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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.

WAUK, v., n. Also wauke (Rxb. 1913 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 49), wawk, wa(a)k; ¶walk; waik (Ags. 1927 L. Spence Weirds and Vanities 2). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. wake. [wɑk, wǫk]

I. v. 1. intr. (1) To be or stay awake, not to be asleep, to be sleepless or to have wakened from sleep (Cld. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Freq. in ppl.adjs. pres. waukin(g), past wauken, which have become confused in use as in wauken hours (em.Sc. 1909 J. Black Melodies 13; Sc. 1926 Edb. Ev. News (6 Aug.) 4). See etym. note. Gen.Sc. Rare or arch. in Eng. Phr. and derivs.: waukative, wakeful, easily aroused from sleep (Ork. 1929 Marw.); wauker, one who keeps awake, a non-sleeper; wide waukin, wide awake (Ork. 1973).Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 161:
O wha's that at my chamber door? “Fair widow, are ye wawkin?”
Cai. 1745 Session Papers, Miln v. Dunbar (7 Jan.) 14:
She was in the house all Night, and waked, and did not go to Bed.
Sc. c.1770 Herd's MSS. (Hecht 1904) 240:
A' the night I wak, A' the day I weary.
Ayr. 1794 Burns For the Sake o' Somebody i.:
I could wake a winter night For the sake o' Somebody.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf x.:
I ken ye're within doors, and wauking.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 72:
1 was wide wakin whan ye came to bed.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv., viii.:
The bein' in the cradle was lyin' wide wauken. . . . There are generally mair sleepers than waukers amang the weary worshippers.
Rxb. 1883 J. B. Webber Rambles 63:
The windy man Will keep us waken if he can.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xix.:
She was up, though, lang afore he was wauken.
Gsw. 1933 F. Niven Mrs. Barry xxi.:
“Are you wauken, laddie? ” she whispered.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iii.:
Ye maan hae time tae sleep an' waak on a projeck.
Sh. 1956 New Shetlander No. 44. 21:
He wid lie waaken in his bunk at night.
Rs. 1991 Bess Ross Those Other Times 240:
"What are you doing still waken?" Grace folded her tie and put it on the chair.
"I was trying to learn a poem for tomorrow," Marjie said.
"Well, you can get to sleep. The light's going off when I'm ready."
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 116:
Waukin, ye'll find us aiblins drouthy,
But no fer bluid, ken, we're mair couthy.

(2) To be wakeful and watchful, to be vigilant. Hence phr. to wake and ward, of a citizen of a burgh: to fulfil official duty as sentinel or watchman. See also 2. and Watch, v., 1. Hist.Sc. a.1714 New S.C. Misc. II. 367:
I shall Scot, Lot, Watch, Wake and Ward with the inhabitants of this burgh.
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 20:
Fairies still wauk'd i' the haunted glen.

2. tr. (1) To guard, watch over, keep an eye on (places, live-stock, etc.), esp. during the night (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.). Also in Eng. dial. Deriv. wauker, a watchman, specif. one who watches bleaching or drying clothes (Sc. 1908 Jam.). Freq. in vbl.n. and phrs. as below; for to wauk the loan, — the taings, see Loan, n.1, 1., Tangs, 2. (8); to wauk one's wit, to be alert and quick-witted, to master a subject quickly, to sharpen one's wits.Sc. 1725 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 209:
Yet well I like to meet her at The wawking of the fauld.
Gall. 1725 Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 460:
One morning early coming from the waking of the loan.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam Glen vii.:
Last Halloween I was waukin My droukit sark-sleeve.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Wauking of the Claise, the act of tending, during night, a washing of clothes, spread out on the grass to be bleached or dried. Wauking o' the Fauld, the act of watching the sheep-fold, about the end of summer, when the lambs were weaned, and the ewes milked. Wauking o' the Kirk-yard, the act of watching the dead after interment, for preventing the inroads of resurrection-men.
Sc. 1827 G. R. Kinloch Ballad Book 23:
The lassie and the laddie Gaed out to wauk the mill.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 278:
You shall gang and wake the lambs wi' Sandy a' night.
Mry. 1887 W. H. L. Tester Poems 39:
On summer nichts, wauken the claes Wi' maidens fair.
Lnk. 1895 W. Stewart Lilts 131:
We ne'er can wauk oor wut owre early.
Sc. 1901 Scotsman (20 Aug.) 7:
When it [malt] had reached the proper point of ‘sweet ' heat it had to be kiln-dried at once; otherwise it lost strength. Hence it was common to “wauk maut.”

(2) Specif. to stay up all night with (a sick person, or, more frequently, a corpse); to keep vigil, to hold a funeral wake for. Also in Eng. dial. Fig. in phr. to wauke the auld year into the new, to see the New Year in. Derivs. waukin, vbl.n., a wake, wauker, one who keeps vigil over a corpse.Sc. 1759 Session Papers, Petition J. Smith (16 Jan.) 16:
The Lady was waked every night, like a dying person.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 46:
“To wauke the auld year into the new”', is a popular and expressive phrase for watching until twelve o'clock announces the new year.
Inv. 1812 E. Grant Memoirs (1898) 192:
He died, and was waked, after the old fashion, shaved and partly dressed and set up in his bed.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
Naebody cared to wake Sir Robert Redgauntlet like another corpse.
Sc. a.1848 D. Hogg Rev. J. Wightman (1873) 111:
The “waukin” of the corpse was a matter requiring considerable fortitude. The “waukers” kept a candle burning all night beside the body.
Abd. 1861 J. Davidson Poems 47:
My Jean caught infection while waukin' Grace Horne.
Mry. 1887 A. G. Wilken Peter Laing 33:
We aye waukit the corpses, an' I can tell ye we hed sometimes near aboot as cheery times then as we hed at mairrages.
m.Lth. 1911 J. Dickson Crichtoun 115:
The “sitting up,” or waukan, as it was sometimes called, was quite common until recent years.

II. n. 1. Awakening, rousing, in nonce phrs. wauk o' day, = break of day, dawn, walk o' wind, the raising of wind.Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Sept.) 658:
That chief wizard Walter Comyne, wha built a castle wi' walk o' wind — necromantic wind I mean.
Ayr. 1913 “Kissock” Poems 28:
A smile like wauk o' day.

2. (1) in pl.: town waits, a small band of musicians, maintained by a town at the public charge, who frequently played in streets by night at Christmas and the New Year. See Hoboy(e).Edb. 1856 Scotsman (1 Jan.):
At the hour of midnight the melodious strains of the “Wakes ” are frequently heard. In Edinburgh the Wakes are appointed by the Town Council. . . . Some months ago, the Wakes, as a body, took the opportunity of petitioning the Magistrates and Council for a renewal of their old allowance. After due deliberation the prayer of their petition was not granted.

(2) Only in Hogg: a serenade, a midnight concert of song or instrumental music.Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 5, 135, 330:
Those wakes, now played by minstrels poor, At midnight's darkest, chillest hour, Those humble wakes, now scorned by all, Were first begun in courtly hall . . . The lake-fowl's wake was heard no more . . . So low has the characters of the minstrels descended, that the performers of the Christmas wakes are wholly unknown to the most part of those whom they serenade.

3. Appar. a guard, a state of watchfulness, a vigil. The word occurs in various texts of the ballad below but the passage may be corrupt.Sc. c.1800 Erlinton in Child Ballads No. 8 A. v.:
In my bower, Willie, there is a wane, An in the wane there is a wake; But I will come to the green woods The morn, for my ain true-love's sake.

4. As in Eng. and Ir., the custom of sitting up with the dead. Comb. †wake-dip, a candle lit at a wake, which indicated by its manner of burning how the deceased was faring in the next world (Ayr. 1930).

[As explained in N.E.D. the verb wake derives from the fusion of two O.E. verbs, weak wacian and defective strong *wacan. The strong verb has a pa.p., Mid.Eng. waken, O.N. vakinn, awake, which survives in Sc. as wauken, the w- preventing the fronting of the a.]

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"Wauk v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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