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

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Tow, n.1 Also: towe, towy(e, tou(e, taw(e, tau, toow(e, toll. [Cf. 19th c. Eng. fore-tow (1850), OFris. tow, Du. touwe, MLG touw(e, LG tau, ON tog.] (A) rope, also with qualifier indicating the size, type, strength or origin of the rope. Appar. sold chiefly in fathoms or by weight. (1) A tow of xxiiij fadome; 1467 Reg. Dunferm. 359.
For bering of a byrding of towis … fra the buth quhar tha wer bocht iij d.; 1496 Treas. Acc. I 292.
A great towe; 1538 Soc. Ant. II 403.
For the half towis and skemill mailles of Witsundaye and Mertimes; 1553 Donaldson Cramondiana 53.
For fyve faddom of towis that past with the cheiff and was layd to the cabill, vj s. viij d.; 1560 Edinb. Old Acc. II 95.
For falt of hemp tak hary towis; a1568 Sempill in Sat. P. xlvi 21.
xxij pund … of towis price of the stane xxxvj s.; 1589 Edinb. Test. XXI 89.
Funis, retinaculum, a towe or rape; Duncan App. Etym.
Sex bunschellis of towis at iij s. iij d. the bunschell; 1598 Edinb. Test. XXXI 319b.
12 fadome of ane Flemis tow weyand 7 pund wecht and ane half pund at 4 lib. the staine; 1628 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 232.
For spicing a tow; 1686 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 11 Sept.
(b) For … ij½ stane of tollis; 1506–7 Treas. Acc. III 370.
Ane pair of woll scheris, ane Danskyn toll ane pair of mustarstanis; 1522 Dunferm. B. Rec. I 209.
(c) Ane stane wecht of tawis price thairof lx s.; 1610 Edinb. Test. XLVI 162.
Twentie pund weight of great tawes; 1643 Dumfries Treas. Acc. MS 21.
(d) 2 fadome toowes; 1691 Foulis Acc. Bk. 137.
(e) To ane bearer for goeing to Portsoy for toues 3 s. Given for the saids ropes 17 s.; 1697 Cramond Cullen Ann. 70.
proverb. A strong theif sould have a stark tow; Carmichael Prov. No. 183.
(2) For xvj fawdom of small tow, xvj d. … for xxiij fawdome of gretare tow, iij s.; 1496 Treas. Acc. I 298.
Ane pece of new tow that wes in ane kist contenand vij fawdoum; 1546 Aberd. B. Rec. I 236.

b. In examples where the use is made clear. With or without qualifier. Also attrib. The word tow was clearly used to cover rope of all types and strengths. Rope was used extensively but most commonly in a nautical context, in building work, as halters for horses, traces for carts, and for tying up or executing wrongdoers. See Anker-tow n., Bell-tow, Cabil(l)-tow n., Drawing vbl. n. 2 b, Ere-ledder n., Haling vbl. n.1, Hedetow n., Pak n.1 5, Pakking vbl. n. 3, Palȝo(u)n(e n. 5 (1), Quhite adj. A 1 g (5), Rakking ppl. adj., Swing n. 2 and Takil(l n. 4 for further examples. (1) Land toll; 1467 Reg. Dunferm. 359 (see Land n.1 1 e).
For sex score fawdoum of small tollis to mend the said nettis; 1503 Treas. Acc. II 408.
For xii faddum of small towis for knyttillis and bandis to the cart graitht and the binding of the cart hors in the stable; 1529–30 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 17.
For xiiij faldome of grete towis to bynd the cofferis; 1538 Treas. Acc. VI 420.
For ane gret cordell to the windes iiii lib. x s. for ane uthir smaller cordell tow to the windes with the v pillies xxx s. for x stanis and ane half towis sindry sortis for making skaffaltis gyraippis traissis and grayth to cartis; 1538–9 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 258.
For small towis to haill the tymmer; 1555–6 Edinb. B. Rec. II 322.
Took furth of her [sc. a ship] 2000 Spanȝe ryallis or thereby … and her haill tows, anchors, and sails; 1575 Orkney Oppress. 11.
A great tow to haill up the said cannoun for redress thairof being tuyse brokin; 1617 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 42.
Thrie bunsche of small towis to be bak raipes and bellie braissis; 1626 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 198.
iiii fadome of small merling towes; 1628 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 233.
Appoints the fleshe tows to be lifted furth of thair stances … and to be placed … on both sydes of the streit in order and distance as they now stand; 1663 Kirkcaldy B. Rec. 178.
Ten fathome of small towes to mend the drum; 1678–9 Arbroath Old Doc. 12/2.
For a pair of kairt tous 16 s. 8 d.; 1681 Fawside Coal Compt 82.
Ane anchor tow, 50 fadom length, valued to 20 lib.; 1686 Depred. Clan Campbell 24.
(2) Giffin to the boy that brocht the towis, to clym the halk nest in the Abbotis Crag; 1496 Treas. Acc. I 277.
For xiiij stane of towis to be trases to the cartis in Strivelin, ilk stane iiij s. ix d.; 1501 Treas. Acc. II 82.
For ane tow to boyrapis to the gret schip; 1512 Treas. Acc. IV 293.
Ane tow of xxi faddwm for lifting and rasing of gestis; 1530 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 36.
To be palȝeoun cordis, ane stane of towis; 1540 Treas. Acc. VII 320.
Towis to be binding and collaris to the quenis hawknayis; 1540–1 Treas. Acc. VII 426.
Thre stanis of towis, coft to be tressis to draw the said four falconis; 1552 Treas. Acc. X 117.
The hale towis and bussumis usit be the lokman; 1552–3 Edinb. Old Acc. I 77.
For towis to bind the fallow that wes skurgit; 1554–5 Edinb. Old Acc. I 137.
Ane stane xiij li. of towis to be anker and cabillis … and for towis to be bowtrage; 1561 Treas. Acc. XI 115.
They were holden twa hours at the gallows foot, and ane tow about their neck; 1575 Orkney Oppress. 11.
His handis bound witht sic ane tow of hempt lyk ane theif; Pitsc. I 175/29.
xiii fadome of towis to the freiris knok; 1582–3 Misc. Spald. C. V 55.
For the mene tard our tous vi gros; 1597 Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 22a.
For ii small pes lyns to bind our toues xxv s.; Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 62a.
For towyes our the water gewene to ane boye iii poundis; 1589–1600 Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 66a.
For charges and weing of the toue and cordell xxxv gros; 1589–1600 Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 68a.
Four dailis to the [wind] miln xx s. For ane tow to hald hir x s.; 1600–2 Montrose Treas. Acc. MS.
For 9 fadum of towes to be helters and bindingis to the hors at 18 d. faddum; 1618 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 131.
To hold upon and within the door at the foot of the trein trap ane sufficient cord or tow with ane pais of lead or stane at the end thereof, for holding of the said door; 1624 Old Dundee I 418.
For towis to hing your lordships clothis wpon in the chalmer; 1631 Buccleuch Household Bk. 22 Nov.
Four towes for heissing vp and doun the barrowes; 1645 Aberd. B. Rec. IV 47.
He cam doun over the castell wall vpone towis brocht to him secretlie; Spalding I 29.
To send with eney honest skipper the taus thatt packet my skinns; 1680 Dumfr. & Galloway Soc. 3 Ser. XXXVIII 163.
A tow to the tolbuth bell; 1691 Culross II 11.
For the coffine & tollis thereto; 1696 Compt in Argaty Estate Papers (SRO) Bundle 102.
(3) For ij½ dosane courting ringis, xv d. … for v fawdom of smal tow to the samyne, v d.; 1501 Treas. Acc. II 26.
For the ringis to the said vail, … for xx fawdom gretar toll to draw it with; 1504–5 Treas. Acc. II 294.
viii faldom of tow for trassis to the cart hors; 1532 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 85.
On to the se he bownit sone agane, With bark and boit, … With tow and takill, anker, saill, and air; Stewart 280.
xviij faddome of tow to draw the watter; 1553–4 Edinb. B. Rec. II 285.
Thre faldome and half of towe to be ane bell stryng; 1574–5 Haddington Treas. Acc. 7.
Certane sowmes of tow for drawing the ordinance; 1585 Elphinstone Mun. 23.
& all the small artillerie consumed thaire shottis belou In killing men or ellis to cutt sum cable strong or tou [1591 towe]; James VI Poems I 243/393.
Four schippis brak louss, for nather tow nor anker culd hald them; Spalding I 81.
For 6 ston 3 pound the windoes tow, 3 lib. 6 s. 8 d. per stone; 1696–1700 Wauchopes 36.

c. attrib. and comb. attrib. [At the raising of the coffins] 5 staine of tow flax to stop the coffines at 4 lib. the staine; 1661 Funeral Acc. I 5 (M. of Montrose).
Tow weiks; 1697 Edinb. Test. LXXX 254 (see Wek(e n.).
comb. Tow man; 1598 Mill Mediæv. Plays 298 marg.
Ane Glasgow merchand only, ane towmaker with his wyfe and chyld; 1664 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. I 639.

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"Tow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2020 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/tow_n_1>

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