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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

YIRN, v.1 Also yearn, yern (Sc. 1900 E.D.D.); yurn (Dmf. 1825 Jam.). See also Earn, v. [yɪrn; em.Sc. (b), wm. and s.Sc. jern]

I. v. tr. and intr. To (cause to) coagulate, to curdle or, of milk, to form curds with rennet and the application of heat (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; I., n.Sc. 1974). Also transf. and fig.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
It sall be my faut if a better [cheese] was ever yearned in Lowden.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 64:
Be't [milk] lappert or be't yearned.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 24:
And when the winter whistled doun the lum, And yirned the dubs to tell us he was come.
Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 186:
The milk was owre hett and it wadna yirn.
Arg. 1914 J. M. Hay Gillespie i. ix.:
My meat's yearnin' in my stomach.
Abd. 1918 J. Mitchell Bydand 23:
Birsin' doon the chassel fin ye've got the milk tae yirn.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 13:
His withered chafts wad yirn the milk.
Ags., Per. 1962:
Jean cam' in wi' a face 'at wad yearn milk.

Hence 1. ppl.adj. yirned, yirnt, ye(a)rned, in comb. yirned milk, curds, junket (Sc. 1929 F. M. McNeill Sc. Kitchen 211; I., n., em.Sc. (b), and s.Sc. 1974); 2. vbl.n. yirnin, (1) the act of coagulating or curdling. Hence comb. yirnin-girse, the butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris, formerly used as a substitute for rennet (Sh. 1947 Sh. Folk Bk. I. 87), yearnin tub, the vessel in which the curds were formed in cheese-making; (2) rennet (Fif., Dmf. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1855 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. I. 618; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Mry., Bwk. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Ayr. 1923 Wilson D. Burns 195; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; I., n.Sc., Lth., Lnk. 1974); butter-wort, as a substitute (see (1) above); (3) the maw or stomach of an unweaned calf or occas. other animal, used in the production of rennet (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 158; Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 156; Sh., Ork., Cai. 1974), also in combs. yearnin-bag (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), -puddin, id. (Ork. 1974); disparagingly applied to a stupid person, a ‘clot', as in 1880 quot., yowe's yirnin (see Yowe, n., 1.) and by itself (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.); (4) transf. the human stomach (Bnff., Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Kcd. 1974); (5) as a nickname for a native of Orphir parish in Orkney (Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 320, Ork. 1974).1. Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 101:
Syne chappet kail an' yirn't milk cam'.
Cai. 1868 Scribner's Mag. (1899) XXV. 36:
Curds called ‘yearned milk' hereaway.
Abd. 1895 J. M. Cobban Andaman xxxii.:
Great dishes of yirned milk.
Abd. 1922 Banffshire Jnl. (17 Oct.) 2:
We decided on “yirned milk” and strawberries.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 136:
I never laekid dis yirned mylk.
Mry. 1969 Northern Scot. (13 Dec.) 4:
The yearnt milk with a spoonful of freshly home-made raspberry jam.
2. (1) Inv. 1812 E. Grant Memoirs (Strachey 1898) 183:
The Saturday's kebbock made of the overnight and the morning's milk, poured cream and all into the yearnin tub.
e.Lth. 1880 A. I. Ritchie Churches St Baldred 111:
She also prevented good milk from “yirning.”
Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latter-Day Exploits 63:
There's churnin' tee an' a' that ilk An' yearnin' when there's fouth o milk.
(2) Abd. 1759 Gordon's Mill Farming Club (1962) 75:
Another capital error, which generally prevails, is giving in milk too great a quantity of Rennet or Yearning.
Dmb. 1794 D. Ure Agric. Dmb. 74:
Two or three tablespoonfuls of rennet, thickening or yearning, as it is commonly called.
Sc. 1808 E. Hamilton Glenburnie ix.:
Mrs MacClarty then took down a bottle of runnet, or yearning, as she called it.
Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 76:
[In] the great lum too were also the maws of the calves for yirning to the cheese.
Sh. 1914 Old-Lore Misc. VII. ii. 71:
Milk set thick by the action of “yearnin” or butterwort.
Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (10 May) 10:
A lady three sizes too large, who tramped the country selling “yirnin.”
(3) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 139:
Their twa bits o' paps playing ay niddity nod, shining through it like twa yearning bags.
Sc. 1829 Mrs Dalgairns Pract. Cookery 462:
The stomach or bag usually termed the yirning, in dairy language, . . . taken from the calf's body.
Ayr. 1866 Trans. Highl. Soc. 81:
The newly-dropt calves fetch from 5s to 7s each and the farmer receives back the ‘yearning'.
Kcd. c.1880 Montrose Standard (30 Aug. 1929):
Ye've nae mair sense than a caufie's yearnin'.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 24:
Farmers and their wives carefully preserved and prepared for cheese-making the third stomach or abomasum of all the calves that were killed, and this was called the “yirning pudding” or simply “the yirning.”
Abd. 1964 Trans. Buchan Field Club XVIII. 82:
Gin there's been some onchancy wark, Deid horse or heifers in a park, Just sen' their yirnins in.
(4) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxiii.:
I thocht aw wud rive my yirnin lauchin' at 'im.
Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C. IV. 89:
Lassie, ye're a stupid yirnin.
Mry.1 1928:
I wis like to vomit ma yernin.
Abd. 1959 People's Jnl. (5 Sept.):
Ferm billies dinna hae tae rax their yirnin' chauvin an' loadin' the muckle pyockfu's.
(5) Ork. 1910 Old-Lore Misc. III. i. 31:
Dat's a Orphir yarn t'o, an' du kens whit wheer folks da “yirnins” ar.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 24:
Its inhabitants have a nickname like people of most of the other parishes and islands. They are “The Yirnings.”

[O.Sc. yirne, to curdle, a.1500, ȝirning, rennet, 1597, variant of Earn, v., q.v. For y- see Y, letter, 2.(2) and P.L.D. § 74.1.]

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"Yirn v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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