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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

FOUL, adj., n.1, v. Also fool(e); ful (Sh.); †fule (Sc. 1711 First Part of the Tincklar's Testament 15); ¶fou' (Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 39). [Sc. fu:l, ‡s.Sc. fʌul]

Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. Dirty, soiled, unwashed. Now arch. or dial. in Eng. The word does not have the connotation of disgust or repulsion as in St.Eng.Fif. 1712 Two Students (ed. Dickinson 1952) 74:
For dying foul gloves to Alexr. . 0 2 0
Abd. 1867 Mrs Allardyce Goodwife xv.:
Syne pit yer clean chack apron on; Fling that fool faik awa.
Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. iv. 186:
Da sark dudna happen tae be ower white, an' da boys cried efter him: “Weel dune, fool sark!”
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 40:
Aye wis she ill-guidet, an' keepet that fool!

Combs.: †(1) foul beard, “a blacksmith's mop for his trough” (Dmf. 1825 Jam.); a hazel rod about 30 ins. long with a straw rope fixed on its end, with which the smith waters down the blaze of his fire (Kcb.4 c.1900); (2) foul beast, — fish, a fishermen's tabu-word for the salmon (Bnff. c.1810 W. Cramond Old Cullen (1882) 44); ‡(3) foul-farren, dirty, untidy; nasty, lit. and fig.; (4) foul t(h)ief, the Devil (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh.10 1953), now mostly in imprecations. Cf. Luke viii. 12; (5) foul-unlucky, having a propensity to dirt, always getting into a mess in spite of oneself (Abd.27 1953).(3) Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 393:
You have not been longsome, and foul farren both. Spoken to them that have done a Thing in great haste.
Ayr. 1927 A. Carruthers A Man Beset 69:
He winna admit it, let alane marry me. He's a foul-farren smaik.
(4) Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xiv.:
[To] seek the foul thief onie place, For him to spae your fortune.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiii.:
“Satan will never gi'e me amends o' them.” “Did ye ever see the foul thief?”
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xviii.:
Did ye think the bit stot was the Foul Thief himsel' that ye gied that skelloch?
Sh. 1932 J. Saxby Trad. Lore 180:
You referred to him [the devil] as . . . the fule tief.
(5) Abd.15 1928:
Eh, but ye're a fool unlucky beast; see sic a mess ye've made your slip, ye taid.

II. n. or quasi-n. The foul Fiend, the Devil; evil. Cf. I. Combs. (4). Only as an expletive in imprecations or in emphatic neg. expressions, e.g. foul (a) ane, a bit, haet, a styme, etc., not a —, devil a —, foul belicket, foul stick ye, tak ye, etc. Cf. similar expressions s.v. Deil, II. 1. and 2., Fient. Phr. foul (be)fa' . . ., may evil befall . . . (Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems II. 83; Sc. 1825 Jam.). See Fa, v., I. B. 1Wgt. 1711 Session Rec. Kirkinner MS. (29 July): 
Foul fall these people in Wigtoun that kept me longer in town.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 44:
Our Deacon wadna ca' a chair, The foul ane durst him na-say.
Lnk. c.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 228:
Fule haet ye'll do for naething here.
Abd. 1797 Aberdeen Mag. 349:
But ha! your best coat on, an' white cravat, An' foul stick pride! a buckish beaver hat.
Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 69:
A fell frecca, forsooth 'bout foul-be-liket!
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 10:
Till foul a bit Carnie's great don, for a' his heicht, Maun knuckle yet.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 34:
Feuch, foul may care! she prig nay mair.

[O.Sc. has foul (be)fall, from 1438, foul as a neg., a.1682.]

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"Foul adj., n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 May 2024 <>



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