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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WARK, n., v. Also waurk (Edb. 1884 R. F. Hardy Glenairlie i.), werk (Slg. 1734 J. Love Antiq. Notes (1910) II. 26; Dmf. 1931–3 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 251). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. work (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein, Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.Sc. See also Wirk, v.

I. n. 1. As in Eng., labour, toil, etc. Phrs.: like a day's wark, with great vigour, for all one is worth (n., em.Sc. (a), sm.Sc. 1973); to mak fine or slight wark, to do a good or poor job. Combs. and derivs.: (1) death-wark, see Death, II., 12.; (2) warklike, industrious (Sh. 1973). Rare and obs. in Eng. since 17th c.; (3) warkloom, -lume, -lu(i)m, -leem, (i) gen. in pl., tools, implements, instruments (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 374, -lums; Gsw. 1912 Scotsman (9 Jan.), werkloom; Mry. 1925, -leems; Ork. 1930 Orcadian (13 Feb.); Sh. 1973). Also fig. of the body as the instrument of the spirit. In 1779 and 1786 quots. with allusion to sense (iii); (ii) specif. a mechanic's bench (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); (iii) the genitals. Cf. Lume, n., 3.; (4) warkly, diligent, industrious (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety I. 190, workly, 1808 Jam.); (5) wark-machine, any machine or mechanical contrivance (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (6) warkman, a porter (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scoticisms 103); (7) warkrife, = (1); ‡(8) wark-stot, see Stot, n.1, 1. Combs. (7).Edb. 1801 Brigs of Edinburgh 14:
Poets with their warks to sell
Crm. 1854 H. Miller Schools 150:
No apprentice or journeyman of his was permitted to make “slight wark.”
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin' Robin 33:
I was shovelin the roast beef an' tattie puddin into me like a day's wark.
Abd. 1922 Weekly Free Press (14 Jan.) 2:
It's verra fine seein' a young billie makin' fine wark wi' a ploo.
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 42:
Repentant o my infidelitie
And thae sculdudderie warks
Frae La Fontaine, Crebillon, Busny-Rabutin
I brocht intil the Advocates' Library,
That sent the pack o them yowlan at my heels
Like whulpies lowpan at Tod Lowrie's brush.
m.Sc. 1985 William Neill in Joy Hendry Chapman 41 24:
The wark o baith Grieve an Hay in pintin oot the integritie o Scotland is mair aften than no unduin bi the menseless poseurs wha divide Scotlan, like Gaul, intil three pairts
Cai. 1991 John Manson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 78:
Pit oot the yowes and lambs
In the morning at the lambin
Bifore gaan back til wark
In Aiberdeen or Embro
Sc. 2000 Herald (16 Sep) 18:
They mak entertainin readin in thirsels, comparin Fitt's new wark tae Shakespeare an MacDiarmid.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal (4 Oct) 12:
Weel, I hae tell't ye afore, tho a country loon tae the verra marra, I wis nivver that muckle acquaant wi fairm wark, so wi the stibble parks an the muckle bales the inspiration, I turn't tae Esma on wir road oot tae Langside.
(2) Per. 1881 D. MacAra Crieff 89:
He looked sae wark-like, aye stripped t' the sark.
Abd. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (2 March):
Dyod, ye're warklike the day, noo.
(3) (i) Sc. 1705 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 414:
For mending and upholding the brewing and washing loomes, and for a new count of new worklooms.
Gsw. 1742 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 117:
John Urie, hammerman in Rutherglen, who had his house and all his work looms brunt by ane accidental fire.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 36:
When ane gets warklums right to their hand, nature will teach them how to fa' to.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Deil xi.:
The best wark-lume i' the house, Is instant made no worth a loose, Just at the bit.
e.Lth. 1796 R. Gall Poems (1819) 26:
Sandie gat his wark-lumes a' in tune, To ca' some tackets in his shoon.
Sc. 1812 Scotchman No. 8. 74:
The rulers are abil to ack wi the united pith o the nation, because they hae the commaun o a' the warklooms an a' the graith furnisht by the nation for ackin on the sel o't.
Rnf. 1873 D. Gilmour Pen' Folk 53:
We, who laid thy old work-loom in the grave.
Slg. 1888 A. Hislop Bk. Sc. Anecdote 615:
Take nae graip wi' ye — use nae warkloom made by the hand o' man on the Lord's day.
Kcb. a.1902 Gallovidian (1913) 109:
Warklooms o' war will made by hoes and spades.
Abd. 1924 M. Argo Janet's Choice 17:
It will seen be beginnin' to gloam, look ye oot the wark-leems.
(iii) Sc. 1749 Session Papers, Montgomery v. Montgomery, Proof ix.:
He was forced to apply to Dr Macfarlane in Edinburgh to know of his Sufficiency, and to make Production of his Work-looms, of which she alledged there was great Defect.
(6) Abd. 1701–70 J. Bulloch Pynours (1887) 73, 76:
Each workman from the cran or the farthest part of the Estler work at the shoar for ane back burden to ane cellar loft or warehouse . . . The Porters or Workmen employed in unloading of Ships in the Harbour of Aberdeen.
(7) Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 36:
Her warkrife haun' an' couthie ways, Sune gat frae a' aboot her praise.
Gsw. 1877 J. Young Prose & Verse 52:
Ye warkrife sewsters, ane an a'.

2. A business, fuss, to-do, ‘song-and-dance'; goings-on; trouble, disturbance, outcry (I., n., em., wm.Sc., Dmf. 1973).Bte. 1702 Session Bk. Rothesay (1931) 153:
The forsaid Duncan M'Avish had enquired of her What bony work was yon she had in the wood with Patrick Campbell.
Wgt. 1716 Session Bk. Wigtown (1934) 208:
“A bra wark, Mrs, a doing about your house this night,” and she asking What wark? the said Janat replyd, “Ye may go where Archbald Gill is at the back window of the chamber.”
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 191:
When geets grow rife, 'tis then begins the wark.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch ii.:
A little spark may make muckle wark.
Bnff. 1844 T. Anderson Poems 22:
Our kirk, 'Bout whilk o' late there's been sic wark.
Sc. 1876 A. Hislop Bk. Sc. Anecdote 285:
She thus expressed her opinion of the Episcopal wedding, “Awfu' fal-lal wark thon!”
Lth. 1920 C. P. Slater Marget Pow (1925) 191:
She's a grand sleeper; it's an awfu' work to get her up.
Abd. 1960:
Sic a wark about naething!
Sh. 1972 Tocher No. 8. 249:
There were a graet wark wi puttin baas, an they puttit baas till the 24th night [of Yöl].

Phrs. to hae (ne.Sc. 1973), haud (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; ne.Sc. 1973), mak (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 119) a wark (about, ower, wi), freq. of demonstratively affectionate attentions, or unnecessary stir or trouble (I., n.Sc., Per. 1973).Ags. 1794 “Tam Thrum” Look before ye loup 34:
He wou'd mak' sic a wark wi' his arms, as if he had been gaen to knock us aw down.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 118:
She soon perceiv'd it a' in vain To haud a wark.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
What's the use of making a wark?
Ayr. 1833 Galt Howdie, etc. (1923) 228:
He was fiky, and made more work about trifles that did na just please him.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 593:
To come to the bairn again that ye haud sic a wark about.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 79:
The dougs [wad] a' loup an' mak wark wi' her.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer ii. xviii.:
Ilka bonnie lass 'at may like to haud a wark wi' ye.
Cai. 1869 M. MacLennan Peasant Life 106:
Faither haes a great wark wi' ye, an' says ye maun be bridesmaid.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart xiv.:
He aye had a fell wark wi' Marg'et, an' he has a sair wark wi' her now.
Fif. 1900 S. Tytler Logan's Loyalty ii.:
To make a work about her troubles of mind or body.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Bairns, whatn a wark is dis at ye're makkin? Du's made dee a wark aboot it.
m.Sc. 1932 O. Douglas Priorsford xviii.:
Puir wee Miss Alison has an awfu' wark wi' angels.
Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 19. 25:
Een hedd da shair, een da vaases, een da clock, an da tidder een da tengs, so dey wir haddin' dem a wark.

3. A building, esp. of a public or imposing kind (Sc. 1880 Jam.). Now only in hist. or arch. use.Abd. 1702 Rec. Old Abd. (S.C.) II. 108:
Taking to ther consideration that the old work of the Kings Colledge is turned ruinous.
Dmf. 1746 R. Edgar Hist. Dmf. (1915) 57:
The Old Kirk or St. Michale's Work.
Sc. 1782 F. Douglas E. Coast Scot. 113:
The ground floor of the old work is all taken up with the public school.
Edb. 1910 Scotsman (3 Sept.):
The Wark was the old Scottish name for George Heriot's magnificent pile. The boys still used that term in my correspondent's time.
Sc. 1963 Hist. Mon. Comm. Slg. I. 44:
Mar's Wark, the despoiled remains of a former town-house of the Earls of Mar [in Stirling].
Abd. 1973 P.O. Aberdeen Directory 1:
Town Council. Master of Shoreworks . . . Master of Kirk and Bridge Works . . .

4. A religious revival, specif. of the evangelical campaign at Cambuslang in 1742, sc. the work of God in redemption in allusion to e.g. John vi. 29, Ephesians iii. 20.Sc. 1742 T. Somerville Life (1861) 69:
All the ordinary symptoms of a delusion attending the present awful work upon the bodies and spirits of men.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ayrshire Leg. vi.:
There had not been seen, since the Kaimslang wark, such a congregation as was there assembled.
ne.Sc. 1887 G. G. Green Gordonhaven 75:
The wark's broken oot at the Houp. There was an extry meetin' last nicht, an' lots o' anxious sowls.

5. As reduced form of work-house (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 111).

II. v. As in Eng. This usage is an adoption of the n. form as a v., very rare in O.Sc. The historic Sc. form is Wirk, q.v. Deriv. warker, worker (Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 14).Sc. 1891 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxviii. 2:
Fast, afore the face o' God, the warkers o' wrang sae fa'.
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs 14:
Wark yer best — but youth is short.
Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (18 Jan.):
Year after year we wark at the same.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 15:
Nae warkin' for a wage.
Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 14:
She believes the caller air o' Redcleugh 'll wark miracles on him.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... Weill, ilka mornin the factory bummers'd soun aff, aince tae gar the warkers get out o their beds, an aince mair, a wee whilie efter, tae gar them get intil their wark. ... '
Dundee 1998 W. N. Herbert The Laurelude 147:
So ye warked in thi Borders
in a sma legal firm
and mairriet a maik hailed fae Melrose.
Uls. 2003 Belfast News Letter (1 Nov) 34:
Joe micht bae a toon raired bhoy bit eh knaws hoo tae wark a kintra crood an kep aa hans lauchin aa nicht.

[O.Sc. wark, n., a.1400, v., 1612, the Sc. form from O.E. weorc, n., werke, a building, 1387, master of werk, 1458, werklum, tool, 1475, warkman, a porter, 1583.]

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"Wark n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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