Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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OWSE, n. Also ouse; pl. ous(s)en, ows(s)en, owzen, -an. An ox (ne.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 102, Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1964). Also attrib. [ʌus] Sc. 1724  Ramsay T.T. Misc. (1876) I. 8:
I have three owsen in a plough, Twa good ga'en yads, and gear enough.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.H.S.) II. 38:
Whan weary owsen hameward come.
Ayr. 1792  Burns Lea Rig i.:
Owsen frae the furrow'd field Return sae dowf and weary O.
Sc. c.1801  Braes o' Yarrow in
Child Ballads No. 214 E. 15:
Tak hame your ousen, tak hame your kye.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality vi.:
Tak tent ye dinna o'erdrive the owsen.
Slk. a.1835  Hogg Tales (1874) 592:
The lives o' men are nae mair countit on now-a-days than they were a wheen auld ousen or auld naigs.
Abd. 1863  G. MacDonald D. Elginbrod:
As strong as an ox, or “owse”, as David called it.
Gsw. 1877  A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 183:
The laird, they say, has taurry sheep, and owsen by the score.
Mry. 1897  J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 72:
The loon 'at wis alang wi' 'im — ca'in' the owsen wi' the gaud.
Lnl. 1910  J. White Eppie Gray 3:
The hill taps are a' in a flame, An' wearied owsen wanner hame.
Abd. 1955  W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
His “owsen” continued to “stowff eidently” up one “dreel” and down the next.

Hence ¶oussen'd, deriving from oxen. Mry. 1804  R. Couper Poems I. 61:
The wain, wi' a' its oussen'd strength, Is sticking by the mill.

Combs.: 1. †ouse-John, a nickname for an ox-herd; 2. owsegate, a measure of land, an Oxgate, Oxgang; 3. ows(s)en-bow(e), the wooden collar worn by draught oxen (Rxb. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl., 1825 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial. See Bow, n.4, 3.; 4. ousen('s) milk, a jocular name for Sowens, or unboiled flummery, often used as a substitute for milk on porridge (Dmf. 1808 Jam.); 5. owsen-pleuch, -pleugh, owzen-, a plough drawn by oxen; 6. owsgang, an Oxgang (Bnff. 1964); 7. owssen-staw, a stall for an ox (Ork. 1964). 1. Bnff. 1787  W. Taylor Poems 106:
Ouse-John, the master of the pack.
2. Abd. 1923  Swatches o' Hamespun 86:
“Better fog braw an' weel on the ae owsegate, nor hae t' scraup hard on the twa” is our way of putting “Do not cut off more than you can well chew.”
3. Abd. 1828  P. Buchan Ballads I. 232:
When heather cows grow owsen bows, I winna langer tarry.
Abd. 1920  R. H. Calder Deeside Gleanings 10:
Wi' legs on 'im like owsen bowes.
4. Abd. 1840  Quarterly Jnl. Agric. XI. 417:
Raw sowens, under the not inappropriate designation of “ousen's milk”, was frequently resorted to as substitute for being eaten with the oatmeal porridge.
5. Ags. 1830  A. Balfour Weeds 127:
The owsen-pleugh was in the yoke at the bear-seed.
Abd. 1877  W. Alexander Rural Life 35:
In Cromar, the Garioch, and other districts of Aberdeenshire, the “twal owsen” plough was pretty common so late as 1792 . . . and it did not go finally out of use in this part of the country till 1815 or 1816.
Abd. 1895  J. Davidson Old Abd. Ministers 112:
When agriculture took a spurt at the beginning of the present century, and the pasture lands were “riven in” with the “owsen-pleuch.”
6. Bnff. 1901  Trans. Bnff. Field Club 29:
“The owsgang at the Rottenhillock Park”, near Barnyards of Cullen House is still so spoken of at the present day.
7. Sc. 1776  D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 146:
She sought it in the owsen-staw.

[O.Sc. oussin, oxen, 1596, the irreg. form being phs. influenced by Du. os, ossen.]

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"Owse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 May 2019 <>



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