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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

QUERN, n.2 Also quairn. A grain, granule, small seed, or the like (Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Mry., Abd. 1967); also fig. a (small) quantity, modicum, fraction. Cf. Eng. †kern, id. Adj. querny, -ie, quairny, granular, composed of small grains or particles, coarse or rough to the tongue, used e.g. of honey (Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 242; Knr. 1825 Jam.; Ayr. 1880 Jam.; Bnff. 1967). Comb. querney-rot, a form of the rot in sheep so called from the granular appearance of the liver and lungs on dissection.s.Sc. 1803 Trans. Highl. Soc. III. 464:
Some people have been led to consider the rot as of two kinds, viz. the querny, or black rot, proceeding from foul feeding, and the hunger-rot from an absolute deficiency of food of every kind.
Sc. 1818 Sawers:
Salt, coarse grained sugar, the pulp of a gooseberry, of a fig, etc. are said to be Quairny.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems 45:
We've seen that Tammie, when a bairn, O' wut possess'd an extra quern.
Rnf. 1876 D. Gilmour Pen' Folk 46:
Before asking the blessing, she placed the sugar mug in her lap; and . . . if any daring urchin tried to abstract a quern while her eyes were closed, a finger and thumb caught the intruder.
Bnff. 1902 Banffshire Jnl. (4 Feb.) 4:
Rough husky brose went under the name of querny brose.
Abd. 1952 (Boddam):
The small seed-grains of raspberries or brambles or the like are called querns.

[Etym. somewhat uncertain, phs. a variant of Curn, n.1 Cf. Quid, Quile, Quite, etc. and also note to Kirn, n.2]

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"Quern n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Feb 2024 <>



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