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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

COO, Ku, n.1 Also kow-. Sc. forms of Eng. cow, the female of the bovine breed, used as in St.Eng. In II., the form cow is also illustrated in combs. peculiar to Sc. Even when the word is written cow the pronunciation is gen. [ku:], except in s.Sc. The reg. coll. pl. is kye (see Kye, n.1), the weak pl. coos being used after numerals, e.g. a puckle kye; twa coos.

I. = Eng. cow. Cai. dim. cooag. Also used attrib. with beast.Cai. 1934 John o' Groat Jnl. (30 March) 3/7:
So John gied up in 'e rig o' a Caithness fairmer tryan til buy their stirkies an' auld cooags an' their sheepies.
Abd. 2000 Herald 18 Sep 21:
"But I'll block the road wi' my coos. I'm entitled to block the road for 10 minutes to let them cross. ... "
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 18:
Like weans in the wid, like twa turtledoos
Like a richt perra lovebirds, like coos
Rolling in clover, ...
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnston Kilmallie v.:
Bringing pigs and eggs and young coo-beasts to the fair.
Slk. 1998 Christine De Burgh White in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 11:
Ah herd a low flyin aeroplane.
Dugs berkin wildly.
Coos lowin nearby.

Phrs.: (1) coos in (or out o) the byre, see quot.; (2) to get its coo, of an infant: to get the breast, to be suckled (Fif. 1962). (1) wm.Sc.1 c.1900:
Coos in the byre - a figure in the game of chucks or fivestones, in which one hand is laid on the ground with the fingers spread out, to form "stalls" for the pieces or "coos". Each "coo" is placed in a stall between throws and then all are picked up. The reverse process of taking the pieces from between the fingers is coos out o the byre.

II. Combs.

1. In flower names, now mostly obs.: (1) cowbell, bladder campion, Silene latifolia (Sc. 1886 B. and H. 121); cf. (5); also so called in U.S.A. (see D.A.E.); (2) cow-berry, the bog strawberry, Comarum palustre (Ib.); (3) cow-cakes, -keeks, (a) the wild parsnip, Pastinaca sylvestris (Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); (b) the cow parsnip, Heracleum sphondylium (Edb. 1886 B. and H. 121; Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 86; Fif. 1975); cf. (7) and (11); †(4) cow-cloos, the common trefoil, purple clover, Trifolium pratense (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); (5) cow-cracker, = (1) (m.Sc., s.Sc. 1869 Athenæum (13 March) 382; w.Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 345); (6) cow-heave, coo-haive, coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara (Abd.15 1930, coo-haive; Slk. 1825 Jam.2); see Heave; (7) cow-keep, = (3) (b) (Fif. 1861 Gardeners' Chron. 799); this form is a mistake for -keek, see (3) above; †(8) cowmack, prob. the white lychnis, Lychnis vespertina (B. and H. 122), “an herb supposed to have great virtue in making the cow desire the male” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); (9) cow-paps, the bladder campion, Silene inflata, from the shape of its petals (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 40); (10) cow-quakes, — quakers, the quaking grass, Briza media (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 99; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., — quakers); (11) coo-rex, = (3) (b) (Fif.1 1930); (12) cow's cluits = (13) (b) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (13) cowslip, (a) Anemone nemorosa (n.Sc. 1863 in Border Mag. 286); (b) water avens, Geum rivale (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (14) cow's lungwort, the mullein, Verbascum thapsus (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 143); (15) cowsmouth, the cowslip, Primula veris (Lth. 1825 Jam.2); (16) coo-thirsle, the sow-thistle, Sonchus arvensis (Cai., Ags. 1975). Also in n.Eng. dial.(2) Sc. 1866 Lindley and Moore Treasury of Botany I. 317:
In some parts of Scotland the fruits are called cow-berries on account, it is said, of their being used to rub the inside of milk-pails for the purpose of thickening milk.

2. Other combs.: (1) coo-baikie, see Baikie, n.2, 2; (2) cow-bailie, (a) see Bailie, n., 4; †(b) a name “sometimes given in contempt to a ploughman who is slovenly and dirty” (Bwk. 1825 Jam.2); (3) coo-clat, a heap of cow-dung (Fif. 1957). See (18), Clat, n., 1. and cf. Eng. cow-plat; (4) cow-clushern, “cow's dung as it drops in a heap” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); †(5) cow-craik, “a mist with an easterly wind” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2); cf. (14) (b); (6) coo-feeder, cow-, a dairy farmer (Ags.1 1937, coo-); (7) coo gang, cow-, cow's —, a cow pasture, pasturage for a cow (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., cow's — ); (8) coo-gate, a back street or lane in a town along which the inhabitants' cows were driven to the common pasture. Still surviving in street-names, as the Cowgate in Edinburgh; †(9) coogil, cow gild (see second quot.); cf. (26); (10) coo-haughed, knock-kneed; bow-legged (Ayr. 2000s); (11) cow-keep, enough pasture for a cow, as part of a farm-worker's wages (Ork. 1975); (12) cowlock, “a lock of hair projecting beyond the remainder; a ‘cowlick”' (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (13) cowlug e'en, see quot.; (14) cow quake, ku-kwacks, coo's quak(e), coo-quawk, †(a) “an affection of cattle, caused by the chilliness of the weather” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); also called blasting (see Blast, v., 5); (b) “the stormy, blustery weather that comes often in May” (Ork. 1929 Marw., ku-kwacks; Abd.22 1937); (15) coo's arse, also coo's erse, a mess, a bad job (Cai., Fif., Ayr., Dmf. 2000s); †(16) cow's backrin, “cow's dung dropped in the fields” (Gall. 1825 Jam.2); cf. Bachram; †(17) cow's band, “an ancient custom by which when a man borrowed money he gave the cow's band [? = halter] in pledge” (Gall., Dmf. Ib.); (18) cow's-clap, “a piece of cow's-dung” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); also common in Eng. dial. (E.D.D.); (19) coo's drink, hot treacle (as administered to ailing cows) (Ags.1 1937); “a hot drink of any sort to induce sweating” (Fif.10 1937); (20) coo's gress, cow's —, = (7) (Kcb.9 1937; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., cow's — ); (21) cow's hash, a piece of rough grazing later converted into a smallholding (see quot. and cf. (7), (20)); (22) cow-shite, “a contemptible person” (E.D.D.); †(23) cowshot, a species of marl;  †(24) cow's thumb, a hair's breadth, no distance at all; obs. in Eng. since a.1704 (N.E.D.); †(25) cow-stick, “a name given to several of the families of the Polyzoa, as the Celleporidæ, Escharidæ and Tubuliporidæ (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 31); (26) cowsworth, kowisworth, an old denomination of land value in Ork., gen. = 1/16 pennyland, but see second quot.; (27) cow-tie, a halter for a cow.(5) Lnk. 1825 Jam.2:
The cow-craik destroys a' the fruit.
(6) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian ix.:
As he had obtained both substance and experience by his management of that little farm he resolved to employ them as a dairy-farmer, or cowfeeder, as they are called in Scotland.
Ags. 1892 Brechin Advertiser (15 Nov.) 3/5:
His brother John was also a coo-feeder.
(7) s.Sc. 1835–40 J. M. Wilson (ed.) Tales of the Borders (1857–59) V. 378:
Ye may get muckle mair guid o'm . . . than a' that ye'll loss by the takin' o' the cow-gang.
s.Sc. 1938 J. Keddie in Border Mag. (Feb.) 30:
Do you mind it was up about the coo gang they f'und the tramp that aboot killed himsel' eatin' mushrooms?
(8) Per. 1910 W. Blair Kildermoch 113:
In back streets and cowgates o' big toons.
Edb. 1702 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1962) 12:
To discharge the dryving of bestiall through the street or up and down closses especially down the Cowgate.
Edb. 1882 J. Grant Old & New Edb. I. 3:
In the Cowgate - whilom a pleasant country lane between green hedgerows.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xvi.:
Common-Sense has taen the road An' aff, an' up the Cowgate.
(9) Ork. 1749 in Marw. Add.:
One mark of Wool for each Cow Gild of sheep (being seven in number), a tiend Lamb for every three Cow Gild and four Fowls for each Boat.
Ork. 1883 W. T. Dennison in Lord Napier Highlands and Islands Comm. Report App. A. LIX. 270:
The onca [q.v.] held from the large farmer a house, a piece of cultivated land . . . one, two or three “coogils” of grass land — a coogil was a cow's grazing. [O.N. kúgildi, cow's value.]
(10) Ayr. 1996:
Coo-haughed (knock-kneed, bow-legged).
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
coohaughed knock-kneed, bow-legged, in-turned, bent-legged.
(11) Fif. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IX. 604:
The foreman has the same, except £12 instead of £8, and a "cow-keep," instead of an allowance of milk.
(13) s.Sc. 1866 W. Henderson Folk-Lore 226:
The villages of Bowden and Gateside had a strange belief that on a certain night in the year (thence called "Cowlug e'en") a number of spirits were abroad with ears resembling those of cows.
(14) (b) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 80:
Come it early, come it late, in May, comes the Cow quake. [Some authorities take cow quake here as = cow-quakes (see II. 1 (9)).]
Abd. 1930 Abd. Press and Jnl. (8 Mar.) 6/3:
We have still to weather the borrowing days, the caul' gab, the coo's quake, and the yowe trummle before we are clear of the unpleasant weather.
Fif. 1935 J. H. Whyte in Scottish Country (ed. G. Scott Moncrieff) 277:
Just after the Coos' Quak' in May — the cold spell about the turn of the month which makes the cows shiver.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 104:
This was the dreaded weather which the Dyker called the 'coo-quawk', when the farmers used to say that whole fields of cattle would just stand in black huddles of misery and quake uncontrollably with the cold.
(15) Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 14:
coo ... A coo's arse ...This can also mean any mess or botched job: 'Whoever hung this wallpaper made a coo's arse ae it.'
(19) Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) ii.:
You'll get a coo's drink, wi' plenty o' pepper in't, an' get to your bed. Thae washin'-hoose argeymints are affectin' your nervous system, I'm dootin'.
(20) Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick vii.:
He said it was a black burnin shame to think that the pleuchman should be makin day an' way o't an' nae mair a' his life, an no' hae as muckle as a coo's gress to ca' his ain at the end o't.
(21)Abd. 1960 Stat. Acc.3 314:
Many holdings under 10 acres being formed as "cow's hash" from rough, broken in by tenant.
(22) Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 83:
She . . . told them that they would “a' turn out cow-shites at the last!”
(23) Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. Agric. 265:
The brown and gray sorts, usually called Cowshot.
(24) Slg. 1825 Jam.2:
Ye're no a cow's thumb frae't.
(26) Ork. 1883 R. M. Fergusson Ramblin Sketches 82:
Besides the arable lands, called pennylands, merklands, farthing-lands, and cowsworths, each farmer has the right to send so many cattle or sheep to the common hill.
Ork. 1929 Marw. Add.:
In the 1739 Rental of Inner Stromness it is specifically stated that in this township 3 kowisworths = 1 markland, and 3 marklands = 1 pennyland.
(27) Fif. 1937 St Andrews Cit. (3 April) 11/2:
The sore [on a bull's neck] had been caused by a chain cow-tie.

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"Coo n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jun 2022 <>



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