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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GARDYLOO, int. Also gardeloo, jordeloo. “A cry which servants in the higher stories in Edinburgh give, after ten o'clock at night, when they throw their dirty water, etc. from the windows; hence also used to denote the contents of the vessel” (Sc. 1808 Jam., jordeloo); “this term is used in a similar sense in Dmf.” (Jam.2, gardeloo). Hist. Also n. as a warning call. Phr. to make the gardyloo, to throw the dirty water out. [gɑrdɪ′lu:]Sc. 1771 Smollett Humphry Clinker II. 227:
At ten o'clock at night the whole cargo is flung out of a back window that looks into some street or lane, and the maid calls Gardy loo to the passengers.
Sc. 17.. H. G. Graham Soc. Life (1899) I. 83:
By ten o'clock each night the filth collected in each household was poured from the high windows, and fell in malodorous plash upon the pavement, and not seldom on unwary passers-by. At the warning call of “Gardy loo” . . . from servants preparing to outpour the contents of stoups, pots, and cans, the passengers beneath would agonisingly cry out “Haud yer hand.”
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxvii.:
Luckie MacPhail sent down the lass to tell my friend Mrs Crombie that she had made the gardyloo out of the wrang window, out of respect for twa Highlandmen that were speaking Gaelic in the close below the right ane.
Sc. 1867 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. 260:
The wellknown cry which preceded the missile and warned the passenger was Garde loo!
Gsw. 1992 Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing! (1993) 231-2:
I began to round up the scattered empties which, without so much as a 'gardyloo', I chucked from the window into the backcourt.
em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 95:
In a haar, Edinburgh seemed to shift backwards through time. You half expected to see press-gangs on the streets of Leith, hear coaches clattering over cobblestones and cries of gardy-loo in the High Street.

[The word is first recorded in the form gardelue, in Edb. Burgh Records, 25th July 1662. Ad. Fr. (prenez) garde à l'eau, or gardez (vous de) l'eau!, “beware of the water.”]

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"Gardyloo interj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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