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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.

CURN, Kurn, Curran, Kirn, n.1 Also curren (Fif. 1805 J. Fleming Poems 62). Cf. Corn, n.1 [kʌrn, kɪrn]

1. A grain or particle (Bnff.2, Ags.2, Slg.3 1941).Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act. II. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
And on the Haggies Elspa spares nae Cost; . . . she can mix fu' nice The gusty Ingans with a Curn of Spice.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxvii.:
Mind to spice high with Latin; a curn or two of Greek would not be amiss.
n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
To express the greatest want, it is said that one has not meal's curn.
Fif. 1882 “S. Tytler” Scotch Marriages II., Harry Balfour's Elopement i.:
He's cleaned out his cap, ilka curran'.
Edb. 1887 R. S. Inglis in D. H. Edwards (ed.) Mod. Sc. Poets (10th Series) 306:
To get a scone or bannock baket, When box an' barrel are clean raket, Nor ae kurn left to feed a mouse.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.2:
A curn o' bread, a small piece of bread.

Hence curn(e)y, kirny, adj., (1) “grainy, full of grains” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); †(2) “knotted, candied; as honey, marmalade, etc.” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2). Cf. quernie s.v. Quairn.(1) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Meal is said to be curny, when the grains of it are large, or when it is not ground very small.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xx.:
It [wheat-flour]'s no that ill food, though far frae being sae hearty or kindly to a Scotchman's stomach as the curney aitmeal is.
em.Sc. (a) 1894 “I. Maclaren” Bonnie Brier Bush 269:
Saunders has been . . . for five and thirty year . . . eatin' naethin' but kirny aitmeal.

2. A (small) number or quantity; a few (Mry.11925; Bnff.8 c.1920; Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, s.Per. (per Fif.13) 1941). Also dim. curnie (Bnff.2 1941). Of persons: a band or company. Often used with a following noun with ellipsis of 1929 M. W. Simpson Day's End 28:
A gey curn year — twal' oot come Caun'lemas — Ha'e worn awa' sin' yon day Bell was ta'en.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal 15 Mar 14:
I wis fair teen on, tho, wi the fowk comin up till's later wi aa their north-east connections - the theme o ma speech maun hae gotten throwe - including the duty manager fa hale't fae Turra wi his faither, Templeton, the dentist o a curn o eers syne.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 344:
O send poor Andie friends in curns, Or but one “bonny Dutchess.”
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 44:
'Her? I've kent i ma time a curn far coorser folk
At I've likit a dassint sicht better.'
Ags. 1894 G. A. Mackay in People's Friend (30 July) 483/1:
East o' this, a fell curran miles, Miss Elliott.
Edb. 1776 Weekly Mag. (11 July) 82:
Of gowd and siller ('twixt us twa) It costs a curn.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 109:
Behold ye wa's o' Alloway This curn o' canty carlies.
Uls. 2001 Belfast News Letter 5 May 22:
Maist heid curns a-dae wi Ulster Scotch haes thair ain blads, for ensample: ...

[O.Sc. curn, curne, kurne, etc., a single grain of corn; a given fraction or proportion of corn dressed for multure, 1446 (D.O.S.T.); O.E. corn, corn. The vowel relationship between curn and corn is uncertain: phs. due to early dial. variation; cf. Kirn, n.2]

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"Curn n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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