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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GORB, n., v. Also garb. Dim. gorbie.

I. n. 1. An unfledged bird (Ags. 1808 Jam., garb.; Dmf. 1825 Id.; Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 245; Ayr.4 1928, gorbie; Ags., Kcb., Uls. 1955), specif. the youngest of the brood. Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. c.1760 Mem. W. Smellie (Kerr 1811) I. 175:
Next week I shall be gaping like a raw gorb for a swinging letter.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 16:
The vile niger harried it when the young cam out, just bare gorbs, to gie to his brither's howlet.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 150:
He ran tae wuds, and lived upon Young gorbs which he did fin'.
Lnk. 1880 P. M'Arthur Amusements 38:
In twa-three days langer the rest took the wing; But the gorbie fared warst — 'twas a puir silly thing.
Fif. 1886 A. Stewart Dunfermline 160:
They would tell of the nests of young birds (raw garbs, as they were called) which they had tried often in vain to rear.
s.Sc. 1917 Rymour Club Misc. II. 197:
He's a' guts and gab, like a raw gorb.

2. By extension: an infant, a young child (Ags. 1808 Jam., garb; Dmf. 1955). Sometimes used as a term of contempt in gen.Dmf. 1824 Carlyle in Froude Life (1882) I. 242:
A quiet wersh gorb of a thing, as all children of six weeks are.
Edb. 1881 J. Smith Habbie & Madge 122:
Dougal's wife's sittin' at the fire, lookin' after the gorbies till the twa auld birds come back frae the lawyer's.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lads' Love viii.:
“Oh, ye gorb, ye worm”, she said, in a low voice of deadly anger.
Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 424:
He gaed in an sneckit the door an gaed on feedin the gorb.
Ayr. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 65:
I baloo to my gorbs i' their bed.

3. A greedy person or animal, esp. a glutton (Ayr. 1896 Gl. to Galt Provost (Meldrum) II. 269; Ags., Per., Wgt., Kcb., Uls. 1955); hence an opprobrious epithet for a school-boy.Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
In Belfast the boys of any one school called the boys of another gorbs.
Uls. 1922 “L. Doyle” Lobster Salad 304:
In the end between laziness, an' him (the cat) being a greedy gorb of an animal, Paddy grew to a most lamentable size an' could hardly move about.

4. “An ill-thriven animal” (Kcb.4 1900).

II. v. To eat greedily (Uls.2 1929, Uls.4 1955).Gall. 1932 A. M'Cormick Galloway 78:
I flung in a handfu' o' saumon roe; the fishes rose an' gorbed it greedily.

[Prob. an intensive form of Gob, n.1, v.1 (cf. Dorb, n.1 and Dob, n.1), but cf. also Eng. dial. gor, an unfledged bird, Gorbet, and Gorbal, id.]

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"Gorb n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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