Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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WORRICOW, n.comb. Also worrie-, worry-, wirri(e)-, wirry-, wurri-, -cow(e), -kow(e), -coo; ¶corrupt form oracle. [′wʌrɪkʌu, ′wɪrɪ-]

1. A hobgoblin, bugbear, demon, a fearsome monster (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl., wirry-cow; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 494, wurricow; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson); a person of frightening or repulsive appearance, a ‘sight' (Lnk., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1974). Sc. 1711  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 13:
I hirsl'd up my dizzy Pow, Frae 'mang the corn like Wirricow.
Sc. 1757  Smollett Reprisal ii. i.:
Running about in the dark like a worricow!
Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 100:
The French met Billy Howe, I trow to them he prov'd a worry-cow.
Sc. 1816  Scott B. Dwarf ii.:
They do say there's a' sort o' worricows and langnebbit things about the land.
Slk. 1818  Hogg B. of Bodsbeck x.:
Wi' his haffats in a lowe, Wons the waefu' wirricowe.
Ayr. 1830  Galt Southennan I. xxxiv.:
In cam' a worricow o' a Frenchman.
Per. 1852  R. S. Fittis Moss-trooper 37:
The gude neebors had to gie Tammy his bairn when they got their ain worrykow wi' sic a het skin!
Hdg. 1908  J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 276:
Hump-backit an' bow'd — a wirricow — And scrimply fowre feet three!
Fif. 1938  Daily Record (23 June):
A child who has soiled her frock is vigorously pronounced by her mother “a dirty oracle”.

2. The Devil himself; an imp of Satan; a mischievous person. Sc. 1719  in Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 130:
May thou . . . thro' thy Creed Be keeped frae the Wirricow After thou's dead.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 77:
Scream'd at ilk clough, an' skrech'd at ilka how, As sair as she had seen the wirry-cow.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 138:
Warlocks loupin' round the Wirrikow.
Ags. a.1823  G. Beattie Poems (1882) 189:
Wi' wirriekows to mingle, That brimstane belsh, or bock up ingle.
Kcb. 1893  Crockett Raiders vi.:
Silver Sand kens what they're after brawly, the ill-contriving wirricows.

[? From worry in the Eng. sense of harrass, pester, + Cow, n.4]

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"Worricow n. comb.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Dec 2018 <>



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