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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

POW, n.1, v. Also powe (Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 182). Sc. forms of obs. or dial. Eng. poll. [pʌu]

I. n. 1. The head of a human being or an animal (Sc. 1808 Jam.), the crown of the head, the scalp, the skull. Gen.Sc.; also the head of a flower, or the like (m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 24), to the fore-lock of a horse (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Galt. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 35, Dmf. 1966), etc.Gall. 1724 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) II. 3:
James Lindsay . . . deponed that he saw the grave when opened and thought it not ripe, for touching the pow with his hand the head did not come exactly and freely from the bone and that the hair was upon the scull.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
[Witch] howks unchristen'd We'ans out of their Graves; Boils up their Livers in a Warlock's Pow.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 10:
Sick wimpl'd wark would crack a pow like thine.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 141:
Bogles and spectres . . . Harlin' the pows and shanks to hidden cairns.
Ayr. 1794 Burns John Anderson my Jo i.:
Blessings on your frosty pow, John Anderson my jo!
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xli.:
Ye maun just trust that bit secret to auld Edie's grey pow, and ask nae questions about it.
Mry. 1851 Lintie o' Moray (Cumming) 55:
Bullsegs will wave their nigger pows.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods (1907) 138:
Noo's the time whan pows are seen Nid-noddin' like a mandareen.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Bog Myrtle (1896) 206:
It'll never be on the pow o' an Ayrshire drover.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (14 May):
Oh! deil sit i' dy pow, dere im I cleev'd da face o' me toom.
Rxb. 1919 Kelso Chron. (4 April) 3:
My blood's not chill, though near the night, And grey-haired is my pow.
Fif. 1926 I. Farquhar Pickletillie 9:
What if oor pows is no' quite sae close thackit as of auld.
Abd. 1965 Buchan Observer (12 Jan.) 2:
Ye'll hum an' hae an' claw your pow.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 90:
"And then she heard another sound, a sort of sighing and a whispering and a rustling sound in the air above her, and an acorn fell and dunked her one on the head; so she looked up, rubbing her pow, and she asked, 'Who's making that awful racket up there?' ... "
w.Lth. 1987:
Loss the pow.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 50:
Awa he lowpit wi a skellum yelp
and the laist I saw wis the bauld pow ootsheenin
the sun itsel.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 50:
Yon dollybird wi the velvet single-en an the hoor's een
puffin et yon lang fag an straikin her lover-boy's pow,
cannae be smokin the same brand as oor Wullie thare,
hoastin his lichts oot thonner in the Royal Infirmary.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 61:
At the wheel, the same auld heid o the hoose, wi his muckle pow sunk doon in his thrapple: creashie, stinch; his blaik hairy hauns grippin the wheel.

2. Hence fig. applied to the corresponding part in a variety of inanimate objects, specif. (1) the blunt or rounded part of an axe-head, hammer-head or the like (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., ne.Sc., Kcb. 1966). Also in Eng. dial. Hence powie, a smith's hand-hammer having both striking faces bevelled or rounded off (em.Sc.(a), m.Lth. 1966); pow-axe, a pole-axe. Arch.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 45:
He soucht his henchman that did stand Wi' ane pow-axe intill his hand.
Abd. 1864 St. Andrews Gazette (10 Dec.):
The marks indicated that this was probably done by the “pow”of an axe, or some like instrument.

(2) given by Chambers as “the quantity of lint put on the distaff at once” for spinning, presumably from its resemblance to a head of white hair, but this meaning is not otherwise substantiated.Edb. 1826 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 133:
I'll ne'er steal a pirn, I'll ne'er steal a pow.

(3) the tip of a mountain-top, rock or the like. Also fig. a towering figure, the chief or most outstanding person.Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shep. (S.T.S.) 198:
Aff now is gane the pow of a' the braes. But since ill fortune does our persons part.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie i.:
Whaur the gray-haired rocks heave their heigh pows ower the merry-hearted waters.

II. v. 1. To strike on the head.Bnff. 1893 Dunbar's Works (S.T.S.) III. 328:
Pow on's head. He weel deserves a' ye can gee 'im.

2. With up: to pop one's head up from behind some object (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 385).

[O.Sc. pow, = 1., a.1500, pow-ax, 1561.]

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"Pow n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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