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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Mow, n.3 Also: mowe. Plur. mowis, -ise, -es, mows(e, mouis, -es. [ME. mouwe (c 1325), ME. and e.m.E. mowe, e.m.E. also moe (1581), MDu. mouwe thick lip, pout, and cf. also OF. moe, moue mouth, lip, pout (mod. F. moue pouting grimace). Sense 2 below is confined to Sc.]

1. A grimace; a derisive grimace.To mak a mow (mowis), to pull a face (faces), to grimace.sing. c1460 Thewis Wysmen 374.
Thai wyll men reddy scorn & knak And mak a mow behynd thar bak
c1500 Rowll Cursing 102 (B).
Browny als that can play kow Behind the claith with mony mow
a1605 Montg. Flyt. 67 (T).
Mensweirand thow saw thame and maid bot a mow
1599 Rollock Wks. II. 187.
They had me in derision and made a mow and nod their heads
plur. a1500 Bernardus 13.
Schir Drunkyines … quhilis a nape to mak mowis as a fule, Bot as a sow quhen he fallis in a pule
1603 Philotus cxxvi.
Gude-man qu hat misteris all thir mowis As ȝe war cumbred with the cowis?

2. A piece of clowning, foolery or fun; a pleasantry, quip, jest; an amusing trick; a subject for amusement, a laughing matter.In plur. also: banter, raillery, jesting.To make (mony) mowis, a mow, to make or enjoy (much) fun, to sport (much) or to jest.(1) 1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. iii. 440.
sing. Benytas of ane mussill maid ane aip With mony vther subtill mow and jaip
Ib. 533. 1533 Bell. Livy II. 178/27.
Vncertane quhidder he was revist with dyvine sprete or gif he said it for ane sporte [v.r. mow]
a1538 Abell 29 b.
He gaif hir [the witch] na credence … sa he maid him haistelie to the King to schawhir respons as ane mow
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4115 (B).
Thocht that ȝe blaw lene mvttone & beif … Thay think that practik bot a mow [: dow]
a1578 Pitsc. I. 198/18.
This hieland man that cuild nocht speik guid Inglis bot evirie word was ane mow that he spak
1579, 1617 Despauter (1617) 67.
Ludus, a mow
(2) c1450-2 Howlat 831.
plur. The fulis fonde in the flet And mony mowis at mete On the flure maid
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2008 (H).
Wenis thow with wylis And with thy mony mowis me to mat?
Ib. 2555.
For all ȝour mowis ȝe met anis with ȝour matche
Id. III. 115/37.
Of mariagis to mel with mowis met In secretnes
1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 148.
To reid I began … Of all the mowys in this mold sen God merkyt man
1533 Bell. Livy II. 113/10.
The grete bischop commandit hir to abstene fra all mowis and to leif in tymes cuiming mare devotelie than prudently
1535 Stewart 55926.
And than till ernist turnit all hir mowis
1568 Lyndesay Pref. 399.
With hochurhudy amang hir howis, God wait gif we maid mony mowis; Lynd.Sat. 693 (B). Sum will think because his wryting was commounlie mixit with mowis and collourit with craftie consaitis … the mater was the mair mitigate
1572 Sempill Sat. P. xxx. 68.
In thé was manly mowis and marynes
1573 Davidson Ib. xlii. 28.
Be we had riddin half ane myle, With myrrie mowis passing the quhyle
1596 Dalr. II. 124/27. 1599 Rollock Wks. I. 335.
Hevin and hell are thocht mowis now a dayis
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xliii. 25.
Thy meeknes into moues And aufulnes in yre
c1578 Reid Swire 50. 1603 Philotus xxvi. a1651 Calderwood VI. 146.
The inhabitants of Dumfreis … were for the most part suffered to returne home without punishment after manie mirrie mowes past

b. plur. construed as coll. sing.: Sport, fun, jest; matter for laughter, not to be taken seriously; what is done for amusement only.Freq. in contrast with ernist.Espec. in mowis, in jest, in fun, as a joke; also, in reference to gaming, = for amusement only, not for serious stakes.Also in negative contexts, = (no) laughing matter, (no) joke, (no) trivial matter.(1) a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 29.
Maid maister bot in mowis [B. mows]
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 71.
Than sall I sweir I maid it bot in mowis To landwart lassis
a1538 Abell 103 a.
First quhen thai sweir wittandly fals othir in mowis or ernist
1555 Carte Northberwic 70.
The said Jhone Spens sall nocht … play in mowis nor ernist quhill … Kandelmas
1558-66 Knox I. 197.
Forgeve me: I spak it but in mowes and I was dry
1569-73 Bann. Mem. 6.
Bourd nocht with thame for give ye taik thaim in mowes I will pas to the Byeris and haike
1583 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 907.
Tacking in earnest, asking in mowes
1598 James VI Basil. Doron 132/8.
It is na oathe maid in mowis
Ib. 46/6. a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS. No. 1508.
We may not speak a word in mowse but it is taken in earnest quoth the tod
1686 G. Stuart Joco-Ser. Disc. 14.
It was in mowes [gl. jest] that I did speer
(2) 1540 Lynd. Sat. 162 (B).
But dowt this is na mowis
15.. Christis Kirk 164.
The millar was of manlie mak To meit him was na mowis
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. vii. 4.
I sheu thé first vhen thou to love began It wes no moues to mell with loves lair
1600 Facs. Nat. MSS. III. lxxvi.
I pray yow … becaws it is nocht ane matter of mowis [v.r. mowise], be circumspect in all thingis
1686 Inverness Rec. II. 341.
He said then to his master that it was not mowes to sturre & remove a march stone
(3) a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xxii. 34.
Bot pruif is plane I work in vane It war bot mouis thairat to mint
1603 Philotus cvi.
Mak ȝow a man that is bot mowis
(4) a1578 Pitsc. I. 175/12.
Couchrane ansuerit, ‘My lordis, is it mowse or earnest?’
1604 Perth Kirk S. 283.
Whereto the said William Robertson answered, ‘Mowis or earnest?’ … The said William Hay granted that it was but in mowis that he spake
(5) a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 866.
It is gude mowis that fillis the bellie

3. Into, with mowis and mokkis (also crakkis), with mokkis and mowis, with mony mow and knak.In the earlier instances it is unclear whether sense 1 or sense 2 is intended. a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 353.
Ignorant fule! in to thy mowis and mokis [M. crakkis] It may be verifeit that thy wit is thin
1535 Stewart 31435.
Quhen this wes said, with mony mow and knak, Amang thame self greit dirisioun tha mak
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus Proi. 64.
Jocund with joy, and jolyous to jaip, With mockis and mowis of nature as the aip
1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 227.
He pat him off with mowis and mockis And had no will to louse the boxe

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"Mow n.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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