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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

ONSET, n., v. Also -sett.

I. n. 1. The act of setting in motion, the application of the driving power to a machine. Cf. Onlat.Abd. 1923 J. Hunter MS. Diary (22 Feb.):
Went up past Segget telling Billie about the onset of Mr. Merson's mill.

2. In Brewing: the application of yeast.Sc. 1849 T. Thomson Brewing 219–20:
Store yeast for onset requires to be changed occasionally. I found it useful to have a change of onset every four months.

3. The part where one thing is set on another; specif. the top of the neck.Sc. 1731 Caled. Mercury (29 July):
A Large Horse . . . all the four Legs, the Eye-brows, the Onsett of the Head, grey with Age, and Switch-Tail'd.

4. Pressure of work, application or exertion of strength (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1964), fig. pressure, necessity (Ib.).

5. (The site of) a farm-house and its group of outhouses, a farm-stead; a small cluster of houses (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Also in n.Eng. dial. Cf. Onstead, Outset, Inset.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iv. i. Prol.:
The Scene describ'd in former Page, Glaud's Onset.
Dmf. 1788 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (1 Jan.):
This farm is pleasantly situated, has an onset of good houses, and is in excellent heart.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 438:
Stedding o' houses, the ground on which an onset is built.
Uls. 1942 E.E. Evans Irish Heritage 47:
Little “clusters”, “onsets” or “clachans” of peasant houses, a dozen or so together, which preserve something of the character of the old villages.

6. An additional part built on to or against the building, for enlargement or as an outhouse (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.; Sc. 1887 Jam.). Cf. Outset, Inset, 2.

7. Fig. A verbal assault, talking-to, telling off (Abd.4 1931). Also attrib.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 164:
But there's some here whom I appoint To gie the outs the onset junt.
Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 196:
Though I got mony an onset aboot you, it aye ran i' my head that truth wad prevail.

II. v. To place or set on. Deriv. onsetter, in mining: the one who puts the tubs, etc., into the cage at the bottom of the shaft. Also in n.Eng. dial.Lnk. 1956 Scotsman (2 June) 8:
Willie Laidlaw, onsetter, who controls everything that leaves the bottom in cage or skip.

[On-, pref.1, + Set, v. O.Sc. onsete, = I. 5., 1423, onsetting, 1501.]

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"Onset n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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