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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.

DORBIE, n. Also darbie (Ags. 1890 (per Abd.27); Slg. 1902 W. C. Paterson Echoes of Endrickvale 15).

1. A stone-mason (Cai.1 c.1920; Bnff.2 1940; Abd.15 1949; Fif. 1899 Colville Vernacular 16; Per. 1900 E.D.D.; Rxb.5 1940; m.Lth. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 69).Bnff.6 c.1920:
Weather Lore — 1st March: “Corbie an dorbie baith a-biggin wid be.”
Abd. 1921 J. Wight in Swatches 9:
Fin the muckle skweel at Byth wis biggit, the tyler wis a barra-min tae the masons. An aul' hoose . . . wis made a bothy for the dorbies.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair's Maunderings (1881) 13:
I wonder what the puir dorbies, plasterers, navvies, an' gardeners do in sic fearfu' weather?
Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 82:
The stane was laid wi' muckle care . . . Syne aff the dorbies gleefu' gaed . . . Doon to the “Curlers'” weel-kent inn.

2. In Freemasonry: an initiate (Sc. 1891 Farmer and Henley).

Hence dorbie's knock, a special knock on a door given by freemasons as a signal among themselves, described as two long raps, three short and one long (Ib.).

3. Applied by extension to certain birds: (1) the dunlin, Pelidna alpina (Bnff. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XIII. 10, Note), phs. because of a fancied resemblance between its plumage and the mason's lime-stained apron (but see etym. note); cf. blind dorbie s.v. Blin, v.2, n., adj.; (2) the crow (Abd.15 1949; ne.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), because it is frequently seen on walls and roofs.

[Origin obscure. In 3 (1) the word is phs. rather to be derived from Dorb, n.1, v.; cf. san' dorbie s.v. Sand.]

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"Dorbie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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