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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.

YERK, v., n. Also yirk; yark (I. and n.Sc.); yirg (I.Sc.). [jɛrk; jɑrk]

I. v. 1. (1) tr. and absol. To bind tightly, to tie firmly together, to fasten (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., Abd., Per., Bwk., Lnk., Kcb. 1974), freq. of the drawing together of stitches and leather in shoe-making; to turn (a screw) very tightly, to wring (a wet cloth) (Kcb.4 1900); of a woman: to tight-lace (oneself), to force oneself into over-tight clothes (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Ppl.adj. yerkit, -ed, clothes: tight-fitting, stretched to capacity (Lnk. 1910; Peb. 1958). Vbl.n. yerkin, “the seam by which the hinder part of the upper leather of a shoe is joined to the forepart”, the side-seam in a boot or shoe (Bwk., Dmf. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1974), also in comb. yerkin-seam (Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 222). In Sh. freq. confused with yarkin s.v. Yark, n.2Sc. 1805 Scott Last Minstrel note 25:
If I cannot sew I can yerk.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1866) vi.:
George had not sewed a single yerking.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xvi.:
To say nothing of his hands yerked together behind his back.
Sc. 1862 J. Brown Horae Subs. (1882) 284:
That bitter yerkin' of their boddices.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 20:
Thou hast given us leather to yark, and leather to bark.
Slk. 1902 Border Mag. (March) 53:
Rabbie remained as constantly on his three-legged stool as if he had been “yirked” there by some brother of the craft.
e.Lth. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 178:
Sae we our chariots saucht again — (This time yerk'd to a railway train).
Lth. 1920 C. P. Slater Marget Pow (1925) 168:
Her body was yerked awfu' tight.
Per.4 1950:
Yerk it thegether wi a bit thread.
m.Sc. 1986 William Montgomerie in Joy Hendry Chapman 46 9:
Oh Saint Crispin!
what are we in thy sicht
but a set o easie-osie ulie-mooed bodies!
leather tae yark an leather tae bark

Combs. (i) yarkin al(l)ishen, a shoemaker's stitching awl (Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 39, Sh. 1974). See Elshin; (ii) yarkin-end, the waxed thread used by shoemakers (Sh. 1949). See En, n., 3.(i) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 242:
Sittin' wi' a yarkin alishen shodin' da rackie.

(2) tr. To stuff, cram, pack tightly.Lnk. 1876 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 25:
Ilka guidwife had her barrel Yerkit fu' o' guid aitmeal.
Kcd. 1961 People's Jnl. (3 June) 14:
The orra slaps a roon aboot wi' cars were yarkit sair.

2. (1) tr. and intr. To beat, lit. and fig., thump, whip, strike (Sc. 1825 Jam.); to break by striking, to drive in with blows, lit. and fig., to hammer (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., sm.Sc. 1974). Vbl.n. yerkin, a severe blow, a drubbing, beating (Bwk. 1948). Comb. ¶lug-yerkit, having one's ears boxed (Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 89).Abd. 1733 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1777) 38:
Indeed your hips they should be yarked.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 166:
Their skins are gayly yarkit And peel'd thir days.
Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 177:
Mornin clocks an' yarkin hammers Reviv'd us by their tunefu' yammers.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 23:
Sae crestfallen whan they find that ye are yerking it into them.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 179:
The weir-steed's skull was yerk'd in twa.
s.Sc. c.1830 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club (1916) 93:
His master gave him a severe yerkin' with the foot-stamp for taking a wrong measure of a lady's foot.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 172:
My trulys! but we've got a yerkin' — Wi' dead anes, hills are white as sarkin'.
Abd. 1886 J. Cowe Jeems Sim 11:
The mair I yarket at it the far'er it gaed in.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 110:
She yerkit my haffet wi' her loof.
ne.Sc. 1957 Mearns Leader (10 May):
The holes were yarkit intill the muckle steen.
ne.Sc. 1991 Alastair Mackie in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 69:
Aathing conters ye. Weety weather,
the oot lichts, the auld rickle o a hoose
yarkit by a blouter o wind

Hence yerker, n., (1) anything very large of its kind, e.g. a large fish, a ‘whopper' (Bwk. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 222; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd., Lnk. 1974); Per., (2) fig. a blow, a ‘shocker'; (3) a wild stormy day (Lnk. 1974), a hard frost (Id.).(1) Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 25:
Oh, look ee! thonder a yerker!
(2) Slk. 1824 Hogg Tales (1874) 364:
That was a yerker! I now fand I was fairly in the mire.

(2) intr. To crack down on or against, to make a sharp sound by striking, splitting, etc. (Abd. 1974).Abd. c.1782 Ellis E.E.P. V. 774:
His elbuck yarkit on a knorlick o' frostit yird.
Abd. 1813 D. Anderson Poems 83:
Horrid peltin' they did thole — In ilka house the sticks did yark.
Abd. 1898 J. R. Imray Sandy Todd iv.:
Nae bein' muckle accustomed tae yarkin' on the hard stanes.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 47:
The weel-shod feet o' Darlin' and Jean seemed to yerk and crack alang the quate, deserted street.
Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (28 Nov.):
The wheel nave yarks on the exell pin.

(3) (i) intr. To nag, find fault, carp incessantly (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1974), vbl.n. yarking, incessant fault-finding (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Bwk. 1958). In Sh. however prob. an altered form of Yarg.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 114:
Onything's mair preferable than yerk, yerkin at everything said by a wiser man than yoursel.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 317:
To yerkings and yells frae a loose lither tongue.
Ags. 1875 J. Watson Samples 15:
Our camstairy neebours across the saut dub Are aye yarkin' up like the barm in a tub.
ne.Sc. 1950 W. Kemp Cornkisters 10:
She'll be yarkin' an' barkin' wi' a' her great micht, Rag tousily Meg.

(ii) tr. To complain about, bemoan. Rare.Dmf. 1803 W. McVitie Lint 7:
Our little wants and woes we try Aloud to yerk.

(4) intr. To throb, ache, tingle (ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Dmf. 1974). Ppl.adj. yarkin, of frost: stinging, piercing.Sc. 1817 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) V. 22:
This is a yerking frost.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff x.:
I houp and trust we'll have yerkin' frost when it comes.
Fif. 1905 Caled. Med. Jnl. V. 181:
That tooth's been yarkin' awa' the last fourteen days.
Abd. 1920 T. McWilliam Light & Shadow 58:
Its a' in ma heid, I wid think files that folk wid hear't yark yarkin' at the ither side o' the street.
Ags. 1955 Forfar Dispatch (1 Sept.):
Fat need tae gare yer corns yark trailin miles tae see things ye dinna want tae see?

3. tr. To move with a sudden quick jerk, tug, or push; specif. (1) to snatch, tug, wrench, pull, drag (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I.Sc., Ags., Per. 1974). Also fig. Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. ii.:
If I could get ane o' thae hieland loons, wi, their sedan cheyres now, to yerk her hame.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 28:
I yerkit the pillow oot frae the lazy back o' him.
Abd. 1929 Sc. Readings (Paterson) 87:
The speesh'list billie yarket him to the door.
Fif. 1932 M. Bell Pickles & Ploys 68:
She can yirk up a shaif; thin, an' shaw neeps.
Ork. 1951 R. Rendall Ork. Variants 57:
Wad yirk awa the huicks, an' lowse The aethic-stane forby.
Sc. 1995 David Purves Hert's Bluid 36:
Here a blekkie set hir craig agin the wyre
that wes sae eydent yerkin wurms yestrein,
an liltin sangs amang the fullyerie
m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 10:
thinks on sermons past
that he can resurrect, athoot yerkin
his elders fae thair doucie dwams,
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 40:
Somebody whyles will aye
Howk up a roosted argy-bargy
Frae in aneth a buss
An yark it aff tae the cowp.

(2) tr. To throw, toss, pitch (Dmf. c.1920); to jerk, slam (Sh., Mry. 1974). Also fig.Sc. 1823 C. K. Sharpe Ballad Bk. 28:
Ye yerkit me ow'r amang the braume.
Cld. 1825 Jam.:
He yerkit to the yett wi' a bang.
Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 123:
A canty body an' a clean, An' yarkit aff a prothy wean.
wm.Sc. 1838 Whistle Binkie 80:
I could yerk my shuttle in at the ae side, and catch't at the ither without stressing mysel'.
Lnk. 1895 A. G. Murdoch Readings I. 11:
Johnny yerked his heed in the direction of the bed-pawn.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (25 Nov.):
He wis yarkin' oot da paets an' da swaet holin aff o'm.
Slg. 1901 R. Buchanan Poems 79:
Be sharp, my lad, and merry O, And yerk it [curling stone] to the snaw.
Mry. 1960 E. Gilbert Ae Forenicht 30:
He wha aince the quoit could yark As weel as spear, far by the mark.

(3) intr. To move jerkily (Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1974). Hence yerker, a mealy-pudding (Slk. 1950). Cf. Jerker, id.Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
We saw the wee flag yirk up to the mast-heid upon the harbour rocks.
Dmf. 1898 J. Paton Castlebraes 140:
The auld spur yerks intill oor flanks.
Sh. 1968 New Shetlander No. 84. 18:
Der yirgin, dirlin on da lines, Backin and fillin, tails an fins.

4. (1) tr. To drive hard, to exert, put pressure on, to stir to activity (Sh., Abd., Ags., m.Lth. 1974); fig. of the sun, to beat strongly on some object (Kcd. 1825 Jam.). Comb. yerkin pin, a stirring stick.Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Smith 4:
My barmie noddle's working prime, My fancie yerket up sublime Wi' hasty summon.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 111:
Ye could jimply gotten as muckle timmer in her, as wou'd made a yerkin pin to a parrich cog.
Sc. 1851 G. Outram Lyrics 16:
In vain he yerked his souple head, To find an ambiguity.
Abd. 1898 J. R. Imray Sandy Todd vii.:
I hae been unco sair yarkit wi' the wark at hame.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 47:
I doot ye're owre wice tae be yirkin' Your heid owre sic an antrin query.

(2) intr. To go at a thing, set to with energy and vigour, to exert oneself, to hasten, hurry, press on (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 213; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., ne.Sc. 1974). Phr. to yark it, id., to “go it.”Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 182:
I will say nothing but I will yerk at the thinking.
Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 172:
Mean time I'm yarkin at my study.
Ags. 1821 D. Shaw Songs 15:
Fast thro' the greens then I yarkit.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Shepherd's Calendar (1874) 362:
The Eagle is yerking on at the wheel.
Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays 221:
Thrang yerkin at the true sublime, Wi' a' his might.
e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 181:
We hae a lang tramp to yerk till in the morning.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (8 July):
Yarkin' in fir life ta win ta da laand.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 95:
I gart the lifters streek their stumps, An' yerk it, as I swankit doon the swaith.
Abd. 1964 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 2:
Hyowin' lang and dreich neep-dreels, Yarkin' on ahin' the grieve.

†(3) intr. To ferment, to turn to malt, to work, in the making of beer (Ags. 1808 Jam.).

(4) tr. with advs. aff, out, up, or absol.: to utter in a vigorous, excited way, to rattle off (a speech, poem, etc.), to start or strike up (a tune or dance); to produce or perform smartly or with animation, to dash or toss off (a piece of work). Rarely intr. of the sound: to break forth.Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 213:
Yerking these Words out which ly nearest.
Sc. 1792 “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 50:
Sutors yerk aff your soals and heels.
Ags. a.1823 G. Beattie John o' Arnha' (1883) 198:
An' a' the devils in a ring Yarkit up the Highland fling.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 96:
Cast aff baith your sheen and your stockin's, And yark till ye fin' the grun' yiel'.
Lnk. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Lilts 21:
He clam the scale wi' screwed-up e'e, An' yerkit oot this lood oblation.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 94:
An, yirks the tüne into the air.
Per. 1904 R. Ford Hum. Sc. Stories II. 13:
It [organ] kept yerkin' and rairin' until every livin' sowl was mair than hauf-roads hame.
Kcb. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 199:
Then took the lapstane on his lap An' yerkit aff a pair o' shoon.
Abd. 1913 D. Scott Hum. Sc. Stories 35:
Cruickshank yarkit up the “Braes o' Mar”.
Bwk. 1940 W. L. Ferguson Poems 72:
The precentor, on his feet Yerks oot Kilmarnock wi a bleat.

(5) intr. To take a quick drink or bite, to gulp over eagerly (Sh. 1974).Sh. 1880 Jam.:
When fish are biting freely, they are yarkin at the bait.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (5 Oct.):
Fader kens 'at shü might as weel a yarkid in a bottle o' spring waal watter.

II. n. 1. (1) A blow, a hard knock or thump, a slap, whack (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1948; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags. 1974); in pl. a thrashing.Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 500:
But wi' a yark Gib made his queet As dwabill as a flail.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 106:
An' frae the roost a rung she drew, Which kiss'd my rumple wi' a yerk.
Slk. 1811 Spy (2 Feb.) 183:
By a corner stood a blackguard, — An, fir'd a shot, I got a yark o't.
Mry. 1851 D. Paul Poems 10:
Syne John gae him the ither yark, Whilk made the bluid frae kelpie flow.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 47:
Bestowing imaginary yerks on the oppressors o' his country.
Sc. 1926 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 21:
When she was properly angry, we were promised “a yirk on the side o' the heid.”
Abd. 1968 Sc. Poetry 3 72:
The aipples cam doun to the grun' wi' a yark.

Used with adverbial force, absol. or in phrs.: to come (a) yark against, ower, upon, to gae yark in, tae, tee, to play yerk on, to come against, collide with or strike with a sharp blow or crack (Sh., ne.Sc. 1974).Slk. 1824 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1866) xii.:
Making his hazel sapling play yerk on the hind quarters of his nag.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Habbie and Madge 52:
The dominie comes yerk owre his hurdies.
Abd. c.1905:
He cam a yark upo' me.
Abd. 1913 D. Scott Hum. Sc. Stories 64:
The next 'it I saw wis Flappers gaun yark tee ta the side o' the parteetion.
Abd. 1927 T. McWilliam Around the Fireside 17:
It's jist as if I stuck ma heid in a bowie — ‘yark' in ae lug, an' syne ‘yark' in the tither.
Abd. 1934 D. Scott Hum. Sc. Stories 37:
I manag't t' come yark against a kist wi' ma bare taes.

(2) The sound of a blow or collision, a sharp crack, a crash (ne.Sc., Ags. 1974); a sudden sharp peal of thunder.Abd. 1872 “R. F. Bardinarus” Arn at the Flail 15:
For now by ilka dismal yark They kent that Arn was at wark.
Abd. 1950:
Wisn' yon some gey yarks o' thunner?
Abd. 1973:
The water wis ower het and the pig gied a yark and bruke.

(3) Fig. A cutting remark, a jibe, jeer.Slk. 1824 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) 363:
Never missed an opportunity of gieing me a yerk wi' his ill-scrapit tongue.

2. A jerk, tug, a sharp twitch or pull, a sudden move (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork. 1929 Marw., yirg; I., n., em.Sc.(a), sm.Sc., Rxb. 1974); a toss. Also fig.Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) vi.:
George gave the lingles such a yerk, that he made them both crack in two.
s.Sc. 1837 T. T. Stoddart Angling Reminisc. 39:
Gie these bits o' par a yerk into your creel.
Sc. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland iii.:
Bringing out the words, as Jenny said, with a yerk, for he was greatly astonished.
Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 268:
Many a firm yerk it took to make them meet.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 21:
Bring back the reister with a yerk of Gospel grace to Thy fauld.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly xlii.:
I gied them a bit yirk oot.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 23:
Jimp hed a gotten sutten doon, afore we war off — wui a yerk an a dunsh.
Abd. 1929 Sc. Readings (Paterson) 88:
Her heid gied back wi' a yark.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 14:
He saw her scrattin up the yaird in faist yarks o her strang cleuks, syne stoppit, struck wi wunner at the performance that he wis seein fur the first time.

3. A large greedy gulp of food or drink (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1974).Sh. 1900 Shetland News (24 March):
A'll hae ta tak' anidder yark o' water.
Sh. 1960 New Shetlander No. 54. 24:
“Skoal,” he said an took a yark oot o him.

4. By extension, of anything large: a big, hefty person; a large, ill-furnished, empty-looking house (Cai. 1921 T.S.D.C., a yark o' a hoos).Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 19:
I wis sitting prammed up in da back o dis van, kringed be da shackleben ta twa gret yarks a men in uniform.

5. A burst of energy, a vigorous attempt at (something), a “go” (Sh., ne.Sc. 1974).Abd. 1914 J. Leatham Daavit 25:
Ye'll jist need ti hae a yark at the Hoaly Bible the morn.
Kcd. 1955 Mearns Leader (21 Jan.):
Fen the clatter o' applause dee't doon, she hid anither yark at it.

6. A throb of pain, an ache (Abd., Ags. 1974).Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (25 Feb.):
Het tay set them [teeth] aff wi' a yark, an' ither times caul' watter wid dee't.

[Mid.Eng. yerk, to pull tight, to whip, jerk, a smart blow or kick, of uncertain orig., poss. chiefly imit., as jerk, firk, etc. The word was in vogue in Eng. from the mid. 15th c. to the 17th., when it became restricted to dial. (chiefly northern) and to Sc. O.Sc. has yercke, a stroke, 1629.]

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



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