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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.

ERSE, ARSE, AIRSE, n.1, v[ɛrs, ɑrs and ers Sc.] Sc. forms and usages of Eng. arse.

1. n. The fundament, the buttocks, the bottom part or hinder part of a person, animal or thing, as in St.Eng. Ayr. 1786 Burns The Twa Dogs ll. 43-44:
Till tir'd at last wi' mony a farce They set them down upon their arse.
  Abd.9 1932:
The erse of a sheaf is the end placed on the ground when set up in stooks.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 7:
Och, as much o' a mystery to get to the erse y
As whit yin man sees in wan wummin, or vice versy.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 53:
Syne straucht I duntit doun on my bit airse
an no a saicont later on my heid;
ma skraichs an yells an black-begrutten face
shuin tellt the ithers that I wesna deid.
Abd. 1993:
The erse o yer breeks.
  Edb. 1995 Irvine Welsh Marabou Stork Nightmares (1996) 3:
Aye right ye are, take your fucking hand oot ma fuckin erse.
Sc. 1999 Scotsman 9 Apr 25:
Only room for a small selection of splendid entries for the proverbs competition: "Them that's never seen a coo thinks a calf's a big beast"; "He should be wise and sit siccar that has a tear in the erse o his breeks"
Abd. 2000 Herald 5 Jun 20:
What has been forgotten by BPEX is the wisdom of the milk retailer who advised: "Never let your customer see how little distance there is between your coo's udder and her erse."
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 24:
'I've a bit o work if I want it,' he said to the mirror.  'Guid. Aboot fuckin time. Get ye aff yer fuckin erse.'
Gsw. 2000 Herald 24 Oct 19:
Fred started scrawling his signature, and asked the fan how she enjoyed living in such a remote location without the hustle and bustle of the city. "Och, there's regular entertainment oot here," she replied. "I saw Elvis last week and he signed ma erse as well."
Sc. 2002 Edinburgh Evening News 19 Sep 30:
"Aye, nothin' like kindlin' up a fag tae put a heat in ye when the water's runnin' oot the erse o' yer breeks."

Fig.: the hinterland of a coastline, the interior (Ork.1, Bnff.2, Abd.2 1944). Cai. 1870 (per Cai.9):
"Deed, I come fae 'e erse o' 'e country" . . . related to me by the Free Church minister of Latheron as an instance of the ordinary and innocent use of the word at that time - say 1870 - by a respectable Christian woman.

Phr. aa erse an' pooches, used to describe the back view of a stout dumpy man (Abd.15 1880; Abd.16, Abd.27 1950).

Derivs.: (a) erselins, adv., backwards, back to front; cf. Arselins; (b) ersie, adj., hinder (Sh.10, Ork.5 1950), fig., perverse (Dmf. 1943 (per Fif.13)); cf. Ersit, id.: also comb. ersie-growing, of a potato, sprouting at the lower end (Ork.5 1950). (a) Ork.1 1943:
Gaun erselins wi'd, as, for instance, in making an Irish bull or a spoonerism or something of that kind.

Combs.: (1) Arse-bare. (See quot.) (2) Erse-board (burd), plough-erse. (See quot.) (3) Sack-arse. (See quot.) (1) Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed 8:
Though they should pledge their petticoats, And gae arse-bare.
(2) Sc. 1887 Jam.6:
Tail, as in the tail-board of a cart, the tail of a plough, which are called the erse-board, and the erse o' the plough or the plough-erse. Erse is the common form, and represents the pron[unciation] in Scot.
(3) Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Sack-arse, the bottom of a sack.

2. v.

(1) tr. Move backwards, push back; hence to baffle. Abd. 1898 G. W. in E.D.D.:
Arse back your horse a little.
Abd.15 1929:
He was fair arsed (overcome, stuck, unable to make further progress).

(2) intr. To shuffle, to back out of a promise. Abd. 1898 G. W. in E.D.D.:
He arsed a bit. I heard he meant to arse oot o' his promises. So vbl.n. arsin' = shuffling, evading.
Abd.2 1932:
Nane o' that arsin' noo.

Phrs. (1) to erse along, esp. of children: to move oneself along the ground while in a sitting position; (2) to erse on, to propel forward from behind.(1) Ork. 1929 Marw.:
He was no able tae walk, but he could erse himsel' along at a great rate.
(2) Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 34:
That shog him and cummer Or erse him richt on.

[O.E. ars, ears; O.Sc. ars, arse, erse,  the buttocks, from c.1420, the utmost or hinder part, a.1578. O.H.G., O.N., Dan., Sw., O.Fris. ers or aars; Ger. arsch; Gr. ορρος + ορσος. Found 1336 in Calender Docmts. Scot. II. Terra vocata, Naked erse (J. B. J.).]

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"Erse n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Feb 2024 <>



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