Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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THOWLESS, adj., adv. Also thoweless, thouless (Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 75; Abd. 1900 Weekly Free Press (15 Sept.)); thaw(e)less (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (7 Jan.)). Lacking energy or spirit, inactive, lethargic, listless, having little initiative or capability, ineffectual (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson, Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai), rarely applied to things. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc.

Hence thowlessness, want of energy or spirit, dullness, lethargy, stupidity; adv. thowlessly, thowlesslike. Sc. 1718  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 76:
Mause begrutten was and bleer'd, Look'd thowless, dowf and sleepy.
Abd. 1780  Aberdeen Jnl. (11 Dec.):
There the dullest, thowless heart, Ye can engage.
Ayr. 1785  Burns 2nd Ep. to J. Lapraik iv.:
‘Conscience,' says I, ‘ye thowless jad.'
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality v.:
The thowless, thriftless, fissenless ministry of that carnal man, John Halftext, the curate.
Slk. 1827  Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ix.:
My innocent, kind, thowless Tibby Hyslop.
Gsw. 1877  A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 81:
That thowless key is aye amiss. when folks my room wad view.
Dmf. 1877  R. W. Thom Poems 17:
O, but single bliss is a thowless life.
Lth. 1885  J. Strathesk More Bits 206:
Bell's remarks about “wasterfu'ness” and “thowlessness.”
Ayr. 1888  R. Young Galston Char. 15:
Starin' thowlessly aroun'.
Ayr. 1901  G. Douglas Green Shutters iv.:
Janet was a thowless thing, too like her mother for her mother to like her.
Sc. 1926  H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 14:
O that its prickles were a knife indeed, But it is thowless, flabby, dowf, and numb.
Bwk. 1943  W. L. Ferguson Vignettes 70:
His thowlessness 'll drive me wud!
Lnk. 1947  G. Rae Sandy McCrae 21:
Ye haud the rod far ower thowless like.

[O.Sc. thowlesnes, wantonness, lack of virtue, 1375, thowles, dissolute, c.1420, a variant of Thewless, which appears somewhat later in Sc. The variant may have developed from *þeāw, from the orig. O.E. þēaw, virtue. For yet another variant see Thieveless.]

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"Thowless adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Dec 2018 <>



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