Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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COW, COWE, KOW, n.4 A hobgoblin; an object of terror. Known to Cai.7 1940. Cf. bu-kow, s.v. Bo, n.1, and Wirricow. [kʌu] Sc. 1722  W. Hamilton Wallace vii. 190:
With Wallace also, Earl Malcom's gone, . . . And Campbel kind, the good Knight of Lochow, To Suthron still a fearfull grievous cow.
Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems II. 243:
And he [Cupid] appear'd to be nae Kow, For a' his Quiver, Wings and Bow.
Sc. 1832–46  A. Rodger in Whistle-Binkie (1st Series) 56:
O what a brow has Betty! O sic a cowe is Betty! Her vera glow'r turns sweet to sour, Sae baleful is the power o' Betty.
Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems and Songs 264:
She is not fear'd for ony cowe, She'll sit and at it play bow wow.

Hence †cowie, “a species of brownie reputed to have frequented Goranberry, Liddel, a century ago” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Rxb. 1864  A. Jeffrey Hist. Rxbsh. IV. 242:
It is not said that ever the cowie was actually seen; he was only heard.

†Combs.: 1. cow-carl, “a bugbear. One who intimidates others” (Dmf. 1825 Jam.2);

2. cowman, (1) = 1 (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (2) “a designation sometimes given by the vulgar to the devil, esp. to frighten children” (Ib.).

[O.Sc. has cow, kow, of obscure origin and meaning, c.1500 and 1603 (D.O.S.T.), but used in somewhat similar sense to above. Perhaps related to Cow, v.2, n.3]

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"Cow n.4". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Nov 2018 <>



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