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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.

CORN, Coarn, Corne, Korn, n.1 Sc. uses of Eng. corn. [kɔrn, korn]

1. “A single seed” (Ork. 1929 Marw., korn, corn; Kcb.9 1937). This sense is obs. in St.Eng., but still found in dialect.

2. A morsel (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1908 Jak. (1928), korn, corn; Cai.7 1937); “a small quantity of any granular stuff” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Used fig. = a particle' a whit, and adverbially in first quot. Cf. Curn, n.1Sh. 1888 Edmonston and Saxby Home of a Naturalist 90:
Jannie, if du does na take ben da things a corn faster, I'se come and see if I canna mak' de.
Sh.(D) 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 3:
Dey could geng or no', just as dey laekit, — nae compulsion, na, no ae corne.
Sh. 1928 T. M. M. Shewan in Manson's Sh. Almanac 185:
Betty, haes do ony coarn o' tae ready?

3. Used in Sc. and Uls. specifically for oats (the principal crop). Un. Eng. Dict. gives this sense also for Eng. “esp. as food given to horses,” but this is nowhere else confirmed.Sc. 1881 A. Mackie Scotticisms 31:
They have begun to cut the barley, but not the corn.
Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 412:
Oats are still scarcely known by any other name, than that of corn.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. vii.:
Alexander Smith, writer in Edinburgh, proposed to purchase . . . corn and bear, to sell to the people at a price to be fixed by the authorities.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 289:
Oats all Scotland over, are very generally, in ordinary speaking, called corn . . . white-corn for wheat: barley-corn for barley or bear; and hummel, or humble-corn for pease or beans, which are sometimes also called black-corn.
Rnf. 1861 J. Barr Poems and Songs 85:
I'll sell my kye, And a' my wheat and corn.

4. “Used specifically of bere [barley] in contradistinction to oats” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

5. In pl.: crops of grain. Last quot. in N.E.D. in this sense 1745.Sc. 1779 J. Beattie Scoticisms 6:
The wind and rain have lodged (or laid flat) all my corns.
Sc. 1803 Prize Essays and Trans. Highl. Soc. Scot. II. 220:
What are the peculiar states of the weather, and other circumstances, in which corns, particularly oats, are rendered unfit for seed?
Ags.1 1937:
A roup of growing corns on the farm of —.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 537:
A fine of 3/4 or a wedder sheep . . . for every stock of gool growing among their corns at a particular day.

6. Phrs.: (1) new corn, a new experience; a novelty; (2) to pu' the cornhead frae the stack, to draw a stem of oats, complete with the head, from a stack; an old practice considered as a test of virginity. Known to Gsw.2 1937. [For broked corn, great corn, small corn, see Broked Corn.](1) Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary (1818) xv.:
This is new corn — I haena seen the like o' this.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
That was new corn for ee.
(2) Gsw. 1856 “Young Glasgow” Deil's Hallowe'en 34:
To pu' the corn-head frae the stack; For it would seem, on Hallowe'en, That Virtue's test could thus be seen.

7. Combs.: (1) corn-bantie, the whitethroat, Sylvia cinerea (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (2) †cornbill, the corn-bunting, Emberiza miliaria (Sh. 1899 Evans & Buckley Fauna Sh. 91); (3) corn-cart (see quot.); known to Fif.10 1937; (4) corn-clips, see Clep, n.1, 3. (3); (5) corn-clock, a beetle that infests corn (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 142). See Clock, n.2; (6) corn-craig, a Sc. form of Eng. corn-crake, the landrail, Crex crex (Fif.10 1937); (7) corn-craik, “a hand-rattle, used to frighten birds from sown seed or growing corn” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); a child's wooden rattle; known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.19, Lnk.3 1937; (8) corn-craw, the rook, Corvus frugilegus; (9) corn harp, an instrument made of wire for freeing grain from the seeds of weeds (Bnff.2, Abd.9 1937); (10) korn-hogie, “a hole in a stack where a few sheaves have been pulled out” (Ork. 1929 Marw.); (11) corn-kist, a chest for storing grain in a stable; Gen.Sc.; (12) corn-kister, a rollicking (or sentimental (Bnff.2)) song sung at gatherings of farmworkers (Abd.19 1937); (13) corn-knot, the knot of a band which ties up a shock of grain (Abd.9 1937); (14) corn laft, a barn, granary; Gen.Sc.; †(15) corn-pipe, a toy music-pipe made from an oat-stem (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. Add.); given as obs. by Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923); (16) corn-rails, “a frame fitted to a cart at harvest time” (Kcb.9 1937); †(17) corn-rent, rent paid in corn, the amount varying according to the price of grain; (18) corn-scrack, -scraich, cornieskraugh, (a) the landrail, Crex crex (Mry. 1825 Jam.2, cornieskraugh; Abd. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 177, -scrack); (b) a wooden rattle (Abd.22 1937); cf. (7); (19) corn-tief, the bunting, Emberiza calandra (Sh. 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Sh. Trad. Lore 199); (20) corn-waters, spirits distilled from grain; (21) corn-willie, the yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava (Ayr. 1929 Paton & Pike Birds Ayr. 41); (22) cornyard, -yaird, a stackyard; Gen.Sc.(3) e.Lth. 1805 R. Somerville Gen. View Agric. e. Lth. 74:
Hay and the different kinds of grain are carried [home] upon the open spoked cart, known by the name of corn-cart.
(6) Sc. 1829 H. Miller Poems 198:
The corn-craig whoops, the sea-gull screams.
(7) Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights of Fancy 249:
Corn-craiks, trumpets, and whistles galore.
(8) Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 27:
But corn-craw, doo' or harmless hare, The fate o' villains sudna share.
(9) Nai. 1813 W. Leslie Gen. View Agric. Nai. and Mry. 125:
From the specific gravity of many of the seeds of weeds, it is not practicable to separate them from the corn, but by the operation of sifting. This labour is greatly lessened by an implement named the corn harp.
(11) Hdg. 1896 J. Lumsden Battle of Dunbar, etc. 16:
Doun on the corn-kist the twa Held lang converse. I heard it a'!
(12) ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 171:
The lowland songs are in praise of some trade, or in complaint about it. Most of them are ploughmen's songs and therefore are called bothy ballads, after the bothy in which the unmarried ploughmen lived, or cornkisters after the corn kist in the stable where they often sat when singing.
Abd. 1936 Plooin' Match in Huntly Express (10 Jan.) 6:
An' syne there cam' supper an' a suppie o' the brew; There wis speeches made, an' cornkisters sung.
Abd. 1999 Herald 14 Oct 17:
There were fiddles and mouth-organs, cornkisters, and stories, even a feet-washing - to confirm that the traditional talents of the land have by no means disappeared.
Fif. 1937 St Andrews Cit. (27 March) 4/1:
The programme was as follows: — Opening chorus and a curn corn-kisters.
(13) Slk. 1818 Hogg Brownie of Bodsbeck, etc. II. i.:
In the shocking, the corn-knots were all set outermost.
(14) ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays and Leg. of the North 71:
Shortly denner wad be ready Laid within the corn laft, Carefully made clean an' cosy, Free fae either damp or draught.
(15) Rxb. 1805 A. Scott Poems 57:
A thing . . . That drools like corn-pipes.
(17) Sc. 1812 J. Sinclair Systems Husb. Scot. i. 6:
When once fixed by a legal valuation, and converted into what may be called a corn-rent, the amount cannot afterwards be increased.
Bwk. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 II. 126:
Of late years, the practice has been introduced of letting land upon a corn-rent, that is for a certain number of bushels of oats per acre.
(18) (b) Mry. 1923 J. Fleming in Bnffsh. Jnl. (25 Sept.) 3:
The loons bocht whistles, cornscraichs, an' jumpin' jacks.
(20) Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Shet. Islands 502:
Mead, strong beer, various sorts of distilled spirits, partieularly one named Corn-waters.
(22) Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. xv.:
With a just appreciation of Saunders's temper when roused, the “cornyard” was forthwith cleared of human occupants.
Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 13:
When ae day, in the corn-yaird biggin' A stack, an' gey an' near the riggin', His fit had slipped.

8.  Punishment, a 'licking', esp. in phr. to get one's corn, to be chastised, meet retribution. Cf. Ait, n.2, 2. Phr. e.Lth. 1842 Children in Mines (2) 439:
I get my corn as other laddies do.

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"Corn n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Feb 2024 <>



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