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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GIRN, n.2, v.2 Also †girne, †gurn; grin (sm.Sc.). [gɪrn]

I. n. 1. A snare, variously made, with a running noose, for catching animals, birds or fish; “a snare made by stretching lines across a hoop and tying running loops or horse-hair on to the strings” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), also gird-an-girns, id.; “a snare on the end of a fishing rod, for catching trout in deep pools” (Ayr.1 1910; Slk. 1949). Also fig. = a trap. Gen.Sc.Rnf. 1716 W. Hector Judic. Rec. (1878) 102:
James Gardner, Blackholm, deponed negative, except ane Hare with a Girne.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 177:
Wha set their Gowden Girns sae wylie, Tho ne'er sae cautious they'd beguile ye.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 26:
Against thy life he lays the noosing grin.
Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (April) 55:
Civil law . . . a desperate foumart trap — a cursed gird-an-girns to grip all kinds of spulziers.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xlv.:
Mr Hickery rose to offer some apologys but, perceiving I had now got him in a girn, I . . . would not permit him to proceed.
Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1856) III. 226:
Fishin . . . sometimes wi' the baggy-mennon — and sometimes wi' the sawmon-rae —. . . or a girn!
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xvii.:
He discovered four dainty cutties, wi' the brass wire girns still roond their craigs.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 8:
Ae morn grim Death — that poacher fell — Gat Kirsty in his girn hersel'.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 46:
When Sandy set a girn, the very shilfas seemed to ken That the hair-loops wadna grip them.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 146:
Early on a fine morning he was working at the end of the house making a 'grinwan' - a willow rod with a hair noose for catching trout - to take down to a deep pool in the burn.

Phr. & Comb.: (1) grinwan, a stick to which is attached a girn for catching fish; see Wand; (2) marble and the girn, a game of skill.(1) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 483:
Am making a bit grinwan to mysell to tak down wi' me to a deep pool . . . fu' o' trouts.
(2) Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 167:
The “marble and the girn” with a prize of 3d. if you succeeded in leaving the “bool” in the girn.

2. “A twitch for holding the nose of a restive horse” (Arg.1 1937, Arg.3 1954), “the noose which is made with a halter and put in a horse's mouth” (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl; gurn Arg. 1993).

3. A drain for a wound, a seton (Borders 1808 Jam.).Sc. 1716 J. Moncrief Poor Man's Physic. 3:
A Seton, or Girn in the Neck [as a cure for epilepsy].

II. v. To catch in a girn, to snare (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 243, grin; Ant. a.1873 F. Grose Gl., Add.; Cai. 1900 E.D.D.; Abd. 1922; Cai., Fif., Arg., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1954); “to catch trouts by means of a noose of hair, which being fixed to the end of a stick or rod, is cautiously brought over their heads or tails; then they are thrown out with a jerk” (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags., Bwk., Dmf., Slk. 1954). Fig. to ensnare, to corner (a person) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also in Nhb. and Shr. dial.Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 205:
They . . . laid baits that girn'd maist ilka head.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms ix. 16:
The Lord is kennet bie the juudgemints that he deth; the wicket is girnet in the wark o' his ain han's.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 27:
He was a terr'ble callan' for doos, and didna swither lang . . . aboot girning ony strange anes that cam aboot the doors.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly xiii.:
He had been “girning” sticklebacks and “bairdies” in the shallow burns about the Loch of Lochend.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 4:
A met twae awfih sairious-on chiels, rale leike as ther seam was ti girn the bits o moppies skiltin aboot.
Lnk. 1928 W. C. Fraser Yelpin' Stane ix.:
He was full of expedients for gripping trout and girning rabbits.

[O.Sc. gyrne, girn, a noose, snare, to ensnare, from c.1400; O.North. giren, a trap, a met. form of O.E. grin, Eng. dial. grin.]

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"Girn n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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