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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.

SUNK, n.1 Also sonk and dim. forms sunkie, sonkie. [sʌŋk]

1. A seat made of turf, a kind of settle or sofa made of sods laid in layers, freq. constructed at the fireside or against a sunny gable (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 155; Uls. 1904 E.D.D.); a bench or long seat, in gen. Dim. sunkie, a little bench or stool, e.g. a milking-stool (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1747 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 205:
The Prince sat at the cheek of the little ingle, upon a fail sunk.
Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 184:
A butt an' ben, Wi' earthen sunks a' round about the wa'. Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 129: Cosily on the green sunk they sat. Rnf. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 156: I threw my pen upon the sunk. Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxii.: Mony a day hae I sat on my sunkie under that saugh.
Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frf. 88:
A turf-built sofa by the fire, termed a sunk.
Mry. 1866 J. Shanks Elgin 172:
The old stone, called in Morayshire a sunk, which sat by the old fireplace.

2. A bank or wall, esp. of earth or turf. Comb. sunk-dyke, a wall built of stone or turf at one side and earth at the other, a face-dyke (see Face, n., 2. (3)) (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 186).Bnff. 1812 D. Souter Agric. Bnff. 143:
Forming the sunk or bank of earth in a proper manner, at 3d. per ell.
Abd. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XII. 361:
26,900 ells of double ditch and sunk or mound between the two ditches.
Abd. 1875 A. Smith New Hist. Abd. II. 925:
The larger farms are enclosed . . . with earthen sunks and hedgerows.

3. (1) A pad or cushion formed by stuffing sacking with straw or the like and used esp. as a substitute for a saddle (Sc. 1808 Jam.), gen. in pl. as forming a pair slung on either side of the horse. Comb. Sunk-pock, a bag tied to the sunks in which a tinker may carry his “goods, baggage and children” (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Sc. c.1714 Jacobite Minstrelsy (1829) 47:
He'll ride nae mair on strae sonks, For gawing his German hurdies. Slg. 1767 Caled. Mercury (21 Nov.): Her horse, feeding in a field hard by, the sunks not wet.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 12:
My father left me when he died, fifty merks, twa pair of sunks.
Peb. 1793 R. Brown Comic Poems (1817) 129:
Jock, the Laird's brither and guide, On yad and sunks astraddle. Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality i.: A ‘sunk', or cushion of straw, instead of saddle.
Dmf. 1830 W. Bennet Traits Sc. Life II. 140:
When the ladies ride abroad, their steeds are caparisoned in straw sonks and hair halters.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 44:
A lusty dragoon, lifted him from his sunks on the pony.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 90:
Lay the sunks on your yellow mare.
Dmf. 2000 Betty Tindal Old Mortality 13:
Ah wis nae oil-peintin masel, thin wi a knobbly backbone, so as Robert hid tae use a strae "sunk", or cushion tae pad me oot, whin he wis ridin, or whin Ah'd tae cairry a wecht.

(2) Fig. a hefty corpulent person, with a sack-like figure (Kcd., Ags. 1971). Dim. sunkie, id. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 430).Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer i. vi.:
“Because I tauld that sunk, Lumley — ” “Ca' naebody names, Robert.”
Ags. 1882 Brechin Advert. (24 Oct.) 3:
Lord Panmure wis a great sunk o' a man. Ags. 1957: A great sunk o' a wuman. A sunk o' a bairn.

[Orig. obscure. O.Sc. sonk, straw saddle, c.1500, turf seat, 1513.]

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"Sunk n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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