Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
DONSIE, DONSY, adj. Also doncie, -(e)y, dauncey.
1. Unfortunate, luckless, hapless (Rnf.1 c.1920); “poor, mean, despicable” (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 68, foot-note); also in n.Eng. dial. Often in reference to sexual lapses.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Address to Unco Guid (Cent. ed.) ii.:
Their donsie tricks, their black mistakes, Their failings and mischances. Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost ix.:
She was the daughter of a donsie mother that could gie no name to her gets, of which she had two laddies, besides Jean. Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. vi.:
But, sirs, this donsie business of the Pentland raid was but a splurt. Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 6:
Straight down the steep they slide wi' canny care, . . . For fear o' donsy whirl into the stream. Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 6:
'Twas then that love play'd him a shavie, An' strak his dart in donsie Davie.
2. Glum, dejected, wretched. Also used substantivally.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 196:
Has thou with Rosycrucians wandert? Or thro' some doncie Desart danert? wm.Sc. 1835–37 Laird of Logan I. 273:
Sic an unco wastrie in the way of claiths . . . made me a thocht donsy. Rnf. 1865 J. Young Homely Pictures 55:
Nae dull, dreamy doncie, . . . But frae mornin' till nicht, Like a glad beam o' licht. Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems and Sk. 67:
An' his heart it grew grit, an' his lip it would quiver, An' he lookit as donsie an' dowie as ever. Lnk. 1884 J. and E. C. Nicholson Willie Waugh 81:
But nane mair donsie, dowie, din an' daugh, Than was the bridegroom, hapless Willie Waugh.
3. Of persons and things: sickly, feeble, delicate (Sc. a.1873 E.D.D.; Arg.1 1940; Kcb. 1794–1868 Curriehill; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn., donsy, dauncey; Uls.1 c.1920). Also in U.S.A. dial. Also fig.
Thae young cabbidges are lookin gey donsy: they're needin rain. Gsw. 1884 H. Johnston Martha Spreull (1930) 147:
Peter Spale . . . is still to the fore but gey donsie. Lnk. 1895 W. Stewart Lilts and Larks 102:
Ye, drone-like, shall evict the byke Where lang a donsie leever Ye've loonged in langour, day by day. w.Dmf. 1917 J. L. Waugh Cute McCheyne 108:
My faither was sawney an' donsie, an' she often had baith ends o' the stick to haud. Dwn. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 13:
The nights get crabbit, dark, an' bleak, The days but doncy shortlin' peep. Tyr. 1931 “Clone” in North. Whig (17 Dec.) 10/6:
She had had a brash, and still had a clougher and was doncey.
Hence donsielie, id. (Sc. a.1873 E.D.D.).
4. Dull, stupid (Rxb. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry, Gl.; 1940 (per Lnk.11)). Also used substantivally (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2, 1923 Watson W.-B., obsol.; Slk. 1825 Jam.2).
Slk. 1826 Hogg in Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 213:
The soulless, senseless, stupid creature! . . . Will that poor donsy rise again?
†5. Ill-behaved, ill-tempered, ummanageable.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare v.:
Tho' ye was trickie, slee an funnie, Ye ne'er was donsie. Ayr. 1792 Burns Deuk's dang o'er (Cent. ed.) ii.:
O, haud your tongue, now Nansie, O! I've seen the day, and sae hae ye, Ye wad na been sae donsie, O. Ayr. a.1839 Galt Howdie, etc. (1923) 191:
It's no me that can keep a doncy dochter from her fate. Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 56:
Come Muse! thou donsy limmer, who dost laugh An' claw thy hough at bungling poets, come.
†6. Neat, tidy; sedate; often with the idea of affectation and self-importance (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1878 R. Ford Hamespun Lays 86; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 178). Also in n.Eng. dial.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 29:
She was a donsie Wife and clean. Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 68:
Better rough and sonsie, than bare and donsie. Better a plentiful Condition, though not so neat and nice, than too much Cleanliness, with Penury. Per. a.1837 R. Nicoll Poems (1842) 24:
A donsy auld carline is Janet Dunbar, For a gash skilly body, weel kent near and far. Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie's Wallet iv.:
Ye'll creep, an' ye'll hotch, an' ye'll nod to your mither, Watchin' ilka step o' your wee donsy brither.
Hence donsilie, adv.
Edb. a.1730 A. Pennecuik Poems (1787) 13:
Dansily [sic] cheek for chew sat we, As we'd been great.
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"Donsie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Jul 2020 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/donsie>
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