Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BROONIE, Brownie, Brouny, Brunie, n.1 A benevolent household sprite, usually shaggy and of peculiar shape, who haunted houses, particularly farm-houses, and, if the servants treated him well, performed many tasks of drudgery for them while they were asleep; a goblin or evil spirit — in this latter sense approaching more nearly to brown man, see Broon, 2 (1). This sinister association seems to be common in Shetland. Gen.Sc., but now gen. accepted in Eng. [′bruni, ′brʌuni] Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork., Zetland, etc. 112:
Not above 40 or 50 Years ago, almost every family had a Brouny or evil Spirit so called, which served them, to whom they gave a Sacrifice for his Service.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie I. xviii.:
In a broken voice, low, and solemn, and fraught with mystery, she said, “Donal, it's the broonie!”
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. of an Old Boy, App. 291:
Then neist cam a broonie, baith gruesome an' grim.
w.Sc. 1703 M. Martin Descr. Western Islands 67:
Below the Chappels there is a flat thin Stone, call'd Brownies Stone, upon which the ancient Inhabitants offered a Cow's Milk every Sunday, but this Custom is now quite abolish'd.
Ayr. 1809 W. Craw Poet. Epistles 45:
Mony a hellish fiend was there, Wi' brunies, spunkies, pair by pair.

Combs.: (1) brownie-bae, id.; (2) Brownie Clod, id. (1) Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 3:
But there comes Robie, flaught-braid down the brae; How wild he glowrs, like some daft brownie-bae.
(2) Mry. 1887 J. Thomson Recoll. Speyside Par. xi.:
“Brownie Clod” does not appear to have had a local habitation. He was a wandering spirit that delighted to travel from place to place, and among poor folks, with his nightly pranks.

[O.Sc. brounie, brownie, brunie, the benevolent sprite or goblin so called, from broun, adj. (D.O.S.T.). Originally Sc., earliest date in D.O.S.T. c.1500; first genuinely Eng. quot. in N.E.D. 1847.]

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"Broonie n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Jun 2021 <>



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