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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.

WHEEN, n., adj. Also †whean, †whin(e); erron. whing. The word, orig. a noun used adv., came later to be construed as an adj. and to be used as equivalent to Eng.

(a) few. As in Sc. nouns of quantity gen. dispense with the prep. o(f) following, it is not always possible to determine the part of speech represented by wheen. See etym. note. [ʍin] 1. With the indef. art. and followed by a pl. noun or a noun construed in Sc. as such: a few, a small number, several (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 693: Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson: Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen. (but chiefly m. and s.) Sc.: hence any indefinite or indeterminate number or quantity, freq. with bonnie, gey, etc., connoting a considerable amount (Cai., wm.Sc. 1974). Sometimes with o(f). Also absol. with ellipsis of the noun governed (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 105).Sc. 1757 Session Papers, Beugo v. Beugo (28 Jan.) 14:
He accordingly got the kail, and supped a whine of them.
Sc. 1769 D. Herd Sc. Songs 290:
There was a bonny wie ladie Was keeping a bonny whine sheep.
Bwk. 1780 Session Papers, Johnston v. Robertson (July) 8:
He and other four labourers did dig up and remove a guid wheen of the ashes.
Ags. 1794 “Tam Thrum” Look before ye Loup 20:
A whin ragamuffins o' their ain makin'.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xli.:
There's a wheen German horse down at Glasgow yonder.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
The storm cut off a wheen o' the creatures.
Ayr. 1838 J. Morrison M'Ilwham Papers 10:
A gay wheen o' yer auld cronies.
Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 133:
I said I would tak a whean meal.
Sc. 1875 A. Hislop Anecdotes 128:
Had he lived a wheen mae years.
Abd. 1877 G. MacDonald M. of Lossie I. iii.:
I ha'e a wheen cowmon sense, an' that maun jist stan' for the lave.
Kcb. 1897 J. Morrison Miss McGraw 14:
Whiles she'll tak' a wheen porridge an' whiles a bit o' scone.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 23:
For . . . has seldom seen the maik o' at “The Inn,” Tho' it has seen a wheen!
Sc. 1909 Colville 86:
We have every grade of quantity among a humble folk, considerate of small things, in the series — a tait, a curn, a stime, a bittock, a hantle, a wheen, a feck.
m.Sc. 1922 O. Douglas Ann & her Mother ix.:
There was an awfu' wheen scones eaten.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 4:
Pei-soop, a wheen grand thing A faand thum.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Rhymes of a Besom Man 28:
The weather was killin' This last wheen o' weeks.
wm.Sc. 1956 R. Jenkins Guests of War ii. i.:
We've been here only a wheen o' minutes.
Slk. 1964 Southern Reporter (19 March) 9:
There's a wheen colds about this spring.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 22:
"We ride to every fight, by God! - and to this fight I will ride at the head of my men, and we'll no skulk among the sties like a wheen of grunting pigs! No! A hundred reeking fields I've fought, ... "
Ayr. 1988:
My God! Luck ower there! There's a wheen folk in the park [a large number]; There's a wheen yachts in the harbour the day!
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 80:
Whatever they may have called a collection of Saints in days gone by, swarm, covey or herd, there was a wheen of them with Scottish connections however vague, that formed a holy mesh to support the faithful.
Sc. 1991 Scotsman 2 Apr 10:
These peat-cutters, however were a couple of professors, a wheen of PhDs, and the obligatory extras on Employment Training from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.
Gsw. 1994 Alasdair Gray A History Maker 138:
" ... I had a wheen of bairns before I tired of housework. I was good at childbirth but never nursed the gets for more than a week because I didnae like small thoughtless animals. ... "
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
A wheen o fowk fae aw the pairts
O "Cool Caledonia" as they cried it.
Walked fae aw ower the place
Tae build a wee cairn up the hill - richt up the tap.
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 53:
There's aye a wheen o wars gan on
aroon the warld, an aye will be;
it's jeest yer luck if ye get struck
an sunnert fae yer faimily.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 15:
O Judas an yer britherheid,
Cum nou afore him on yer knees;
Ye fugie band that nae-sayed Christ
Or sellt him for a wheen bawbees.

Comb. cooling wheen, see quot.Sc. 1838 Chambers's Jnl. (29 Dec.) 392:
In Scotland, where broth is an almost daily food amongst the rural population, the Cooling Wheen is the name given to a small quantity of that mess taken from the pot when nearly ready, in order to try it. This quantity or wheen is generally set at the door or window to cool — hence the name.

2. A separate or distinct number (of persons, etc.), a party, group, bunch, some as opposed to others, gen. in pl.Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 125:
Ither wheens in social soar, Play'd fun wi' ane anither.
Cld. 1818 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 155:
They rade furth in three wheens.
Cld. 1825 Jam.:
“Wheens focht, and wheens fled.” “How mony wheens were there?” i.e. How many parties were present?
Gsw. 1867 J. Young Poems 160:
I wonner whaur thae Poets get sic wheens o' clever weans.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 114:
Wheens of them said they would rather hae Dr Plook drunk than me sober.
Gall. 1902 Gallovidian IV. 95:
There's wheens o' their graves tae be seen thereawa yet.

3. In phr. a wheen, used adv., a bit, somewhat. Rare.Sc. 1869 C. Gibbon Robin Gray I. x.:
The auld wife's a wheen better.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 37:
Lowse ye the windy-sneck a wheen.
Abd. 1926 J. Forbes John Hendry's Wye 19:
I am a whing [sic] oot o' sorts.

[O.Sc. (a) quheyn, (a) few, 1375, O.E. hwēne, used adv., to some extent, somewhat, the instrumental case of hwōn, n., adj., (a) few, a small number, North. Mid.Eng. quon, O.Sc. quhon, 1375, adj., few.]

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"Wheen n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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