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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

COUPER, Cowper, Cooper, n.1 and v[′kʌupər, ′kupər]

I. n1. A dealer, especially in horses and cattle. Known to Bnff.2, Abd. correspondents, Fif.10, Slg.3, Kcb.1 1940.Sc. 1844 W. H. Maxwell Sports and Adventures (1853) 121:
Its visitants [were] Dutch herring-coupers.
Cai. 1849 J. T. Calder St Mary's Fair 15:
Here knots of Caithness “coupers” may be seen.
Bnff. 1908 The Cabrach in Bnffsh. Jnl. (22 Sept.) 2:
In former times the parish was famous for its cattle kings, or coopers, as they designed themselves.
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle and Gold Fringe 201:
Every cow-couper in Fife boasted of having done a good thing by him.
Lnk. 1710 Minutes J. P.s Lnk. (S.H.S. 1931) 93:
Wherever they shall find a couper of victuall to have on his hands or careing above a load or tuo bolls of victuall.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Sawney at Doncaster in Blackwood's Mag. (Oct.) 469:
My thoughts were aye running . . . anent the repute of the Yorkshire folk as horse-cowpers.

Combs.: (1) cooper-hand, in sim. usage to couper-word, = to get in before, steal a march on, anticipate; (2) ‡couper-word, cooper-, the first word (i) “in demanding boot [see Buit, n.2 (2)] in a bargain; especially applied to horse-dealers” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2, couper-; 1923 Watson W.-B., obsol.); (ii) when proposing a scheme or settling a dispute. Gen. used with tak' = to get one's word in first. Watson W.-B. says obsol. (1)Bwk. 1859 P. Landreth J. Spindle (1911) 87, 91: 
Tak'the cooper-hand o' yer neebors an' the folk in Fife, for they'll sune be after you. . . . I was sair vexed that it was impossible for me now to do what the auld gentleman o' my vision bade me, to get the cooper hand o' a' my neebors.
(2) (ii) Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (1 Aug.) 3/2:
Rather unwisely and prematurely, he had already ventilated the Queen Mary's House project in the Scotsman, thus taking the “cooper word.”
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A took the cooper-word o' 'im, an' ga'e 'im a bit o' ma mind.

2. A smuggler (Cai.7 1940).

II. v. To smuggle, in vbl.n. coopering. Cf. n., 2Bwk. 1906 D. McIver Eyemouth 146: 
As, however, the risks are now too great, and as Eyemouth men are generally honest, not much business is done in contraband, or "coopering."

[O.Sc. cowpar(e), coupar(e), cowper, couper, a buyer and seller; a trader or dealer, 1530; in later use, a buyer of herring from the fishing boats, 1574; a horse-dealer, 1597 (D.O.S.T.). From Coup, v.2. Some forms suggest deriv. from Du. kooper, a dealer, trader.]

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



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