Letter B - Glossary of Words in the Counties of Antrim and Down

Author: William Hugh Patterson, MRIA

Date: 1880

Source: A Glossary of Words and Phrases used in Antrim and Down (London: Trübner & Co., for the English Dialect Society)

Comments: In the introduction to his Glossary of Words and Phrases used in Antrim and Down, William Hugh Patterson provided an historical account of the Scottish settlement of east Ulster from 1607. From these origins he observed that the words and phrases of the local population ‘will be found in the main to be of Scottish origin, and many of them have already found a place in Jamieson’s dictionary’. He acknowledged difficulty in spelling many words ‘because I only had them as sounded’. William Hugh Patterson (1835-1918) was the son of a famous naturalist, Robert Patterson, whose book on Birds frequenting Belfast Lough was also published in 1880. Many of the local names for birds in the glossary were sourced from his father. As he was also a collector of phrases and proverbs, Patterson’s glossary remains a unique record of Ulster-Scots in the 19th century.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Hist/1800-1899/006-b

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Back. ‘I’m never off his back,’ i.e. I’m always watching and correcting him.

Back door work, sb. underhand work.

Back spang, sb. a trick; something underhand. ‘He’s a decent man, there’s no back spangs about him.’

Back-stone, sb. a stone not less than two feet high, a foot and a half broad, and one foot thick, placed at the back of a turf fire, between the fire and the gable.

Back talk, saucy replies from a child or an inferior.

Bacon. ‘Could you eat bacon that fat?’ is the remark that accompanies the gesture known as ‘taking a sight.’ ‘He made bacon at me,’ i.e. he took a sight at me.

Bad, adj. sick. ‘He has been bad this month and more.’

Bad cess to you, bad luck to you.

Bad conscience, sb. It is said of people who go out to walk in the rain that they have a ‘bad conscience,’ and therefore cannot abide at home.

Bad man, the, sb. the devil.

Bad place, the, sb. hell.

Bad scran, sb. bad luck. ‘Bad scran to you.’

Baghel, Boghel, sb. a clumsy performer.

Bailer, sb. a vessel used for ‘bailing out’ a boat.

Bairn, sb. a child.

Baiverage, beverage. When a young woman appears wearing something new for the first time, she gives her acquaintances the ‘baiverage of it,’ this is a kiss.

Bake, v. to knead bread, as well as to bake it in an oven.

Ball, sb. a large and compact shoal of herrings is called by fishermen ‘a ball.’

Balling, v. Sea birds pouncing on a ball of fry are said to be balling.

Balloar, Billour, or Billyor, v. to holloa; to shout out.

Bankrope, sb. a bankrupt.

Bannock, Bonnock, sb. a cake baked on a griddle.

Banter, v. to taunt a person to fight. ‘He bantered me to fight him.’

Banty, sb. a bantam fowl.

Banyan, sb. a flannel jacket worn by Carlingford oystermen and fishermen.

Bap, sb. a lozenge-shaped bun, whitened with flour.

Bar-drake, Bar-duck, sb. the red-breasted merganser.

Bardugh, sb. a donkey’s pannier with falling bottom.

Bare pelt, sb. the bare skin. ‘He ran out on the street in his bare pelt.’

Barge, (1) sb. some kind of bird (Harris, Hist. co. Down, 1744). (2) sb. a scolding woman. (3) v. to scold in a loud abusive way.

Barked, v. encrusted. ‘Your skin is barked with dirt.’

Barley-buggle, sb. a scarecrow.

Barley-play, sb. a call for truce in boy’s [sic] games.

Barn-brack, sb. a large sweetened bun containing currants, in season at all times, but especially so at Hallow-eve, when it contains a ring; the person who gets the ring will of course be first married (Irish breac, speckled).

Barney bridge, sb. a children’s game. In playing it the following rhyming dialogue is used:—

‘How many miles to Barney bridge?

‘Three score and ten.’

‘Will I be there by candle light?’

‘Yes, if your legs be long.’

‘A curtsy to you.’

‘Another to you.’

‘If you please will you let the king’s horses go through?’

‘Yes, but take care of your hindmost man.’

Barroughed, Borroughed, adj. a cow with her hind legs tied to keep her still while being milked is barroughed.

Barrow-coat, sb. a long flannel petticoat, open in front, worn by infants.

Baste, sb. any animal except a human being. A zealous individual asked a servant-girl, ‘Are you a Christian?’ She replied, ‘Do you think I’m a baste?’ See s.v. Christen.

Baste the bear, sb. a boy’s game.

Basty, adj. tough and hard, applied to stiff heavy clay or earth.

Bat, (1) sb. a blow. ‘He geed me a bat on the heed.’ (2) sb. a moth. A bat is called ‘a leather-winged bat.’

Bats and bands, a description of rude hinges, consisting of a hook which is driven into the door-frame, and a strap with an eye which is nailed to the door, so that the door can at any time be lifted off its hinges.

Battery, sb. a sloping sea wall.

Battle, bottle, sb. a small bundle of hay or straw.

Bavin, sb. a sea fish, the ballan wrasse, family Labrus. Fishermen esteem it of very little account, and generally use it to bait their lobster-pots with. It is also called ‘Morrian,’ ‘Murran-roe,’ and ‘Gregah.’

Bay, sb. one of the divisions or apartments in a cottage.

Beal, v. to suppurate.

Bealdin, Bealin, sb. matter from a sore.

Bealin, sb. a suppurating sore.

Beat all, v. to surpass all. ‘Well, now, that beat all that ever I heard.’

“The day beat all for beauty.” — W. Carleton.

Beauty sleep, sb. the sleep had before twelve o’clock.

Becker-dog, sb. the grampus.

Becomes, v. ‘She becomes her bonnet,’ means the bonnet becomes her. ‘Shure the creathur becomes his new shuit.’

Beddy, adj. interfering; meddling. ‘You’re very beddy,’ saucy at one’s food, also greedy, covetous.

Bedrill, sb. a bed-ridden person; same as Betherel.

Beece, sb. cattle; beasts.

Beeslings, sb. beestings — the milk got from a cow at the three first milkings after she has calved.

Beet, sb. a small sheaf, or bunch of flax.

Beets, sb. pl. the medullary rays in wood.

Beetle, sb. a round wooden mallet or pounder for kitchen use; a wooden block as used in a ‘beetling mill.’

Beetling-mill, sb. a mill fitted with large wooden ‘beetles,’ raised perpendicularly by machinery and falling with their own weight, for finishing linen.

Beggar’s stab, sb. a coarse sewing-needle.

Begoud, Beggod, v. begun.

Begunked, adj. disappointed. Same as Gunked.

Behang, an exclamation. ‘O behang t’ ye for a fool.’

Behind God speed, an out-of-the-way place; quite out of the world. Same as At the back of God speed.

Behopes, sb. hope; expectation. ‘I saw him to-day, and he has no behopes of bein’ any better.’ ‘I had great behopes the day would be fine.’

Bein’, sb. (being), any wretched or unfortunate person.

Belly-band, sb. the girth, in cart or car harness; the piece of cord attached to the front of a boy’s kite to which the string is fastened.

Bendard, sb. the bent stick or bow in the frame of a boy’s kite; the upright stick is called the ‘standard’.

Ben-weed, Bend-weed, sb. the rag-weed, Senecio Jacobœa.

Berries, sb. pl. gooseberries.

Betherel, sb. a bed-ridden person; a helpless cripple.

Be to be, must be. ‘There be to be another man got to help.’

Be to do, must do. ‘He be to do it,’ i.e. he must do it.

Better, (1) adv. more. ‘He gave me better nor a dozen.’ (2) adj. well. ‘He’s not better, but he’s not so bad as he was yesterday.’ The moment a child is born, the mother is said to be better.

Better again, still better.

Beyond the beyonds, adj. something very wonderful or unexpected.

Beyont the beyons, some very out of the way place.

Bide, v. to wait.

Bid the time o’ day, v. to say good-morning, or any similar salutation.

Big, v. to build. ‘Come and see Billy biggin.’

Biggin, sb. a building.

Bike (a bee’s bike), sb. a wild bee’s nest.

Bill, sb. a bull.

Biller, sb. water-cress (in Irish biorar [birrer]).

Bindherer, Binntherer, sb. anything very large or good of its kind.

Bing, sb. a heap; a heap of potatoes in a field covered with earth; a heap of grain in a barn.

Binged up, v. heaped up.

Binner, v. to go very quickly.

Birl, v. to twirl round; to go rapidly, as a vehicle; to run fast.

Birse, sb. bristles.

Birsy, adv. bristly.

Birthy, adj. numerous, or thick in the ground, applied to potatoes; prolific, or productive. ‘Them beans is very birthy.’

Biscake, sb. a biscuit.

Biscuit, sb. the root of Potentilla tormentilla, called also ‘tormenting root’.

Bisna, v. is not. ‘If it bisna the right thing, we canny work wi’ it.’

Bissent, is not. ‘I can carry it, if it bissent too weighty.’

Bit, (1) sb. The bit of a key is the part that is cut to pass the wards of the lock. (2) sb. to ‘come to the bit,’ is to come to the point; to arrive at the last stage of a bargain.

Biting Billy, sb. a very hot description of sugar-stick.

Bits of things, sb. pl. household furniture.

Biz, bees, v. is or are. ‘If you biz goin’ I’ll go too.’ ‘When that work bees finished ye may go.’

Bizz, v. to buzz.

“And sweetly you bizzed wee happy bee.” — Flecher.

Blab, sb. (1) a raised blister; (2) a tell-tale; (3) a bee’s blab, the little bag of honey within the body of a bee.

Black-a-vized, adj. dark-complexioned.

Black-back, sb. a fish, the flounder or fluke, Platessa flesus.

Black-head, sb. the reed bunting.

Black lumps, sb. pl. a favourite sweetmeat, made up in balls, and flavoured with cloves.

Black out, adj. ‘The fire’s black out,’ i.e. quite out.

Black scart, sb. a cormorant.

Blad, (1) sb. a useless thing. (2) sb. a slap or blow. (3) v. to slap.

(4) v. to blow or flap about in the wind, as clothes do when drying on a line. ‘The wind would blad the young trees about.’ Bladding = flapping about.

Blade, sb. Strawberries, raspberries, and currants, are sold by the blade; i.e. a cabbage-leaf into which a pint or quart, as the case may be, of the fruit, has been put.

Blade mangles, to, v. to take the outside leaves off growing mangolds.

Blae, adj. livid; blueish. ‘Blae with cold.’

Blae-berry, sb. the whortle-berry, Vaccinum myrtillus. Same as Frughan.

Bla-flum, Bla-fum, sb. nonsense; something said to mislead.

Blanket. ‘It’s as braid as it’s lang, like Paddy’s blanket’ = it’s no matter which of two ways a thing is done.

Blanter, sb. a particular kind of oats, long in the pickle, and late in ripening.

Blashy, adj. splashy.

Blast o’ the pipe, sb. a smoke.

Blate, adj. bashful.

Blatther, sb. ‘He fell a blatther on the groun’,’ i.e. with great force.

Blaud, (1) sb. a slap or blow. (2) v. to slap.

Bleart, adj. bleared.

Bleary-een, sb. pl. eyes affected by a thick fluid; inflamed eyes.

Bleerie-tea, sb. very weak tea.

Blessed be the Maker! an exclamation, made after saying that any one is particularly ugly.

Blessing, (1) ‘You missed as you missed your mammy’s blessin’:’ said derisively to some one who is disappointed at having missed something. (2) ‘The Lord’s blessing be about you,’ a common form in which a beggar acknowledges alms.

Blether, Blather, (1) sb. a talking, empty person. (2) v. to talk foolishly; to talk indistinctly.

Blethers, sb. nonsense; foolish talk.

Blind, v. to ‘blind a road’ = to spread small stones or cinders so as to cover up the large stones, with which a new road has been ‘pitched,’ and to fill the interstices.

Blind man’s stan, sb. a boy’s game, played with the eggs of small birds. The eggs are placed on the ground, and the player, who is blindfolded, takes a certain number of steps in the direction of the eggs; he then slaps the ground with a stick thrice, in the hope of breaking the eggs; then the next player, and so on.

Blinked, adj. Cow’s milk is said to be blinked when it does not produce butter, in consequence of some supposed charm having been worked — a counter charm is required to bring it right.

Blister, sb. an annoying person.

Blockan, sb. the coal fish, Merlangus carbonarius. The fry are called gilpins, small ones pickies; the mid-sized ones blockans and glashans, and when large, grey lord and stanlock.

Blood, (1) v. ‘To get blood from a turnip,’ to achieve something very difficult in the way of getting. (2) v. to bleed. ‘Your nose is bloodin’.’

Blood-sucker, sb. a stinging jelly-fish, or Medusa.

Blooming Sally, sb. the hairy willow herb, Epilobium hirsutum.

Blooster, v. to bluster.

Blootther, sb. a severe blow; a clumsy blundering rustic.

Bloss, sb. contraction for blossom; a term of endearment.

Blue-bonnet, sb. the blue titmouse. The bird that is here called ‘the cock blue bonnet,’ is really the great titmouse.

Blue-bow, Blew-bowed, sb. said of flax when it blossoms.

Blue-month. ‘It happens longer or shorter, from the time that the owl pratis (potatoes) goes out, an’ the new ones is not come in.’ — Ollminick.

Bluit, sb. a fish; some description of skate or thorn-back.

Blurtin’ thing, sb. a crying child.

Boag, sb. a bog.

Boagie, sb. a strong low truck with four wheels.

Board, (1) v. ‘To board a person,’ to bring him before a board (of Guardians, for instance) on some charge. ‘What ails you at the man?’ ‘Sure he boarded me an’ got me the sack’ (dismissed). (2) v. to accost a person.

Bog-bean, sb. Menyanthes trifoliata. It is used medicinally by the peasantry.

Bogging, sb. black bog or peat, used for manure (Mason’s Parochial Survey, 1814).

Boggle, sb. a mischievous spirit or goblin.

Bog-wood, sb. fir-wood dug out of peat bogs.

Bohog, sb. a rude shed, under which the priests said mass during times of persecution.

Boil, sb. the boil = the boiling point. ‘The pot’s comin’ to the boil.’ ‘It’s just at the boil.’

Boiled milk, sb. porridge made of oat-meal and milk.

Boiled upon, boiled with. ‘Take some of that herb boiled upon sweet milk.’

Boke, v. to retch; to incline to vomit.

Bole, sb. a small recess in the wall of a room.

Bo-man, sb. a bogey. The word is used to frighten children.

Bonaught, sb. a thick round cake made of oaten meal, baked on the clear turf coal, and often used on the first making of meal after harvest (Dubourdieu’s Co. Down, 1802).

Bone dry, adj. perfectly dry.

Bonham, sb. a pig of six or eight weeks old.

Bonnock, sb. Same as Bannock.

Boo, sb. a louse.

Booket, adj. sized. ‘It’s big booket.’

Bool, sb. the bow of a key, or of scissors.

Booled oars, sb. pl. a kind of oars used by the Scotch quarter fishermen at Carrickfergus.

Booled oars are those which row, two at one beam; upon each oar is fastened a piece of oak timber, the length of such part of the oar as is worked within the boat; which timber enables them to balance the oar so that they row with greater ease.” — S. McSkimin, Hist. of Carrickfergus.

Bools, sb. pot-hooks.

Boom out, v. When a small boat is running before a light wind the sails are boomed out so as to catch as much wind as possible.

Boon, sb. a company of reapers.

Boor-tree, Bore-tree, sb. the elder-tree, Sambucus nigra.

Boose, sb. a stall for an ox.

Bose, adj. hollow. ‘The goose is a bonnie bird if it was not bose.’

Bother one’s head, v. to trouble one’s self.

Boun’, v. bound; determined; prepared; certain. ‘He’s boun’ to do it.’

Bowl, adj. bold. ‘He come on as bowl as a lion.’

Box-borra, sb. a wheel-barrow with wooden sides.

Boxen, sb. a casing of wood such as is round the sides of a farm cart.

Boxty, or Boxty-bread, sb. a kind of bread made of grated raw potatoes and flour; it differs from ‘potato bread,’ or ‘potato bread,’ of which cold boiled potatoes form the principal part.

Box-wrack, sb. a kind of sea-wrack.

Brace, sb. a screen, made of stakes interwoven with twigs, and covered inside and outside with prepared clay used to conduct the smoke from a fire on the hearth to an aperture in the roof.

Bracken, sb. any large kind of fern.

Brads, Breads, sb. pl. the flat boards or scales, usually made of wood, which are attached to a large beam for weighing.

Brae, sb. a steep bank; a hill; the brow of a hill.

Braid, adj. broad.

Braik, sb. a large harrow, sometimes called a ‘double harrow,’ usually drawn by two horses; the ‘single harrow’ is much smaller, and is so called, not because it is in one piece, it is really double, but because it is drawn by one horse.

Braird, sb. The young blades of corn, flax, &c. that come up in a field are called the braird.

Bramble, sb. withered branches; rubbish of twigs, &c.

Bramelly, or Brambled. A ‘bramelly-legged man’ is a man who is either ‘knock-kneed’ or ‘out-kneed,’ or has misshapen feet and legs.

Branded, Brannet, adj. of a red colour with streaks or bands, applied to cattle.

Brander, sb. a broiling iron.

Brash, (1) sb. a turn at the operation of churning. ‘Gi’e the churn brash.’ (2) sb. an attack of illness.

Brattle, sb. a peal of thunder.

Brave, adj. fine; large. ‘That’s a brave day.’ ‘That’s a brave chile ye’ve got.’

Bravely, adv. finely. ‘He’s doin’ bravely,’ i.e. he is recovering finely.

Brazier, sb. a fish; the pout, Morrhua lusca; also the poor or power cod, M. minuta; also the common sea bream, Pagellus centrodontus.

Bread. ‘Bread and butter, and tith, thith, thith.’ A child is asked to repeat this, and when he gets to the last syllables the tongue gets between the teeth, and when some one gives him an unexpected blow under the chin of course the tongue gets bitten.

Bread and cheese, sb. the young leaf-buds of the hawthorn.

Break, (1) sb. a word used by the Ulster Scots for a rout or defeat (obsolete). ‘The Break of Drummore,’ ‘The Break of Killeleigh.’ (2) v. to change money. ‘Can you break that pound note for me?’

Break by kind, v. to be different in habits, disposition, &c., from one’s parents. “The son of a dhrunk man ’ill le [sic] be inclined to be dhrunk hisself, if he dizint break by kind.” — Ollminick.

Breeks, sb. pl. trousers.

Breest, or Breast, v. to spring up and alight with the breast upon some object. ‘Cud ye breest that wall?’

Breeze, sb. fine cinders or coke. “The price of fine breeze has been reduced to 3s. per 40 bushels.” — Belfast Paper, 1875.

Bremmish, sb. a dash, or furious rush or blow; the sudden rush made by a ram.

Brent clean, adj. quite clean.

Brent new, adj. quite new. Same as “bran new.”

Brequist, sb. breakfast.

Briar bot, sb. the fishing frog or sea devil, Lophius piscatorius. Same as Molly Gowan, Kilmaddy.

Briar bunting, sb. the common bunting.

Bridge, sb. a weigh-bridge. A coal carter was found to have been abstracting coals from his own load. ‘Ah, ye fool,’ said his comrade, ‘shure A toul’ ye ye had to go over a bridge.’

Brills, sb. spectacles.

Brissle, v. to toast or scorch. ‘To brissle potatoes.’ ‘Don’t be brissling your shins over the fire.’

Broad stone, The, sb. a cromlech in the parish of Finvoy, co. of Antrim.

Brochan, sb. thin oat-meal porridge. There is a saying, ‘Never bless brochan,’ i.e. that brochan is not worth saying grace for, and that such poor food comes as a right.

Brochan roy, sb. brochan with leeks boiled in it: used by the very poor.

Brock, (1) sb. a badger; a foolish person; a dirty person; one who has a bad smell. (2) sb. broken victuals.

Brogue, sb. a strong Irish accent. ‘He has a brogue you could hang your hat on,’ i.e. a very strong brogue.

Brogues. ‘As vulgar as a clash o’ brogues,’ i.e. a pair of common boots, — very vulgar indeed.

Broken down tradesmen, sb. a boys’ game.

Broo, sb. Snow-broo = snow broth; half-melted snow.

Brooghled, v. badly executed.

Brosnach o’ sticks, sb. an armful or bundle of branches gathered for fire-wood. Also called Brosna and Brasneugh.

Broth. Broth, like porridge and sowans, is spoken of in the plural: ‘A few broth.’ ‘Will you sup them?’ ‘They’re very salt the day.’

Brough, sb. a halo round the moon. ‘A far awa brough, is a near han’ storm,’ saying.

Browlt, adj. deformed or bowed in the legs: generally applied to a pig, a young dog, or a calf.

Bruckle, adj. brittle. ‘That’s bruckle ware ye’r carryin’.’

Bruckle sayson, sb. very unsettled weather.

Brulliment, sb. a disturbance; a broil.

Brumf, adj. curt or short in manner.

Brust, v. to burst.

Bucht oot! v. get out!

Buck-house, sb. “To be sold or let, a good buck-house, about 80 feel long, with a well-watered bleaching green.” — Advt. Belfast News-letter, 1738.

Buckie, sb. a mollusk, Buccinum undatum.

Buckie-berries, sb. the scarlet berries of the wild rose.

Buckie-breer, sb. a wild rose bush.

Buckled, v. bent or twisted: applied to a saw. ‘There, that saw’s all buckled; take her to the saw doctor,’ i.e. a man who repairs saws.

Buddagh, sb. the large lake trout, Salmo ferox. The word is said to mean a big, fat fellow; a middle-sized cod-fish.

Buddy, sb. an individual.

Budge, v. to move. ‘He’s that ill he can’t budge his feet or his legs.’

Buffer, sb. a boxer. ‘An old buffer,’ a tough old fellow.

Bug, sb. a caterpillar infesting fruit trees.

Bulk, v. to play marbles.

Bulkey, sb. a constable.

Bull, sb. a large marble.

Bully-rag, v. to scold in a bullying and noisy way.

Bully-raggin’, sb. a great scolding.

Bum-bee, sb. a bee.

Bumbee wark, sb. nonsense.

Bummer, sb. a boy’s toy, made with a piece of twine and a small circular disc, usually of tin; it makes a humming noise.

Bumming, v. boasting; talking big.

Bun, sb. the tail of a hare.

Bun, Bunny, call to a rabbit.

Bunce, (1) sb. a consideration in the way of commission given to persons who bring together buyer and seller at a flax market. Perhaps a corruption of bonus. (2) v. to divide money. ‘Bunce the money.’

Bundie, sb. what a child sits on.

Bunker, sb. a low bank at a road side, a road-side channel.

Bunny, sb. a rabbit.

Bunt, v. to run away, as a rabbit does.

Burn, sb. a small river.

Burn-shin-da-eve, sb. a term for a woman who is fond of crouching over the fire.

Burrian, sb. a bird; the red-throated diver.

Burroe, sb. a kind of sea wrack; the tangle, Laminaria digitata. A tall, shapeless person is called in derision a burroe. ‘When I was sixteen I grew up as tall as a big burroe,’ said by a woman from Glenarm, Co. of Antrim.

Burrough duck, sb. the shell drake.

Bursted churn. When the sun sets before the grain is all cut, on the last day of reaping on a farm, there is said to be a bursted churn.

Bushes, sb. pl. masses of sea-weed (tangles), growing on sunken rocks, and exposed at low water.

Busk, v. to dress, or deck oneself.

“Gae busk yeirsel’ an come awa’

An’ dinna sit here dringin’.” — Huddleston.

Buskin boot, sb. a man’s low boot; to tie.

Butcher, sb. the parten or shore crab, Carcinus mœnas.

Butter goes mad twice in the year, a saying. In summer it runs away, and in winter it is too hard, and dear as well.

Buttery fingers, sb. a term for a person who lets things slip from his hands.

Buttin’ at, v. hinting at.

Buy. ‘He cud buy ye at the yin en’ o’ the toon, an’ sell ye at the ithir,’ said to a person who is supposed to have a small supply of sense.

By-chap, sb. an illegitimate male child.

Bye-word, sb. a saying. “It was about this time that Paddy Loughran seen a ghost that had come to frighten him, but he only sayd, ‘Ye’re late,’ an’ with that the bye-word riz, ‘Ye’re late, as Paddy Loughran sayd t’ the ghost.’” — Ollminick.

By Gommany, a petty oath, or exclamation.

By Goneys, or By Golly, an oath.

By Jaiminie King, an oath.

Byre, sb. a cow-house.

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