Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

An Introduction to Scottish Country Dancing
(SCD) Technical Terms

This Dictionary part of the website, like the original book form of A Dictionary of Scottish Country Dancing, is intended as a reference to the formal terms (the technical jargon) used in describing and teaching Scottish Country Dancing. If you have difficulty in understanding any of it, refer to your teacher or to one of the more experienced members of your Society or class for advice. If you find an error or believe that something could be expressed more clearly, please Contact Us.

Since SCD has developed in much the same way as spoken languages, the "grammatical" rules are imperfect: they apply for most of the time but there are exceptions; further, new exceptions and new terms will almost certainly appear at some time. The definition of each term covers the rule which applies most of the time followed by any exceptions and, sometimes, the author's comments.

How to use this website

See the Home Page for a description of the layout of this Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary, including the complementary, and much larger, part describing over 6000 individual dances, and how to use it.

Organization and conventions

Where a term has a technical meaning different from or more precise than that in normal English usage, it is defined in an appropriate web page with its own heading. Terms such as forward, backward, clockwise and so on have their normal English meaning and so are not redefined here whereas others, such as Man (who will often actually be female) and Up (which rarely means in a vertical direction) are defined. Copious cross-reference entries are included within the definitions.

Where there is a reference in the text of a technical term web page to any other technical term for which there is a page on this site, the reference is shown in Italic font with an initial capital. Where the term involves several words, it may be a composite of references to two or more web pages rather than a reference to a single page as, for example, Pas-de-basque Setting step; the initial capital of Setting step indicates that there are separate web pages headed Pas-de-basque and Setting step but no entry for the full term. The reference, Strathspey setting step, indicates that there is a web page for the full term. Note that, exceptionally, for italic references to the navigation bar, the exact capitalization of the navigation bar is retained.

Plurals and possessive forms are used as references as, for example, Ladies, Lady's and Ladies', even though only Lady exists as an exact reference; a few singular references are to plural forms of web page headings.

Some web page headings in Figures include a verb (always in the imperative mood) as, for example, Step down; a reference to it might need to be in some other mood and so might be shown as Steps down or Stepping down or even Stepped down. A few web page headings, for example, The knot, include the definite or indefinite article which may be omitted in the reference; note, however, that the definite article is retained for references to The set, the group of dancers performing the dance, as an added differentiation from Set, the Figure. Where a multiple reference is shown with a separating comma, the first reference is incomplete; Longwise, Full set is intended to refer to Longwise set as well as Full set, for example.

The symbol n is used to represent any cardinal number, for example, when referring to the number of dancers involved in a particular format of The set and nth is used for the ordinal version, for example, when referring to a Place within The set.

References to the names of publications and of specific tunes are in Green font. Where the usage of a term requires a reference to the instructions for a specific dance, a direct, live link is provided to the specific page of Dance Instructions.

Arrangement of content

For the book form of A Dictionary of Scottish Country Dancing, it would be unpractical to make this a simple dictionary of every term within a single alphabetical list. Unlike most languages, English places the adjective before the noun and so, for example, Figures which are closely associated, such as Petronella, Half petronella and Quarter petronella would be many pages apart. It would have been possible to give an extra entry, such as Petronella halfway with a reference to the Half petronella entry but the reader of the book would probably find the frequent page searching tedious.

Following the book form, as indicated by the main links from this page, their explanation on the Home Page and as shown in the Site map, the material has been organized within separate sections; each covers a distinct topic within which the content is organized alphabetically except where a strong logical association dictates otherwise. The website allows the convenience of both forms of access; in addition to the logical structure of the book form, there is a Comprehensive DICTIONARY Of Dance Terms listing the page links in alphabetical order for every defined term, a list of Diagrams linking to every diagram used in the website and also a list of Terms Videos linking to videos for many of the Scottish Country Dancing terms defined.

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