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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LOUN, n. Also loon, †lown. Dim. forms loonie, looni(c)kie, lunach (gen. in meanings 5. and 7.). [lun]

1. ‡(1) A rogue, rascal, scoundrel (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict., 1808 Jam.), a worthless person (Dmf. 1889 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 151; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ags., Fif., Lnl., Uls. 1961). Also transf., of things: the cause of some mishap. Also adj. Cf. (vii) below.Sc. 1701 Scots Mag. (July 1818) 35:
She followed him, and called back againe, you fals loun will you murder your father and my husband both.
Ags. 1725 Sc. Hist. Review IV. 67:
Called him beggarly lown and rascall and fairy-bitten toad.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 11:
Piece long ere than, lowns had begun to spread, An' riefing hereship was become a trade.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 183:
Mind ye what Sam, the lying loun! Had in his Dictionar laid down?
Ayr. 1790 Burns Awa', Whigs, Awa' i.:
Ye're but a pack o' traitor louns.
Per. 1809 John Ramsay of Ochtertyre Letters (1966) 252:
'perhaps it [the watch] might be picked by some of the people about Drysdales, some of which are loon enough ...'
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxiv.:
There's nae trusting a Presbyterian; they are a' faithless man-sworn louns.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ii.:
Ye'll get nae mae at my hand; nor nae rebel Papist loun amang ye.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
There was the loon that had made the puir wean sae wanrestfu'. . . . Ane of my faither's breek-needles stickin' up to the hilt in the very thick o' its thigh!
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 67:
I never saw aen o' the ferry-lupper loons that could deu the like.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders v.:
Misca' them for a' the sornin' tinklers — the lazy, ill-contrivin' loons i' the country.
Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People & Lang. 33:
In Ulster, as in every other place, the word “loon” has acquired a disrespectful sense.
Bwk. 1911 Lady J. Scott Songs 164:
Yon ill-fa'ured thievin' German loon Has ta'en my rights awa.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset 49:
A partan-faced, sculduddery loon.

Hence (i) loon body, = (1); †(ii) lounery, knavery, rascality; †(iii) loonfow, rascally (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (iv) loun-ill, malingering, pretended illness to avoid work; (v) loon-leuking, knavish, villainous, scamp-like; (vi) loun-like, like a scoundrel, blackguardly; disreputable-looking, shabby, scruffy (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ‡Ags. 1961). Nonce compar. lowner-like; (vii) to be the loon o', to be the one to blame for (Fif. 1919 T.S.D.C.).(i) Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf x.:
If ye leave it flung about in that gate for the first loon body to lift.
(ii) Fif. 1838 A. Bethune Sc. Peasantry 120:
Gin ye'll promise to dee a' this, without cheatry or lounery, ye'll hae lowsance frae yer bondage.
(iv) Edb. 1792 “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 52:
Thir drunken blades, on fast-day noon, On annual rowt frae Embro-town Seiz'd wi' the loon-ill, wurble doun Like swarms o' vermin.
(v) Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin x.:
What, in the name o' wonder, is the meanin' o' thae loon-lookin' things [handcuffs]?
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 293:
Syne the Deil's advocate, wi' Rob's case in hand, Nigh the great blazin' forge took his loon-luikin' stand.
Sc. 1909 J. Colville Studies 137:
A mischievous boy was . . . a loon-lookin' dog.
(vi) Sc. a.1730 A. Pennecuik Collect. Sc. Poems (1787) 10:
Shame light on that lown-like tree [the gallows], Plays sic foul tricks.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 149:
For still the lowner like I am, The more my trade [begging] I'll grace.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 207:
A very lump of loun-like ill-nature.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 115:
Thae loun-like fallows Gie ay cheap bargains to conceal Them frae the gallows.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 113:
Nor lazy, nor loun-like, was ane o' them seen, Wi' the muckle wheel birrin' frae mornin' till een.

‡(2) In a milder or playful sense, esp. of a boy: a young scamp, a mischievous rogue (Ags., m.Lth. 1961).Fif. 1830 A. Stewart Dunfermline (1889) 138:
The wild, tricky loons, who on a Halloween night would fill his house with clouds of smoke from their “Jenny reekies.”
Sc. 1846 Edb. Tales (Johnstone) II. 84:
A dour loonie ye were — to tarry at your porridge.
Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays 17:
Will ye no' fa' asleep the nicht Ye restless little loon?
Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop Poems 105:
Mither a' oor fau'ts wad tell, An' me a loon wad ca'.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 52:
The wee dyvour loons frae Kilwinning.

2. Specif.: a sexually immoral person, gen. of a woman, a strumpet, wanton, concubine (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Hence lounrie, unchastity, immoral relations. Comb. and Phr.: loon-queyn, an immoral or worthless woman (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); to play the loun, to behave unchastely, commit fornication (Fif. 1935).Sc. 1714 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 16:
He kend the Bawds and Louns fou well, And where they us'd to rant and reel.
Ayr. 1719 Session Bk. Dundonald (1936) 608:
William Wallace and Agnes Neil, his spouse, were guilty of lounrie before mariage, and that they had lyn in lounrie for 3 years.
Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 37:
But tell me, man, I should say Master, What muckle de'il in your way chas'd her Lowns baith!
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 134, 226:
Tho' they play'd the loon wi' a poor hizey, she durst nae speak o't for her life, for they could gie ony body o'er to the deil whan they liket. . . . You should be scourged, fause loon quean it thou is.
Ayr. 1786 Burns What ails ye now viii.:
A fornicator-lown he call'd me.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxii.:
If she has been a loon, it was your son made her sae, and he can make her an honest woman again.
Sc. 1830 Lord Thomas & Fair Annet in Child Ballads No. 73 I. iii.:
If I binna gude eneugh for yer wife, I'm our-gude for yer loun.

3. A man of low birth or condition, usu. opposed to laird. Obs. in Eng.Sc. 1783 Gil Brenton in Child Ballads No. 5 A. 50:
O is your bairn to laird or loon?
Kcd. 1830 J. Grant Kcd. Traditions 46:
For laird nor loon, nor knight nor clown Durstna venture her lips to prie.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 31:
Ye ken the sayin — “as the laird bowffs, the loun yaff” [sic].
Knr. 1895 H. Haliburton Dunbar 68:
From lip of lord to lip of loon.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 39:
Dibble them doon, the laird, the loon, King an' the cadgin' caird.

4. In a more gen. sense: (1) a fellow, a chap, a lad, youth, young man, from adolescence onwards (Uls. 1953 Traynor; n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lnl., Wgt. 1961; Cai., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Dmf. 2000s). Sc. 1771 Smollett H. Clinker Melford to Philips, Aug. 8:
Lang life to the wylie loon that gangs a-field with a toom-poke at his lunzie, and comes hame with a sackful of siller.
Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour (17 Sept.):
The usual figure of a Skye boy is a lown with bare legs and feet, a dirty kilt, ragged coat and waistcoat, a bare head, and a stick in his hands.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 142:
An' monie a bourdlie bandster lown, Made there an' unco bletherin.
Dmf. 1809 Scots Mag. (March) 208:
A hame-spun loon, wi' bonnet blue, The gill-stoup was caressin' O.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxix.:
My 'prentice loonie, wha had been at the door seekin' in to his wark.
s.Sc. 1885 W. Scrope Salmon Fishing 218:
He was a stout loon o' his age.
Ags. 1889 Arbroath Guide (20 April) 3:
A galley whaur I was workin' when a bit loon.
Fif. 1929 St Andrews Cit. (9 Feb.) 9:
What's happen't tae oor poet loons?
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 33:
Whit ails the man, peyan nae heed tae a brither,
is he deif i the lug that he hears nae a soun?
I'se warrant he'd raither staun there an swither
than tak tent o law, the neepheidit loon.
Sc. 1992 Scotsman (9 Mar) 7:
Aren't such hours bad for the poor lad's health, asked some, the poor lad in question being a mere 26, a veritable loon to be senior presenter of a BBC flagship programme.
Sc. 1995 James S. Adam New Verses for an Auld Sang 12:
I'll bide nae mair the raggit loon,
nae mair o glaikit scrimpit parin,
young Scotia bricht in braw new goun
will breist the braes wi eident bearin
Abd. 1998 Herald (12 Jun) 4:
Two Aberdeen fans were observing the ample charms of a bevy of Brazilians when an older and wiser companion advised them: "Eyes aff, lads. They're loons."
Sc. 2000 Herald (6 Apr) 19:
Kick-off was still a couple of hours away, so they popped in to a local cinema. It turned out to be showing what we now call blue movies, which were something of a novelty to a couple of loons in the seventies.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 17:
Amang the died raws o the kirk
Sleep loons fa wore the khaki;
Twa generations wyled bi war
Ags. 2000 Montrose Review (16 Nov) 15:
And warming to the theme of town councillors, many of you will have fond memories of the original Gable Ender, JMD Smith, former councillor and Baillie, journalist, diarist and a gossiping kind of loon - a glib-gabbit clashie and nemsie with a rare North Eastern interest in the clishmaclaver o' the toun.

(2) in reference to a man as a native of a certain place (ne.Sc., Ags. 1961); specif. a male native of Forfar; in sporting journalism: a player in Forfar Athletic Football Club. Cf. Bairn.Mry. 1851 Lintie o' Mry. (Cumming) 29:
And Moray loons may learn How pious were their dads, Sir.
Sc. 1937 St Andrews Cit. (25 Sept.) 2:
A Forfar loon, Professor — had gained knowledge at six universities.
Sc. 1952 Sporting Post (23 Aug.) 4:
Forfar fans are hopeful after the Loons' good showing at Hamilton.
Lnk. 1991 Duncan Glen Selected Poems 58:
I look at you so adult, so self-possessed
so middle-class, so knowing
so sure of the right reply.
And think o me a steeltoon loon.

(3) a young farm-worker, a Halflin, essentially one who has not learned to plough; among a gang of workmen: a youth who does the odd jobs (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), ‡Lth. 1961).Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Loun is often used to denote a boy hired either occasionally, or for a term, for the purpose of running of errands, or doing work that requires little exertion. In a village, he who holds the plow is often called the lad, and the boy who acts as herd, or drives the horses, the loun.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
The servant “loon”, who was not yet out of bed.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith ix.:
An Arched “Chumlie”, where the Herd Loon's Stool was placed within one corner.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 102:
The loon 'ill mak' a plowman yet — Hard honest wark, the best i' land.
Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon xxii.:
When Peter was fifteen he was sent to work as “loon” on East Mains farm.
ne.Sc. 1957 Abd. Press & Jnl. (4 Oct.):
“Smiler” was invariably the “loon's” job and I wonder if a more monotonous or tiring one was ever invented.

Phrs.: loun's line, a short length of fishing-line, the last part of a half-fleet of lines to be shot, the catch on which is assigned to the youngest member of the boat's crew (Mry. 1930); loun's piece, the first or outermost slice of a cheese or loaf, which might be rather hard or over-baked or slightly burned and hence thought suitable for the novice or odd-job man (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Cf. knave's piece, — fang s.v. Knave, Fang, Cuckold's Cut.Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 285:
A quarter kebbuck neist comes ben John aff the loun's piece cuts.

5. (1) A boy up to adolescence or to the end of his schooldays, a boy as opposed to a lassie or quine (n.Sc., Ags., Fif., ‡Lth. 1961; Cai., Bnff., Abd., Ags. 2000s). Hence ¶loonhood, boyhood.Mry. 1763 Session Papers, Dunbar v. Dunbar State of Process 21:
At this Time the Deponent was a fine cliver Lounie.
Mry. 1828 J. Ruddiman Tales 27:
A door loon the dominie says he was.
Abd. 1844 W. Thom Rhymes 104:
'Tis the puir doited loonie — the mitherless bairn!
Sc. 1864 J. C. Shairp Kilmahoe 36:
That's what they're doing, lass and loon.
Lnk. 1867 J. M. Peacock Reverie 181:
Like twa wee gipsy loons.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 22:
Tells a' aboot the little loon Wha bocht the ribbons in the toon.
Mry. 1883 F. Sutherland Memories 156:
We hinna yet forgot yon haunts Whaur we in loonhood played.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 203:
Half a dozen kindly folk who pitied his “three loons and a lassie.”
Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 117:
Weel, loonikie, fat are ye seekin'?
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 19:
There wis a gey bit kurn o's there, ay, loons an' quines an' a'.
Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe (1937) 15:
His son was no more than a loon when he died.
Abd. 1991 Douglas Kynoch in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 87:
Fan I was but a bairn, this big and bonnie quine
Wad gie's a smile an caa me owre aside her syne.
An, stannin on her lap, my loonie's haan was eesed
Tae rinnin throwe her hair; an owre her face an briest.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 226:
There were women wi bairns in prams, loons and lassies trowing fae the school, a puckle o teachers and retired men o worth, and in the van the campers.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 42:
But I kent Da jist said thon tae cheer me up an I wis gey hingin-luggit last Friday fin the ither loons and quines gaed on tae the bus wi their packed lunches.
Abd. 2000 Herald (12 Oct) 7:
When he was back in Glasgow, we loons played at Bobbies and Burglars.

(2) A male child, a son (n.Sc., Ags. 1961; Cai., Bnff., Ags. 2000s); a baby boy (Ags. 1921 M.M.S. 83; n.Sc., Ags. 1961).Ags. a.1808 in Jam.:
You'll hogg your lunach in a skull.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xii.:
Hedna he Jock Ogg, the gauger's loon, haill twa year at it?
Bnff. 1890 W. Garden Sonnets 237:
He took my loonie hame — hame wi' Himself to sup.
Ags. 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden 67:
His father had been blawin' a' the week aboot the grand sermon they were to get on the Sabbath frae his loon, Tammas.
Abd. 1926 Abd. Univ. Review (July) 227:
The workin' men in Englan' are sayin' 'at they maun hae the Colleges open t' their loons as weel as t' the loons o' folk better t' dee.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 54:
A pauchle o bleck steered aside me. "Ma?" said ma loonie. His face wis that birssled, I cudna makk oot far his een war. His hauns war swalled like puddens, sypin pus.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 17:
Auld Dod's ae loon, Francie, wis forty year the junior,

[O.Sc. loun, a rascal, 1470, a strumpet, a.1568, a low-born man, 1535, a fellow, 15 . . , Mid.Eng. lowen, a rogue, Mid.Du. loen, a fool, a stupid fellow, a lout.]

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"Loun n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



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