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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

TURSE, v., n. Also turce (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 329), turs(s), turze (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 453); tursh (Cai.); ¶turst; tirse. [tʌrs]

I. v. 1. tr. (1) To truss or pack up, to make into a bale or bundle (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201; Mry. c.1930; Cai., Bnff. 1973). Also used absol. Ppl.adj. in comb. tursed-like, of sewing: roughly stitched, cobbled (Abd. 1930); vbl.n. tursin, turssan, packing up or baling (straw) (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201); a bundle.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 57, 151:
They turs'd the baggage, an' awa' they scour, . . . When I'm tursing at my pocks.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 33:
Gif I them [arrows] in my tursin had.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 121:
Auld Daddy having's win'lins turst, Cries butt the cur.
Gall. c.1900 Gallovidian (1912) 185:
We aye got on fu' weel thegither; In simmer tursed the hay or woo'.
Sh. 1933 J. Nicolson Hentilagets 19:
For if it's gaein ta com a moaderit day, We'll hae ta try an tirse among da coarn.
ne.Sc. 1934 Sc. N. & Q. (July) 100:
Gaugers' Wisdom: Faur there's ferlies and fearsome sichts, Ye're aye sure they're tursin' th' stuffie.

2. To adjust or arrange one's clothing, to dress (oneself) up, to dress oneself for cold weather, to wrap up (Cai. 1973), to take an infant from the cradle and dress it (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 62:
Blythe at her heart she was, an' turst her coat Upon her back, an' to the rode she got.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 27:
Ilk lass begins her back to lout, Her cotties a' to turse.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 45:
Early i' the mornin' Sawny raise, An' turses himsel'.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 76, 127:
Wash an' turse, an' mak' yer bun'le . . . Ye'll turse yersel an' gyang richt in.
Abd. c.1920:
I maun ging and get tursed, i.e. dressed, tidied up in dress.

3. To start off, set to work; to set out, take oneself off, be gone; with about, to strut about (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 329).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 84:
Their browden breasts that night took little sleep, An' turs'd again as soon's the day did peep.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201:
Turss, lads; haud at it, an' let's hae deen wee't.
Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 176:
It makes but little maetter Wha's king, if he draw lichtly on his purse, Or to his ain peat-rickle let him turse.

4. To grapple with a heavy burden (Ork. 1905 E.D.D.).

II. n. 1. A truss, bundle, bale, any large quantity or untidy bundle of straw, thatch, sticks, etc. (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ork., Cai., Arg. 1973); also a load, in a fig. sense.Inv. 1720 Steuart Letter Bk. (S.H.S.) 111:
Send me per said Ship Margaret four hogsheads in Turses [of tobacco].
Edb. 1729 Caled. Mercury (24 March):
93 Hens, 156 Carriages and 10 Turse of Straw.
Bnff. 1747 W. Cramond Cullen Ho. (1887) 15:
He saw the Highlanders carrying off turses of papers and parchments.
Rxb. 1776 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (1924) 51:
2 turces of broom from Hindhope.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 32:
Lot lost his wife, a sinfu' turss.
em.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
A turs of heather, as much heath as a horse can carry on his back.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 150:
A mighty turse, O' moral ills, is spued by thee — An empty purse.
Per. 1905 E.D.D.:
Tynin' turssis gaitherin' straes.
Cai. 1916 John o' Groat Jnl. (31 March):
A handful of this “gloy” was called a “tait”; a big bundle was known as a “tursh.”
Abd.15 1930:
It's aa ruggit thegidder in a turse [of a rough patch].

2. A big, ungainly, shapeless woman, a “sack” (Sh., Cai. 1973).Cai. 1930 John o' Groat Jnl. (3 Jan.):
'Is Caithness boyack fae Chicago says yir a brave fat tursh.

3. Titivating or tidying oneself, the act of dressing an infant (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201).Abd. 1926 M. Argo Makkin' o' John 16:
I'll need to gie masel a bit turst tho'.

4. Labour or difficulty in carrying, a heaving and shoving.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201:
We hid a gey turss o' the kist or we got it up the stair.

[O.Sc. turss, to bundle up, 1375, a bale, 1472, met. form of Eng. truss. Cf. O. Fr. to(u)rse, n., tourser, v.]

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"Turse v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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