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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.

YOKE, n., v. Also yo(a)k, yock(e), yokk; jokk (Sh.), ¶youk (Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 13). Sc. forms and usages. [jok]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., orig. the wooden ‘collar' fitted to the necks of oxen by which to draw the plough. Hence in gen. the harness of a plough, cart, etc., as used for horses; specif. the main swingle-tree of a plough (Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 75; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Cai., Abd. 1974). In combs. and phrs.: (1) a-yoke, in(to) the yoke, in(to) harness; †(2) long yoke, of plough-oxen: yoked in pairs, one pair behind the other. Cf. (4); (3) out the yoke, out of harness; †(4) short yoke, of plough-oxen: see quot. and (2) above; (5) yokesman, the driver in charge of an ox-team; (6) yoke-stick, the looped piece of wood forming the “bow” by which an ox was bound by the neck to the yoke. See Bow, n.3, 4.; (7) to tak the yoke wi, fig., to marry.(1) Mry. c.1850 Lintie o' Moray (1887) 31:
Auld Rob got the marey set into the yoke.
Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 29:
A' the cairts were i' the yoke.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 5:
She saw her father put the horses ‘a-yoke' after her sweetheart had left.
(2) Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 33:
The long yoke, as we call it, or two and two a-breast, before one another, is not used but by very few, and that occasionally.
(3) Gsw. 1865 J. Young Pictures 166:
Or ere my beast was oot the yoke.
(4) Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 33:
The old mode of four a-breast, or short yoke, as we call it, is still the fashion.
(5) Fif. 1881 C. Gulland Ballads 5:
Then he seized the yokesman by the throat ‘Speak, knave, upon thy life.'
(6) Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings (1873) 31:
The gaudman sits an' toasts his nose, Or awkwardly heel-caps his hose, Or maks yoke-sticks o' rooden [sic].
(7) ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 173:
Gin Johnny tak' the yoke wi' me, I'll try to pu' my share.

2. By extension: a horse and cart, carriage, etc., attached in full harness, a ‘turn-out', an equipage (Ags., Per. 1974); in 1973 quot. applied to a motor car, and also extended to a suit of clothes, an outfit (Ags. 1974), gen. of a somewhat garish sort.Fif. 1909 R. Holman Char. Studies 67:
A gey smairt yoke stannin' jist as ye turn in here.
Rxb. 1962 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 408:
When a son left school he received his patrimony in the form of a “yoke,” a horse and float or dog-cart.
Fif. 1973 Dunfermline Press (9 Feb.) 23:
This yin's a big yoke and looks braw.

3. A wooden bar fitted to the neck and shoulders of a person for carrying two buckets of water, milk, or the like (see 1961 quot.) (Sc. 1905 E.D.D.; Ork., Abd., Ags., Per. 1974). Also in Eng. dial.Abd. 1887 R. S. Robertson On Bogie's Banks 90:
The timmer “yokes” will be flung by.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (4 March):
A timmer yoke it fittit on tae wir shooders, wi' a length o' rope fae baith eyns, an' the pails waur hung on a heuk at the eyn o' the tow.

4. (1) The time a team of oxen or horses works at a stretch; a half-day's work at ploughing, etc., more gen. a shift at work. Gen.Sc., obsol. Also in Eng. dial.Ork. 1766–71 P. Fea MS. Diary (23 May) (3 May):
Melling in the Langland and overrunning it between yokes. . . . Plewghs done with the West Sheed of How att the morning Yoke.
Ags. 1785 Session Rec. Arbirlot MS. (31 May):
2 yoak of 1 horse and cart, transporting her Fuel from Coatmure to Cotton . . 2s.
Dmf. 1815 Nithsdale Minstrel 296:
The gloaming star keeks o'er the yoke.
Mry. 1820 J. Cock Hamespun Lays 115:
Fu's a' your folk, I hope they're up an' at the yoke?
s.Sc. a.1859 R. Watson Border Bards 74:
'Twas after half-a-day's hard yoke, O' five stout men an' women folk.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 3:
Willie had just come home from ‘the yoke' at near mid-day.
Sc. 1905 E.D.D.:
In farms there are generally two yokes of five hours each in the day; from 7 o'clock to 12 and from 1 to 6.
Ork. 1912 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 9:
It was not unusual in summer to begin work at three o'clock and then it was march to the hill and cut or work in the peats. The first yoke was over about 8. The afternoon yoke finished at eight or nine.
Abd. 1964:
“Is Geordie onywey about?” “I some dout he's awa tae the yoke gin this time.”

(2) A spell at some activity, a bout, a ‘go' (Sc. 1905 E.D.D.); a task.Ayr. 1812 A. Thom Amusements 38:
To lift maist weight, or put the stane Or try a yoke at jump about.
Ags. 1940:
That's a yokie — a hard job, very difficult or laborious task.

5. A snatch, grab or grasp (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.).Sh. 1892 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 16, 55:
A yok for da slack o his breeks dan I mak . . . He med a yok for Baabie.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Mey 19):
Mak a yokk at a plaesur, an' ye'll get bit tail-fedders.
Sh. 1973 New Shetlander No. 105. 15:
Glen jamp for a yock o' a driver's lug.

6. A quarrel, dispute (Cld. 1882 Jam.).

II. v. 1. As in Eng., to harness a draught-animal for work, more gen. used in Sc.: to start work of any kind, in the morning or after a break for food or rest (Sc. 1882 Jam., 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 74). Gen.Sc. The opposite word Lowse, v., 3.(3) is sim. used.em.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report I. 111:
When on night-work we yoke at four afternoon.

2. tr. or intr. To link, join, unite: (1) specif. in marriage (Ork., Cai., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1974). Rare or obs. in Eng. Hence ill-yokit, ill-matched in marriage (ne.Sc. 1974).Sc. 1765 Corresp. Boswell and Johnston (Walker 1966) 167:
At any rate I shall be in no hurry to yoke as my Father calls it.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 13:
Deed Maggy ye'll no be ill youkit wi' him.
Sc. 1789 A. Steele Shepherd's Wedding 13:
Commend that lassie for a wife, Wi' her I'd calmly yoke for life.
Per. a.1837 R. Nicoll Poems (1877) 199:
We twa are geyan young yet An' if glaikitly we yokit We wad aye be toilin' sair.
Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 15:
Meg'll be yokit tae the wrang man.

(2) To plough land so as to make the middle of the last year's rigs the ends of the current year's, to make a new rig between two of the previous year, to couple rigs.Abd. 1735 J. Arbuthnot Buchan Farmers (1811) 86:
We are directed to yoke awal and bear-root, that is, to plough the ridges by pairs.
Sc. 1851 H. Stephens Farm Bk. I. 171:
Casting, or yoking, or coupling ridges.

(3) In phrs. and comb.: (i) to yoke by the lugs, to get the close attention of (an audience); (ii) to yoke horns, to meet horns with horns, of oxen, etc., in a fight (Sh. 1974); fig. of persons: to come to grips; (iii) yokit-tu(i)lyie, yoke o' tu(i)l(l)ie, yoka- (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), yokeh-tolleh (Rxb. 1958 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 22), a string of skaters, each one squatting on his heels and pulled along by clinging to the one in front (Rxb. 1825 Jam., Rxb. 1974).(i) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxiii.:
When I saw the Whigs a' weel yokit by the lugs to Kettledrummle and the other chield.
(ii) Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 78:
A row bracks oot an dey yock horns Da sam as bultin kye.
(iii) Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays 46:
The yoke-a-tulie rankit up, and doon the Loan like fire.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 11:
The yoke-a-tuillie gaed full nail doon the brae.

3. (1) intr. with tae, till, occas. at, in(to), wi, or with to and inf.: to start or set to on any activity, to commence, engage in, tackle, go about some business, topic, etc. (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929). Gen.Sc. Occas. followed by tae, to, adv.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 27:
Right yape she yoked to the pleasing feast, An' lay an' eated half an hour at least.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 211:
They said the grace as fast as able, Syn a' yok'd to to gibble-gabble.
Kcd. 1820 E. Tevendale Poems 11:
So, therefore, ere I'd yoke an' skelp ye.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 327:
Yokin to the haggis afore the grace.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxx.:
By an by a cock yokit to the crawin'.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vii.:
When Johnny Gibb, Donald M'Craw and “Maister Saun'ers” had got “fairly yokit” on the subject of the Kirk.
Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister vi.:
On wakening in the morning yoking to his loom as usual.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 9:
Whiles they would yok blawin' in my lug — but that I could never thole.
s.Sc. 1900 Border Mag. (Feb.) 27:
If he canna sort oot yer trouble, there's nae ither body can yoke wi'd.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 7:
Davy yoket tae til lauchin' saftly till himsel.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 182:
Slowly and reluctantly the four got up, and grasping their spades jokkid into the work with no good grace.
Bnff. 1922 Banffshire Jnl. (3 Oct.) 3:
Th' plooman's yoket t' th' ley, turnin o'er th' ristit cloddie.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 78:
Sae blyth tae the task the braw callan he yokes.
Bnff. 1955 Banffshire Jnl. (20 Sept.):
There the trees were yokin' tae cheenge their dress — the roddens were as reid as ever I've seen them.

(2) used tr. Phr. to yoke stanes on, to pelt with stones.Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 237:
The whole fraternity's gaun mad To yoke the totum.
Gsw. 1869 E. Johnston Poems 176:
Doon wi' my head 'neath the gushin' lead, An' yokit the scrapin' an' rubbin'.
Fif. 1883 W. D. Latto Bodkin Papers 108:
Come on, Jim, an' yoke the stanes on her [a cat].
Uls. 1899 S. MacManus Chimney Corners 102:
He yocked a row with everybody.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 18:
Ane o' thae dealers offered me six pund the piece for them. I yokit laughin' in his face.

(3) tr. To set (someone) to do something, put (a person) to work (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 276; Abd., Ags., Per. 1974).m.Lth. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xix.:
I did not intend yoking him to work the first day.
Gsw. 1884 H. Johnston Martha Spreull 56:
I wud like to yock them for two meenits on The Question-book.
Edb. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 226:
Hae ye nae working folk . . . that ane could yoke?
Ags. 1972:
He thinks he'll get me yokit tee't.

4. intr. To deal with, have to do with (a person or persons). Rarely tr.Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 107, 110:
An' aft I yocket wi' the lasses, An' syn'd the spark out o' their hawses. . . . I yock't ance an Apothecary.
Sc. 1825 J. Mitchell Anecdotes 658:
One of them said to Graham of Kinross (wha had na yoked with them in the argument).
Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's i. 11:
Hey, my lad! Yoke wi' oorsels; Lat us be snowkin thegither for blude.
Abd. 1934 D. Scott Stories 20:
A should ha' made a bargain wi' him afore A let 'im yoke wi' me.

5. intr. with on, til, to, wi: to set upon (a person), tackle aggressively, to attack or assail with words or blows, to reprove, argue heatedly with someone, to dispute, come to grips with (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. Rarely tr.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 339:
I ae time wi' him yokit, Frae mou' an' nose he gart my red bluid bock out.
Sc. 1823 E. Logan St Johnstoun ix.:
They a' yoked to me, and hoisted me ower into the cobble.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 116:
Out-argued by ony auld woman that would yoke till him.
Sc. 1867 N. Macleod Starling ii.:
When the minister began its tongue was lowsed, and it yoked on him wi' its gowk's sang, ‘Stap yer blethers!'
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (13 Feb.) 334:
Ye yoke on me like a day's wark whenever it's the least tastit.
Abd. 1885 Folk-Lore Journal III. 270:
They yokit wi ane anither, an said it some o' them hid been clashin.
Fif. 1897 G. Setoun George Malcolm xii.:
I'm sair provoket afore I yoke on him.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle xv.:
The night afore ye cam' she yoked himsel' on his jyling the lassie.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 25:
Twae muckl hullyins hev yokeet on um whan ei was comin hyimm i the derkneen.
Fif. 1933 J. Ressich Thir Braw Days 52:
Jist wi' that this woman yokes ontil him wi' a besom-shank.
Per.4 1950:
He yoked on me as soon's A got in the door.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 107:
Shü's yokkit some ane else wi pooer.
Sc. 1964 Weekly Scotsman (16 April) 10:
There's a few [hares] joukin aboot, and 1 don't want the dugs yokin on them.

6. To grasp, grip, seize hold of (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1974), to embrace (Angus). Phr. to yoke a had o, id.Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 2:
“Seemun” I yoks bi da slack o da lug.
Sh. 1919 T. Manson Peat Comm. 152:
Da ministers noo-a-days don't yokk a hadd o da folk an haul dem ta da kirk fur dir guid.
Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. iii. 78:
Aye wi' 'is e'en buckled ap, he waas yocked a had o'.

7. Fig. To burden, oppress.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 143:
They raise provisions as the stents they raise Yoke hard the poor, and lat the rich chiels be.
Lnk. 1877 W. M'Hutchison Poems 166:
My nest the noo's wi' young weel stockit, For meat at times I'm sairly yockit.

[O.Sc. yock, to associate with, to join battle, c.1500, to set to work, 1554, to set another to work, 1630.]

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"Yoke n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Apr 2024 <>



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