Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
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.

TROW, n.1 Also trowe, trouw. Dims. trowie, ¶trowling. Sc. (incl. Sh.) forms and usages of Eng. troll, a hobgoblin. [trʌu]

1. A mischievous sprite or fairy, a supernatural being common in Scandinavian mythology from which it passed into Sh. and Ork. folk-lore (I.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Ork., Cai. 1973). Also attrib. They were called hill-, land-, or sea-trows acc. to their supposed haunts or abode. The water-trow is the Nyuggle or Shoupiltin, q.v.Sh. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Zet. 115:
Sea-Trowes, great rolling Creatures, tumbling in the Waters, which if they come among their nets, they break them, and sometimes takes them away with them.
Sh. 1814 in Lockhart Scott xxviii.:
The trows do not differ from the fairies of the Lowlands, or Sighean of the Highlanders.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 525–6:
This deity, or water-trow. . . . The warlocks of Shetland communed with various demons, known by the name of Sea-trows and Land-trows.
Sh. 1846 Fraser's Mag. (Oct.) 487:
The Shetland trows are unerring in their archery.
Ork. 1883 R. M. Fergusson Rambling Sk. 159:
Trowies canna tak' thoo' Hushie ba, lammie.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 39:
Places that from time immemorial have been associated in the public mind with trows or hillfowk.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Iktober 28):
It's no da kirk, 'at da Trouws dreeds; bit da sköl.
Ork. 1924 P. Ork. A.S. II. 38:
After a while he cried out that he was “on the back o' the trow”. Then the “ould trow woman” dropped him.
Sh. 1949 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 267:
The fern, which is the floral symbol of Shetland, the trows' homeland. In the autumn, at Hallowmass, folk had seen the ferry-kairds being parted, and the peerie folk, or trows, coming forth on their nightly travels.
Ork. 1987 George Mackay Brown The Golden Bird (1989) 59:
To do so would enrage the trows, the ugly misshapen earth-spirits who moved through the valley about their secret ceremonies in winter and darkness. They thirst for music and for the comliness [sic] of human infants. Unless a mother kept constant vigil, the trows would seize the baby from its crib and substitute one of their own ugly twisted children.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 9 Feb 4:
Tales of trows, mermaids and selkie folk form part of a unique Orkney exhibition.

Combs. and derivs. (of trow(s), trowie): (1) trowie-buckie, a snail-shell; (2) trow bund, bewitched by trolls. See Bun, ppl.adj.1; (3) trowi(e), -y, adj., (i) pertaining to the trolls, having the appearance of a troll, believing in trolls, superstitious (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1973), supernatural. Also attrib.; (ii) sickly, ailing, unhealthy, as supposedly under the influence of trolls (Ork. 1825 Jam.; I.Sc. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc., Cai. 1973), also in a weakened sense: puny, feeble, useless, worthless (Marw., Ork. 1973). Comb. trowie-like, ill-looking, having a sickly appearance (Id).; (4) trowie cairds, trows' kaerds, fern fronds (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., 1947 Sh. Folk Bk. I.81, Sh. 1973). See Caird, n.2; (5) trowie flaachts, summer lightning, wildfire (Sh. 1973). See Flaucht, n.1, 3.; (6) trowie girse, the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1973); (7) trow(-ie) glove, -gliv, (i) a sea-sponge; (ii) = (6) (Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1973); (8) trowie knowe, a knoll inhabited by trolls, a fairy hill (I.Sc. 1973); (9) trowie spindle, the plant horse-tail, Equisetum arvense (Sh. 1947 Sh. Folk Bk. I. 81); ¶(10) trowist, an expert on the ways and spells of trolls, an exorcist of the power of trolls; ¶(11) trowling, an infant troll, a troll baby; (12) trows' hadd, a retreat or habitation of trolls. See Haud, n., 6. and quot. under (4); (13) trows' hool, -hul, = (8) (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1973). See Hool; (14) trow's smookie, a design on Shetland hosiery (Sh. 1933 Manchester Guardian Wkly. (30 June) 519). See smookie s.v. Smook, v., 2. (1).(1) Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 9:
Fan du a klok or a wiglin wirm Or a trowie buckie's marlet skurm?
(2) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 57:
Mathoo', Mark, Luke an' John, Luck this Trow-b'und sinner on.
(3) (i) Sh. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 142:
When a cow or sheep happens to turn sick or die, it is firmly believed that the real animal has been taken away and something of a trowie breed substituted in its place.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 151, 156:
John, while crossing the Hill of Wormidale, had been taken into a trowie abode. . . . The heart was supposed to be wasting away under some trowie influence.
Sh. 1900 Manson's Almanac 122:
She would then pretend to have found the very holes which the trowy arrows had pierced.
Sh. 1933 Manchester Guardian Wkly. (30 June) 519:
The fern design [in knitting] is of “trowie” origin, as the “little folk” of the hills always hid their house doors from mortal eyes by covering them with luxuriant growths of “ferries-kairds”, or ferns.
Sh. 1968 Scottish Poetry No. 3. 53:
Da mirk hills makk dir trowie oor.
Sh. 1998 The List 6-19 Mar :
' ... I'm now exploiting the harmony thing more. Maurice - one of the other fiddlers - is into the 'trowie' tunes, the troll tunes; ... '
(ii) Ork. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 325:
Trowie. A term applied in Ork. to any animal that is puny and of a diminutive size, in relation to others of the same species; as, a trowie bull, cow, or stirk. The idea seems to be that the stunted appearance of the animal must be ascribed to the influence of the Trows.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 110:
Thu'll mak a trowie wife.
Ork. 1908–10 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 322, III. I. 30:
Jock o' the Geo waas a trowie coorly ting. . . . A trowie rickity deean ting.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 123:
A'm stootly trowie an' sairly fashed wi' da watter-traa.
Ork. 1964 Scots Mag. (June) 245:
Anybody who is ill in Orkney, to this day, is said to be “trowie.”
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 167:
Dey bed wi der graandmidder, a trowie body at wis hardly ever seen.
(4) Sh. 1937 J. Nicolson Yarns 3:
Nooks and crannies in the dales that were curtained by the delicate fronds of the ‘trows' kairds,' were known as the ‘trows' hadds.'
(5) Sh. 1949 P. Jamieson Letters 140:
The folk called the blinks the trowie flaachts, likening them to the trows “kindling their lanterns” ere setting forth on their wanderings from house to house.
(6) Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 79:
The “trowie gliv,” otherwise “trowie girse,” was regarded as a deadly poison for geese.
(7) (i) Sh. 1793 J. Mill Diary (S.H.S.) 161:
Sponges are found upon the shore in great plenty, shaped like a man's hand, and called by the people Trowis Gloves.
(ii) Ork. 1927 H. C. Jean's Garden 14:
Trowie gloves fae the faelly dyke abune the hill.
(8) Sh. 1956 Sh. Community Mag. No. 2. 17:
Tünns no drawn be kirsten bow A'm heard aboot da trowie knowe.
(10) Sh. 1895 J. Burgess Folklore 99:
He at once sent for an old woman who was celebrated as a ‘trowist '.
(11) Sh. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 142:
Females newly confined must be watched lest they be carried off to perform the office of wet-nurse to some trowling.
(13) Sh. 1956 Shetland News (4 Dec.):
She pointed to the knowe and said it was the “trow's hool.”

2. As a term of disparagement or pity for an unlucky, feeble or stupid person or animal (Sh. 1973).Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 16:
Paetie wus aye a flawan' bulderan' trow.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 11:
“Seemen,” pür trow, wi his legs in a bing.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (12 Feb.):
Yon's pairt o' Gibbie's bottle, puir trow.

3. (1) The Devil, freq. in imprecations, as trow tak me, ye etc. (I.Sc. 1825 Jam., 1866 Edm. Gl.; Sh. 1973).Ork. 1832 D. Vedder Sketches 17:
Trow tak' me if ever she doesn't again.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 34:
A' bothy ran for the banks as gin the Trow been chasin' them.
Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 165:
Some irate dame may be heard exclaiming to her unmanageable children “Trow tak thee!”

[Norw., O.N. troll, id. It is noteworthy that in I.Sc. the Scotticised form trow has been adopted. The earliest form recorded, troll, in 1503, may be a scribal representation of trow.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Trow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: