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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LOCK, n.2 Also loke; lok (Sh.): lowk (Cai.), †loak; ¶luk. Dim. lo(w)kie. Sc. usages of Eng. lock, of hair, wool, etc. When governing a noun in the possessive case, the o(f) is freq. omitted. [lɔk; Cai. lʌuk]

1. (1) A certain amount, gen. of some substance that can be gathered in the arms or in the hand or between the fingers, e.g. a bunch of hay or straw (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., 1953 Traynor; I.Sc., Cai., Gall., Uls. 1961), a handful of meal (Sc. 1808 Jam.), a pinch of salt or sugar (Cai., Gall. 1902 E.D.D.; Dmf. 1917; Cai., Gall., Uls. 1961).Kcb. 1721 Kelton Session Rec. MS. (13 April):
In the other end of the barn under a lock of chaff or straw.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 52:
May bids keep a lock hay.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xli.:
Tak aff the bridle, and shake down a lock o' hay before him.
Sc. 1823 C. K. Sharpe Ballad Bk. (1880) 17:
Gae to the pock, and shake a lock, For I canna want my gruel.
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 131:
Tripes weel cramm'd wi' buirdly locks O' creesh an' meal.
Ags. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston xxviii.:
A full glass o' the best Hollands gin into a tumbler, wi' a lock sugar and some boilin' water.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 129:
An' yet a lock o' saut joost right laid on, By an aul' wife, proves an effectual cure.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 115:
Whin thu laid on yin lock o' tang.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 239:
Daikorations o' the floor description … locks, an' wraiths, an' tails, an' strings, an' streamers, an' festoons.
Bnff. 1893 W. Gregor Dunbar's Wks. (S.T.S.) III. 48:
“Lyock o' meal” is still used by old people about Keith, where I have heard it frequently.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (23 July):
Shü hankl'd aff a lock o' wirsit aff o' a clue at wis lyin' in her lap.
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 339:
They “jib” their kye, feed them on “orts” and “locks”.
Uls. 1901 J. W. Byers in Northern Whig:
Small quantities or amounts are expressively conveyed by … a “lock,” or “nip” applied to solids.
Uls. 1957 J. J. Abraham Surgeon's Journey 21:
A “lock of tea”, that is about two teaspoonfuls of tea screwed up in a paper cone.

(2) Specif.: a small quantity or handful of meal taken by the miller's assistant as a perquisite of grinding, freq. in phr. lock and gowpen (see Gowpen, 3.), also a perquisite of the public executioner. Hist.Kcd. 1730 Urie Court Bk. (S.H.S.) 136:
Ane complaint given in by the whole above mentioned tennents … petitioning the knavships and loak or bannock belonging to the miller may be regulate … the dues commonly called luk and goodwill.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute ii. ix. § 19:
The sequels are the small parcels of corn or meal given as a fee to the servants, over and above what is paid to the multurer; and they pass by the name of knaveship, and of bannock, and lock or gowpen.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xiii. note:
The expression lock, for a small quantity of any readily divisible dry substance, as corn, meal, flax, or the like, is still preserved, not only popularly, but in a legal description, as the lock and gowpen, or small quantity and handful, payable in thirlage cases, as in-town multure.
Ork. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. VII. 132:
The tenantry are all thirled to these mills, at which the multure taken is very heavy, being the twelfth of oats, and sixteenth of bear, besides what is termed the “knave's lock”.
Sc. 1880 J. Skelton Crookit Meg xviii.:
The new millart has a gude-gangin' plea regardin' the sma' sequels o' the outsucken multures, — bannock, knaveship, lock-and-gowpen, and sic like.

Hence †lock(s)man, the public executioner. so called in certain Sc. burghs.Ork. 1709 W. Mackintosh Glimpses Kirkwall (1887) 58:
Being enquyred at if he was willing to serve as lockman within this brugh in the place of David Wood, late lockman now deceast.
Sc. 1735 Sc. Antiquary XII. 27:
Paid John Dalgleish, Lockman, for whiping 2 women … 6s. 8d.
Sc. c.1750 H. G. Graham Social Life (1928) 502:
A locksman or common hangman was a town's necessary official; but the chief occupation of this functionary was as jailer of the petty prisoners, and flogger of the culprits.
Sc. 1772 Edb. Ev. Courant (4 July):
Wanted immediately for the town of Haddington A Lockman, who will meet with all due encouragement. He will have £3 Sterling of wages yearly, a free house, new cloaths; and his perquisites in meal, wool and calling of fish, greens, and other commodities, are very considerable.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian note L:
Lockman — hangman, so called from the small quantity of meal (Scottice, lock) which he was entitled to take out of every boll exposed to market in the city. In Edinburgh the duty has been very long commuted; but in Dumfries, the finisher of the law still exercises, or did lately exercise, his privilege, the quantity taken being regulated by a small iron ladle, which he uses as the measure of his perquisite. [See W. McDowall Hist. Dumfries (1873) 581].

2. A (small) quantity, number or amount of anything, a lot (Cai., Gall. 1902 E.D.D.: Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I.Sc., Cai., Uls. 1961). Dim. lokie (Cai. 1954 Scotsman (27 April)). Also in Eng. dial. Used also adv., a lot, a good deal.Sc. 1796 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 55:
I'll eithly wad a gude lock cash.
s.Sc. 1823 Blackwood's Mag. (Feb.) 177:
Sic an improvement of the gerse as they will make! Raise us a loke soft toth, in place o' our good helsome pine.
Ayr. 1835 Galt in Tait's Mag. (Aug.) 540:
He sometimes has even the impertinence to speak a lock sense to our gracious King.
Lth. 1858 The Dark Night 218:
He's nane the waur, an' often a lock better.
Sc. 1864 M. Oliphant Katie Stewart xxx.:
Wi' a' that lock of prize-money, he'll can do weel for baith himself and her.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 91:
An' a bonnie lock o' fish we'll hae Ta lay upo' da ayre.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah lvi. 12:
Come awa, quo they, I'se fesh a lowk wine.
Arg. 1882 Arg. Herald (3 June):
Oor bitatoes … was juist a lock scrajacks, so they was.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
A loke smell — a nasty, sickening smell.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. v. 183:
A lock o' his youngsters … used tae gather as muckle heather as we could carry hame.
Uls. 1948 D. G. Waring Not quite so Black 86:
All the war and botheration that's been in it this past lock of years.
Cai. 1951 Edb. John o' Groat Lit. Soc.:
Sanny'll hev till do a lock o' actan'.

[O.Sc. lokman, hangman, c.1470. For the Sc. semantic development cf. L.Ger. lo(c)k, a lock of hair, an armful, an amount, lot, of anything.]

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



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