Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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FLOW, v., n.1 Also flowe, flouw). [flʌu]

I. v. 1. Sc. forms of Eng. flow (Sh., Cai., Abd. 1952); esp. to flow strongly, as a burn in spate (Kcb. 1952). Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 50:
Whin he [the tide] begood tae flou, sheu [the fishes] set on an' teuk brawly.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Aagust 29):
Ye manna laeve linns in da ebb, whin he's flouwin.

2. To exaggerate in telling a story (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Cf. Flaw, v.1, 3.

II. n. 1. A wet peat-bog, a morass, a swamp (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 207; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 242; Cai., Ayr., Gall., Dmf., Rxb. 1952); “a low-lying piece of watery land, rough and benty, which has not been broken up” (Lth., Twd. 1808 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial. Freq. in place-names, esp. in Gall. Adj. flowy, boggy, spongy, of ground or turf (Dmf. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XXI. 446: Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cld. 1794 J. Naismith Agric. Cld. 16:
Over these, mosses, and a variety of aquatic herbage have grown, from age to age, till they are swoln to great masses of spongy matter; these are called Flows, or Flow-mosses.
Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIX. 20:
In many of these morasses, or flows, as they are here called, when the surface is bored, the water issues out like a torrent with great force.
Slg. 1814 J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot., App. II. 40:
The upper stratum, or flow, is composed of a light spongy mass of a whitish colour, five or six feet deep, being evidently an accumulation of sphagnum, comarum palustre, and other coarse aquatic plants.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Basil Lee (1874) 252:
Gin Sandy Jardine dinna wade as deep as ony chap in a' Airland, deil that he gang down the gullots like a flowy peat.
Ayr. a.1822 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 213:
Ye'll chock at some knowe, Ye'll stick in some flow, Or, ye'll melt in a thow.
Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Tales 104:
I could engage to ride my mare Black Bess, through foord an' through flowe, in ony direction.
m.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 536:
The greatest improvement . . . might be made . . . by drainage of a morass called Fala flow.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Clay Biggin' 56:
The sheep took a lot of herdin' til kep them aff the flow, for a deethly place it was for them i' the winter an' spring.
Slk. 1952 per Rxb.4:
A flowy peat was always chosen to be soaked in paraffin and used for “burning the water.”

Combs.: (1) flow land, marsh land; (2) flow moss, wet, boggy ground; the spongy moss which grows there (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 242). Cf. flaw-moss, s.v. Flaw, n.1, v.1; (3) flow peat, soft spongy peat, cut out of flows (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 207), “cut with the top turf left on to assist cohesion” (Wgt. 1950). (1) Cai. 1907 County of Cai. (ed. Horne) 360:
Deep, peaty soil and quivering bog called the “flow” land (much of which is inaccessible even in the dry season).
(2) Sc. 1726 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 16:
It stands upon the East side of a great flow moss.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 377:
Moss soil, which hath formed itself upon a flat, or in a hollow, is generally the most deep: from the almost total stagnation of the water, it is kept perpetually in a state of semi-fluidity, and remains level in the surface like any fluid substance. Hence, the designation of flow-moss or fluid moss.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxviii.:
We might sleep in our claes as mony a gude blade does in the scabbard — there wasna muckle flowmoss in the shaw, if we took up our quarters right.
Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 107:
The uplands are generally mossy, resting on clay of a yellow colour, covered by moss of various depths, which often break into what are called hags, or flow-moss.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 44:
Dry flowe-moss made them pillows fine.
(3) Sc. 1803 Trans. Highl. Soc. 10:
Flow-peat, or flow-moss. . . . It often forms a stratum from 4 to 8 feet deep, is generally of a brown or reddish colour, and affords but a weak fuel that burns to light white ashes.

2. A quicksand. Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xviii.:
I know the Kelpie's flow well enough, . . . the quicksand betwixt this tower and Wolf's-hope.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxv.:
There beyond them was the Silver Flowe of Buchan, where little Marion had been drawn to her death either by the clinging sand or the dread arm of the water Kelpie.

3. A spongy, fibrous peat (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cf. flow-peat, above, and Flaw, n.1, 1.

4. The space on a peat-bank where newly-dug peats are dried (Id., obsol.). Cf. Flaw, n.1, 2. Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 289:
When simmer came blythesome I milked the yowes, Or stackit the peats on the crane-cover'd flowes.

5. A very small quantity of anything, esp. in powdery form, as dust, meal, flour, a pinch (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 49; ne.Sc., Ags. 1946); a flake, a small particle. Cf. Flaw, n.1, 4. and 5. Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 45:
Wha on life's dainties nicely chow Yet left yir bard wi fient a flowe.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 59:
Tak' hame a wee flow to your wife, To help to mak' brose to your supper.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 122:
Sheuk i' the pan a flou o' pouther . . . On the tricker plac'd a finger.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin v.:
It set fire to the flows o' lint that were stickin' a' owre the wheel.
Per. 1881 R. Ford Hum. Sc. Readings 77:
We ha'ena a flowe o' bakin' meal inower the door, an' the Balbeggie baker winna be roond wi' his cart till Saturday.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town xiii.:
Will you tak' a flow o' oatmeal wi' a pinch o' pepper?
Abd. 1929 Abd. Weekly Jnl. (14 March):
There's as muckle snaw on me 'at I dinna neen expeck tae shauve a flow afore Awprile.

6. An exaggerated story (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Cf. Flaw, n.1, 6.

7. An arm of the sea, a bight, channel or haven where there is deep water (Ork. 1887 Jam.; Sh.12 1900) or strong flowing tides, e.g. the Pentland Firth (Cai. 1952). Found in place-names, as Scapa Flow [flʌu]. Sh. 1898 Shetland News (23 July):
Dan dey fell tü ta fecht, an if dey wirna a day apo' da flow dan he wis nae man's bishaness.

8. Comb.: †flow-dyke, an embankment raised to prevent river floods (Bnff., 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 49). Bnff. 1812 D. Souter Agric. Bnff. App. 31:
To change the course of water runs, to construct flow-dikes, and to make such leading drains as shall be judged proper.

[None of the above usages, except v. 1., are found in O.Sc. The forms and pronunciation represent the reg. Sc. development of O.E. flōwan, see P.L.D. § 35.5. There has however been some confusion in usage with Flaw, n.1, v.1, q.v., as indicated above, though flow is not a normal variant of flaw as N.E.D. suggests. n. 7. is orig. a different word, assimilated from Icel., O.N. flói, a large bay, a firth, esp. in place-names. See Floe.]

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"Flow v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Oct 2021 <>



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