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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SNAW, n., v. Also sna(a); sniauve (Bch. 1825 Jam.), snyav (Bch. 1891 Trans. Bch. Field Club UI. 13), snyauve (Bch. 1924 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 441, 1951 Buchan Observer (20 March)), snave (Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS. xix.). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. snow. Freq. attrib. and in combs. snaw-drap, the snow-drop (Edb. 1812 W. Glass Caled. Parnassus 50; e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 136), snaw-flooded, snaw-pleuch, -ptoo, snow-plough, snaw-shrooded, shrouded in snow, snaw-smooth, smooth as snow, etc. [snɑ:, snǫ:, Bch. + ‡snjɑ:v]

Sc. forms:m.Sc. 1991 William Montgomerie in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 18:
The winter snaw is in ma hert
within ma hert within ma hert
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 33:
The jobes aff the breers his claes hiv aa rivan,
muckle he tholes frae the cauld an the snaa.
m.Sc. 1997 Tom Watson Dark Whistle 53:
Frae stakin' up a rose or hert
Tae feenish a' its days in Winter
m.Sc. 1998 Ian Cameron The Jimmy Shand Story 125:
'Tell ye one thing, Anne, it's a guid joab there's nae sna aboot - I wouldna dare appear in the streets, jist be a proper invitation tae lauddies wi sna bas a' place!'
Arg. 1998 Angus Martin The Song of the Quern 55:
There's thir shottin licht on
an there's thir en awa;
they're ringin on a puckle
throu win an blinnin sna.

I. n. As in Eng. Sc. usages. 1. Combs.: (1) sna(w)-ba(w), a snowball. Gen.Sc. Fig. in phr. to throw (or cast) snaw-baws, to jeer, to make insulting remarks, to jibe; (2) snawbrack, a thaw (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 429); (3) snaw-breaker, a sheep that breaks a way for others through snow for food, etc. (see quots.); (4) snaw-bree, melted snow or ice, freq. that carried down in rivers, slush (Peb. 1950; ne.Sc., Dmf. 1970). Also fig. See Bree, n.1; ¶(5) snaw-breist, a snow-covered hill; (6) snaw-broo, -bru(e). -brui, -broe, -bray, = (4) above (Sc. 1808 Jam.; MacTaggart; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Kcd., Ags., m. and s.Sc. 1970). See Broo, n.1; (7) (i) snaw-flake, -flaigh, -flech, -fleck, -flect, the snowbunting, Plectrophenax nivalis (Ags. 1813 J. Headrick Agric. Ags. App. B. 43; Slk. 1824 Hogg Tales (1865) 362; Abd. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1889 G. Muirhead Birds Bwk. I. 189; Ayr. 1929 Paton & Pike Birds Ayr. 33). Also in Eng. dial.; (ii) Sc. form of Eng. snowflake; (8) snaw-flauchen, snow-flake. See Flaucht, v.1, 1.; (9) snaw-fool, -ful, snaffle, = (7).; (10) snawfot, a footless stocking fastening like spats, worn in stormy weather (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). See Fot; ¶(11) snaw-ghaist, an apparition seen in the snow (Ork. 1970); †(12) snaw-grima, a sprinkling of snow with occasional patches of bare earth (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Ppl.adj. snaw-grimet, of the ground, covered with patches of snow (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). See Grima, Grime, Grimet; (13) snaw-hoard, -hoord, an accumulation of snow, a snow-drift. Cf. Burns Address to Deil xii.; (14) snaw kaavi, a snowstorm; (15) snaw-lock, see 1810 quot.; (16) snaw-mail(l), a payment made to owners of lowland pasture for grazing hill-sheep (Sc. 1807 Prize Essays Highl. Soc. 251; (17) snaw-pattens, snow adhering in lumps to the soles of shoes (Watson). Also in n.Eng. dial.; †(18) snaw-powther, fine driving snow (MacTaggart); †(19) snaw-rink, a snow-covered track; (20) snaw-shurl, snow slipping from the roof of a house, or the noise it makes (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.; Dmb. 1970). See Shurl; ¶(21) snow-smoor, suffocation by snow; (22) snaw-stall, a shelter for sheep in snow. Cf. Stell; (23) snaw-stour, fine, whirling snow. Also in n.Eng. dial.; (24) snaw-tapit, snowtopped; (25) snaw-thrave, a large amount of snow, a snow-drift. See Thrave; (26) snaw-tooried, snow-capped. See Toorie; (27) snaw-wreath(e), -wrythe, -wride, -vraith, -read, a snowdrift (MacTaggart; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 266; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. See Wreath.(1) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iv. i.:
Lasses will come too at last, Tho' for a while they maun their snaw-ba's cast.
Dmf. 1779 Weekly Mag. (14 April) 67:
What tho, some thraw their snaw-baws at ye.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 91:
But ilka chiel, Will cast his sna' bas at me.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 236:
The lasses a' their snaw-baws cast, For fear we should betray.
(3) s.Sc. 1791 A. Young Annals Agric. XVI. 431:
When the ground is covered with snow, the sheep are often obliged to procure their food by scraping the snow off the ground with their feet, even when the top is hardened by frost; hence they have obtained the name of Snow-breakers.
Gall. 1904 Crockett Raiderland ii.:
The ladies of the flock, those mothers in Israel, “snaw-breakers” by name, charge some stubborn snow-wreath, and so lead out their juniors to safety.
(4) Ags. 1885 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) VIII. 278:
The snaw-bree o' age through my bosom rins chill.
Abd. 1889 Bon-Accord (6 April) 10:
The chill “snaw bree” still affected the rivers.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 29:
The snaw-bree ladened Medwyn fills the ford.
Abd. 1961 Abd. Press & Jnl. (5 Aug.):
In wet, and particularly in snowy weather, they were rubbed with hen's grease to keep out the “snaw bree” and to keep the leather pliable.
(5) Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 28:
An' herk! the bonnie singin' breks on the Pentlands bare And a haun' soops ower yon snaw-breist like a flame.
(6) Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 120:
In mony a torrent down his snaw-broo rowes.
Abd. 1791 Aberdeen Mag. 350:
Belike the sna broo bokin' frae our shoon.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxvi.:
A worl' fu' o' hardships, often dirty wi' foul weather, blashy wi' snaw broo.
Ags. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxvi.:
The fields an' roads were soomin' knee deep wi' snaw-broo.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 19:
The snaw-brui's strampeet inti a caaldbroon platch.
(7) (i) Cai. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Zetland, etc. (1883) 231:
A kind of Fowls called Snowflects which resort to this countrey in great numbers in February; they are about the bigness of a Sparrow, but exceeding fat and delicious; they flee in flocks, thousands of them together.
Ork. 1785 Stat. Acc.1 VII. 547:
The swallow, the snowflake, the rail or corncrake.
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 51:
Snaw-flaighs teuk their hameward flight.
Abd. 1936 Press & Jnl. (19 Feb.) 11:
Several flocks of “snawflecks” — the snow bunting — have been with us lately. Those are Norwegian, and only visit us in severe winters. Long ago they were in thousands.
(ii) Dundee 1989 W. N. Herbert in Joy Hendry Chapman 55-6 93:
A whidjum oan thi ee maks
thi mune a fou snaaflake
stickit til thi staurliss
taury lift.
(8) Per. 1875 R. S. Fittis Per. Antiq. Misc. 396:
The fire burned briskly, whiles hissing wi' the snaw-flauchens that cam' doon the wide lum.
(9) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 113:
Flocks of snaa fowl seen before Winter Sunday foretell the approach of a severe winter.
(11) Knr. 1878 J. L. Robertson Poems 85:
The witch-wind screamed wi' eldritch laughter, An' doun the snaw-ghaists danced the dafter!
(13) e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 136:
The snaw-hoards on Soutra, the saft win's are thawing.
(14) Sh. 1993 New Shetlander Sep 21:
Snaw kaavi - snow storm. No. kave-snow-squall.
(15) Gall. 1810 S. Smith Agric. Gall. 277:
The true black-faced sheep have a lock of wool on the forehead, termed the snow-lock.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 41:
Black horns, a wee snawlock, a sweet speckled face.
(16) Dmf. 1802 Farmer's Mag. (Feb.) 109:
The sheep stocks of Crawfurdmuir, Tweedsmuir, the Forest, and Eskdalemuir, have been driven and kept on the uncultivated parts of the midland farms of this county. From 30,000 to 40,000 of them all paying Snow Mail at the rate of 70 l. or 80 l. a day.
Slk. 1822 W. J. Napier Store-Farming 81:
I have known farmers paying snow-mail at the rate of £10 per day.
(19) Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 33:
Young naigs that wantit nail or shoe . . . That they micht safely tak' the road, An' walk the snaw-rinks primely shod.
(21) Sc. 1949 C. Macdonald Highland Memories 113:
The causes of death among hill sheep are many. Trembling, braxy, sturdy, snowsmoor, falling over precipices.
(22) Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 278:
Ane o' their horses gets jammed into a snaw-stall, where there's no room for turnin.
(23) Abd. 1857 G. MacDonald Songs 8:
The snaw-stour's driftin' thrang.
(24) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 136:
What bangs fu' leal the e'enings coming cauld, And gars snaw-tapit winter freeze in vain.
(25) Sc. 1835 H. Miller Scenes 185:
Our elder will hae deep stepping home through the snaw thraves.
(26) Gsw. 1872 J. Young Lochlomond Side 80:
Our Scottish Alps . . . Fu' aft disdain to doff their dun Snaw-tooried bannets to the sun.
(27) Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 225:
[He] spreads them, nibbling, oure the heath, Whare snaw-wrythes winna ly.
Sc. 1818 Scott Leg. Montrose xx.:
Smothered like a cadger's pony in some flow-moss, or snow-wreath.
Abd. 1862 G. MacDonald D. Elginbrod I. xiv.:
She's i' the Lord's han's, be she aneath a snaw-wraith.
Ags. 1897 Bards Ags. (Reid) 389:
There in a snaw-wreath the lassie lay buried.
Ags. 1899 D. W. Buchanan Leisure Lays 91:
When I skelpit thro' dubs, or thro' snawreads at Yule.
Abd. 1965 Sc. Poetry I. 54:
Ca' yon snaa-vraithes?

2. In phrs.: (1) like snaw aff a dyke or ditch (Uls.), (disappearing) very quickly or rapidly (Gall. 1904 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc.; (2) to rain blue snaw, to do something impossible, to be impossible (Gsw. 1940).(1) Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane (1887) 93:
When she did fail, she came doun like snaw aff a dyke.
Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.:
To ‘go like snow off a ditch' . . . is used in reference to families that have died off rapidly.
Fif. 1899 E. F. Heddle Marget 6:
The hard-earned money melted, ‘like snaw aff a dyke.'
Gsw. 1965 J. House Heart of Glasgow 78:
At his appearance most of the vendors will disappear like snaw aff a dyke.
Ayr. 2000:
Money goes lik snaw aff a dyke.
Sc. 2000 Herald (21 Jan) 12:
ITV shares go like snow off a dyke.
(2) Lnk. 1885 F. Gordon Pyotshaw 117:
It'll rain blue sna' whin he dis that.

II. v. A. Forms. Pa.t. weak: snaa'd (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 207). Gen.Sc.; strong: snew (Ib., obs.; Sh. 1898 Shetland News (24 Sept.), Sh. 1970), also in Eng. dial.; pa.p. weak: snaa'd, snaw'd. Gen.Sc.; strong: snawn (Sh. 1899 Shetland News (1 April), Sh. 1970), also in n.Eng. dial., snewn (D.S.C.S., obs.).

B. Sh. usage: to be snowed up.Sh. 1900 Shetland News (17 Feb.):
If he comes a gale noo, da sheep 'ill snaw, an' dan dey'll be a wark.

[O.Sc. snowfleck, snow-bunting, 1683.]

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



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