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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

DARN, Dern, n.

1. Excrement (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 37, dern; Bch. 1947 (per Abd.27), darn).

2. Hence applied to “a disease of cattle said to be caused by eating the wood Anemone” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2), which affects the excrement of the animal. Also called dry- (Gregor; Bnff.2 1939; Abd. 1825 Jam.2; Abd.9 1939), hard-, soft-, rinnin- (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mearns 1825 Jam.2) darn, according to the way in which the animal is affected.Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 285:
Folk thought Mr Royston must be bothered himself with the dry darn.
Kcd. 1813 G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 384:
The most extraordinary of all the disorders to which cattle in this country are liable, is the Darn. This distemper seems to be owing to some poisonous herb among the pasture, and seems to be limited to woodland foggage, and this chiefly to the Deeside district. . . . According as the animal is affected in its evacuatory functions, the disease is called the hard or the soft darn.

Comb.: darn-grass, the wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa.n.Sc. 1863 J. Hardy in Border Mag. (Nov.) 286:
In Kincardine, Moray and Aberdeenshire the farmers call it Darn-grass. They say it gives rise to a disease termed darn or black water, and also a dysentery among their cattle which eat it. . . . Mr. Gamgee (Trans. Highland Soc.) does not consider the disease attributable to such a cause. In Sweden, however, the people blame the Anemone for a disease attended with precisely similar symptoms.

[Dry darne, costiveness, is found in O.Sc. (Elgin), 1661 (D.O.S.T.). Of obscure origin, but phs. conn. with Dern, secret, q.v.]

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"Darn n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 May 2024 <>



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