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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.

ERSE, adj., n.2 Also †Earse. Now, esp. since early 19th cent., practically superseded by Gaelic, q.v.

1. adj. Applied by the people of the Lowlands to the people of the Highlands. their language, customs, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1725 W. MacFarlane Geog. Colls. (S.H.S.) I. 203:
Lived till they were 13 score of years between them which gave an occasion to an Earse roundell importing so much.
Sc. 1768 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 445:
The building of a house for public worship in the Erse or Gaelic language in Edinburgh . . . was begun in the beginning of last May, and is now far advanced.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Address to the Deil xix.:
But a' your doings to rehearse . . . Wad ding a' Lallan tongue, or Erse, In Prose or Rhyme.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 159:
An' weel he pang'd the Mickle Purse Wi' geer frae lawlin' chiels an' erse.

2. n. The Gaelic language.Nai. 1765 J. Calder Diary (1875) 56:
I had the strength to go to the pulpit to preach an hour in Erse, and half an hour in English.
Abd. after 1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shepherd (S.T.S. 1938) l. 141:
His leed black Earse, his carriage bald and free.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
Then Rab said he tried him wi' Erse, for he cam in his youth frae the braes of Glenlivat.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ayrshire Legatees vi.:
Mr John Gant, your friend, and some other flea-lugged fallows, have set up a Heelon congregation, and got a young man to preach Erse to the English.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 9:
Wad gie their Highland beaks a snortie And ban in Earse.

[O.Sc. has erse, from 1535, reduced form of earlier erische, from 1375, the Sc. equivalent of Irish. Phs. the initial vowel is due to the influence of Gael. forms Eire, eireannach.]

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"Erse adj., n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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