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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Kow, n.1 Also: kw, kowe, kou, kov, koow, quow; and Cow. Pl. ky(e, kie, key, kaie, kay(e, caye, kuy, quye; kowis, -es; kyis; and Kyne. [ME. kow, kou, ku, plur. (? chiefly north. and north. midl.) kij, ky (Cursor M.), kuy, kye, e.m.E. plur. key, kye, kie and later cows (1607– ), OE. , plur. cýe, : cf. also Cow n. and Kyne n. pl.If the Montg. example of the plur. kowes, -is, is indeed this word, it is the only 16th c. occurrence known to us.]

1. A cow.Also with many qualifying words, as bellit, brakit, brandit, cuthornit, din, fed, forrow, gaird, gild, gressum, grete, hawkit, heland, hornit, hummill, milk, new-calvit (-cald, nucle), shamloh, tydy, ȝeld, ȝeldin, q.v. for definitions and examples; also Fyfe kow, see below.sing. (a) 1375 Barb. xviii. 275.
A kow that wes haltand
a1400 Leg. S. vii. 283.
A kow in calf bare A lame
1424 Acts II. 4/2.
The kowe and hir folovar
1472 Peebles B. Rec. I. 168.
To kep Kadmowr to kow and kapyll
1517 Selkirk B. Ct. 54.
He wynterit a kow … and he suld have had the simmer mylk
1549 Lanark Sheriff Ct. MS. 16 b.
He maid fayth he vpheld na kow to be with cawf
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2382.
[Some pray] to sanct Bryde, to keip calf and koow
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. xcvi. 8.
Na man can wit how Keip ox or kow
1604 Dundonald Par. Rec. 53.
That kov wald not be handilit to geif milk
1662 Melrose R. Rec. II. 42.
Ane young quey and ane meikle kow
1700 Foulis Acc. Bk. 284.
For killing and breaking the kow 7s.
possess. 1650 Stirling Ant. IV. 157.
She was holding ane old hobbill of a shoe … to the kowes nose
a1699 Skene Agric. MS.
They pay for a kowis milk in the yeir fyve punds
1692 Foulis Acc. Bk. 149.
The black Fyfe kowes pryce £18
To Ja. Blackader to pay the Fyfe kowes custome, 0 2 0
(b) 14.. Acts I. 304/2.
Of a kw a halfpeny
(c) 1584 Sat. P. xlv. 715.
He had na mair grace … Nor it had bene ane Hieland quow
1610 Brechin Test. II. 47.
Ane quow pryce x lib.
plur. (a) 1375 Barb. xv. 338.
Befor thame gert thai driff the ky
a1400 Leg. S. iv. 350.
As thai [oxen] had bene wele dantyt ky
14.. Acts I. 68/2.
The forfalt … of a thayn, vj ky
c1420 Wynt. ii. 22.
Mylk off scheype, or gayt, or ky
1471 Acta Aud. 16/1.
[They] sall restore … ix oxin thre kye with calfis [etc.]
15.. King Berdok 24.
He saw Mayok milkand hir moderis ky
1581 Bann. Memor. 348.
The quhyt ky and bullis of the said forrest [of Cumbernauld]
1598 Paisley B. Rec. 213.
Sic persouns haifing ky that putis the samin to the comoun befoir the horne blaw [etc.]
1587-99 Hume 26/48.
The pastor … His … rowtting kie to feede
1613 Bk. Dunvegan I. 53.
In name of tochyr … nine scoir … sufficient quick ky
a1699 Skene Agric. MS.
Some ky gives on keane
1675 Sutherland Chart. 206.
The graseing of two bowes of kye in the dauach of Dyrie
1695 Foulis Acc. Bk. 174.
For bear calfe to the kye 7s. 6d.
possess. 1602 Dundonald Par. Rec. 7.
He gaif hir swm of his kyis milk
1620 Crim. Trials III. 425.
[He] violentlie flang hir over tua kyis bakis
1700 Foulis Acc. Bk. 274.
To Jamie Jaimsone who threshes the horss and kyes strae
(b) 1570 Diurn. Occurr. 194.
Thaj brocht … 400 key and oxin
1616 Lett. Eccl. A. II. 467.
One yeares dutie … two thousand merkes, and twenty key
1622 Orkney & Zetl. Test. I. 86.
Tua key pryce of the peice viij li.
1674 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 214.
Tua great lustie young key with ther followers
1679 Banff Ann. I. 158.
Anent hors and key eatting in bakis
1697 Orkn. & Sh. Misc. IX. i. 48.
Ane account of the key in the byr
(c) 1578 Brechin Test. I. 13.
Tua kaie price of baytht xx s.
1599 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. IV. 31.
I sall haue bot thrie or four kay to give milk to the bairnis
1652 Lamont Diary 48.
They tooke a note of the oxen, kaye, sheepe, and cornes
1674 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds I. 377.
[Six] soumes foure of yuilding caye and tuo of them sheepe
1685 Soc Ant. LVIII. 370.
Foure kaie £96
1690 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds II. 841.
Two yong hakit kay
(d) 1653 Peebles B. Rec. II. 15.
For everie sowme of kuy thrie merkes
1670 Kirkcudbr. Test. (Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct.) 5 Aug.
Four kuy with follouers
(e) 1571 Bann. Trans. 248.
The horsmen … took all his cattell, about iiijxx quye and oxin
(b) a1605 Montg. Flyt. 104 (H).
Now God save kowes [T. -is; rh. trows, browes] quhairfra com ȝee
1685 Old Ross-shire 169.
Nyne milk kowes with thair calffes
(c) 1456 Hay I. 241/29.
Thare is na weris maid bot to pure labouraris, and till oxin and kyis

b. The corpse-present cow: see Cors-, also Corps and Croce-present, and kirk-kow, Kirk n. 10 a. 1540 Lynd. Sat. 2794.]
[Within an houre efter my dade was deid The vickar had my kow hard be the heid
Ib. 2817; etc.
Quhat do ȝe of the corspresent and kow?
1558–9 Statut. Sc. Ch. 158.
The corps presentes, kow and umest claith, … were at the beginning but as offrands and gifts at the discretion … of the givar only
1567 G. Ball. 196.
Preistis, tak na teind, … Preistis, tak na kyis
a1578 Pitsc. I. 349/6.
Denyis thow … that thow gaif againe to the parochinaris the kow and the vmest cloth?

c. In many proverbs and proverbial sayings.(1) a1538 Abell 109 b.
It wes als ane prowerb of him [James II] … at he gart the reche bus keip the pure wiffis kow
1570 Sat. P. x. 312.
Than mycht the rasche bus keip ky on the Bordour
(2) 1535 Stewart 33077.
Ane counsall … Quhilk had no knawledge mair no had ane kow
1569 Bann. Mem. 9.
Wer I in your grace steid, I sould gang betwixt the kow and the corne
a1598 Ferg. Prov. (1641) 3 b.
An ill willy kow should have short hornes
Ib. 20.
Better saucht with little aucht, nor care with many kow
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 193.
A brousters sw a cotters kw will never be fwl
Ib. No. 766.
He were a gude kw and his feit were cluvis
Ib. No. 1020; etc.
Kw cairle S. Bryde saine yow

2. Attrib. a. Kow-, with -beif, -byre, -hide, -hous; -calf, -stirk.(1) 1597 Household Bks. Jas. VI 1 Nov.
Ane quarter kow beif
- 1603 Shetland Sheriff Ct. 85.
Dauid Leslie hes … placeit his guidis thairinto [sc. the church] making the sam ane kow byre
1538 Treas. Acc. VII. 12.
For twa grete kow hidis to put the treis of the said littecamp in
1595 Paisley B. Rec. 165.
Fyftie shillings money for the price of ane barkit kowhyde
1613 Conv. Burghs II. 393.
Ilk daiker of oxen or kow hyides ij gritt
1667 Kirkcudbr. Test. (Reg. H.).
Ane kow hyde pryce 12s.
1575 Edinb. Test. III. 451.
Ane kowhous that he biggit him self
(2) 1578 Ib. VI. 282.
Ane kowcalf to be brocht vp about the hous quhill it cum to thrie ȝeir auld
1576 Ib. IV. 281 b.
Ane brandit kow stirk

b. Ky(e)-, with -beef, -flesche, -heird, -hyde, -marcat, -mylk, -skyn; -beist.(1) 1656 Aberd. B. Rec. IV. 163.
The best ky beeff at nyne punds
1596 Dalr. I. 89/22.
Grettest delyte thay had in oxin flesche, and in kyefleshe evin sa
1564–75 Hamilton & Campsie Test. I. 25.
To our ky heird iij s.
1562–3 Treas. Acc. XI. 253.
That nane … carie be sey or land ony oxin or ky hydis
1580 Edinb. Test. VIII. 274.
Fyve daker of Irland ky hydis, … foure daker Lawland ky hydis
1692 Foulis Acc. Bk. 150.
To my wife the 2 kye hyds
1663 Rec. Old Aberd. I. 104.
The nolt and key marcat [shall be] wpoune the ministers mance
1549 Compl. 42/34.
Euyrie sort of mylk, baytht of ky mylk & ȝoue mylk [etc.]
1590 Edinb. Test. XXII. 69 b.
Ane hundreth kie skynis price l s.
(2) 1597 Paisley B. Rec. 190.
Gif ony be fundin dryfing thair ky beists to the gers foirsaid

c. Kowis, kyis girs (gers, gres, grass), kowes sowme: pasturage for cows; chiefly, that amount of pasture which will support one cow or the specified number of cows.(1) 1499 Dunferm. B. Rec. 104.
The vrangvis haldin of ane halyaris kovis gyrs
1644 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. IV. 32.
Ane aiker of land with ane kowis gras in the busheidis for ane gairdner
1690 Foulis Acc. Bk. 119.
To be hynds for 10 bolls oats [etc.] … a kowes grass … and a house to each of them
plur. 1550 Stirling Ant. III. 248.
The samin hous … with 4 kowis girs quhar it may be maist quietlie had
(2) 1473 Reg. Cupar A. I. 198.
The myl sal haue … a toft iiij acris of land aucht kyis girs and twa hors
1534 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 117.
The actione … tuecheyng the myll landis and keys gres of Toucht
1606 (1610) Reg. Great S. 117/1.
Cum crofta molendini, et cum 4 summis vaccarum lie four kyis gers
1694 Stirling Ant. III. 249.
The samyn howss yairde and land … togidder with twa kyes gers
(3) 1662 Peebles B. Rec. II. 52.
John Greive, … for setting ane kowes sowme tuyce over [fined 40/-]

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"Kow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 May 2024 <>



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