Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BOUK, Bouck, Book, Bowk, n.1, v.1 Sc. forms of St.Eng. buck, which is given as arch. and dial. in N.E.D. The form buck is also found in Sc. [buk Sc., but s.Per., e.Dmf., Rxb. + bʌuk and Abd. + bʌk]

1. n. “A lye made of cow's dung and stale urine or soapy water, in which foul linen is steeped in order to its being cleansed or whitened. The linen is sometimes allowed to lie in this state for several days” (Sc. 1879 Jam.5). E.D.D. (1898) says that the lye may also be made from wood ashes.

2. v.

(1) To steep dirty clothes in a lye as above, previous to bleaching. Given as obs. except dial. in N.E.D. Sc. 1743  Lady Grisell Baillie's Household Bk. (1911) 279–280:
One week the body linnin is washt, the second week table and bed linnin and always bouckt when the weather will alow of it.
Abd.(D) 1867  Mrs Allardyce Goodwife at Home xxv.:
The verra servets i' the kist Wad be as yallow's gueel; Bat ilka year I taks them oot, To buck an' bleach them weel.
Ags. 1825  J. Ross Sermon, etc. 27:
Whyles you dry'd were, whyles were drookit, An whyles were boil'd an' whyles were bookit.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 87:
Boukin linen. Boiling linen webs with lees, in order to lay them out to bleach.
nw., s.Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B.:
Bowk. ‡To steep or wash (linen, etc.) in a special lye.

(2) To soak or wash parts of the body. Ags. 1820  R. Mudie Glenfergus xxvi.:
Those who had not science enough for appreciating the virtues of Pound's cosmetics, applied to their necks and arms blanching poultices; or had them “boukit an' graithed” — as house-wives are wont to treat their webs in bleaching. vbl.n. bouking, bookin, boucking.

(a) The process of steeping clothes, cloth or yarn in a lye. ne.Sc. 1881  W. Gregor Folk-Lore of N.-E. Scot. 176:
Cow-dung was frequently employed in the scouring and bleaching of “harn.” A thick ley of it was made, and into it the web was first put. It lay in this mixture for some time. This process was called “bookin.”

(b) “The quantity of clothes bucked at one time” (Sc. 1879 Jam.5, boucking, s.v. bouk). Slk. 1835  Hogg Tales Wars of Montrose III. 222:
If ye murder him, ye will leeve a miserable life o' remorse, an' be passed into hell-fire at last, like a bouking o' foul blankets into a tub.

Combs.: (1) Boukin' washin(g), bookin' —, the annual washing of the family linen, subjected to the process of bouking. Sc. 1808  E. Hamilton Cottagers of Glenb. (1882) vii.:
They are a' o' my mother's spinning. I have nine o' my ain makin', forby, that never saw the sun but at the bookin' washing.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin (1868) x.:
Next day she was to hae her boukin' washin'.

(2) Bookin' graith, liquid prepared for soaking clothes. See also Graith. Abd. 1925 6 :
Pit the claes in the bookin' graith.

[Not given in D.O.S.T.; prob. from O.E. būc, a pitcher, from which derive also Mod.Eng. dial. bouk, a pail, tub, and Mod.Eng. bucket. Mid.Eng. has bouken, to steep in lye, Ger. bauchen and Low Ger. büken, Dan. byge, Sw. byka, idem. Bowk is an irregular Sc. form, which occurs also in ne.Lan. (see E.D.D.).]

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"Bouk n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 May 2019 <>



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