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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

METT, n., v. Also met, mete, mette. [mɛt]

I. n. 1. Measurement, a standard or system of measuring. Obs. in Eng. Comb. met-stick, a stick cut to the exact length of the foot and sent to the shoemaker as a measure for fitting shoes (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 247:
Met and Measure make all Men wise. Spoken when People would have what they buy weighed, or measured.
Ags. 1722 Tack MSS.:
The Bear with the common mett thereof and the meall at eight stone weight per boll.
Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Jan.) 432:
Arrested brats around their grandsire kneel, Who takes their measurement from toe to heel; The “met-stick” pair'd away to suit the size He bids at length the impatient captives rise.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 126:
I'll sair you a' with the same met.
Slk. 1899 C. M. Thomson Drummeldale 3:
The Sabbath-day shuin, for which a “mett”, or measuring stick was sent to show the size.
Sh. 1951 Sh. Folk Book II. 65:
Ah'll tak da met a dy fit (I'll show you all that you can do).

2. In gen., a fixed quantity or measure agreed in a certain locality, and varying with the place and the thing to be measured (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1962).Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 14:
At the former [colliery], 2 metes [sic], about 9½ cwt of small coals or chews, the kind generally used for home consumption, are sold for 2s. 1d.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
“A met o' dyke”, the portion of the shore-dyke which it is one man's duty to keep in repair.

3. A measure of capacity most commonly used for herring = 42 pints Scots or 15 gall. 3 quarts Imperial; a vessel of this capacity.Fif. 1703 D. Cook Annals Pittenweem 108:
It is statute and ordained that there be a constant standard mett for herrings brought from Crail, and metts for the inhabitants made conform thereto, burnt and sealed with the town's mark, and no other to be used.
Abd. 1707 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VII. 69:
To Alexr. Abdn. for a mett of Spainish salt . . . to my fishing. . . . £6.
Hdg. 1707 Records Conv. Burghs (1880) 406:
The herrings in the saids burgh [Dunbar] be sold by ane mett containing fourty two pynts of liquid measure, commonly called the two hundred herrings mett.
Sc. 1722 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 315:
In all the burrows of this kingdom fresh herrings shall be sold by met and not by tale.
Sh. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VII. 589:
Herrings caught in the bays in autumn, sell for 1d per score or 3s per mett, nearly a barrel of fresh ungutted herrings.

4. In Abd., Ags. and Fif., a unit of measurement for coal when sold in sacks larger than 1 cwt. capacity. In Dundee (see 1830 quot.) now used to refer to a sack of coal weighing 1½ cwt., and in Aberdeen to 1¼ cwt.Fif. 1724 Rothes MSS. (1 April):
James Yowne 2 met by him . . . 3s 0d. David Wobster 2 met by him . . . 3s 0d.
Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 14:
2 metes, about 9½ cwt of small coals or chews.
Abd. 1800 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (15 Jan.) 22:
About 1000 mets of coals were last week distributed to the poor of Aberdeen.
Ags. 1830 W. Shiress Tables Weights & Measures 188:
In Dundee, a Met of English Coals contains 54 Standard Scots Pints, stricken measure . . . A Met of Scots Coals contains 1 Cwt., 5 Stones, 1¾ Pounds Imperial Avoirdupois.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 208:
John was the first carter who sold single metts in Aberdeen.
Ags. 1891 A. Matthews Poems and Songs 19:
A wab o' claith, a pirn wheel A met o' coals, a cheese, a neep.
Fif. 1936 St. Andrews Cit. (18 Jan.) 4:
It has been the custom to sell coal in bags in quantities of 1½ cwt. and ¾ cwt., which are known as metts and half-metts, respectively.
Ags. 1960:
Many examples remain of the old standards, the most common being the sale of coal in Dundee by the ½ met of 84 lbs. The met was originally 10½ Scotch Troye or Dutch stones or 168 lbs.
Dundee 1986 David A. MacMurchie I Remember Another Princes Street! 40:
Pre-1914, coal could be bought at ten pence (small coal) or twelve to fourteen pence (lump coal) per half mett bag. (1/2 mett = 84 lbs).

5. An instrument for measuring.Sh. a.1733 P.S.A.S. XXVI. 199:
The trying and adjusting of bismers with the stoups, cans, and other mets and measures.

6. A boundary marker, a landmark used to determine the bounds of a property, a boundary-stone (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 143, 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1962).Sh. 1899 Shetland News (17 June):
I min be plain ta tell you 'at I ken da metts as weel as ye.

7. A mark, an imprint in gen., esp. one made to show the extent of a measurement (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1962).Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 107:
Doo kens, I hed me staff reeved trow da haandles o' da carpet-bag, an' Guid bliss me, is I wis kerried da stanes dat lang, it dey wir left metts apo me rig.
Sh. 1952 New Shetlander No. 31. 6:
His idder fit made a graet met i da grund, an whin dat met filt up wi water, dere wis a loch. If du looks at Pettawater, du'll see whaur he set his fit, fir da mark o every tae is dere yet.
Sh. 1991 Rhoda Bulter in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 70:
Veeve can I mind dat lang traik trowe da hill,
Whin me feet felt laek lead, bit left hardly a mett
Idda boannie green moss at lay tick idda gyill.
An I grett.

II. v. †1. To measure. Pa.t.: met(t), metit. Ppl.adj. met.Fif. 1715 Two Students (Dickinson 1952) 59:
This vacance Mr MacDonald has gone out with them and me to make trial of some Geometrical practices relating to heights and we met a piece of ground with a Chain.
Sc. 1717 Chrons. Atholl & Tullibardine Families II. App. xcii.:
For every peck that any townsman shall borrow for metting of meall or Lint seed.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 34:
When Beauty's to be judg'd without a Vail, And not its Powers met out as by Retail.
Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (16 March):
A vast many Herrings are come over from Fife, besides a great deal from Dunbar; a seasonable relief for the Poor. . . . They fell in Fife from 40 to 50 Pence per met Thousand.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 213:
Sair dung wi' dule an' fley'd for comin' debt, They gar their mou'-bits wi' their incomes mett.
Abd. 1774 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xxxviii.:
Auld luckie cries, “Ye're o'er ill set, As ye'd hae measure, ye should met”.
Ayr. 1828 H. Crawford Curling 41:
They shout, they mette sax yards ahin.

Hence derivs.: †(1) metable, of coal: broken into pieces suitable for measurement in metts; †(2) metter, an official who is legally authorised to measure (Sc. 1887 Jam.). = Eng. meter; †(3) met(t)ster, = (2) (Sc. 1825 Jam.).(1) Sc. 1793 Earl of Dundonald Descr. Culross 46, 51:
Best Round or Metable Coal. . . . The gradual use of metable or small coals would tend to diminish the partiality Scots people have at present to Great Coal.
(2) Sc. 1751 W. MacGill Old Ross. (1909) 192:
His lordship's people either miscounted the number of bolls or plaid slight of hand in the measure . . . John Douglas who received the oats is a very honest man, the metter who measured, suorne and the Firlott sealed.
(3) Sc. 1700 Edb. Gazette (16–20 May):
Good Bear for 7 lib. 4 sh: per Boll is to be Sold by John Wilson Metster, at the South end of the Bridge of Leith.
Sc. 1709 Fountainhall Decisions II. 518:
Archibald Kincaid of Hook, resolving to set a tack of part of his lands, that he might know its extent, he causes one Oswald, a sworn metster measure it, who reported it to be 46 acres, 2 roods and 13 falls.
Sc. 1773 Caled. Mercury (8 Sept.):
We hear that upon the inspection of the weights and measures in Leith . . . a number of corn and wheat firlots belonging to the metsters and corn-merchants there, were found short of the legal standard. . . . nine of the metsters and merchants were fined for keeping and using these measures.
Edb. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (4 March) 66:
That all Merchants, Shipmasters, and others, will be immediately provided with any number of Porters, Carters, and Metsters, by applying or sending to the Office.

2. To compose poetic measures, to rhyme.Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 72:
Ye mak my Muse a dautit pett, But gin she cou'd like Allan's mett.

3. To make a dirty mark or imprint (Sh. 1962). Cf. n., 7.Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
His shune meted de flør.

[O.Sc. met(t), measure, 1426, a measure of capacity, 1453, mettare, a measurer, 1454; as v., 1442, O.E. ȝemet, a measure, O.N. met, the weight of a balance (cf. quot. under n., 5.). The v. is from the n., in place of the form mēte, from O.E. metan, which is St. Eng. obsol. In the pa.t. and pa.p. the curtailed forms from either verb become indistinguishable.]

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"Mett n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Sep 2023 <>



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