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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.

STANCE, n., v. Also  staunce, †stans. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. In gen.: a standing-place, station, site, position, vantage-point, where one may stand, lit. and fig. Phrs. †at or to a stance, at or to a standstill; to take (up) a or one's stance, to take up one's stand or position. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1699 Proper Project for Scot. 35:
The Poor People, at last, are at a Stance.
Sc. 1722 W. Hamilton Wallace vi. iv.:
Their sad Misfortunes, and unlucky Chance, Which now had put their Measures to a Stance.
Sc. 1760 Invercauld Rec. (S.C.) 143:
These Highland Fir-woods are not fixed to a particular Spot, but gradually shift their Stances.
Edb. 1768 The Cry Attended 15:
Seceders better know their stance, Than to this novel spring to dance.
Sc. 1817 Scott Harold v. xii.:
Harold might see from his high stance.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxiii.:
Getting out the fire-engine from its stance under the stair.
Sc. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 5:
Thou flaff't thy wings, and in a crack Flew frae th' unsicker stance!
Gsw. 1865 J. Young Homely Pictures 155:
On guard he sat Upon a stance a story's hicht.
Gall. a.1900 “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 1:
Calm souch winna tine ye yer stances.
Abd. 1904 W. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 59:
The supper past, wi' cheery looks The ball-room they took stance in.
Lnk. 1923 J. S. Martin Scottish Earth 39:
Geordie wadna niffer stance For station e'er sae grand.
Rxb. 1924 Kelso Chron. (19 Sept.) 2:
Like that chap who arrived late, took up a stance in the rank and file.
Abd. 1944 C. Gavin Mt. of Light ii. i.:
He's ta'en up his stance at her verra door.

2. Specif.: (1) a site or foundation on which anything is laid or set up, e.g. a wall, loom, dunghill, peat- or corn-stack (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Sh., Cai., Ags., Per., Bwk. 1971).Sc. 1700 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 276:
For 300 plencher naills to the stance for bottles holding.
Lth. 1761 Session Papers, Petition G. Loch (27 July) 4:
Craigleith's Half was to be occupied with the stans of the Dike.
Fif. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (22 April) 128:
Weaver's Shop, consisting of 6 Loom Stances, and Loft above the same.
Ags. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (14 Jan.) 4:
A Dunghill Stance, with a quantity of Dung, situate above the road, opposite to Bearhill.
Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm III. 972:
The stance [of a haystack] should be raised 1 foot above the ground.
Wgt. 1881 Good Words 402:
Gif I had ae fut i' the grave, I wad kick a peat to its richt stance wi' the ither.
Inv. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence I. 704:
We were every third year, for ten years, compelled to leave our own kelp stance to others. . . . Our peats stance has been taken from us to make room for crofters and cottars.

(2) a building-site for a house, etc. (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.). Combs. building-stance, id. Gen.Sc.; stance-holder, one who possesses a stance, esp. in Highland crofting counties, one who took a piece of land with the intention of building a croft-steading on it.Sc. 1707 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. 84:
I went to Nairn, wher I was employed to determine the stance of a house.
Sth. 1730 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch 271:
The said new building, which is to be built by consent foresaid upon the stance commencing from the Cross eastward.
Abd. 1774 Abd. Journal (14 Nov.):
The Seventh and Eighth Stances for Houses upon the West-side of Marischal Street.
Kcd. 1813 G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 199:
There are already 150 houses built, and 50 more feus, or stances taken.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. iii.:
Cutting up the Saints-well-haugh into building-stances.
Arg. 1878 Trans. Highl. Soc. 84:
Long leases were offered to any one who would erect a house . . . 2s. 6d. a stance being the common rate.
s.Sc. 1880 Border Counties' Mag. I. 91:
The stance o' ma granfaither's hoose an' smiddy in the'45.
Rs. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence III. 1992, 2015:
There are at present twenty heads of families who have no lands whatever, except certain strips or “stances” adjoining their houses. . . . In 1862, as no rent could be got from the stance-holders, the grazings some of them held were taken from them.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 12:
Oor hoose'll be whaur God pinned aff the stance.

(3) a site for an open-air market, fair or the like. Gen.Sc. See also Mercat, 1. (12); the space for any single stand or side-show, a street-trader's pitch. Gen.Sc.; the place where an animal stands for sale in a market (Abd. 1930).Edb. 1814 Farmer's Mag. (Nov.) 466:
If they are not in the market the night before, it is not often that a stance can be got after day-light in the morning.
n.Sc. 1827 Inverness Courier (26 Sept.):
Two of the greatest market stances in the North of Scotland.
Rnf. 1884 N.B. Daily Mail (5 Aug.) 6:
Paisley Race Meeting. A few stances of Ground for Tents are still to let.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister xi.:
At the top of the roads there is a stance for circuses.
Rxb. 1924 Kelso Chron. (25 July) 4:
This old-established Border fair was held on the usual stance on St Boswells Green on Friday.
Sc. 1933 Session Cases 69:
A street trader shall not carry on business on any stance . . . unless he holds a permit from the chief constable for such stance.
Sc. 1937 St Andrews Cit. (7 Aug.) 7:
The showmen's vehicles and caravans ready to enter the city and take up their stances in South Street.
Abd. 1970 Deeside Field No. 6. 26:
Posts fixed by those in charge of the market to mark next day's stances for horses, different classes of cattle and sheep.

(4) a stage or overnight stopping-place for a drove of cattle on the way to a market. Now hist.Sc. 1846 Session Cases (1846–47) 211–2:
It was the practice for drovers to travel them [cattle] only at the rate of ten miles a-day; and to rest them during the night on stances at the road side. . . . They were called drove-stances, or stages.
Abd. 1961 J. Buchan Short Hist. Abd. 89:
During the night, the droves were allowed to stay, free of charge, in special stopping-places known as Stances. . . . For those which crossed from the headwaters of the River Don to Braemar there were stances at Inchrory and Loch Builg.

(5) a place where public vehicles stand waiting for passengers at the beginning of a run, a station or terminus for buses, etc. Gen.Sc.; occas. a halt or stop on a bus route.Edb. 1931 A. A. Macgregor Last Voyage 24:
The erection of stance poles [for trams] along Princes St.
Sc. 1938 St Andrews Cit. (8 Oct.) 3:
The boating stance at the Step Rock.
Sc. 1947 Scotsman (7 Feb.):
The establishment of a municipal bus stance in Charlotte Square.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 30:
" ... The Corbie Coach is wytin at the Castlegate staunce in the toun o Aiberdeen, far aa consairned may board her. Takk tent tae be back in yer places bi skreich o dawn neist mornin, on pain o everlastin damnation".

(6) a stall or place for an animal in a stable (Cai. 1904 E.D.D., Cai. 1971); the spot where a grazing animal is tethered.Abd. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 13:
As Jock gae'd shoudin' up the road Te shift the sheltie's stance.

(7) a witness-box or -stand.Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xlix.:
With my Damascus sword by my side I went to the stance.

3. In Golf: the position of a player's feet when about to strike the ball. Now in St. Eng.Sc. 1783 C. Smith Abd. Golfers (1909) 18:
No person shall be at Liberty to vary or better his Stance in playing, by breaking the Surface of the Green.
Edb. 1887 W. G. Simpson Art of Golf 45:
The player may experiment about his swing, his grip, his stance.

4. The “home” or base in children's games (n., em.Sc. (a) 1971).

II. v. 1. To station, place on a certain spot, assign a position to; to exhibit (an animal) for sale at a market (ne.Sc., Ags. 1971).Sc. 1715 D. Herd Sc. Songs (1776) I. 108:
For he ne'er advanc'd From the place he was stanc'd.
Sc. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 169:
Upon the champions twa, Stanc'd ilka ane to guard his wa'.
Sc. 1887 Scottish Leader (19 Oct.) 4:
Three thousand head of cattle of all breeds were stanced at Dalkeith yesterday.
Rxb. 1929 Kelso Chron. (23 Aug.). 5:
Perhaps they [police] are too busy stancing and directing the numerous cars which appear on market days.
Rs. 1936 C. Macdonald Echoes of Glen 132:
Each lot was stanced and the battle of buying and selling began.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 176:
[He] then rose up from his chair, a bit unsteadily at first, until he got stanced.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 228:
He stances his bike on a patch of sand and pebble.
Edb. 2004:
If ye stance the ladders right ye'll no faw.

2. Of cattle: to stop for the night at a stance. See I. 2.(4).Sc. 1951 A. R. B. Haldane Drove Roads 154:
The cattle ‘stanced' for the night in the meadow or beside the drove road.

[O.Sc. stance, a site, 1553, in a market, 1659, a standstill, 1649, to site, 1661, O.Fr. estance, residence, situation, pause, existence, Ital. stanza, room, place, stay, station, post, Late Lat. stantia, room, dwelling.]

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"Stance n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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