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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.

NOWT, n.1 Also (k)nowt(e), (k)nout, nought (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 333), naut (Johnson); nolt; not, nød (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)), nut (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Dim. nowtie (Abd. 1927 E.S. Rae Hansel Fae Hame 19). [nʌut; Sh. nut, nød]

1. Cattle collectively, specif. cattle for fattening, oxen, steers and heifers (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict. s.v. neat, 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork. 1929 Marw.). Gen. (exc. I. and sm.) Sc., also in n.Eng. dial.; occas. sing., an ox, steer (ne.Sc. 1964); a fisherman's taboo-name for a cow (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Also attrib.Wgt. 1702 Session Bk. Sorbie MS. (24 May):
He did drive Andrew McConnells nolt on the last Sabbath of Aprill last till he laired them.
Sc. 1708 R. Chambers Dom. Annals (1861) III. 338:
The Honourable Patrick Ogilvie, . . . took up the cattle-trade, and was soon after remonstrated with by his brother, the Earl of Seafield, who, as Chancellor of Scotland, had been deeply concerned in bringing about the Union. The worthy scion of nobility drily remarked in answer: “Better sell nowte than sell nations.”
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 7:
I shall conclude with wishing you . . . the plentyfou increase of your nowt and sheep.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Jnl. from London 30:
The leomen of an auld ew, or a bit o' a dead nout.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 53:
The herds wou'd gather in their nowt.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 162–3:
Or by Madrid he takes the rout, To thrum guittars an' fecht wi' nowt.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck i.:
Rin away to the hill, an' see after the eild nowt.
e.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acct.2 II. 350:
Two new fairs are to be holden at Wester Pencaitland . . . for horse, nolt, sheep.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 7:
Here an' there, a nowt or sheep, A muircock, plover, or peesweep.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson W. Hermiston iii.:
You're splairging; you're running at lairge in life like a wild nowt.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 327:
Gannan at the Sheriff like a stoopid nowte.
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 32:
Neeps tae ser' the byllie's nowt.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 5:
Sandy Milne frae the garage, biggin bales ivnoo at the eyn o the Coutts' park, hid nae faimly ava, brocht up bi a granny fa fyles tuik scunner o the darg an fairmed him oot aroon the Howe like a feedin nowt, tae onybody sikken chaip labour in excheenge fur bed an boord.

Attrib. in Combs.: (1) nowt beast, a cattle animal (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1964); (2) nowte bestial, cattle; (3) nowt bicker, a wooden trough or dish from which cattle are fed in the stall (Hdg. 1809 Foord MS. 66); (4) nowt doctor, a veterinary surgeon; (5) nowt('s)-fit, nut-, -føt, calves' foot, cow-heel, as a dish (Sc. 1880 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Rnf. 1910). Hence nowt-fit jeel, calves' foot jelly (Sc. 1880 Jam.). See Jeel, n., 2.; nutfit kreesh, an unguent extracted by boiling from cow's feet (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). See Creesh, n.1; (6) nowt gowan, the ox-eye daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm III. 943). The yellow nowt-gowan is the corn-marigold, Chrysanthemum segetum (Id.). See Gowan, 3.; (7) nowt-head, an ox-head, as a food; fig. a blockhead; (8) nowt-herd, a cow-herd, a boy who watches a herd of cattle (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial.; (9) nowt-hide, the hide of an ox; (10) nowt-horn, an ox-horn; its material as used for making spoons, etc. Also attrib.; (11) nowt-leather, ox-leather; (12) nowt-man, a cattleman (Abd.4 1930); (13) nowt market, †nolt mercat, a cattle market. See Mercat; †(14) nowte-plague, an epidemic disease of cattle; (15) nowt spoon, a horn spoon. Cf. (10); †(16) nolt-tath, luxuriant grass in a field manured by the droppings of grazing cattle (Sc. 1825 Jam.). See Tath; (17) nowt-time, the time for attending to the cattle (ne.Sc. 1964); (18) wark nowt, cattle used for ploughing, etc., in the fields.(1) s.Sc. 1859 Bards of Border (Watson) 72:
A palin' round aboot, To keep the kye an' nout beas' oot.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxix.:
Tak' a girss parkie or twa an' trock aboot amo' nowte beasts.
Slg. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours Sc. Life 39:
A' wad chuse a minister as a' wad chuse a horse or a coo, or ony ither nout beast.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo xii.:
I lost sicht o' her [a cow] among some nowt beas' on Drumcork brae-heid.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (19 June) 8:
The fowk a' roon' aboot ken as muckle 's him aboot horse an' nowte beas'.
(2) Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxxiv.:
Werena ye a happier man at the tail o' your nowte-bestial, when ye were in an honest calling?
(4) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 129:
Reduced by nowt doctors to a fine powder, and blown through the hollows of quills into cattles' eyes.
(5) Sc. a.1706 J. Watson Choice Coll. i. 10:
Pow-sodie, and Drammock, and Crowdie And callour Nout-feet in a Plate.
Sc. 1772 Scots Mag. (May 1934) 147:
Wha'll buy my dainty lamb's haggies? And wha'll buy my caller nowt-feet?
Slg. 1804 G. Galloway Poems 66:
And Mall brings barley-kail in, Wi' great nowt-feet and sing'd sheep-heads.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iv.:
Twelve nowte's feet for jillies . . ane roasted capin in grease for the privy chalmer.
Gsw. 1856 J. Strang Gsw. Clubs 167:
In earlier times tripe and cowheel were hawked through the streets in the evenings; the vendors crying at the top of their voices, “Nouts' feet and cow painches.”
Fif. 1882 J. Hutton Poet. Musings 32:
Old mother puts on the big kail pot after the reading on Sunday evening with a good junk of beef, and a clean singed nowt's foot into it.
(7) Sc. a.1706 J. Watson Choice Coll. i. 53:
Where I fand naught but twa Sheep-breeds, Some Haggise-bags and twa Nowt-heads.
Edb. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (6 May) 3:
To Supply the West-Kirk Charity Work-House . . . with best Barley, Bread, Beer, Sweet-milk, and Nolt-heads.
Sc. 1846 Anon. Muckomachy 6:
Ca'd him a nowt-head and a snool.
(8) Fif. 1725 A. Laing Lindores (1876) 310:
The whilk day being apoynted for choysing ane nolt heard ffor the inchewing year.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck viii.:
Wee Willie the nout-herd, him that had the gude knife an' the duddy breeks.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Jaunt 9:
Across the rigs the nowtherd drags the rake.
(9) Slk. 1822 Hogg Siege Rxb. (1874) xi.:
Nolt-hides; that is, of cow-hides, oxen-hides, bull-hides and all sorts of hides.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 58:
Nae brunt-taed tawse o' strong nowt-hide Need they for paumies.
(10) Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 302:
A muckle nowt-horn to rowt on had he.
Sc. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 217:
A . . . proverbial simile commonly used in S[cotland] when the air is extremely chill; “There's a wind that would pierce a nouthorn.”
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Jaunt 17:
Nowthorn spoons are laid by.
(11) Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 33:
Ye war o' as guid nowt leather, As e'er was ken'd to rax a tether.
(12) Abd. 1851 Apollodora North. Tales ii. 16:
The nowteman and the cowherd.
(13) Fif. 1713 E. Henderson Ann. Dunfermline (1879) 392:
The counsell resolved that the nolt mercat be removed to the Newraw.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xx.:
He had first visited the “nowt market.”
(14) Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 98:
My Auntie Jean dee'd there, And, gaein' to her burial, I brang back The nowte-plague wi' me.
(15) Dmf. 1822 Edb. Mag. (July) 50:
Three dizen o' nowt spoons; a dizen and a half o' ram cutties.
(17) Bnff. 1920 Banffshire Jnl. (14 Dec.):
Nowt-time fin's ma eydent i' the byre.
(18) Abd. 1895 J. Davidson Ministers 53:
Wark men and wark nowt maun hae meat, but for ony sake haud in upo' the women an' the eel kye.

2. Fig. A big, unwieldy person, an oaf, bumpkin, blockhead (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., 1908 Jak. (1928); Cai. 1934; Ork. 1943; I., ne. and em.Sc. (a), Rxb. 1964). Cf. Stirk. Adj. noltish, stupid, oafish.Peb. 1793 R. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 118:
His big brother nowt, That kicks his muckle brosy wife.
Lnk. 1806 J. Black Falls of Clyde (1871) 72:
You ugly nowt: Swithe! frae my sight, ye filthy, ragged cowt!
Sc. 1820 A. Sutherland St. Kathleen III. v.:
What gared ye blaw oot the crusie, Davie, ye stupid nout?
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle 205:
You came here fu' o' your books, to teach a wheen nowts, the bairns o' nowts, — you didna mak' much o' them, Mr Raeburn.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xiii.:
Better than any noltish Galloway Laird.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer x.:
For her father, when I came to know him, showed himself a great, strong, kindly, hard-driving “nowt” of a man.
Sc. 1929 Scots Mag. (March) 424:
A hunner guineas for the heid o' that nowt Renwick.

[O.Sc. nowt, a.1400, nolt-beast, 1681, nolt-fute, a.1550, nolt-herd, 1513, Mid.Eng. nowt, Norw., O.N. naut, cattle. The -l- forms, which appear c.1470, are scribal and due to analogy with words where an orig. -l- has been vocalised in Sc., as Bowt, bolt, Cowt, colt. Cf. the spellings dolp < Doup, dolf < Dowf.]

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"Nowt n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 May 2024 <>



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