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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BLAW, Blyaave, Blyauve, Blyave, Blauve, Blav, v.1, tr. and intr. Also blaa[blɑ; n.Sc., I.Sc.; blǫ: em. and wm.Sc.; blɑ:v, bljɑ:v Bnff., Abd.; blɒ: sm.Sc., s.Sc. + blɑ:]

I. lit.

1. To blow. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 259:
While a' the Winds in Love, but sighing, blaw.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
To blaw appin locks or bolts, and to loose fetters, by means of a magical power ascribed to the breath. [Jam. says that in his time this superstition still existed.]
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 12:
When the man is fire, and the wife is tow; — The deil comes in and blaws 't in lowe.
Bnff.(D) 1924 “Knoweheid” in Swatches o' Hamespun 81:
He peched an' he blavt, an' the tears doon ran.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 22:
Mornin efter mornin yon fite haar
Cam blaain in fae the coast.
Dundee 2000 Ellie McDonald Pathfinder 11:
My heid doun, my words
blawn like windlestrae ahent me.
Edb. 1915 J. Fergus The Sodger, etc. (1916) 9:
An' the auld folks he's seen passin' oot wi' the dawn, Like caunles on which the Almichty has blawn!
Ayr. 1790 Burns Of a' the Airts (Cent. ed.) i.:
Of a' the airts the wind can blaw I dearly like the west.

Comb.: blaw bye, a passing shower. Also fig. of anything transient, e.g. a quick outburst of anger (Abd. 1975).sm.Sc. 1896 W. G. Tarbet In Oor Kailyard 72: 
Satisfied that it "wisna juist a blaw-bye," he would condescend to notice the rain that was fast wetting his garments.

Hence blawy, adj., windy. Gen.Sc.Ags. 1888 J. M. Barrie Auld Licht Idylls iv.:
To them came stiff-limbed youths who, with a “Blawy nicht, Jeanie,” . . . rested their shoulders on the doorpost.


(1) Blawin', blyaavin', windy.Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 29:
Aw've seen owre mony blyaavin' days to be fleyt at a bit skirl like this.
Ags. 1826 A. Balfour Highland Mary 1. xi.:
There's a blawin' night, sir.
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs of Angus 25:
And fine's the glint on blawin' days O' the bonnie plains o' sea.

(2) Blawn, (a) blown, in a gen. sense; (b) applied to light soil that has been overmanured by sea-ware.(a) Abd. 1920 Anon. Gleanings Deeside Par. I. 8; Ayr.8 1934:
A blawn fire's a thrawn fire.
(b) Cai.3 1934:
His bit o' hill-grun is fairly blawn wi' waar.

(3) Blawn up, blocked.Mearns 1796 J. Burness Thrummy Cap (1819) 78:
The roads are sae blawn up wi' snaw, To mak it is nae in our power.

vbl.n. blyauvin', drifting snow.Mry. 1969 Abd. Press and Jnl. (8 Feb.): 
Grey winds convolute pillars of "blaven" across the deserted fields.
Abd.(D) 1929 Mains and Hilly in Abd. Wkly Jnl. (14 March) 6/3: 
Tho' we hid some bits o' storms an' some blyauvin', we hinna hid a storm 'at lay as lang as that did.


†(1) Blawn drink, “the remainder of drink in a glass, of which one or more have been partaking, and which of course has been frequently blown upon by the action of the breath” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2).

(2) Blawn-land, blawin-land, “light sandy land, liable to be damaged by the wind” (Ork. 1887 Jam.6 Add.).

(3) Blawn-win', “broken wind in a horse” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. Add.).

2. “To recover one's breath” (Ags.2 1934). N.E.D. gives blow with this meaning as dial.Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Farmer's Salutation xiv.:
Thou never lap, an' sten't, an' breastet, Then stood to blaw.

3. To smoke (a pipe). Blow in this sense is given in N.E.D. as dial. Not so widely used as the n.Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 2:
Sit down and blaw your pipe, nor faush your thumb, An' there's my hand she'll tire, and soon sing dumb.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick v.; Clydesd. and Dmb.; 1934 (per Lnk.3):
Oor minister's nane sae scant o' clean pipes that he needs to blaw wi' a brunt cutty.

Phr. to blaw a cloud, fig. expr. for “to smoke a pipe” (Slg.3 1934).m.Lth. 1882 G. W. Somerville in Edwards Mod. Sc. Poets IV. 173:
He filled his cutty, drank his gill, and tried a cloud to blaw.

4. “To dry fish in the open air without salt” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.).Ork. 1887 Jam.6:
To Blaw Fish. To dry fish by exposure to the wind; to cure fish without salt.

Hence (1) blawn-cod, Sh. 1888 Edmonston and Saxby Home of a Naturalist 101; Ags. 1808 Jam.; (2) blawn fish, Ork. 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 64; (3) blawn-skate, blyavn-skate, Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 12.

5. To inflate flesh to improve its appearance.Sc. 1887 Jam.6:
To Blaw Flesh. To inflate it in order to make it appear richer and more solid.
Ags. 1714 in A. J. Warden Burgh Laws of Dundee (1872) 466:
If any master or servant shall be found to blaw any fleshes killed wtin the shamells, and convict of the doing yrof, the master at whose door it shall be done shall be imediatlie obleidged to pay.
Fif. 1703 E. Henderson Dunfermline (1879) 374:
The magistrates and counsellors . . . discharges all fleshers either freemen or strangers in any time coming within the territories of this burgh to blaw sheep, lambs or calfs.

6. Of a cat: to spit, hiss (Bnff., Abd. 1975).

7. To praise, flatter. Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems II. 62-3:
O' fowth o' wit your verses smell, Tho' unco sair they blaw me . . . Fo'ks, whan they blaw their Friends, weel ken It's easier spar'd than siller.

II. fig.

1. To brag, boast; to exaggerate. Gen.Sc. N.E.D. gives blow with this meaning as dial.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Blaw. To magnify in narration, especially from a principle of ostentation.
Sc. 1823 J. G. Lockhart Reg. Dalton III. 107:
It's no my way to blaw big aboot mysel.
Sh.(D) 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 1:
I canna blaw a grit lot o' my ain adventirs or achievements.
L.Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 42:
I'm nae gaun tae blaw, but th' truth I maun tell — I believe I'm the verra MacPuddock himsel'.
Abd.(D) 1928 J. Wight in Word-Lore III. vi. 148:
Bit fan he begood te blauve aboot castin' an' spreadin' nineteen score o' peats in a 'oor she kin' o' thocht she wis on kent grun.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iii.:
He didna blaw sae muckle aboot Tamson for a gey while after.
Rxb. 1868 D. Anderson Musings 18:
The Eskdale men nae men may thraw, Lochmaben chiels can blast and blaw, But the bravest men I ever saw Are the merry lads o' Liddesdale.

ppl.adjs. (1) blawin, boasting; (2) blawed-up, boastful.(1) Ayr. 1816 Sir A. Boswell Poet. Works (1871) 165:
The Kennedys wi' a their power, . . . May rise and flock like screechin craws, . . . And hither come wi' blawin crack, They'll bear anither story back.
(2) Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're a' Coortin 29:
My nose is nae longer than yours, ye blawed-up, yisliss, bleary-e'ed, gude-for-naethin' blue bundle o' offecial ignerance.

2. To waste.Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 32:
An' ye daur blaw yer maister's time swappin' drivel wi' yon cat.

3. Followed by (1) out: to reproach, to scold; (2) over: to explain, account for; (3) up: to flatter, to hoax, to make one believe what is untrue. Gen.Sc.(1) Sc. 1808 Jam.:
To blaw out on one, to reproach him. [O.Sc. blaw oot on, to denounce a person formally by or after blowing a horn to attract public attention (D.O.S.T.).]
(2) m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xiv.:
I'm no feared for their blethers about fairies, but we'll need some stench lees to get the sodger's claes blawn over.
(3) Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
I blew him up sae, that he believed every thing I said.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 99:
Noo' lass, I'll tell thee Johnnie Wa's May blaw thee up wi' sleek an' haver.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin (1868) xxxi.:
An' they, havin' got wittens o' hoo I had dressed him, had blawn him up to fill himsel' fou'.
Rxb.(D) 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 9/2:
Never heed um, mun, eis duist blawin ee up!

4. To be in a passion.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 14:
He wiz jist blyavin' agehn, fin he cam in, an' saw fou ill the wark hid been deen.

5. (See quot.)Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd.9, Slg.3 1934; Ayr.4 1928; Kcb.9 1934:
To huff a man at draughts. I blaw or blow you, I take this man [because of the action of blowing on the piece that is lifted].

III. Phrases: 1. blaw-lickit, in phr. de'il blaw-lickit = not a whit; 2. blaw a cauld coal, to undergo failure, engage in a hopeless task; to have little hope or chance of success; 3. blaw in one's lug, (1) v., to flatter, (2) n., (a) a flatterer, (b) flattery; 4. blaw lown, “to make no noise; to avoid boasting” (Slk. 1825 Jam.2), “to make a soft gentle noise” (Abd.19 1935); 5. blaw the coal, to encourage strife; 6. blaw the horn, call one to action, see Horn, n.; 7. blaw you south, “a veil'd and minced oath, capable of almost any of the meanings implied by such language” (Sc. 1887 Jam.6); 8. blaw up the horn, to get the better of someone; 9. mak' a btawn horn o' a thing, “boast of it” (Cai. 1914 T.S.D.C. I.; Ayr.4 1928).1. Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 159:
The de'il blaw-lickit! cared he! Whither we fell on land or sea; But lut them fight an' rive an' curse. [Blaw here is intensive for pref. be-.]
2. Sc. 1724 Six Saints (Fleming 1901) I. 16:
And whoever drinks in, and rests upon this doing and believing, and doing for life, will have a cold coal to blow at the end.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vii.:
“Aweel” said Cuddie . . . “I see but ae gate for't, and that's a cauld coal to blaw at, mither.”
Edb. 1811 H. Macneill Bygane Times 34:
Some might indeed blaw a cauld coal And get me on the “poor folks roll.”
Rnf. [1788] E. Picken Poems (1813) II. 136:
Tho' Meg gi'ed him aften a cauld coal to blaw.
3. (1) Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd.9 1934:
To blaw in one's lug, to cajole or flatter a person, so as to be able to guide him at will.
Ags. 1896 Arbroath Guide (29 Feb.) 3/6; Slg.3 1934:
I could see brawly that Sarah Makaplain had been blawin' in her lug that mornin'.
wm.Sc. 1837 J. D. Carrick in Scot. Monthly Mag. II. 121; Kcb.9 1934:
[Two half-drunk lords were] blawing in his lug about his being the souplest deil in the hale squad. [Also given in Watson's Rxb. W.-B. 1923.]
(2) (a) Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. ii.:
Ye are a fine blaw-in-my-lug, to think to cuitle me off sae cleverly.
(b) Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; w.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Blaw-i'-my-lug, flattery, wheedling.
4. Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man III. 3:
Blaw lown, Dan; ye dinna ken wha may hear ye.
5. Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act IV. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
'Tis dafter like to thole An Ether-cap, like him, to blaw the Coal.
6. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 94:
An' now her mither blaws on me the horn, An' I maun aff, an' seek her right or wrang.
7. Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry and Prayer iv.:
The muckle devil blaw you south If ye dissemble!
8. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 10:
The other hirds young Lindy treat with scorn, An' mair an' mair stroove to blaw up the horn.

IV. Combs. and deriv.: (1) blaw-bent, "grass that comes early, and, when ripe, blows away with the wind", ? = (3); (2) blawer, see quot.; (3) blaw-grass, one of the benty hill-grasses, given as Agrostis alba (Ayr. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 244) but prob. more correctly as Molinia caerulea (Sc. 1884 Trans. Highl. Soc. 259; Ayr., Gall., ‡Dmf. 1975). Cf. Blawing-garss. (1) Kcb. 1898 T. Murray Frae the Heather 119:
Wi' shelter sma', maist nocht to eat, But blaw-bent e'en and morning.
(2) Bnff. 1973 Scots Mag. (June) 301:
A "Blawer" is a balloon-like toy into which a wooden mouthpiece was fitted. The mouthpiece had a piece of elastic drawn across one end and, on deflating the balloon, a very rude noise resulted. The nickname "Blawer" applied to all natives of Buckie, as these "fairings" used to be sold at Peter Fair, held near Buckie yearly.
(3) Ags. 1999 Valerie Gillies in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 56:
Ma crommie sall hae girse an fauld
she sall hae hicht an howe an white grun
she sall hae blawgress, windlestrae an stibble
she'll hae a sowf o mountain dew frae the stey braes
O ho the stey braes!

[O.Sc. blawe, blau, blav, to blow, in various senses, pa.p. blawin, -yn, -ine, blawen, etc. (D.O.S.T.), n.Mid.Eng. blaw(e), early Mid.Eng. blawen, O.E. blāwan.]

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"Blaw v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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