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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STIRK, n., v. Also stirc, sturk: ¶stirrock; and met. forms strick, strik(k) (I.Sc.). Dim. stirkie, -y. [stɪrk; I.Sc. strɪk]

I. n. 1. A young bovine animal after weaning, kept for slaughter at the age of two or three, not for breeding, and usu. referring to a steer or bullock, less freq. to a heifer, though the pl. gen. includes both (Sc. 1755 S. Johnson Dict., sturk, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. and in n. and m. Eng. dial. Also combs. bull(ock)-, heifer-, ox-, quey-, quoyack-, stot-, according to the sex of the animal; (shep)herd's stirk, a bullock belonging to a shepherd who has the right to graze it on his master's pasture as part of his perquisites.Fif. 1704 County Folk-Lore VII. 102:
His [the devil] feet was cloven like the feet of a stirk.
Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A. S. I. 65:
Three black Stricks, Each of them three years old. One black and white Ox strick and one Quoyack strick, each one year old.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 25:
A stirkie that had staver'd into a well-eye.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars Air 3. ii.:
I ance was ty'd up like a stirk For civilly swearing and quaffing.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 49:
The unco brute much dunching dried Frae twa-year-alls and stirks.
Sc. 1803 Trans. Highl. Soc. II. 213:
The calves, or stirks, as they are termed after Hallowmas.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf x.:
And leave us neither stirk nor stot.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. I. 104:
Tak' care o' his head and the bauks, and no fa' ower the bit stirk.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 142:
A bull-stirk grazing hard by.
Dmf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 389:
The grazing of a milk cow with a calf or stirk.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 134:
The haflin wi' stirk-like glowre.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 4:
Fan Kirsty tethered 'e stirk.
Uls. 1915 P. MacGill Rat Pit 48:
Run those hens from the house and the young sturk too.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 37:
Young stirks loupin' to the Mairt.
Sh. 1948 New Shetlander No. 8. 9:
A strik which lost da cud.
Lnk., Kcb. 1949 Scotsman (17 May):
50 herds' stirks, Bullock Stirk, Heifer Stirk . . . Shepherds' stirks.
Lth. 1970 Glasgow Herald (12 March) 23:
Friesian bullock stirks to £64 10s; Cross Hereford heifer stirks, to £62 10s.
Cai. 1991 John Manson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 77:
Aince I sat
On a stirk's heid
And if I hadna
Anither w'ud
Wippled wi rope
He'd been thrown
At a year auld
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 161:
Tanster's a fine herd o beise there, fine black stirkies.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 31:
They brought him in to the town around noon, his wrists tied by a rope to the saddle of a trooper's horse, like a stirk that had wandered.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 16:
Thin sprays o claret buds, the birks
Wave beeny fingers ower the stirks
That graze aside the dimplin burn
Far the slow sizzens drift an turn.

In proverbial phrs.: (1) there's aye some water whaur the stirk(ie) drouns or is drouned, = Eng. “there's no smoke without fire,” there must be some truth in the story (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 309). Gen.Sc.; (2) to be (putten)) in the stirk(ie)'s sta, -biss, of a child: (to be) supplanted in the prime and exclusive attentions of its parents by the birth of a younger brother or sister (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Per., Ayr. (biss), Kcb., Slk. 1971).Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 76:
When the pet child is transferred from his mother's to his father's bosom, in consequence of a younger aspirant coming on the field, he is said to be sent to the stirk's sta.
Lnl. 1896 Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 298:
Puir, little chiel! he feels the chain O' stirkie's sta'.
Fif. 1904 Caled. Med. Jnl. V. 179:
John Andrew (soon to be “put in the stirky's sta'”).
Bwk. 1912 J. Burleigh Ednam 137:
Wee Annie's in the stirkie's sta'.
m.Sc. 1928 O. Douglas Ann and Her Mother vi.:
Mark was never put in the “stirk's stall”; for you were a healthy, placid baby.

2. Transf.: (1) a sturdy young man (n.Sc., Slg., Ayr. 1971).Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 501:
A stalwart Stirk in tartain claise.
Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 338:
He was a strong, determined lad, “a hardy stirkie.”

(2) a stupid, oafish fellow (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), s.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 65:
For me, I took them a' for Stirks That loo'd na Money.
Ayr. 1785 Burns To J. Lapraik xii.:
A set o' dull, conceited hashes Confuse their brains in college-classes They gang in stirks, and come out asses.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 140:
One of the “Twa Stirks”, that, in the absence of the Stot, mislead the Scotsman.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 355:
The kintra stirrocks, fley'd o' skaith, Frae this wanchancie crowd.
s.Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 150:
Ye stupid stirk! why do ye stand there?
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Stirling Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc. (1923) 10:
A watch-hoose tae, pairt o' a kirk That some infernal Heilan' stirk Blew up in air sae hie.
Ags. 1875 Brechin Advertiser (20 April) 4:
He's a dumb stirk i' the Hoose o' Commons.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 8:
Fat's'at ye're sayan, ye feel stirk!
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 19:
Ye'll maybe think I'm just a stirk.
Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant ix.:
A stirk and the chief of stirks, that's what Alasdair is.

II. v. Of a cow: to be in calf (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.).

[O.Sc. stirk, = 1., 1329, = 2. (2), c.1590, O.E. stirc, dim. form of stēor, a steer.]

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"Stirk n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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