Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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QUAW, n. Also qua(a), quah, quhaw. [kwɑ:, Gall. + ʍɑ:]

1. A bog, quagmire, marsh (Uls. 1801 Patterson Gl., quaa, quah; Gall. 1902 E.D.D.; Uls.2 1929; Wgt. 1958, quhaw; Gall. 1967). Also fig. Combs. bab(b)anqua, bobbin-, id., soft, spongy ground (Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 9; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). See Bobbin' Quaw, Babanqua; quak(k)in quaw, id. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 390; Ayr. 1928; Uls. 1953 Traynor). See also Quak. Per. 1762  Session Papers. Gray v. Maxwell (3 April) 34:
The large Dam of Water which supplies the Mill-lead of Errol, called the Quaa.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 287:
Some think they sank in a snaw wride, and afterwards into a Qua.
Gall. 1843  J. Nicholson Tales 129:
He hadna gane far till down he plumpit in a quaa to the saddle laps.
Kcb. 1894  Crockett Raiders xviii.:
Green, deceitful, “quakkin-qua's,” covered with a scum that looked like tender young grass, but in which, at the first step, one might sink to the neck.
Sc. a.1900  “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 14:
They'll say it's a' true, and side aye wi' you, Yet they'll spurtle in qua o' black shame.
Lnk. 1847  Scots Mag. (March) 458:
Just below the crest, in a “quakin' quaa,” the river is born.
Clc. 1952  Scotsman (5 Jan.):
A rash-infested quaakin-qua that will ultimately extend on both sides of Devon.

2. A disused and overgrown pit (Gall. 1825 Jam.); “a hole whence peats have been dug” (Cld. 1825 Jam.).

[O.Sc. quawbog, 1409, qwhawe, 1420, a quagmire, of doubtful orig., phs. < *quall. Quallmyre is recorded once in Eng. in 1553. There may be some connection with Early Mid.Eng. cwellen, to well up, as a spring (cf. Ger. quelle), or alternatively the word may be onomat. as quag in quagmire, and cf. also Quave above.]

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"Quaw n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jan 2018 <>



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