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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HARNISH, n. Also hairnish. Sc. form of Eng. harness, in Sc. usage most freq. attrib. in reference to its meanings of the mounting of a loom and specif. to an intricate form of weaving common in the west of Scotland, esp. Paisley, in the early 19th c. Special Combs.: 1. back harness, see 1815 quot.; 2. harnish plaid, a plaid of fine quality or intricate pattern, esp. one of Paisley manufacture (em.Sc. (b), wm.Sc. 1956). Now only hist. Also harnish alone; 3. harness shawl, a shawl of this sort (Ayr. 1956); 4. harnish tying, the process of mounting a harness loom. Agent n. harness-tier, one who does this; 5. harnish-weaver, one who weaves harnishes (w.Sc. 1887 Jam.).Sc. 1807 J. Duncan Weaving I. 162:
The use of the draw loom is to combine much mounting in a small space; consequently, the shafts, and every other part which is composed of wood, are avoided, and the moving apparatus consists entirely of cordage. That part of the apparatus which serves as a substitute for the heddles of other looms, is called the harness.
Gsw. 1955 Bulletin (4 May) 2:
A most attractive model in delicately soft harness pattern, with royal blue the predominating colour.
wm.Sc.1 1956:
A harness (or harnish) loom is one in which the up-and-down movement of the warp threads is controlled not by simple heddles operated by cams, but by an arrangement of cords, by which the mails (through which the warp threads pass) are harnessed, either singly or in gangs to the operating mechanism set above the loom. Jacquard weaving is typical of harness loom work, but the word is also applied to simpler weaves.
1. Sc. 1807 J. Duncan Weaving I. 122:
The superiority of the back harness for extensive patterns.
Fif. 1815 J. Fernie Hist. Dunfermline 57:
Another species of diaper was introduced, called back-harness; the fabric being the same with that of double diaper, but differing from it in respect of the pattern, which was five times more extensive: the looms for weaving back-harness, were mounted in such a way as not to require a cord-drawer.
2. Rnf. 1792 A. Wilson Poems (1844) 189:
But, whan his harnishes cam in In dizens in a morning.
Gsw. 1862 Justiciary Reports (1865) 222:
She had also a black dyed harness plaid.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems and Sk. 193:
I hae an idea that she wants tae show aff her new harnish plaid.
3. Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 612:
Hand-loom weaving is the chief branch of manufacture carried on in the parish. The principal kinds of work done, are harness-shawls, plain-middles.
Ayr. 1875 A. L. Orr Poems 11:
They canna hain as much the hale year roun' As buy a harnish shawl or satin goun.
Rnf. 1904 M. Blair Paisley Shawl 19:
The beautiful textures which reached their perfection in the Paisley Harness Shawl.
4. Ayr. 1841 J. Paton Songs 13:
At a late harnish tying Jock got himsel' fu'.
Rnf. 1904 M. Blair Paisley Shawl 42:
In the loom, the harness-tying and the entering were occasionally done by the weaver himself, but in most cases these matters were confided to specialists. Harness-tiers thus became a separate class of operatives, who had great skill in this work.
wm.Sc.1 1956:
Harnish tying is a very intricate operation, requiring much skill and dexterity. In the case of a wide loom with many harnish-cords it may take a long while.

Deriv. hairnishin, harness, fig. accoutrements, trappings. Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xvii.:
Enable us to fling off the airmer and hairnishin o' the law.

[Cf. Eng. harness, the heddles of a loom, especially a loom used for jacquard weaving.]

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"Harnish n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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