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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

LAPPER v, to curdle or coagulate

Lapper often relates to milk, as in “There will be good lapper’d-milk kebucks” (1709) from Watson’s Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems, or in “Scones on the girdle, made wi’ loupered milk” from Willian Landles’ Gooseberry Fair (1952).

Not so appetising is its use relating to wort (unfermented beer) as in this extract from the records of the Presbytery of Brechin: “the wirt … lappered thick and filthily stinked” (1650). It can also be applied to blood. Among the gory examples in the Dictionary of the Scots Language ( HYPERLINK "", is this from The Tryal of Philip Standsfield (1688): “there was blood about the defuncts neck all lapper’d and bruised”, and from Alexander Ross’s Helenore (1768): “An awful hole was dung intill his brow, An’ lappert bleed was smeer’d around his mou”.

Talking of smearing, lappered can by extension mean smeared with something moist and sticky – usually blood but not always.  So not only do we find “He was a’ lappered wi’ bluid” from John Buchan’s Witch Wood (1927), but also “Lapperit with mist and claye” from James Hogg’s Poems (1821).

Water can be described as lappered, when it is slowly freezing or full of slush or ice. So we read that “The rills are lappering up with ice” in Allan Cunningham’s Songs (1913) and that “An icy skimmerin’ lappers the troch moo” in the Scots Magazine (1945). Lappert earth is dried out and lumpy, as in “Early ploughed fields may require to be left unsown for some time owing to the grun’ bein’ lappert” from the Huntly Express (1955).

Lapper also occurs in various compounds, such as lapper-gowan, applied to the globe flower and the marsh marigold, due to their resemblance to balls of curdled milk.  And you wouldn’t want to be called a lopperty-heid – a stupid person.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Ann Ferguson of Scottish Language Dictionaries