Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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PAWKIE, adj. Also pawky, pauky. -ie, pauckie (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); †packy; †pakie (Sc. 1718 News from Bathgate 27). Now adopted in Eng., esp. in reference to supposed characteristics of the Scots. [′pke]

1. Wily, sly, cunning, crafty (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 104, 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Taynor); shrewd, astute, sagacious, “sharp”, having one's wits about one, resourceful, “hard-headed” (Uls. 1929 , Fif. 1958); comb. pawkie-witted, id. Gen.Sc., obsol. Hence pawkiness, paukiness, guile, cunning, sagacity, common sense; pawkily, adv., shrewdly, resourcefully, in a wily and sagacious manner (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Sc. 1706  J. Watson Choice Coll.i. 69:
I wily, witty was, and Gash, With my auld felni packy pash.
Sc. 1710  T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
We call one pawky, who is witty, sly, or cunning in his words or actions, especially the first, but without any harm or bad designs.
Sc. 1714  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 16:
Where they us'd to rant and reel, He pawkily on them could steal.
Sc. 1727  P. Walker Six Saints (1901) I. 328:
Some of our pawky-witted primitive trucklers, in my hearing, said that they would pray for him.
Fif. 1766  Session Papers, Reid v. Fouler (18 Feb.) 34:
This man, on account of his slyness, has been nicknamed Paukie Willie Brown; but with all his paukiness, he was not able to make his deposition hang together.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 86:
Some fiend or fairy, nae sae very chancy, Has driven me by pauky wiles uncommon.
Ayr. 1785  Burns To James Smith i.:
Dear Smith, the slee'st, pawkie thiof, That e'er attempted stealth or rief!
Sc. 1818  Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
Their pawky policy, and earthly ingine, their flights and refinements, and periods of eloquence.
s.Sc. 1858  Wilson's Tales of the Borders X. 134:
This she set about with the characteristic pawkiness . . . of the Scotch.
Fif. 1884  G. Bruce Reminisc. 46:
[He] pawkily ingratiated himself into the good graces of the sturdy old Puritan, Cromwell.
Sc. 1893  Stevenson Catriona xvii.:
He spoke in a smooth rich voice, with an infinite effect of pawkiness.
Sc. 1920  D. Rorie Auld Doctor 6:
There aince was a very pawky duke, Far kent for his joukery-pawkery.
m.Sc. 1927  J. Buchan Witch Wood viii.:
The Woodilee folk are pawky bodies even when they're fou.
Sc. 1953  Scots Mag. (Dec.) 172:
Gin ye ever gang to a richt herd's supper, ye'll meet men that are jist like their grandfaithers: canny, pawky and intelligent as ye make them.

2. Characterised by a sly, quiet wit, quizzical, sardonic, having a matter-of-fact, humorously critical outlook on life (Abd. 1913; Mry. 1925; Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (27 Nov.)). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Hence pawkiness, n., dry humour, sly wit. e.Lth. a.1801  R. Gall Poems (1819) 49:
To con thy saftly-melting lays, Or pawky strains.
Ayr. 1826  Galt Last of Lairds iii.:
Oh, he was a deacon at a pawky song!
Ayr. 1833  Galt Eben Erskine I. i.:
A gash, long-headed carle, with just so much pawkie humour as showed that he knew the weak side of the bailies and counsellors.
Sc. 1838  J. W. Carlyle Letters (1883) I. 97:
Old Scotch rhyme, reckoned “pawky”, clever and symbolical, in this house.
Lth. 1856  M. Oliphant Lilliesleaf lii.:
Mary was looking at him and me, and well I kent, by the pawkie smile upon her face, that she read us both.
Sh. 1877  G. Stewart Fireside Tales 49:
Old Yacob . . . possessed a considerable amount of good common sense, quiet, pawky humour.
Sc. 1883  Chambers's Jnl. (13 Jan.) 31:
It was a face in which were combined shrewdness, humour, kindliness, keen perception and sagacity; while to these was superadded a certain “pawkiness” (to use a Scotch word which has no equivalent in English).
Arg. 1901  N. Munro Doom Castle x.:
When Mrs. Petullo broke down miserably in her third verse, he smiled to himself pawkily.
Ags. 1948  Scots Mag. (Nov.) 80:
Forfar seems to have attracted to its Town Council men who were especially gifted with a couthie directness and pawkiness that is peculiar to the town.

3. Of tasks, skills, etc.: requiring care or special knowledge, difficult, tricky, demanding. Sc. 1721  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
The pauky knack Of brewing Ale amaist like Wine.
Edb. 1772  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 39:
The man in music maist expert, Wha cou'd sweet melody impart, And tune the reed, Wi'sic a slee and pawky art.

4. Roguish, arch, coquettish, wanton (Ags. 1808 Jam.); lively, merry, vivacious, jaunty. Henee pawkily, merrily, mischievously, in a roguish manner. Also ¶used subst. Sc. 1724  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 80:
The pawky auld carle came o'er the lee, Wi' mony good e'ens and days to me.
Abd. 1755  Lord Glenbervie Diaries (Bickley 1928) II. 359:
Pale complexion and black and what the Scotch call pawky eyes, which under a quiet manner betrayed an amorous disposition.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 210:
I've been near pauky courts, and aften there Ha'e ca'd hystericks frae the dowy fair.
Ags. 1774  Weekly Mag. (30 Dec.) 15:
Ilka lad, wi'pawky een, looks at his lass.
Ayr. 1787  Burns Guidwife of Wauchope iii.:
Her pauky smile, her kittle e'en.
Dmf. 1810  R. H. Cromek Remains 67:
A pawky cat came frae the mill-ee — Wi'a bonnie bowsie tailie.
Slk. 1822  Hogg Tales (1874) 657:
My bonnie, haughty, pawkie, sweet Elizabeth!
Fif. 1882  J. Hutton Poet. Musings 20:
An' she thinks it sma' faut to be pawkie a wee, For a pawkie can hide what nae gawkie can see.
Kcb. 1897  T. Murray Poems 73:
She pawkily tested my answer awee.
Dmf. 1910  R. Quin Borderland (1933) 62:
May . . . Janet's bricht and pawky face Be lang a joy to mither.

5. Quaint, fantastic, amusing, funny (Cai. 1965). Abd. 1844  W. Thom Rhymes 78:
I think I see its pawkie boughs, Whaur lovers weel might hide.
Cai. 1930  John o' Groat Jnl. (21 Feb.):
'At's him 'at used til write fae Ontario 'boot 'e peedy, pauky, gunshie kind o' swinies they hed oot 'ere.

6. Self-satisfied, proud, vain. Also in n.Eng. dial. Rare. Abd. 1824  G. Smith Douglas 119:
Ae nicht short syne, some bierdly chiels, Right pauky o' their bra's.

[O.Sc. pawky, = 1., 1676, pakiness, 1687. from Pawk, + -Ie. Also in n.Eng. dial.. = proud, saucy.]

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"Pawkie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jan 2020 <>



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