Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
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.

COWLIE, Couli(e), Cawlie, n. Also cowl, cull. [′kʌuli]

1. A boy (Sc. 1808 Jam., coulie, cowlie); “name given to town-boys by George Heriot's boys” (Edb. 1910 Scotsman (3 Sept.), cowlie).Edb. 1825 R. Chambers Trad. of Edb. (1847) 109:
Their neglected grass-green precincts too frequently formed an arena whereon the high and mighty quarrels of Old and New Town cowlies we brought to a lapidarian arbitration.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 36: 
The Cowlies was a term of contempt, applied, in bygone days, to the juvenile bands of the Southern Districts of Edinburgh by the sprightly barefoot Gutterbluids, or denizons of the High Street, Canongate, and Abbeyhill, who invariably taunted their adversaries with being Hens, or Cowlies, in the numerous bickers that then took place.

2. “A contemptuous name for a man” (Sc. 1808 Jam., cawlie); “a big, hulking fellow” (Cai.9 1938, cowlie); a cant term for a man (Abd.16 1930, cowl; Per., Arg., Gall. 1907 A. McCormick Tinkler-Gypsies, App. xvii., cowl, cull).Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 67:
The Cowlies on the Straw, with the Morties will be glad, But ilk an must maund on his awn Pad.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 37:
E'en-now some couli gets his aits, An' dirt wi' words they mingle.
Edb. 1825 Jam.2:
A man who picks up a girl on the street, is called her cowlie.

[O.Sc. has cowll, 1665, a fellow, and coulie, cowlie, a low fellow, a.1689, of obscure origin (D.O.S.T.). Cf. slang or colloq. Eng. cull(y) (now rare), a dupe, a man or fellow, also of obscure origin, although N.E.D. suggests a connection with cullion.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Cowlie ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: