Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CA', CAA', CAW, v.1 Mod.Sc. forms of O.Sc. and St.Eng. call in all its various meanings. Only meanings peculiar to Sc. are illustrated below. The Eng. form call is illustrated only in usages, combs. and phrs. not found in St.Eng. [kɑ: Sc., but m.Sc. + k: and n.Sc. + ka; kɒ: s.Sc.]

I. Meanings with only slight extension from the orig. call.

1. To order (a drink). Still known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.19, Ags.1, Fif.10, Lnk.3 1938. Sc. 1745  R. Chambers Hist. of the Rebellion (1869) 341:
He called a dram.

2. To abuse, miscall (Lnl.1 1938). Common in Eng. dial. (E.D.D.). Rnf. 1877  J. M. Neilson Poems 62:
She ca'd them up hill an' doon brae.

II. Transferred meanings.

1. (1) To urge forward, to drive, often used of animals (orig. to urge on with calls or shouts); hence, to drive (a plough, etc.). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1832–1846  A. Laing in Whistle-Binkie (3rd Series) 30:
My father wad lead wi' a bairn, But wadn be ca'd for the de'il.
Sh.(D) 1836  “G. Temple” Britta 34:
I ca' da sheep, an' I help at the voar [seed-time, i.e. Spring].
Abd.(D) 1875  W. Alexander Life among my Ain Folk 74:
It's easy ca'in the dyeuks to the mill-dam, ye ken!
Edb. 1772  R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 18:
Whan the saft vernal breezes ca' The grey-hair'd Winter's fogs awa'.
Ayr. 1790  Burns Ca' the Yowes (Cent. ed.) i.:
Ca' the yowes to the knowes, Ca' the, where the heather grows.
s.Sc. 1847  H. S. Riddell Poems 340:
I winn love the laddie that ca's the cart and pleugh.

Hence calle, the name given to the boy or girl who guided and urged forward the horses uoyed to a plough. Cf. ca'ing bairn (see III. 3). Dmf. 1867  W. MacDowall Hist. Dumfries xx.:
Yoking ten strapping sons in a plough, he held it himself, whilst his youngest boy acted as “caller.”

(2) To drive or bring home from the fields (turnips peats, etc.). Gen.Sc. Abd. 1923  J. Lawrence in Bnffsh. Jnl. (10 April) 3:
“Robbie” Mason and myself were “ca'in' neep” from a field next to the Ardmiddle policies.
Fif. c.1710  P. Birnie in
R. Ford Vagab. Song, etc. (1901) 281:
There was hay to ca', and lint to lead.

(3) intr. To be driven; to drive on (one's way), to proceed; to plod on; often followed by awa'. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1825  Jam.2:
That beast winna caw, for a' that I can do.
Sc. 1920  D. Rorie Auld Doctor 1:
O' a' the jobs that sweat the sark Gie me a kintra doctor's wark, Ye ca' awa' frae dawn till dark.
Arg. 1901  N. Munro Doon Castle xxxvii.:
Ay, ay! caw awa' wi' yer chanter, Sim.
Ayr. 1790  Burns Young Jockie (Cent. ed.) iii.:
And o'er the lea I leuk fu' fain, When Jockie's owsen hameward ca'.

2. To drive in (nails, etc.). Gen.Sc. Also intr. and fig. Vbl.n. ca'in', the noise of hammering. Sc. 1802–1803  in Scott (ed.) Minstr. Sc. Border (2nd ed.) I. 199:
And there will never a nail ca' right for me.
Abd. 1928  J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 18:
Winter! A' the scholars ca'in' Fushion intil thooms wi' blawin'.
Fif. 1938 10 :
“Bile your heid an' ca' tackets in't,” a contemptuous phrase.
Edb. [1801]  J. Thomson Poems (1819) 36:
A hammer scarce will ca' a tacket.
Kcb. 1938 9 :
I heard the ca'in', an wunnert what ye wur daein'.

Phrase: to ca' a nail to the head, to go to extremes, to exaggerate (Bnff.2, Abd.2 1938). Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore 79:
Yet to the head, the nail ye manna ca'.

3. To knock, push; often used with a prep., e.g. ca' oot, to dislocate; ca' tee, caw tae (Lnl.1 1938), to shut. Gen.Sc. Ork.(D) 1880  Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 77:
I fell i' the loch, hid's true, bit I'me no' sae seur that I wur ca'd i' hid.
Mry. 1865  W. H. L. Tester Poems 107:
Ca' tee the door, Sammy, an' snaik it, ma loon.
Abd.(D) 1903  W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 68:
He had heard of people being “ca'ed oot o' the shouther and being ruggit in again.”
Slg. 1938 3 :
I'll ca' the heid aff ye.
Edb. 1773  R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 41:
Take tent case Crummy tak her wonted tids, And ca' the leglin's treasure on the ground.
Edb. 1931  E. Albert Herrin' Jennie 161:
You could have ca'd her ower wi' a feather.

Fig. in phrase: hard ca'ed, sair —, hard-worked (Kcb.9 1938, sair — ). Abd. 1928  N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xvii.:
But she's some hard ca'ed — she hasna time.

4. To set or keep in motion; with about, to circulate, send round (a punch bowl, etc.); “to drive fanners or any other machine which is worked by hand or foot power” (Arg.1 1937). Gen.Sc. Sc. 1769  D. Herd Sc. Songs (1776) II. 19:
We ca'd the bicker aft about.
Sc. 1893  R. L. Stevenson Catriona xv.:
It seems they had fund Lapraik in ane of his dwams, cawing the shuttle.
Abd. [1768]  A. Ross Helenore (1868) 199:
Drink in braw cups was caw'd about gelore; Some fell asleep, and loud began to snore.
Edb. 1811  H. Macneill Bygane Times 33–34:
Advised me to find out some spark Wha wanted business in the law; — For him, he'd ither trade to ca'.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr Duguid 185:
It seems to me but as yesterday or last week when I was a happy wee callan ca'in the girr on the street.
w.Dmf. 1929  J. L. Waugh in Sc. Readings, etc. (ed. T. W. Paterson) 14:
“Handle! And what micht ye want wi' a handle, noo, Robert?” “To caa' the music roon,” says I.

5. To ransack, search; sometimes with preps. up, aboot. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1 1938. Vbl.n. caan-aboot, a long, thorough search. Sc. 1825  Jam.2:
I'll caw the haill town for't, or I want it.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 20:
We've hid a caan-aboot for ye a' mornin'.
  Ib. 23:
He caed up the hail hoose, bit he cudna get it.
Abd. 1925  A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 123:
We've ca'd for a hoose tull weariet.
Ags.(D) 1880  Brechin Advertiser (21 Sept.) 3/2:
[We] ca'd the road frae side to side.

6. To sell or hawk in a cart (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Arg.1 1938); to go round a place begging. Abd.(D) 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xv.:
I wud as seen ca' stinkin' fish wi' a horse worth auchteenpence.
Fif. 1938 10 :
He'd ca'ed the kintraside for'ears.

III. Phrases and combs.: †1. ca'-agehn, “opposition, contradiction” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 218); 2. caain-time, sheep-driving time; 3. ca'ing bairn (see quot.); 4. call-me-to-you, “heart's ease, Viola tricolor” (Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants 124); †5. call-the-guse (see second quot.); 6. ca'-the-churn, a dairy-maid (Abd.22 1938); 7. ca-the-shuttle, a weaver (Bnff.2 1938); also attrib.; 8. no' worth ca'in oot o' a kail-yard, of no value whatever (Cai.7, Ags.2 1938); 9. to ca' (aboot) a story, see 23; 10. to ca' canny, see separate article; 11. to ca' (call) for, (1) to abuse as (Bnff.2, Ags.2, Slg.3 1938); also in Eng. dial.; (2) to name after (Abd.2, Fif.1, Slg.3, Arg.1 (rare), Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1938); (3) to call on, visit; Gen.Sc.; 12. to call on, to demand, ask for (Abd.9, Ags.1, Slg.3, Kcb.1 1938); 13. to ca(a)' one's (the) girr (gird), to proceed, to carry on (Abd.9, Ags.1, Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1938); 14. to ca one's hans, to put more energy into one's work (Ags.1 1938); †15. to ca' sheep, “to stagger in walking; a vulgar phrase used of one who is drunken, and borrowed from the necessity of following a flock of sheep from side to side, when they are driven on a road” (Fif. 1825 Jam.2); 16. to ca' the cat frae the cream, to perform a very simple and reasonable act; known to Ags.1 1938; 17. to ca' the clash, see 23; 18. to ca' the cows out o' the kale-yard = 16; known to Cai.7, Ags.1 1938; 19. to ca' the crack, to converse, talk (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Lnk.3 1938); 20. to ca' the feeties, to hurry up, to run; †21. to ca' the spree, to lead the drinking; 22. to ca' through, see separate article; 23. to caw clashes, to ca' the clash, to ca' (aboot) a story, to go round spreading gossip, carrying tales (Bnff.2, Abd.19 1938); also as ppl.adj. ca'd (aboot) story (Abd.9 1938, — aboot —; Ags.17 1938), ca'd clash; †24. to ca' wi', to visit, call upon; †25. to caw one's hogs to the hill, “to snore” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2). 1. Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 218:
A cudna haud ma tung, an' a jist ga' 'im ca'-agehn.
2. Sh. 1933  J. Nicolson Hentilagets 14:
An at caain-time hed grouwn ta be A valient, sonsi gimmer.
3. Ork. 1920  J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 108:
When ploughing with the side plough there were no guiding reins on the horses, they being guided by a boy or girl dubbed the “ca'ing bairn.”
5. Sc. 1818  G. Chalmers Mary, Queen of Scots I. 255:
Tennis was much enjoyed by the young prince; schule the board, or shovel-board; billiards; and call-the-guse.
Sc. 1825  Jam.2:
Call-the-guse. This designation, I suppose, is equivalent to “drive the goose”; and the game seems to be the same with one still played by young people, in some parts of Angus, in which one of the company, having something that excites ridicule unknowingly pinned behind, is pursued by all the rest, who still cry out, Hunt the goose.
6. Abd. 1904  W. A. G. Farquhar Fyvie Lintie 107:
Whan ca'-the-churn got butter nane Or sour grew milk and ale-sup.
7. Sc. 1818  Scott Rob Roy xxvi.:
A puir ca-the-shuttle body.
8. Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 87:
Gin a la'yer hasna the gift o' the gab, he's no' worth ca'in oot o' a kail-yard.
11. (1) Fif. 1938 10 :
They ca'ed him for a' thing, i.e. used every form of abuse.
Edb. 1922  P. Macgillivray Bog Myrtle and Peat Reek 67:
They ca'd her for a wanton jade, Sae witchin' was her glancin' O.
(2) Lnk. 1838  McIlwham Papers (ed. J. Morrison) Letter i. 8:
We hae five weans . . . an' noo anither wee chap maks half-a-dozen; . . . I wish to ca' him for yersel', an' I write to tell ye o't.
(3) w.Sc. 1773  J. Boswell Tour to Hebrides (1936) 65:
I went and called for Mrs Dallas.
12. Uls. 1880  W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.:
Flannen's greatly called on this weather.
13. Sc. 1928  J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 26:
An' menseless tae, for oot he flang Intill the mirk withoot a wird Lea'in' his dad to ca' the gird.
em.Sc. 1913  J. Black Gloamin' Glints 83:
Sae “Ca' your girr” wi' right guid will, An' mak your ain guid luck.
w.Dmf. 1908  J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo (1912) xi.:
It was beautifu' and edifyin' to hear him caa' his gird, usin' queer-soondin' langnebbet words.
14. Bnff. 1930 2 :
Ca yir hans or we winna win throw the nicht.
16. Sc. 1818  Scott Rob Roy xxxiv.:
And the young lads haena wit aneugh to ca' the cat frae the cream.
18. Sc. 1816  Scott Antiquary (1818) iv.:
Johnnie Howie has hardly sense aneugh to ca' the cows out o' his kale-yard.
19. Abd.(D) 1920  C. Murray In the Country Places 26:
They taul' me, Heraclitus, that ye had worn awa'; I grat to mind hoo aft we ca'd the crack atween the twa.
Wgt. 1880  J.F.C. in
G. Fraser Lowland Lore 164:
At length, I doff'd my hat an' spak', To try if she would ca' the crack.
20. Ags. 1938 17 :
That'll gar ye ca' yer feeties.
21. Mry. 1852  A. Christie Mountain Strains 14:
He ca'd the spree, Richt frank an' free.
23. Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 20:
A heard something o't; but I sanna ca'-aboot the story.
Abd. 1825  Jam.2:
To caw clashes, to spread malicious or injurious reports, q[uasi] to carry them about from one place to another, like one who hawks goods.
Abd. 1929  Daavit's Digressions in Abd. Evening Expr. (16 Feb.) 7:
Noo, it's nae ca'd story 'cause Wullie Petterson spak tae een o' the lads that cam' on 'im.
Ags. 1920  A. Gray Songs and Ballads 20:
They ca'ed the clash aboot me, And eh! they were muckle grieved! They ca'ed me a ne'er-do-weel callant, And a' they said, you believed.
Ags. 1938 17 :
No, am telling ye, that's nae ca'd clash [not merely gossip].
24. Lnk. 1838  McIlwham Papers (ed. J. Morrison) Letter i. 10:
I maun speak to ye o't i' the Spring whan I ca' wi' ye, as I purpose, on my way to see my auld friens at Rafrilan.

[O.Sc. cal(l), caw, with meanings corresponding to II. 1 and 2, and also with modern Eng. meanings. Call, in the sense of “utter a call,” occurs first in O.Sc. in phr. cal agayne, to recall, a.1350. Call, in the sense of “drive,” is recorded first in Barbour Brus x. 223: “Than Bwnnok . . . callit his wayn towart the peill.” The form caw does not appear in D.O.S.T. until 1523 and is the reg. development of the orig. call. The different meanings cannot be assigned to different origins. The two forms and the two meanings are found also in n.Eng. dials. and derive from O.N. kalla, to call. There seems to be no evidence in Mod.Scand. of the meaning “drive.” The extension of meaning may be explained by the fact that the bringing in of the cows necessitated two actions — the calling to attract their notice and the getting behind them to drive them in, when shouting was again employed to stir up the laggards. Hence call = drive, in various other conditions, as in “to drive a nail,” etc.]

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"Ca' v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Dec 2017 <>



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