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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LAIRD, n., v. Also leard (Sc. 1719 T. Durfey Pills to Purge Melancholy V. 88), lard (Sc. 1745 S. C. Misc. (1841) 416), †lyard (Abd.). Sc. equivalent of Eng. lord. Dims. lairdie, lairdikie (Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 290). [le:rd, Abd. + †lja:rd; in sense 1. lɑrd]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., in the sense of a nobleman. Rare and liter.; the Deity, in colloq. usage only as a mild expletive, usu. expressing disgust or repulsion (Cai., Abd., Ayr., Kcb. 1960). Sometimes in redupl. form leerd-lard. Cf. Gad, n.3 Hence by extension, human excrement (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 33:
Tho' by the laird, The toy-mutch maun then gae on. Nae mair bare hair'd.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 63:
“Lard Jock”, quoth Tam, “whan ye're discrievin' Ye gang ayont a focks believin'.”
Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems 108:
King Geordie issues out his summons, Tae ca his bairns, the Lairds an Commons.
Kcb. 1827 Curriehill:
In the shire the expression laird, laird implies the utmost feeling of loathing and disgust.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah xl. 23:
Wha maks lairds o' the yirth but a toom spailin.
Sc. 1928 T. T. Alexander Psalms viii. 6:
Laird owre Thy warks Thow made him be, Put a' thing 'naith his feet.
Abd.4 1931:
Laird (or lard)-be-here” — old exclamation of disgust.
Abd. 1956 Bon-Accord (29 Nov.):
Leerd, lard! fut a life, fut a wife!

2. A landed proprietor, the owner of an estate of land of any size from the largest to a single farm, freq. followed by the name of the estate, e.g. the Laird of —, when the owner is not of noble rank (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict., 1782 J. Sinclair Obs. Sc. Dial. 174). Gen.Sc., corresp. to Eng. squire. In strict usage applied only to one who held his lands direct of the Crown. When the owner has a male heir, the two are distinguished by the terms auld laird and young laird. Also fig.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
Now God be thanked that our Laird's come hame, And his Estate, say, can he eithly claim?
Sc. 1747 Kames Essays 100:
A Scotch Laird has come to be in some Measure a Term of Reproach, like a French Marquis, or a German Baron.
Kcd. 1768 in A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 6:
For, frae the cottar to the laird, We all run South.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 51–2:
Our Laird gets in his racked rents, His coals, his kane, an' a' his stents.
Per. a.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (1869) 9:
The laird o' Cockpen, he's proud an' he's great, His mind is ta'en up wi' things o' the State.
Sc. 1807 J. Hall Travels 184:
Every one who possessed a piece of land, however small, rent free, was called a laird.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery Intro.:
The laird had his farming and improving operations to superintend; and, besides, he had to attend trustee meetings, and lieutenancy meetings, and head-courts, and meetings of justices, and what not.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 116:
The acts of cruelty and injustice which every petty lord and laird exercises in his own domain, are beyond all sufferance.
Rxb. 1833 Fraser's Mag. (Oct.) 410:
The auld master was gaen to bed; “but . . . I'll tell the young laird ye want him.”
Sc. 1850 J. Grant Sc. Cavalier xxxiv.:
Such as hold their lands of the King direct are styled lairds; but such as held their tacks of a subject were styled gudemen.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vii.:
War'dly, time-servin' characters; mair concern't aboot pleasin' the lairds nor sairin' their Maister.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders ii.:
John Heron was the laird of a barren heritage, for Rathan is but a little isle.
Bnff. 1902 J. Grant Agric. Bnff. 4:
Your neighbours, the laird of Park . . . and the Laird of Durn, were out with [Prince] Charlie.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde & Tweed 3:
Winter will sune be the laird o' the glen.
Bnff. 1960 Northern Scot (2 July) 7:
1000 guests thronged ancient Cullen House and three huge marquees to honour the young laird.
Edb. 1990 James Allan Ford in Joy Hendry Chapman 59 44:
He wore a heavy tweed suit winter and summer alike, and a brown felt hat inside as well as outside the shop, and looked, as he said himself, more like a laird than a Leither.
Sc. 1999 Herald 1 Oct 11:
The millionaire laird who earlier this week appeared in court for slapping his wife has resigned as convener of the Scottish Landowners' Federation.
Abd. 2000 Herald 20 Mar 19:
Now, last year, Mossie agreed to advise the Young Laird on how to grow an extra tonne of barley to the acre. The deal was that the Young Laird would do exactly as Mossie said, and Mossie would get to that farthest up-market of shoots, the New Year bash at the Big Hoose.

Combs. and phr.: †(1) Ab(be)y laird, a jocular name for a bankrupt, strictly a debtor who took sanctuary from his creditors in the precincts of Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, a privilege abolished in 1880. Also laird in the Abbey; (2) bonnet laird, see Bonnet, n., 4.; (3) cock laird, see Cock, n.1, III. 2. (12); (4) Laird and Lady, a move at draughts (see 1905 quot.); (5) laird o' your word, responsible for what one says, speaking with knowledge and authority; (6) moss laird, see Moss; (7) peerie laird, see Peerie.(1) Sc. 1700 Atholl MSS. (15 May):
He has got a charge of horning from Megens and that his Lop. cannot think of being an Aby leard.
Sc. 1733 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 205:
When we make them lairds In the Abbey, quoth she.
Dmf. 1831 Carlyle Letters (Norton) I. 325:
A laird in the Abbey is an old Scotch cant name for a bankrupt.
(4) Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine and Haar 241:
First it was the “Laird an' Lady”, an' then it was the “Ayrshire Lassie”, endin' in a single corner.
Sc. 1905 A. Anderson Draughts xvi.:
The “Laird and Lady” is formed by the first five moves: — 11–15, 23 19, 8–11, 22 17, 9–13. It was so called from the fact of its having been the favourite of Laird and Lady Cather, who resided in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire.
(5)m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 143:
"It may be that nothing has come over her though we are always inclined to fear the worst when anything goes wrong." "Weel, sir, I houp ye're laird o' yer word, that's a'."

3. An owner of property in gen., esp. a house-owner (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne., e. and wm.Sc., Dmf. 1960).Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxvii.:
Major Bellenden was laird o' the least share o' what they lifted, though it was taen in his name.
wm.Sc. a.1836 Songs & Ballads Cld. (Nimmo 1882) 19:
Tho' Geordie be laird of a housie, And brags o' his kye and his pelf.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 257:
He had a lodging doun the wey . . . Ta'en frae its laird on weekly pey, An' the forerenting plan.

4. In a children's rhyme of counting buttons on a dress: the first button; also the lowest groove on a spinning-top (see quot s.v. Hangman, 2.) (Abd. c.1900).Sc. 1903 R. Ford Children's Rhymes 21:
A laird, a lord, A rich man, a thief, A tailor, a drummer, A stealer o' beef.

5. Used as a jocular form of address; = colloq. Eng. chum, chap, lad (Abd., Ags., Fif., Lth. 1960).Ags. 1912 A. Reid Forfar Worthies 8:
Here's yer bungs (gingerbread cakes), Lairds.

6. A large earth-fast boulder in a field, which has to be ploughed round and so seems to possess the land (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.).

7. Derivs.: (1) lairdess, a laird's wife; (2) lairdless, having no proprietor, ownerless, of an estate (Abd. 1960); (3) lairdlin, lairdling, a petty laird; (4) lairdliness, lordliness; (5) lairdly, lordly, aristocratic, lavish, extravagant (Abd.15 1930, lyardly), adj. and adv. Also lairdlifu. See Lordly; (6) lairdocracy, the landed gentry as a ruling class; (7) lairdship, ¶-skip, (a) the estate of a laird, a landed estate, a property. Gen.Sc. Also fig.; (b) the position or rank of a laird; (c) lordship, as a title (Lth., Slk. 1960); (d) landowners, collectively. All except (7) rare or nonce usages.(1) Sc. 1863 J. H. Burton Book Hunter 10:
Her sister lairdesses were enriching the tea-table conversation with broad descriptions of the abominable vices of their several spouses.
(2) Abd. 1904 W. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 65:
Puir Fyvie, lang a lairdless lan', Now cocks her face fu' cheery.
(3) Lnk. 1867 J. M. Peacock Reverie 101:
He sleeps near the lairdlin' wha used him sae hard.
Per. 1893 Harp Per. (Ford) 239:
'Mang lairdlin's an' leddies, an' baubles an' braws.
Ork. 2000 Orcadian 18 May 21:
Sometimes you get the feeling they're really not interested in contesting Highlands and Islands seats, preferring to leave us in the hands of their chums, the Liberal lawyers and lairdlings who prop up that sadly disappointing, glorified coonty cooncil in Auld Reekie.
(4) Mry. 1803 R. Couper Tourifications II. 106:
Notwithstanding the lairdliness and gravity of my aspect.
(5) Abd. c.1850 W. Walker Bards (1887) 633:
O, it wasna her daddy's lairdly kin, It wasna her siller — the clinkin' o't.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 100:
He has chosen this lairdly churl To mate wi' your young sweet May.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
She mith hae been a bittie mair lairdlifu wi the ream.
(6) Sc. 1848 Tait's Mag. XV. 123:
The Scotch lairdocracy may take it into their heads.
Sc. 1857 J. Aiton Domest. Econ. 39:
The lairdocracy have become of late much less exclusive and pretentious.
(7) (a) Sc. 1707 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 31:
I am to send up a signatur for chang[ing] my litle lairdship to blensh.
Sc. 1725 De Foe Journey thro' Scot. (1729) 4:
A Lairdship is a Tract of Land with a Mansion House upon it, where a Gentleman hath his Residence.
Sc. 1733 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 205:
My lairdship can yield me As meikle a-year, As had us in pottage And good knockit bear.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 38:
Ye see her rigs run just unto our ain; 'Twill mak a swinging lairdship a' in ane.
Ayr. 1794 Burns Contented wi' little ii.:
My Freedom's my lairdship nae monarch daur touch.
Sc. 1825 J. W. Carlyle New Letters (1903) I. 7:
Perhaps our nicest expedition was that to The Grange, a pleasant little islet of a Lairdship nine or ten miles away.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
Your ain family came first to this country then frae some bit lairdship near Glasgow.
Sc. 1864 J. H. Burton Scot Abroad II. 182:
An estate held directly of the crown was a lairdship.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 2:
They ca'd his lairdship Hinehover, a droll neem I tink.
Knr. 1895 H. Haliburton Dunbar 57:
If in this life ye've lairdship sma' The less your fasherie thereanent.
Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne 4:
Every gate on the lairdship cam' oot o' my workshop.
(b) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xl.:
When ye tak up the lairdship, ye maun tak the auld name and designation again.
Sc. 1854 H. Miller Schools 379:
The august shadow of lairdship lay heavy on society.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xliv.:
Sir Seemon's lairdship canna gi'e 'im mair.
(c) Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie 346:
Gae awa wi' your esquires and your lairdships.
Bnff. 1871 Banffshire Jnl. (19 Dec.) 9:
As I dinna ken your lairdship personally.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're a' Coortin' 12:
Thenk ye, yer Lerdship, thenk ye vera much.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 34:
Yon hoose wes biggit for a royal geit,
auncestors o His Lairdship that's jist gane.
(d) Sc. 1870 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. (1874) 33:
The annals of “Forfarshire Lairdship”.

II. v. tr. To be the owner of (an estate), to act as laird or master; fig. to claim as one's own, to possess. Phr. to laird it (ower), to give oneself airs, to domineer.Ags. 1865 Arbroath Guide (18 March) 3:
They sneer an' bid me gang an' dine, Wi' him wha lairds oor ain toun.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah 4:
Her lairded lan', her braw young ban'.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 67:
That Burns, it was sae neatly wrote, Micht fitly laird it.
Abd. 1885 J. Scorgie Flittin' Noo 32:
Yet what care we? while life remains We'll laird nae hingin' mou'.
Sc. 1887 G. Outram Lyrics 109:
He delved on the lands he had lairded before.
Gsw. 1889 A. G. Murdoch Readings iii. 82:
The bit property he lairds may come to oor twa sel's.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 143:
Though aft ye kink an' skirl like mad, An' laird it ower the hailwur.

[O.Sc. lard, a lord, the Lord, c.1380, landlord, landowner, 1379, laird, 1424. In the former sense the Eng. form lord, already from the early 15th-c. in Scot. applied to the greater barons, supervened after 1500. The earlier form lavird appears in 1257, O.E. hlāfweard, hlāford, head of a house, lit. “loaf-warden”.]

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"Laird n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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