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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SPARK, n., v. Also spairk (Dmf. 1836 Carlyle Life in London (Froude 1884) I. 75), sperk (Dmf. 1898 J. Paton Castlebraes 246; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), spirk. Dim. forms sparky, spirkin, spirklich. Sc. forms and usages. [spɑrk; s.Sc. spɛrk; ne.Sc. + spɪrk]

I. n. 1. (1) A small particle or amount of something, liquid or semi-liquid (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif. 1971). Obs. in Eng.Sc. 1811 Edb. Annual Reg. lxxiv.:
Sparks of water.
Ags. 1823 A. Balfour Foundling II. iii.:
You an' the callan will gang awa' hame, an' send out by Elspa wi' a spark o' gin.
Ayr. 1833 Galt Stories of Study II. 204:
Spatterdashes, to keep off the sparks of the street.
Mry. 1851 D. Paul Poems 86:
Milk sae het that feint a spark o' it wad yearn.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (20 July):
Shü comes ta wiz fir a spark o' mylk.
Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 14:
Nae spirk o' weet kent foo tae fa'.

(2) Specif.: (i) (a nip of) spirits, whisky; (ii) a drop of water; a rain drop (Sc. 1894 in Child Ballads (1956) V. 377, spirk; Uls. 1953 Traynor; ne.Sc., Ags. 1971); (iii) a splash, spot of mud, etc. (ne.Sc. 1971).(i) Per. 1816 J. Duff Poems 128:
The name, (M'Rostie) can ye read it, Wha keeps a spark for them wha need it.
Nai. 1828 W. Gordon Poems 31:
The night it blew, and Tam was fu', He stammer'd wi' the sparky.
Mry. 1877 J. Ross Poems (1929) 4:
He took at times a wee bit spark.
(ii) Sc. 1828 Young Allan in Child Ballads No. 245 B. xv.:
She's plowen thro the stormy seas Like sparks out o a weet.
Ags. 1864 Arbroath Guide (27 Feb.) 3:
There are guid enough wells, nae doubt, i' the Park, But fat matters that we'll no get a spark.
(iii) Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 164:
Honest man, that use the broom, To scrub the streets, and fulsie rakes! For's to walk clean, but dubs or sparks.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 29:
His breeks an' grauvit tee Wi' spirks were clortit.

2. A scattering, spray, sprinkling.Abd. 1930:
Yon screengin tyke wis roon yesterday again, but Aw gya him a fleg, wi' a spirklich o' barley.

II. v. 1. tr. To set something alight; to light a match, fire, etc. (em.Sc.(a), wm. and sm.Sc. 1971); to cause to emit sparks, kindle.Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 58:
His wife had sparkit a spunk the auld clock face to see.
Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 99:
I held the flint and steel tae spark the paper.
Dmf. 1914 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 72:
The match wad be fizzlin' oot and burnin' his fingers. Then he wad spark anither.
Ags. 1924 M. Angus Tinker's Road 39:
A wind that sparks the peat.

2. tr. To spatter something with liquid or dirt, to bespatter, soil, to spot with mud (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I. and ne.Sc. 1971). Sometimes with up. Also fig. Vbl.n. spirkin, a drop from a splash (Sc. 1894 in Child Ballads (1956) V. 377).Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 81:
Young lasses' fame, my dainty joe, Is unco easy sparkit.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
You're sparkin' a' your white stockings.
Slk. 1832 Hogg Altrive Tales 178:
His coat was all sparked over with blood.
Peb. 1838 W. Welsh Poems 25:
Round their lugs they yerket The tripes an' trollies o' the ewe, Till a' the grund was sparket.
Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe 36:
Most likely sparked up with glaur.
Abd. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 22:
Splashin' in the basin, Sparkin' a' the wa'.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 4:
O a suddenty, the back wheel o the tractor laired in the dubby sheugh aside the burn an furled roon, spirkin glaur in ilkie airt.

3. tr. With in: to sprinkle, scatter (seed), to mix in (in small quantities), vbl.n. sparkin, a sprinkling; to scatter dung on a field (Ork. 1971). Cf Spart.Mry. 1825 Jam.:
Shall I spark in some of thai grass seeds?
Abd. 1894 Trans. Bch. Field Club III. 142:
The phrase was, “to spark in” the bere or “to pit a sparkin o' bere amo' the aits.”

4. intr. To throw out a fine spray of droplets or tiny particles; to sputter, spit forth (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I., ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lnk., sm.Sc. 1971), hence sparker, a sausage; to issue, come forth, fall as or in the manner of sparks (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), to fly in all directions.Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 40:
Now glass an' guts [of his watch] did spark an' splarge.
Lnk. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 57:
I maun dicht my sparkin' pen.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (25 Dec.):
Da brü is sparkid apo da gless, an' laid him in smiddereens.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin Borderland 53:
To wash their fleshbags — get 'em dried, And cook their clag and sparkers.
Abd. 1912 J. Stephen Donside Lilts 28:
Bit burstin' pipes gart hoose wives cry, ‘The watter oot is spirkin'.
Ork.1 1948:
The hail was sparkin affo the riff.
Ags. 1953 Kirriemuir Free Press (3 Sept.):
When hauf-blawn bubbles spark't or burst Or didna rise a' richt.

5. impers. To rain slightly; to spit with rain (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I. and ne.Sc. 1971). Vbl.n. sparkin, a light shower of rain (Abd. 1971).Abd. 1868 G. Gall MS. Diary (6 July):
Windrawing the hay, and colling it. . . . There was a spirking of a shower after brakefastime.

[O.Sc. spark, a drop, 1568, to bespatter, 1513.]

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"Spark n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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