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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

COW, COWE, Kow, Kowe, Coo, n.1 [kʌu, ku:]

1. A twig or tufted stem of a shrub or bush; gen. applied to heather, broom or whin (Sh. 1946 (per Fif.14); Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. (1922) 150, cowe; Bnff.8 c.1920; Kcb.4 c.1900, kow); “also applied to tang or seaweed with their branchings” (Ork.1 1928). Known to Cai.7 (heather-cow, -coo), Bnff.2, Abd. correspondents, Ags. correspondents (brume cowe, — coo), Fif.10 1940.Sc. a.1828 Child Owlet in Ballads (ed. Child) No. 291, xi.:
There was not a kow in Darling muir, Nor ae piece o a rind, But drappit o Childe Owlet's blude And pieces o his skin.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 117:
It's a bare moor that ye gang through an' no get a heather cow. — It's a long lane that has no turning.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 106:
A witless littleane bred to herd the ews, Or whan they're fu' to pu' a birn o' cows.
Abd.(D) 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 87:
You'd miss upon the wayside cowe The twitt'rin' lintie.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin x.:
Divin' into the heart o' a big broom cowe close bye, he drew therefrae a brandy keg.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 29:
The misty clud creeps ower the hill And mak's each rut a gurglin' rill, And rips wi' gowd each auld whin cowe, And gaurs the heath wi' purple glow.

2. A besom or broom (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 143); applied esp. to the broom used in the game of curling. Known to Abd.19 (breem cowe), Fif.10, Slg.3, Kcb.10 1940.Sc. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 33:
A servin'-lass cam' wi' a cowe, an' she Soopt doon the Speeder, flimsy wab, an' a'.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 157:
“Come along, then, Adam,” shouted the laird to the other end of the rink, “on the front ring at ma cowe.”
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 71:
There's ice on the loch, an' there's broom on the knowe, Let ilka keen curler get haud o' a cowe.
Ayr. a.1822 Sir A. Boswell Poet. Works (1871) 195:
Whan snaw lies white on ilka knowe, The ice-stane and the good broom kowe Can warm us like a bleezin' lowe.
Kcb. 1896 S. R. Crockett Grey Man xxxi.:
I wad as sune mairry a heather cow for soopin' the rinks at the channel stanes.

3. A birch used for whipping. Also used in vbl.n. cowin, a thrashing, whipping.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
I'll tak a cow to you.
Mry.(D) 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 87:
Mammie Gordon . . . was promptly on the way to Babbie Macgregor's academy, marching her recalcitrant grandson before her, and frequently mending his dilatory pace with smart applications of a broom “cowe.”
Mearns 1903 W. MacGillivray Auld Drainie and Brownie i.:
Bit I gat a haud o' ye baith and labor't ye weel wi' a swack broom cow.
Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 44: 
Gie him a het cowin', Mr Archychok, since he's sae obsternate. It'll dae him guid, if it drives some o' the consait oot o' the mule.

4. Comb.: white cow (see quot.). Known to Abd.19 1940.Ags. 1899 F. Cruickshank Navar and Lethnot v.:
From Lethnot many persons were in the habit of taking to Brechin bundles of “white cows,” that is, the remains of heather, whins and broom, which had been bleached by sun and rain after the annual burning.

[O.Sc. has cow, kow, a twig or branch, a.1500 (D.O.S.T.). The same word as Cow,v.1, n.2]

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"Cow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



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