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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PLACK, n. Also plak. [plak]

1. A small Sc. coin, orig. of billon but later of copper, issued by James III. c.1470, and later monarchs till the Union of the Crowns in 1603. It was valued at four pennies Scots or one third of an English penny (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Hist. Also attrib. = of the value of a plack. Combs. half-plack, a similar coin of half the value, placksworth, as much as can be bought for a plack, a very small amount. It is somewhat uncertain what coin, if any, is indicated by plack in the 18th c. since it had long ceased to be minted and must have practically disappeared from circulation. It may have survived as a money of account in calculations and petty trading. In the 1731 quot. it is treated as the equivalent of a farthing, in 1887 quot. for a coin of the lowest denomination. For sim. change of value cf. Bawbee. Hist. or arch.Rnf. 1701 W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1878) II. 159–60:
Two ounce startch, and a placksworth of bleu . . . 2s. Scots Two ounce of startch; It half a pownd of sop, 3s. 0d. A plaks worth of bleu: half a pownd of sop 2s. 4d.
n.Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1822) I. 139:
It is common for the inhabitants . . . when they have none of the smallest money, to stop in the street, and giving a halfpenny, take from the beggar a plack, i.e. two bodles (or the third part of a penny) in change.
Edb. 1731 Old Edb. Club (1930) 72:
For bread to said 24 persons for two days 48 plack loaves is Reckon'd necessary, being 16d.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II 38:
Swieth Maggy gae mak me a cogfu' o' milk brose, an a placks worth o' spice in them.
Sc. 1786 A. de Cardonnel Numismata Sc. 33:
The plack is an ideal coin at the present time in Scotland.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems (1897) 61:
“Guid sooth” quo Kate “lass I'll be bun' To lay a plack forgain a pun'.”
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 150:
I'll lay a plack ye wad hae said ye never saw sic sport sin' ever ye war born.
Fif. 1823 W. Tennant Cardinal Beaton i. iii.:
Except a dry paternoster, and a drap holy water to sloken't wi', nae a plack's-worth we get frae ony o' them.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of the Lairds ii.:
For on that day [Union of 1707] the pound stirling came in among our natural coin, and, like Moses' rod, swallow't up at ae gawpe, plack, bodle, mark, and bawbie.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 258:
He rypit his siller spung for a plack.
Sc. 1955 I. H. Stewart Sc. Coinage 60:
At about this time [c.1470], two new billon denominations were added to the Scottish coinage, the plack and half-plack . . . The types of both coins were a crowned escutcheon with a crown above and crosses beside, and on the reverse a floreate cross fourchee with a central panel enclosing a saltire and crowns in each angle.
Sc. 1964 Southern Reporter (16 April) 7:
The stated price of the Burns stamp is “twa plack”. I wonder if there are any placks in Selkirk at the moment.

2. Transf. as a symbol of poverty or worthlessness: a small sum of money, a trifle, a whit, a mere nothing (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1966), commonly in proverbial phrs. Also combs. and phrs.: every plack, no a plack, plack-cradled, born in poverty.Ayr. 1786 Burns Scotch Drink xii.:
Nae howdie gets a social night Or plack frae them.
Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 37:
What use is Hebrew to a weaver? 'Twill no ae plack avail you ever.
Ags. 1812 R. Wighton Beggar's Son 39:
Waes my heart foo fouk plack-cradled Seldom can the bawbee mak.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley xlix.:
He wasna a plack the waur.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 133:
Nae a preen nor a plack car't the Man o' the Well.
Rnf. 1878 C. Fleming Poems 264:
There's no ane left noo worth a plack.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 96:
I carena a plack nor a farthin', nor baith.

3. Money in general, a sum of money, cash; one's wordly wealth. Also in pl. Hence plackless, penniless, hard-up (Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 18).Ayr. 1787 Burns Scotch Drink xvi.:
Poor plackless devils like mysel.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 130:
Better dwell in Indian clime Than here in wa's o' stane and lime Without the placks.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
Bothwell, that makes every wife's plack and her meal-ark his ain.
Sc. 1848 Chambers's Jnl. (8 Jan.) 21:
The sincere congratulations of Mr McClatchie . . . on the departure of the “graceless, plackless, randy creature.”
Ags. 1859 Arbroath Guide (10 Dec.) 4:
Sae she wad mak her plack, and turn Her spinnin' wheel.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 198:
The haill o' my haudin an' warldly plack Button'd beneath the coat on my back.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin Borderland (1933) 61:
I ne'er again may see the frien' . . . Whase cheerfu' word — and ready plack Some comfort aye ensured me.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (3 May) 2:
He went from the mundane sphere plackless.

4. Combs., phrs. and attrib. usages: (1) plack aboot, in equal shares, pound for pound. See Aboot, Suppl.; (2) plack an' bawbee, -farthing, -penny, adv. phr. to the last penny, every farthing, in full. Also as n. in 1826 quot. See also Bawbee, 1.; (3) plack an' penny day, the day following a market when left-over goods are sold cheap, “bargain” day; †(4) plack bill, Sc. Law: an informal term for a bill of Signet letters (see Letter, 2.), the summons or warrant presented to a debtor or the like in small civil actions (see quots.); (5) plack due, a small tax or duty, a petty custom. Hist.; (6) plack pie, -pye, a pie costing a plack; (7) plack purse, a purse for holding small coins, specif. a ceremonial or symbolic purse used in the payment of burgess and Guild entry money; (8) to birl one's plack, to spend money freely, esp. on drink; (9) to catch the plack, to make money, increase one's wealth. Hence catch-the-plack, n., a money-making activity, self-interest; (10) to come to a plack, to make money, to prosper in business; (11) to mak (one's) plack a bawbee, to increase one's wealth, make money; to profit from, turn a situation to one's advantage. Erron. in Mry. quot.; (12) twa an' a plack, = a considerable sum of money, “a lot”, freq. ironically.(1) Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 101:
My brither Tam and me took plack aboot, Because the test'ment wasna right made out.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 276:
Plack aboot's fair play. That is, each man should pay his fair share of the reckoning.
(2) Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxiii.:
I'll pay up your thousan pund Scots, plack and bawbee, gin ye'll be an honest fallow for anes.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 79:
I'll pay you plack and penny there Gif that I can.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxx.:
Plack and bawbee to the uttermost will be required aff ye.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 94:
The whisky-mongers . . . knew . . . that he would pay them plack and fardin.
Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny x.:
I aye paid him his rent, plack an' farthin'.
Abd. 1895 G. Williams Scarbraes 28:
Gin ye're fined, I'se pay't, plack and farthing.
(3) Sc. 1822 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 227:
Plack and Penny Day”, being the day immediately succeeding the market, when real slump bargains were going.
(4) Sc. 1761 Conviction to Those Capable of Conviction 5:
It is as easy for him to pen a bill to parliament, as for a writer's apprentice to pen a plack-bill for a horning.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 739, 101:
Plack bills or Bills of Signet Letters; are the warrants necessary to authorise the Keeper of the Royal Signet in Scotland to affix it to certain classes of the writs which pass that seal. In the case of diligences against the property or person, and in some other instances, owing to the peculiar nature of the case, signet letters must proceed on an immediate warrant from the Court of Session, interposed either in the shape of a decree, or of a deliverance, or interlocutor, on a bill, i.e. a petition praying for the letters.
Sc. 1848 Session Cases (1848–9) 29:
A bill for letters of loosing of arrestment was a plack bill.
Sc. 1946 A. D. Gibb Legal Terms 65:
Plack Bill. The bill on which summonses and letters of diligence proceeded. It was so-called because paid for by a plack, a copper coin of small value.
(6) Sc. 1706 J. Watson Choice Coll. i. 23:
Panches, Saucers, Sheepheads, Cheats, Plack-pyes.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 22:
Come back the morn, and ye'se get plack-pies for naithing.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xxx.:
He asked, in faltering tones, the huge landlord, . . . “whether he could have a plack-pie?”
(7) Inv. 1735 Inverness T.C. Min. MS. (15 Sept.):
John Forbes, Esq., younger of Culloden son to the Right Honble Duncan Forbes, Lord Advocate, received Burgess & Guild Brother for payment of five shillings in a plack purse as a burgess's son and spice and wine to the Magistrates & Council.
(8) Edb. 1721 A. Pennecuik Helicon 79:
The Farmers coming in to birle their Placks.
Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 15:
Then drouthie cronies meet to birl Their ora placks at e'en, man.
(9) Ayr. 1785 Burns 1st Ep. to J. Lapraik xx.:
Ev'n love an' friendship should give place To Catch-the-Plack!
Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 50:
To catch the plack be sure be cannie, For whats a body wanting money?
Rxb. 1807 J. Ruickbie Wayside Cottager 94:
If by it he can steal a groat Or catch a plack.
(10) ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 18:
John Prott an his man To the market they ran; They bought, they sold, Muckle money down told, Till they came till a plack, Steek your neive on that.
Cai. 1916 J. Mowat Proverbs 8:
He'll noor come to plack nor farthin.
(11) Mry. 1732 C. Fraser-Mackintosh Letters of Two Cents. (1890) 195:
Mrs Barbour is like to gain her point, but I fear she will not make a plack of her babie.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
When one adopts any plan supposed to be unprofitable, or pursues a course offensive to a superior, it is frequently said; You'll no mak your plack a bawbee by that.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xix.:
Aw'm thinnkin nedder you nor Mr Sleek-aboot made yer plack a bawbee by tiggin' wi' her.
(12) Abd. 1794 Tam Thrum Look afore ye loup 6:
There's some o' them wou'd gie twa an' a plack they had never seen't.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xvi.:
I wad wager twa and a plack that hemp plaits his cravat yet.
Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary I. xi.:
I'se wager twa an' a plack wi' you, that there sall be starns blinkin' i' the lift lang afore you get to Pettycur.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 185:
I wouldna lose thee for twa and a plack.

[O.Sc. plakk, = 1., 1473, plack pye, 1679, plack purse, 1686, twa and a plak, 1692; Du., Flem. plak, something flat, later applied to a coin of the 14th c. and later in the Netherlands.]

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"Plack n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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