Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

BONNY, BONNIE, Bonie, Bony, Boannie, adj., adv., n. [′bɔnɪ, ′bon, ′bɔn Sc.; ′buni s.Sc.]

I. adj. Gen.Sc.

1. Beautiful, pretty, fair. Sc. 1832  A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 3:
A bonnie bride's soon buskit.
Ayr. 1792  Burns Banks and Braes o' Bonie Doon (Cent. ed.) ii.:
Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon.

2. Handsome, attractive. Sc. 1910  L. MacLean Watt In Poets' Corner 124:
I've tint a bonnie laddie, A lissom, lichtsome loon.
Per. c.1800  Lady Nairne in Mod. Sc. Minstrel (ed. C. Rogers 1855) I. 218:
Bonnie Charlie's now awa'.

3. A term of eulogy or appreciation or endearment. Sc. 1886  R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped x.:
Am I no a bonny fighter?
Ork.(D) 1880  Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 9:
The ship cam' fest afore a bonnie sooth wind.
Abd. 1881  W. Paul Past and Pres. Abdsh. 111:
The country people here used to call a healthy wound, a “bonny sair.”
Per. c.1800  Lady Nairne in Mod. Sc. Minstrel (ed. C. Rogers 1855) I. 195:
Wha'll buy my caller herrin'? They're bonnie fish and halesome farin'.
wm.Sc. [1835]  Laird of Logan (1868) 390:
Hush, hushie, bonnie doo.

4. Great, considerable. Abd. 1920  M. Argo The Makkin o' John (4th ed.) 6:
Bit we wad ha'e kent a bonnie differ wi' frem't fowk.
Rxb. 1897  J. C. Dibdin Sc. Border Life 60:
A bonny fricht they got when they waukened.

5. Used ironically: fine. Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet xxiii.:
Weel, my bonnie man, I see ye are thinking shame o' yoursell, and nae great wonder.
Bnff. 1882  W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars vi.:
She was a feel, and he was a knave, and a bonnie barg'in they've made o' ane anither.
Abd. 1910 13 :
I'll lat ye see the bonny side o' the door.
Edb. 1822  R. Wilson Poems 10:
At length out o' the pool I wan, A bonnie, draigl't droukit man.

6. Used with an(d) with adv. force = “jolly” (colloq.), very. Ayr. 1889  H. Johnston Chron. of Glenbuckie 58:
The elders are bonny and angry about it.
Rxb. 1918  Kelso Chron. (11 Jan.) 3/3:
Dauvit wad be bonnie an' mad if I let it away wi' a useless whalp like you.

Hence: (1) bonniness, bonyness, n., beauty, handsomeness; (2) bonnily, bonnilie, adv., beautifully, finely. (1) Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 6:
For bonyness an' other good outthrow, They were as right as ever trade the dew.
Ags. 1928  A. Gray Gossip 30:
O' a' the bonniness that's here Nae jot I'll miss.
(2) Hdg. 1801  R. Gall Poems (1819) 19:
There let your charms blink bonnilie.
Kcb. 1885  A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe i.:
“Ah! they're [potatoes] lauchin' bonnily,cc. she continued, lifting the lid from the pot.

II. adv. Corresponding to the adj. Sc. 1822  A. Cunningham My Ain Countree in Sir Marmaduke Maxwell, etc. 177:
My hamely hearth burn'd bonnie.
Bch.(D) 1930  P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 106–107:
Knowie: He'd eest t' play fyles at waddin's. Ye'll min on' him. Betty: Eh bonnie that. He played at ma ain waddin' nae less.
Dmb. 1931  A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle xxiv.:
Impelled . . . by his own bitterness, . . . he continued: “Ye've brocht up a' your children bonnie, bonnie.”

III. n. A small quantity of anything. Sc. 1721  J. Kelly Proverbs 72;
2 :
But bonny o't, like Boles good mother.

IV. Phr.: to make a' the bonnie things o', to make much of, to fuss over. Ags. 1893  Arbroath Guide (11 Feb.) 4/3;
1 :
She drove Francie frae the fireside, ca'd him an ill-daein' useless foongil, an' made a' the bonnie things o' Tam, the cat.

V. Combs.: (1) bonny-die, bonnie-, a trinket, toy, pretty thing; (2) bonny penny, boannie-, “a big price” (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1935); (3) bonnie wallie, bonny —, a trinket, toy. Usually in pl. (1) Sc. 1821  Scott Pirate (1822) vi.:
Gie the ladie back her bonnie die there, and be blithe to be sae rid on't.
Fif. 1912–1919  Rym. Club Misc. II. 155:
Truth to tell, no one would dream of looking for that pincushion in the strange place where it is to be found; for, naturally enough, you would look to find it on my lady's mirror among the rest of her bonnie-dies.
Edb. 1881  (6th ed.) J. Smith J. Blair's Maunderings 79:
Expensive bonny-dies that there's no the least occasion for.
[See Die.] (2) Sh. 1926–1928  J.G. Lowrie buys a Ford in Sh. Times:
Ye'll be wantin' a boannie penny fur dis een.
Abd. 1928  N. Shepherd Quarry Wood vii.:
A bonny penny she'll be for books.
(3) Sc. 1821  Scott Pirate (1822) xviii.:
For she has silks and sattins, and tobacco . . . and bonnie wallies baith of silver and gowd.
Ayr. 1789  D. Sillar Poems 120:
Whenever I gat ought, I min' it brawly, I spent it ay on some bit bonny wallie.

[Origin obscure. Earliest quot. in D.O.S.T. a.1500, earliest spellings bony, bonie.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Bonny adj., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Feb 2019 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down