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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

ELLWAN(D), n. Also elwan(d). [′ɛlwən(d)]

1. A measuring rod, one Ell in length, now used as syn. with yardstick (Ork., Cai., Mry., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Knr., Arg. 1950, obsol.). Also fig. For phr. to measure with the lang (short) ellwand, see Ell.Sc. a.1750 in Jacobite Minstr. (1829) 70:
Come like a weaver, Donald Macgillavry, Pack on your back, and elwand sae cleverly.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 107:
The people who saw the battle, alarmed the taylor, and he sallied out like a champion with his elwand in his hand.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xiv.:
Pate swears it's as true that his elwand is a yard lang — (and so it is, just bating an inch, that it may meet the English measure).
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xii.:
Where perfection is the ellwand it is nae marvel if ordinary mortals come scrimply up to the standard.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 20:
Syne wi' the ell-wan' in his neive to haud the tykes awa He humpit roon' the country side to clachan, craft an' ha'.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 46:
After an hour of this work the web was measured with an ell-wand, and if found not to be sufficiently shrunk the operation was renewed.

Hence used attrib. (1) applied to a tailor; (2) of something long and thin, as in ellwan(d) claw, -face, -shanks.(1) Lnk. 1868 W. McHutchison Poems 55:
Ell-wan Will, an's frien' the hatter. . . . Slack their drouth noo wi' caul water.
Gall. c.1870 J. Heughan in Bards of Gall. (ed. Harper 1889) 238:
Puir ell-wan' Johnnie canna sleep, Since Jeanie gaed awa'.
(2) Dmf. 1805 Scots Mag. (May) 357:
Now wha are ye wi' ellwand shanks, Bannet blue, an' breeks o' plaiden.
Ayr. 1817 D. McKillop Poems 14:
Frae hauly rigs, we maunna flaw, But battle up his elwan' claw.
Ayr. 1820 J. Goldie in Contempor. Burns (1840) 244:
Pate Paterson now rises up, Some mournfu' tale to tell, Put on an elwan-face, and said A grace as lang's himsel'.
Edb. 1829 G. Wilson Sc. Laverock 167:
Tam Trench, wha wore an ellwand face, Likewise a pimpl'd nose.

2. The group of stars commonly known as the Belt of Orion (Ork.5 1900; Abd.9 1943); gen. in phrs. (1) Ellwand o' Stars; (2) King's Ellwand (Cld., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Cai. 1900 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) Our (The) Lady's El(l)wand (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.; n.Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 20; Ork.5 1950).(1) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 198:
Ellwan' o' Starrs. Those three bright stars of the first magnitude, or at least of the second, in the northern constellation Lyra, the harp . . . these three called by the Scotch the Ellwand, from their seeming to the eye to be about equally distant from other, and in a straight line. Who knows yet but this ellwand may indeed be used as an ellwand for measuring all over the earth.
(2) Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck I. 140:
The se'en starns had gaen oure the lum, an' the tail o' the king's elwand was just pointin' to the Muchrah cross.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. 261:
Yonder's the king's ellwand already begun to bore the hill; ay, there's ane o' the goud knobs out o' sight already.
(3) Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xiii.:
Frae peep o' day till the Lady's Ellwand stood ower the lum-head, I keepit the needle reekin' an' whistled like a lintie.

3. As a plant-name in phr. the King's Ellwand, the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea (Rxb. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; 1923 Watson W.-B.).Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 157:
Digitalis Purpurea. . . . About Greenlaw, the plant, from its stateliness, bears the elegant name of the King's elwand.

[Ell + wand. O.Sc. has elnwand, in sense 1, from a.1450, and elwand, in senses 1 and 2, from 1513.]

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"Ellwan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Feb 2024 <>



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