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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHAIRN, n., v. Also shairin. -on, she(a)rn; sha(a)rn, shaurn. [m.Sc. ʃe:rn; I. and n.Sc. ʃɑrn]

I. n. Dung, excrement, esp. of cattle (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Sh. 1904 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 270; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc. and Eng. dial.; rarely of horses (Watson) or dogs (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Adj. sharnie, -(e)y, pertaining to cow-dung, smeared with dung. Gen.Sc.; also used subst. for the servant who cleans out the cow shed (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Slg. 1714 Burgh Rec. Slg. (B.R.S.) II. 136:
No flesher nor other nighbours toom their draughts or shairn in any part of the Backrow.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 378:
You shine like the Sunny Side of a Shernie Weight . . . A Ridicule upon People when they appear fine.
Gsw. 1764 Glasgow Past and Present (1884) III. 131:
Tripes, blood, and shearn, which proceeded from the cattle which had been slaughtered in the said slaughter house.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) I. 171:
A bed of state, all wet with shern.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 14:
An' monie an honest woman's bairn Was nearly smoor'd that night 'mang shairn.
Dmf. 1824 Carlyle Early Letters (1886) II. 286:
In the midst of rain and shairn.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin v.:
I' the grip amang the shairin'.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x.:
Gyaun in owre's bed wi's sharnie beets on.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 98:
Pleg tak' the coo! sheu fetched a cleepo Wi' sharny tail apo' his face.
s.Sc. 1897 E. Hamilton Outlaws xviii.:
Hout! you auld sharnie . . . Gae round to the byre and see till the kye.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 49:
Her hans wus a' clairtit ower wi coo shairn.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 19:
A haiggle on along streets chowky wui cluds o shairny stoor.
Ags. 1934 H. B. Cruickshank Noran Water 25:
A' green wi' sharn an' warped wi' weet.
Sh. 1947 Sh. Folk Bk. (Tait) I. 70:
We hed sharnie rivlins, weet sukkilegs.
m.Sc. 1983 Frederic Lindsay Brond 74:
He was a man from Eire, and one who signalled to a lad born at the sharny end of a country lane that he was a bloody peasant like my father, uncles and so forth.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 42:
The lads f'ae the Mairt
wi sharn on their feet
birl aboot the howff sawins,
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 176:
He looked so silly with his feet and trouser legs, also his hands and arms, covered with cow's shern that I laughed in spite of myself.
Cai. 1991 John Manson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 78:
She ligged in her ain sharn
The rousted scy blades
Still lig on the bink
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 12:
He broke open a bale of hay and threw lumps of the compressed grass into each of the cow's hecks. As they chewed, he scraped away the sharn from their heels and heaped it in the drain that ran the length of the byre.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 214:
The cow, when he milked her sleepily, stared at him with eyes like brown saucers and he did not swear when she scutched him with her sharny tail.
Fif. 1992 Simon Taylor Mortimer's Deep 251:
' ... It wis the blessit Colum Cillie hissel heistit the deid-kist owr the side like it was a dod a sharn.'
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 259:
Mackenzie was taking a risk in asking for Lockhart as his opponent but he could not resist the opportunity to rub his neb in the sharn. Forby that he did not believe he could lose.

Combs. (of n. and adj.): 1. sharn(y)-bree, the ooze from farmyard manure (Abd. 1970); 2. shairny-flee, -fly, a dung-fly (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., Cai., Per., Lth., Lnk., Kcb. 1970); 3. sharnie hips, a jocular name for a kind of tea-bun; 4. sharn hole, an opening in the wall of a cow shed through which the dung is thrown out; 5. sharn-midden, a dung hill. Also used fig.; 6. sharney peat, a cake of dried cow-dung mixed with coaldross and used as fuel (Sc. 1808 Jam.); 7. sharn-peel, the pool of seepage from the dung-hill. Cf. 1.1. Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxvi.:
Skaikit wi' skirps o' sharn bree to the vera waistban'.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie vii.:
Wash fae the coo-byre, or sharn bree.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick vii.:
'E sharny bree dreepin doon fae yer duds.
3. Bnff. 1960 People's Jnl. (8 Oct.) 6:
Visiting farming friends in Portsoy, we were amused to have put down at tea-time “Sharnie Hips!” The proper name we were told was Balmoral buns.
4. Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxvi.:
A gidd roon tae the back o' the barn an' craalt in at 'e sharn hole.
5. Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 125:
The sharn midden an' the stye.
Abd. 1919 Rymour Club Misc. II. 182:
Ye've seerly been taen thro' an English sharn midden (is said to a person who tries to speak fine English).
Abd. 1968 Buchan Observer (20 Aug.) 2:
I got her on to the sharn midden, when she floundered to the belly.
6. Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
The best of wood, too — nane of your sharney peats, but good aik timber.
7. Abd. 1949 Huntly Express (28 Jan.):
Weeds gathered on the turnip break were driven into the “sharn peel” and there left to mature and be driven out again.

II. v. To smear or soil with cow-dung (Bnf. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 153; Sh., ne. and em.Sc.(a), Wgt. 1970).

[O.Sc. shearne, = I., a.1585, = II., 1617, O.E. scearn, id.]

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"Shairn n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Mar 2024 <>



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