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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FOU, adj., adv., n., v. Also fu', foo(e), †foue, †fow(e); †foul; fa- (in unstressed position in sense II). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. full. See P.L.D. § 78 (3) and Full. [Sc. fu:; s.Sc. fʌu]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng.Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 78:
His Face was big and fair like a fow Moon.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Lapraik xv.:
Now, Sir, if ye hae friends enow, . . . Yet, if your catalogue be fow, I'se no insist.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet ii.:
It's a sore thing to see a . . . cow kick down the pail when it's reaming fou.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie's Wallet Intro.:
Like the widow's cruise and barrel, they shall baith be the fou'er.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 17:
Puffed up he was wi' wardly pride And fou o' German.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 101:
Let the fu notes dirl
and the lang tune wivven
oot o aefauld soonds
intil ae wappin greement

2. Full of food, well-fed, sated, replete (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., m.Lth., Bwk., Rxb. 1953). Also fig.Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 33:
He's unko fou in his ain house that canna pike a bane in his neighbour's.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xi.:
A description of a dinner . . . “that wad hae made a fu' man hungry.”
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 100:
Of a' sorrows, it's confest, A sorrow that is fu's aye best.
Dmf. 1831 R. Shennan Tales 155:
Bonny wee bairns, a' weel happ'd and fu'.
Ayr. 1836 Galt in Tait's Mag. (June) 394:
The Englishers, compared with right Scotch folk, are a desperate set for being het and fu'.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 214:
It's ill speaking atween a fou' man and a fastin'.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 13:
An whan A'd ti haud-sae, A wasna boass, — if the truith be telld, A was riftin-fowe!
Edb. 1988:
Ye never get as fou as a bit wi nouvelle cuisine.

Phr.: a fow man's leavins, see a.1838 quot. (Ork., Cai., Ags., Per. 1975). Sc. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 56:
A Fow man's leavins. A very small portion of any kind of food, that is left by one who has eaten to repletion, or who can eat nothing more. In this case it is frequently said, in a taunting way, "I think ye have left naithing but the fow man's leavins."

3. Full of liquor, drunk, intoxicated. Gen.Sc. Used also with bitch, blin, greetin, roarin, stottin, tumblin, etc. to indicate the degree or nature of the intoxication, and in many similes as fou as a buckie, a piper, a puggie, a wilk, the Baltic, the ee o' a pick (see Ee, n., 2. (2)), etc., etc., in some of which fou partly retains its meaning 1. Deriv. fouish, slightly drunk, tipsy (Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1898) ii.).Sc. 1708 Seafield Letters (S.H.S.) 189:
Those he se(rv)ed make him fooe as they call it here.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 40:
A fow Heart lied never. A man in his Cups will tell his Mind.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 44:
Whan fock's blind fu' wi' drinking.
Ayr. 1791 Burns Tam o' Shanter 25–6:
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on, The smith and thee gat roaring fou on.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery Intro. Ep.:
He is as fou as a piper by this time.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1898) ii.:
The violent heat . . . caused the emptying of so many ale-tankers, and the swallowing of so muckle toddy . . . that they all got as fou as the Baltic.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xix.:
Ye dinna mean to say't Dawvid actually was fou at this braw pairty than?
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. viii.:
Here's Sandy Tam come noo, you lads, an' he's singin' fou.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders x.:
I misdooted I wad never mair get merry at Stanykirk Sacrament, or foo at Keltonhill Fair.
Edb. 1900 E. H. Strain Elmslie's Drag-Net 39:
He wasna stupid-fou as was his wont on market-days — fechtin' fou was mair like his state.
Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (4 Jan.):
Foo as a fitch.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset 27:
You'd have been as fou as a whelk.
Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 37:
Only fin he's extra lucky Can he get as fou's a bucky.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 27:
"He's fu' and we're dookin' him to clear his heid," explained Alicky.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 69:
Ach, wheesht, said Tassie wi a grin;
juist bide yir time, ye'll shuin see hou
a sair heid's aw will bother him ...
he's naething but a wee thing fou.
wm.Sc. 1995 Alan Warner Morvern Callar 63:
I come in the house full as a whelk and hung my overcoat on the post at the banister-bottom with my cap on the top.

Phrs.: †(1) fouscanhaud, as drunk as one can be (see quot.); (2) (to) fill fou. See Fill, v., 3.(1) Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 52:
The term Fouscanhaud, — i.e., fou's can haud, signifying dead drunk, — is generally applied in Western Perthshire to Celtic keepers of low tippling-houses.

4. In comfortable circumstances, well-off, having plenty, well-provided (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); bountiful, open. Deriv. †fowie, id., gen. used with contemptuous force, implying miserliness (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 13:
My Ladie comes, my Ladie gaes Wi' a fou and kindly han'.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
One in the lower ranks who is in good circumstances, is denominated “a fow body.”
Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 202:
The natives of the moors are a kind people, and generally keep what is understood by a “fu' house.”
Uls. c.1920 J. Logan Uls. in X-Rays vii.:
By dint o' hard work an' a savin' woman he was what ye wud noo ca' a fou fermer.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
The per [pair] had a guid fow life thegether.

Phr.: to brak wi a (the) fou han, to go bankrupt fraudulently, with adequate resources hidden away (ne.Sc. 1953).Mry. 1865 W. H. L. Tester Poems 109:
Gin ye ever brak, Sam, come doon like a true man, Dee as your faither did — brak wi' the fou han'.

5. Combs.: (1) fou-han't (Cld. 1880 Jam.), -hannit (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 224; Abd.27 1953), having the hands full, having a sufficiency; fully repaid or requited; (2) fou-hauden, -hadden, lavishly supplied, having no lack or scarcity, esp. of food (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) fou-moot, having all the teeth in a sound state (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 224). Eng. has full-mouthed, id., of cattle.(1) Ayr. 1792 Burns In Simmer iv.:
Ay fu'-han't is fechtin best: A hungry care's an unco care.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxvii.:
They had a privilege to see that they were full-handed for what benefit they might do the public.
(2) s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 332:
They're owr fu' hadden a' by far, That winna settle as they are.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 11:
Yih saucy sorrih! ee'r owre fow-hauden.

II. adv. Fully, very, quite; rather, too; with compar., much (Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork., Cai., Abd., wm.Sc. 1953). Now arch. or dial. in Eng.Per. 1769 in T. L. K. Oliphant Jacobite Lairds of Gask (1870) 371:
I sat fou snug and said nothing.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1898) vi.:
Matters were settled full tosh between us.
Abd. 1877 G. Macdonald M. of Lossie i.:
I ken mair aboot that nor the horse-coupin', and it's full cleaner.
Rxb. 1883 J. B. Webber Rambles Round the Eildons 8:
But, never mind, ye ken faweel I'll free ye o' the fattie.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 14:
Quo' he, “I'll hae to guide ye cross the stream, It rins fou fast.”
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 65:
Their aged partners attempted all the freaks of the fantastic toe all the while encouraging the ladies . . . by such remarks as, “Shack thee noo, Chirsee,” or “Thoo're foo niff yet, Betty.”
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
He's dune fow weel. The war lestit fow lang.

III. n. 1. A fill, the quantity that fills, the full capacity (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 209; Sh., Cai., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Clc., Gall., Dmf., Uls. 1953), a full load; specif. of drink, as much as one can hold.Ayr. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 369:
What she means by their [boys] having the above number of “foos” or loads is, that the collier is allowed to put out so many for the boy.
Gall. c.1870 Bards of Gall. (ed. Harper 1889) 21:
Quo' the elf, “Wad ye gie me twa fou's o' a wilk, In my can, gane ye please, o' a Kylie coo's milk?”
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xvi. 5:
The Lord himsel's the fow o' my ha'din an' my caup.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xi.:
Mithna a body gae the length o' takin' the fu' o' a sneeshin pen?
Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings 13:
Sauny tuk a big snuff-box oot o' his pocket, an' put aboot the foo o' a spoon up his nose.
Ayr. 1894 A. Laing Poems 18:
I aince was as throuther, an' fond o' a fou as the best o' the tipplers.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 53:
Gather ye a' the day, ye'll no gather your nieves fou'.

2. In dry measure: a firlot or quarter boll, approx. = one imperial bushel of wheat or 1.4 of a bushel of barley or oats; “the full of a measure of potatoes, onions, etc. . . . This is always supposed to be heaped unless the term sleek be used, which is equivalent to straik or stroke” (Cld., s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); a vessel holding this amount. Also foul (Ayr. 1706 Arch. and Hist. Coll. Ayr. and Wgt. IV. 216). Cf. Full, n. 2., and half-fou, s.v. Half, adj., 1. (7).Sc. 1710 Household Bk. Lady Grisell Baillie (S. H. S.) 26:
To Geordy Newton more for that road a fou oates.
Rxb. 1732 in J. Wilson Mem. Hawick (1858) 69:
Payd John Aitken for 2 girds he laid on the town's foue.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare xvii.:
For my last fow, A heapet stimpart, I'll reserve ane Laid by for you.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. vii.:
There was some half fous o' aits, and some taits o' meadow-hay, left after the burial.

IV. v. To fill (Abd. 1825 Jam.), to load. Redupl. form foo-foo.Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 71:
Think o' yer wark! the greedy laird's foo-fooin' up the purse.
Ags. 1894 People's Friend (17 Sept.) 599:
Jack Maclagan fu'd till he was rinnin' ower, an' had to be packed aff.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 68:
The Mistress of the house . . . laid the meat on the bread with the cordial invitation . . . “Aet an' fou you, for hid's plenty more i' the press.”
Abd. 1928 Abd. Weekly Jnl. (30 Aug.) 6:
Kirsty has as muckle jewellery as wad foo a pawnbroker's shop afore a fire.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 17:
My hill-foot lad! A' sowl an' brain fae's bonnet to his beets, A “Fullarton” in posse, nae the first fun' fowin' peats.

Fou adj., adv., n., v.

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"Fou adj., adv., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jun 2024 <>



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