Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SYBOW, n. Also sybo (Abd. 1871 J. Milne Songs 49), sybou, syboe (Sc. 1844 G. Outram Lyrics (1874) 14), seybo (Rnf. 1895 R. Ford Thistledown 3), seybow (Wgt. 1702 G. Fraser Lowland Lore (1880) 26), s(e)ibow (Sc. 1825 Jam.), sybaw (Edb. 1703 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 327), sybae, siba (Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine at Exhibition 43), sibba (Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 61), sebow (Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 39), and quasi-dim. forms sybie (Sc. 1869 Gardener's Chron. 8), seybie (e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 6), sybbie (e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 138), sibbie (Sc. 1914 N. & Q. (21 Nov.)), saiby, seabie. Dim. form sybuck (Lnl. 1771 J. Finlayson Marches Day (1814) 22). [′səibə, ′səibi]

1. The young or spring onion, orig. and specif. a scallion (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Sc. 1701 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 294:
To Jamie Gray that he gave for ane unce of sybaes seed . . . 0 2 0.
Sc. 1722 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 221:
Feavers . . . which Fowk like Sybous hought.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxxii.:
The head's taen aff them, as clean as I wad bite it aff a sybo!
Slk. 1821 Hogg Poems (1865) 363:
How the seybos an' the leeks Are brairding through the snaw.
Ags. 1833 J. Sands Poems 70:
To dine, On salmon fresh and syboes fine.
Fif. 1894 A. S. Robertson Provost 28:
If mair sybies were eaten there would be fewer doctors.
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie viii.:
Plantin' syboes roond his cottage home.
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 5:
Tatties, syboes, greens.
Sc. 1935 Scotsman (10 June) 7:
A salad of tomatoes and chopped syboes.
wm.Sc. 1941 Bulletin (19 June):
Onions which should be left for autumn harvesting are being disposed of as syboes.

Combs.: (1) sybow-head, the bulb of the onion used for planting, an onion set; (2) syboe short, brusque or short in temper or manner, snappish; (3) sybow-tail, the foliage or green shoots of the young onion. (1) Abd. 1735 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 21:
Whitings and Sybowheads from Farquarson . . . 7d.
Mry. 1752 Records of Elgin (S.C.) I. 462:
Ilk firkin of onions or sybowheads . . . 9d.
(2) Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 26:
Hoots, kimmer, but your syboe short today.
(3) Ayr. 1786 Burns Ep. to J. M'Adam v.:
A lee dyke-side, a sybow-tail, An' barley-scone shall cheer me.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 23:
Barley, ingins, leeks, saiby-tails.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 36:
I'm like a Seabie-Tail — I'm dowd an Feeble.

2. Given as a savoy cabbage, phs. due to a misunderstanding or to assimilation of the names (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

3. transf. A nickname for an inhabitant of Girvan in Ayrshire where the growing of spring onions was a speciality (Ayr. 1972).

[O.Sc. sybbow, id., 1574, Cent. Fr. ciboule, North. Fr. chiboule, which appears in Eng., now obs. or dial., as chibol, all ad. Lat. cepula, a little onion. For -ow see P.L.D. §§ 55, 78.2.]

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"Sybow n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Oct 2021 <>



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