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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

QUEAN, n. Also quaen, quen, quien (Sc. a.1805 in Child Ballads V. 272), queen, quene, quein(e); quine (Ayr. 1787 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 112), queyn(e), quyne (Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 129), qwine (Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 176), coin (Ags.2 1945). Dims. queanie (Cai. 1869 M. Maclennan Peasant Life 155); quinie, quynie, queynie (Abd. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 147), coinie; double dim. quinockie (Bnff., Abd. 1965). Outside ne.Sc. and Ags. where the form quine is universal the word is obsol. or obs. [‡Sc. kwin, em.Sc.(a) kwen; ne.Sc., ‡Fif. kwəin, Ags. kəin]

1. A woman, almost always a young, unmarried one, a lass, a girl, esp. one in early womanhood (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1967, quine). Sometimes used with a mild disparaging force. Cf. 6.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 70:
Blaw up my Heart-strings, ye Pierian Quines.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Jnl. from London 29:
The queans wis in sik a firry-farry.
Sc. c.1760 J. Maidment Ballads (1859) 38:
Down browed was the quein, And sairly did she gloome.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 151–2:
Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans, A' plump and strapping in their teens!
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 247:
You delve a garden like him, and like him have been bilked by a lusty young quean.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter x.:
If ye expect to be ranting among the queans o' lasses.
Clc. 1852 G. P. Boyd Misc. Poems 15:
As blythe an' mettle's ony quine As e'er did thumb a Geordie coin.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xii.:
She maun hae met wi' an unco sair begunk, puir quean.
Gsw. 1875 Recent Sc. Poets (Murdoch 1881) ii. 262:
Weel-buskit dames and tocher't queans Come seldom cheap to ony.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 14:
Ye witless impident quine . . . I'me aften telt you tae close the door efter you.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 205:
A buxom, ruddy-cheeked quine of nineteen.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 26:
I'll up an' aff the morn's morn To seek some reid-haired queyn.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood v.:
Kaatrine, ye daft quean.
Abd. 1941 C. Gavin Black Milestone ii.:
“The quine Wildgoose” was a notable worker.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 187:
" ... There was one night the farm lads had been all away out-about on some ploy among the quaens. It was late when they came up atween the broombushes and over the rise where you can see the farm below you. ... "
m.Sc. 1979 Donald Campbell in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 67:
Mony pokes o skinklin siller,
bonnie dainties cam your wey.
A sonsie quine wi ocht intil her
can mak a fortune, so they say.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 86:
' ... You mustna think that, I scarce felt a thing and ... well for a quine to beat Jack Cattenach ... !'
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 39:
Past trees o coral, sunken hulks, he gaed,
And fishes' maws grew rounder at the sicht.
Hermit-crabs fair couried doun frae them,
Dauphins skelpit awa like fleggit queyns,
Abd. 1991 Douglas Kynoch in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 87:
Fan I was but a bairn, this big and bonnie quine
Wad gie's a smile an caa me owre aside her syne.
An, stannin on her lap, my loonie's haan was eesed
Tae rinnin throwe her hair; an owre her face an briest.
Sc. 1995 Scotsman (7 Feb) 15:
One girl seems to have the works of Leonard Cohen off by heart; she is a melancholy quine.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 1:
"Slawer, quine, slawer gyaun doon the brae," crawed auld Attie Coutts, cockin his wizzen craig sidiewyse, like a hoodie ower a tasty corp.
wm.Sc. 2000 Liz Lochhead Medea 11:
feart you hurt my daughter why no?
you're a clever quine and cunning
malice is your middle name
Sc. 2000 Herald (6 Mar) 15:
Wednesday is International Women's Day and there are various events planned all week throughout Scotland. The following is a guide to what's on offer, or you can check out the Quine Online website at

In Combs. with the sense of female: (1) quean-bairn, a female child (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.); (2) quean lassie, a young girl (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.); (3) quean tangle, the seaweed, Laminaria bulbosa (Abd. 1815 J. Arbuthnot Fishes 38); (4) wench quean, = (2).(1) Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 28:
The quean-bairn's hamecome, Bessie sweet.
(2) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian x.:
If I hear ye, quean lassies, sae muckle as name dancing.
(4) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet vii.:
If a wench quean rin away from her ha'rst, ye'll send her back to her heuck again.

2. A female child, a girl up to the end of her schooldays, esp. in dim. form and in phr. loons and quines, boys and girls (n.Sc., Ags. 1967). Also used vocatively as a term of endearment.Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 41:
We were but geets just stridin' o'er the loan, She was a lively cantie quinie aye.
Cai. 1869 M. Maclennan Peasant Life 155:
Troth wull I, bairn, but what's yer name, ma queanie?
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith 66:
The Truant was . . . led to the Dominie, who . . . [dismissed] the Quines before the Skelpin.
Ags. 1897 G. A. Mackay Where Heather Grows 170:
Od, ye were a fleet wee coinie. Mony's the daidle ye dirtied.
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 32:
Here wis I, wi' him an' the objick, an' the adopit quinie.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick vi.:
“Fa wid play wi a quine?” cried Daavitie with a touch of scorn in his voice.
ne.Sc. 1991 Ken Morrice in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 61:
Some quines are aathegither thooms,
but I wis aye skeely and the teacher's pet.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 7:
Quines war stottin their baas aff the bikeshed waa, singin daft wee rhymes: ...

3. A daughter (ne.Sc., Ags. 1967).Bnff. 1916 Banffshire Jnl. (30 May) 6:
He got a muckle parcel frae Hilly's aul'est quine.
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 45:
She made frockies tae 'er quinies oot o' an aul' goon o' 'er ain.
Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 109:
The bairn's jist as gweed an' weel come as ye'r queyn.
Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 330:
Rob spoiled them both, the wife and the quean.

4. A maid-servant (ne.Sc. 1967).Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxvi.:
My servant quean, Mattie.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck v.:
He had hired a wastlin, auldish quean.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 311:
A plump quean had he, wha had served him for years.
Mry. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evid. IV. 3001:
I couldna get a quine either in Tomintoul, Grantown, or Forres to keep the hoose an mak my brose.
Abd. 1923 B. R. M'Intosh Scent o' Broom 76:
There was aince that a quine i' the kitchie cam near To dingin' me doitit complete.

5. A female sweetheart, a lass (ne.Sc. 1967).Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 63:
My Sunday's claise I gat fu' fait, An' met my queans, sae bonny!
Lnk. 1883 A. R. Fisher Poems 6:
The Ayrshire Bard has sung his quean, Wham nane, he says, surpasses, O.
s.Sc. 1896 J. C. Dibdin Cleekim Inn 17:
Wull Scott will meet his quean In Edinburgh toun.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 38:
I wouldna swap for a kingdom Ae blink o' my raggit queyn.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae Lowland Hills 41:
To yer saft sough I wooed my bonnie quean.
Abd. 1992 David Toulmin Collected Short Stories 64:
Your quine wouldn't go on any of the whirligigs.

6. As in obs. Eng., in a derogatory sense: (1) a bold, impudent, shameless or malevolent woman, a hussy, slut (ne.Sc. 1967 quine).Bnff. 1720 W. Cramond Ch. Fordyce (1886) 56:
Janet Jameson called her brazen-faced quean.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 51:
She is a sly and cunning quean, I ken, And wi' the Knight is rather o'er far ben.
Ayr. 1816 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 150:
Queans man flyte, and fools man clatter.
Sc. 1827 Scott Chron. Canongate I. xiii.:
If they had burned the rudas queen for a witch.
Rnf. 1846 W. Finlay Poems 72:
'Twas said, when a stripling, his feelings had been Storm-blighted and rent by a false-hearted quean.
Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Witch-Wife vi.:
Pridefully heartless queans of fool lassies.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 9:
Deil speed ye for a quine!
Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle xiii.: 
That's a bold looking quean ye have about the house.
Sc. 2000 Herald (20 Jun) 36:
So it irks me no end to be told that the thrifty old quine might have been right, from a health point of view, to be casual about cleaning the tatties, even though her motivation probably had more to do with not trying too hard for the Government's 7/6d per week per evacuee.

†(2) a mistress, paramour, concubine. Sc. 1802 Laird o Drum in Child Ballads No. 236. B. viii.:
For I'm our low to be yer bride, An yer quine I'll never be.
Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 72:
Solomon For wives had haill three hunder queans.
Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Inglismill 38:
“Bogie,” wi' his quean, maun stan' the Session.

[O.Sc. qwen, a girl, lass, 1420, Mid.Eng. quene, O.E. cwene, woman, serf, prostitute, cf. O.H. Ger. quina, O.N. kvenna-, woman, female. The short vowel O.E. form is in ablaut relation to O.E. cwēn, > Queen. For quine forms see P.L.D. § 126. 2. and Dieth Bch. Dial. 56-7.]

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"Quean n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Feb 2024 <>



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