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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THOW, v., n. Also thowe, ¶thou (Per. 1903 H. MacGregor Souter's Lamp 25); and I.Sc. forms tow(e) (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., Ork. 1929 Marw.), touw (Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (12 Aapril)), See T, letter, 9. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. thaw. [θʌu; I.Sc. tʌu]

I. v. A. Forms. Pa.t. thow(e)d, thowt (Lnk. 1835 W. Watt Poems (1860) 204; ne.Sc. 1972). Pa.p. thow(e)d, thowt (Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xiii.), thowet (Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xviii. 45).

B. Usages. 1. As in Eng., tr. and intr., to thaw, melt, lit. and fig. (Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 159; s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 317; wm.Sc. 1843 Whistle-Binkie 117; Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.; Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 274; Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 121; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xiii; Sh., Edb., Ayr. 2000s). Gen.Sc.Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 18:
I've hard fiddle tunes sae rare
An sweet they'd thowe a hert o steen
An fire the caalest bleed, bit neen
Wi yours, my bawdrons, can compare.
Edb. 2004:
It wis snawin last week but it thowed ower nicht.

2. Of hardened blood: to wash off, to dissolve.Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 165:
Scouth'ring the blude frae aff his han's; He's washing them in brunstan lowe, His kintra's blude it winna thowe!

3. To soften by soaking.Ayr. 1879 R. Adamson Lays 80:
Somehoo I'd in my neive a crust That was gey hard to chow, An' as her pail-pot was at hand, I gie'd a dook to thow.

4. To disappear, to melt away, of a crowd of people.Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xviii. 45:
The gangrel gang hae thowet awa.

II. n. 1. As in Eng., lit. and fig., a state of thaw, melting snow or ice, slush (Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. ii.; Ayr. 1794 Burns Winter of Life ii.; Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 32; Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Crawfurt 23; m.Lth. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger vii.; Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. V. ii. 68, tow; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie 11; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh. 1964 Nordern Lights 54, towe). Gen.Sc. Combs. and deriv.: (1) dirty thow, a thaw brought on by rain (Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (19 June) 7; Sh., ne.Sc., Per., Ayr. 1972); (2) dry thow, a thaw after a high wind (I., n.Sc., Per., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1972); (3) smore thow, heavy snow accompanied by a strong wind (Ags. 1808 Jam.). See Smore, n.; (4) thow hole, a term for the south because the wind generally blows from the south during a thaw; (5) tow lowsin, a quick or violent thaw (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1972). See Lowse, v.1, 6.(4); (6) thow wind, a wind bringing a thaw (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.; Cai., Per., wm., sm.Sc. 1972). Cf. (2); (7) thowy, adj., affected by a thaw, wet, sticky; (8) weet thaw, a normal thaw unaccompanied by wind or rain (ne. and m.Sc. 1972). Cf. (1) and (2).(1) Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (19 June) 7:
For three months the snow lay, and then came what is called a “dirty thow”, i.e. the snow melted under rain, as against disappearing at the command of a “dry thow” or high wind.
(4) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 445:
The mermaids can ought thole But frost out o' the thow hole Auld superstitions say.
(7) Ayr. 1867 M. Porteous Poems 262:
Whan ice was drug an' thowy grup Made stanes gay rough about the doup.

2. Transf. A perspiration, profuse sweat.Slk. 1830 Hogg Tales (1866) 211:
The night is that muth an' breathless, I'm maist like to swairf. An' for you, ye are joost a' in ae thow.

[O.Sc. thow, v., 1595, n., 1600.]

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"Thow v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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