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 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DOWF, DOUF(F), Dowff, adj., n., v. Also doof(f), duif(f), dufe, duff, diff, dofe, doaf. [dʌuf Sc., Rxb. + dyf; dof sm.Sc., Uls.; dɪf Arg.; dʌf I.Sc.]

I. adj.

1. Dull; unresponsive, listless, inactive (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Ags.2, Fif.10 1940); stupid, heavy, as from a cold (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn., dofe); weary, slow-moving (Cai.9 1939). Also adv. Also in Nhb. dial.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 390:
Gin I had anes her Gear in my Hand, Shou'd Love turn dowf, it will find Pleasure.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley (1817) xliii.:
By my honour, sir, . . . the lad can sometimes be as dowff as a sexagenary like myself.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 132:
What mak's thee lie sae duff?
Bnff. 1927 E. S. Rae Hansel Fae Hame 14:
Lowsed fae the lanely ploo owre gloamin' rigs, A pair o' dowf broons jogs the hameward wye.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore, Invocation 4:
Then Scota heard, and said your rough spun ware Sounds but right douff an' fowsome to my ear.
Fif. 1848 in R. Clark Golf (1875) 205:
Some purse-proud billies haw and hum, And say ye're douf at fleein'.
Fif. 1895 “S. Tytler” Macdonald Lass viii.:
But her guests were compelled to come to the conclusion that the fine lady had been attacked by the vapours, so “dowf” was she in her stateliness.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs of the Fields 14:
As dowff's a dowg that's got the ill.
Edb. 1795 Edb. Mag. (March) 223:
Now grown mauchless, dowf and sweer aye To look near his farm or wark.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake, etc. 119:
. . . try an' haud the bairn up weel, An' no look dowff an' sumphie.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Lea-rig (Cent. ed.) i.:
And owsen frae the furrow'd field Return sae dowf and wearie, O.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 52:
Strathfallan was as douf to love As an auld cabbage runt.

Hence (1) dowffie, etc., dull, slow, stupid (Sc. 1808 Jam., duffie); also used substantivally; (2) dowfy-hearted, soft-hearted, timid.(1) Sc. 1814 C. I. Johnstone Saxon and Gael II. iii.:
I had but ae bairn an' she set her heart on a feckless duffie o' a Frenchman.
Sc. 1874 W. Allan Hamespun Lilts 372:
Ye dowffie chiel, yer but a middlin' bodie.
Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 261:
He wyled the doofie awa.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) vi.:
Unco douffie in making up to strangers.
Arg. 1917 “H. Foulis” Jimmy Swan 180:
A' the diffies in the place are gettin' married.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 238:
Nor was he laith To learn puir doaffies like myself.
(2) Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal, etc. 54:
I got sic stories O' dowfy-hearted Whigs, an' thowless Tories.

2. Sad, melancholy, mournful (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Abd.9 1940; Fif. 1949 (per Abd.27)), tedious. Often with dowie. Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 19:
Now a' our Gamesters may sit dowff, Wi' Hearts like Lead.
Sc. 1991 Forbes Macgregor in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 17:
Mair dowf on eird there isna ony
Nor wee MacLean the circus pownie,
Wha on the sawins o his flair
Maun dree his weird for evermair.
Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 29:
"Och, God, sae dowf an langsum
The days gang by for me!
It's anely at a yirdin
Hae we onything to see."
Abd. 1776 J. Skinner in Weekly Mag. (1 Aug.) 177:
They're douff and dowie at the best.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 38:
Sin' Andra took the jee and gaed aff across the sea I'm as dowff as ony fisher-wife that watches on the sand.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 62:
Twa sheeted ghaists, sae grizly and sae wan, 'Mang lanely tombs their douff discourse began.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xxi.:
The snug wee place . . . seemed in my eyes to look douff and gousty.
Rnf. a.1813 A. Wilson Rab and Ringan (n.d.) 3:
The college now to Rab grew douff and dull.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 18:
Of a' the bodies whose chief pleasure in life seems to be to rant and howl and ring bells, and mak the first the dowffest day in a' the week, surely the Antiburghers are the drollest.
Dmf. [1777] J. Mayne Siller Gun (1836) 86:
Where gladness beam'd in ilka face, Wha cou'd be dowf, whate'er his case.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 96:
Yes, eirie, eirie was the road, Beneath the douf pale moon.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 333:
I came my way hame right douf an' heavy-hearted.

Hence (1) douffie, id.; (2) doufness, sadness, melancholy.(1) Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 244:
All douflie and dowie, I sit by my lane, Wearifu', sad, and waefully.
(2) Slk. 1818 Hogg Brownie of Bodsbeck, etc. II. iii.:
But yet I couldna help thinking there was a kind o' doufness and mellancholly in his looks.

3. Of excuses: dull, feeble, failing to carry conviction.Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 220:
Nae hostin' now an' dowf excuse.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Lays from Poorhouse 166:
Tae cajole out ae dowff excuse.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Second Ep. Lapraik iv.:
Her dowf excuses pat me mad.
Ayr. 1812 A. Thom Amusements 50:
Nae douf excuses shall we plead.

4. Of a sound: dull, hollow (Bnff.2 1940; Abd.27 1948; Fif.10 1940). Also used adv.Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights 235:
Eftsoons the douff bell frae the auld grey tour With ane doleful clang told the partynge hour.
Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 7:
Till douf the twall-hours bell crys clink, Then aff a' wallop in a wink.
Ags. 1883 J. Kennedy Poems (1920) 58:
While sounds cam' dowff frae a' it did Like clods upon a coffin lid!
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 29:
Och, I canna see,
winnocks greetin wi yoam, hear nae soond
but yon dowf bell.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
The douff dull soond caused by the energetic steekin' o' the Beuk.
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 31:
The new-made glens the douf mute echoes keep.

5. Cf. Deaf, adj., 2.

(1) Of wood, vegetation, etc.: decayed, rotten (Ant. 1924 North. Whig (14 Jan.)).Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
A douf nit, a rotten nut.

†(2) Of ground: poor, unfertile (Sc., Lth. 1825 Jam.2; Lth. 1855 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 722).Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xix.:
It's unco dowf land, Happergaw. I couldna mak a livin oot o't.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 174:
The earth of a garden is “doaf” when, though it seems fat, nothing will grow on it but weeds.

6. (1) Of a part of the body: numb, insensitive (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 174, doaf).Sh.11 1949:
Whin da dentist pat in da painless, my hale jaw gaed duff.
Sh. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 46:
Hamebound at the hinner end o a half-cock hooley,
wi nae Helly tae lee, Loard help us, nor eneuch o the Deil
Or drink in oor dowf hert-ruits tae sprout a panache,
A plume o paumpas gerse or a paulmleaf parapluie.
Ayr.4 1928:
“A doof sair,” a sore with no feeling.

(2) “Numb, blunt, not sharp, not acute” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Also duffie, duffy, blunt, not sharp (of a tool, etc.) (Ork. 1887 Jam.6; 1929 Marw.). Also used fig. = thick-headed (Ork.1 1940).Sh. 1891 J. J. H. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 29:
An dy tick skult's baid duff an widden, Or du wid see.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 58:
De'il 'e bit o' me yackels can win on deir flesh, an' I t'ink me teeth no' sae duff whativer.

7. Of weather: dull, dreary.Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 58:
In dowf season,
dowie, deid still,
abuin frozen braith,
I hear it:
the vieve cry nae daith-grupp thraws.
Lth. 1825 Jam.2:
“A dowf day”; a hazy day; a phrase used by old people.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 181:
And on the douf days, whan loud hurricanes blaw.

II. n.

1. A dull, stupid or gloomy person (Ork.1 1940, duff; Abd.15 1949; e.Lth. c.1916 J. Allen W.-L., duif; w.Sc. 1825 Jam.2, dufe).Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act IV. Sc. i. in Poems (1728):
He get her! slaverin Doof.
Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 151:
See how he gaunts an' rakes his een, As if he gat nae sleep thestreen; A bigger doof was never seen.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 9:
Your father was a fool for fashing wi' him, auld slavery dufe.

2. A dull blow with something soft (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.2 1940; Abd., Lth., Cld., s.Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., duiff, dufe); the sound emitted by such a blow, a thud (Cld., Slk. 1825 Jam.2, dufe). Also phr. to play dowf, to thump (Bnff.2 1940).Bnff. 1850 Bnffsh. Jnl. (9 April):
But mak a flail they'll gart play dowf Upo' your biggin'.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Brownie of Bodsbeck. etc. I. vii.:
But they [corpses] had gotten some sair doofs.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 41:
Boddin that I wad coup, that I muchtna gie a dooffe, I hurklit litherlye down.

III. v.

1. intr.

(1) To be dull (Bnff.2 1940). Ppl.adj. dowfin, dull, slow, cautious; “usually applied to one who is overfed” (Abd.4 1929); also used as n. (Id.).Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 13:
A canny, dowfin birkie wis the beylie at Drumdykes.
Lth. 1825 Jam.2:
To douf and stupe, to be in a state of languor and partial stupor.

†(2) With on: “to continue in a slumbering state” (Slk. 1825 Jam.2).

2. (1) tr. To dull (down), make sluggish.Lnk. 1838 J. Struthers Poet. Tales 77:
Auld age douffs down the spirit.

(2) tr. and intr. To strike with something soft, to thump, to buffet, punch (Bnff.2, Abd.9 1940; Ags.4 1916, dowf(er); Lth., Cld., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), to thud. Ppl.adj. duifft.Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 175:
The clods are dowfin' doo'some on her little coffin lid.
Fif. 1873 J. W. Wood Ceres Races 78:
She doofs and birses Fluter doon, Wha rows an' whumles i' the poke.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 10:
The Auld Cross — sair duifft an neiteet an nickeet wui Teime an the weather.

Comb.: †duffing bout, a thumping, a beating (w.Sc. 1825 Jam.2).

(3) tr. To bounce (a ball); esp. at Geo. Heriot's Hospital: to bounce a ball and then hit it upwards with the fist so that it lands on a roof. Also to bounce a ball so that it lands out of reach.Lth. 1825 Jam.2:
Ye've douff't your ba' o'er the dike. You have driven your ball over the wall.
Edb. 1898 J. Baillie Walter Crighton 64:
Others were trying for “skinned ba's doufed.” They had a ball with a long string attached, which was thrown up until it rested beside another ball lying in the rhone; then with a sharp twitch they perhaps chanced to bring down the doufed ball.
Edb. 1906 C. B. Gunn G. Heriot's Hospital 65:
Several players struggled after the one ball whose aim was to “dowf” it upon the leads.

(4) tr. To throw down something that is soft and heavy (Bnff.2 1940), usually with doon (Abd.27 1949).

[The O.Sc. form is dolf = dull, heavy, spiritless, from 1513, but whether the -l- is merely scribal is uncertain. If so, the origin of the [ʌu] forms may be in O.N. daufr, deaf, Norw. dial. dauv, dull, stupid, deaf, insipid; but the [o, y] forms point rather to Mid.Du. doof, deaf, rotten, foolish, cf. Du. dof, dull, dim. It is also possible that some of the modern m.Sc. forms and derivs. are borrowed from or influenced by Eng. dial. doaf, doof = dough; cf. Duff, n.1]

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

"Dowf adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: