Examples of bairn
Examples of bairn
Where does bairn come from?
The word bairn comes from the Old English word bearn, a “descendant,” and is related to the verb to bear, as in bearing children. A bairn can be either a male or female child. It can also refer more generally to childhood.
Bairn has been closely associated with northern England and Scotland throughout its existence, although it was a general English word before 1700. Since 1700, its use has been more limited to northern England and Scotland.
Bairn appears, for instance, in the incredibly charming Nine Hundred and Forty Scottish Proverbs (1667) several times. One proverb reads: “A bairn must creep ere he gang,” or “A child must crawl before he walks.”
The bairn disappeared upstairs just after the bells, came down 15mins later, 'need a help, some string and some tape dad'… Melted. pic.twitter.com/xqPArl6S2H
— Graham Smith (@smithy1893) January 1, 2019
Since at least the early 1880s, describing someone as a bairn in the figurative sense meant they were child-like or, more pejoratively, childish, e.g., He’s nothing but a bairn and has no sense.
Why does everything upset me? Just one big bairn honestly😂
— Chloe🎈 (@_chloerobson) January 3, 2019
All of these senses of bairn, both literal and figurative, remain in use in Scotland and northern England.
— Magpie Ranger (@NUFC_OurClub) February 21, 2019
Who uses bairn?
The word bairn, for a literal or figurative “child,” remains in use in contemporary Scotland and northern England. It is considered a more regional term than child.
English speakers across the pond or down under—that is, Americans, Canadians, or Australians—may have encountered bairn in the popular television show Outlander, which follows a woman who time travels back to 1743 Scotland. There’s a lot of bairn-mama drama in the show, to put it mildly.
"Had ye in my mind somehow as a wee bairn always. As my babe." pic.twitter.com/cOQaUR7bVr
— brenda balfe 🏳️🌈 (@balfestewart) January 2, 2019
The Scottish football (soccer) team Falkirk F.C. are nicknamed The Bairns, a reference to the natives of Falkirk and their town motto: “Better meddle wi’ the de’il [devil] than the Bairns o’Fa’kirk [of Falkrik].”