); (20) cock('s) stride, (a) a short distance or spell; (b) a boys' game (see quot.); known to Lnk.3 1936; (21) cocktail-vranah, the wren, Nannus troglodytes (Mry. 1928 (per Mry.2)).(1) Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) ix.:
I mind ye sin' ye was a mere cock-bird, an' game frae the shell.
(2) Sc. 1861 Chambers's Jnl. (14 Dec.) 383:
The phrase cock-bird height, the interpretation of which is "tallness equal to that of a male chicken" and the application of which is on this wise — "It's a fell thing to gie yersel sic airs, ye're no cock-bird height yet."
(3) Sc. 1724–27 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 105:
I took him into the pantry, And gave him some good cock-broo.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. I. iii.:
They will e'en say that ye are ae auld fule, and me anither, that may hae some judgment in cock-bree or in scate-rumples, but maunna fash our beards about ony thing else.
(5) w.Lth. 1920:
Cock-dunt. A square is marked out as a hen-cavie and a "cock" stands in it. He challenges another player to "dunt" with him. No change of foot is allowed and the aim is to knock one's opponent over or out of the "cavie".
(6) Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 162:
Glenbuck upo' the cockee stood — His merry men drew near.
(7) Nai. 1894 W. Gregor in Trad. Games (ed. A. B. Gomme) I. 73:
Cock-fight. Two boys fold their arms, and then, hopping on one leg, butt each other with their shoulders till one lets down his leg. Any number of couples can join in this game.
(8) Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. 173:
The slender revenues of the dominie were, in some cases, augmented in no inconsiderable proportion in this way. In special instances, indeed, the yearly “cock-fight dues” are stated to have been equal to a quarter's fees for the school.
(9) Fif. 1859 P. Landreth J. Spindle (1911) 90:
The three o' us cried oot — "That beats cock-fittin': was anything ever half so strange?"
(10) Sc. 1825 Jam.2, s.v. cock:
The stone which reaches as far as the mark is said to be cock-hight, i.e. as high as the cock.
(11) Lnk. 1930 T. S. Cairncross in Scots Mag. (Jan.) 302:
But aince in the cock-laft I [the beadle] fell asleep And snored a stricken 'oor baith lood and deep.
(12) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 362:
You breed of Water Kail, and cock Lairds, you need mickle Service.
wm.Sc. 1837 Sc. Monthly Mag. II. 116:
The young varlet you are pleased to inquire after is the son of a cock-laird near Bucklyvie.
(13) Lnk. 1825 Jam.2:
As this melder [i.e. cock-melder] contains more refuse . . . than any other, it may be thus denominated, because a larger share of it is allowed to the dunghill fowls.
(14) Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary (1818) xi.:
“What are ye for the day, your honour?” she said or rather screamed, to Oldbuck, “caller haddies and whitings — a bannock-fluke and a cock-padle.”
(16) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 140:
Cock's eggs. When hens are about to give over laying, they lay small eggs like dove's ones; these are said to be produced by the cock, there is no yolk in them.
(20) (a) Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Sh. Trad. Lore xii.:
On Yule Day it was said that the day was a cock's stride longer since the turn of the year.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Juist an hoor an' a cockstride frae here.
(b) Abd. 1894 W. Gregor in Trad. Games (ed. A. B. Gomme) I. 73:
Cock-stride. One boy is chosen as Cock. He is blindfolded, and stands alone, with his legs as far apart as possible. The other boys then throw their caps as far as they are able between the extended legs of the cock. After . . . each boy has taken his stand beside his cap, the Cock, still blindfolded, stoops down and crawls in search of the caps. The boy whose cap he first finds has to run about twenty yards under the buffeting of the other boys, the blows being directed chiefly to the head.

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"Cock n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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