Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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UNSONSIE, adj. Also unsonsy, on-, See also Wansonsy.

1. Luckless, hapless, unfortunate (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Sc. 1721  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 161:
Unsonsy we had ne'er sae meikle Grace.
Sc. 1736  Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 69:
The unsonsy fish gets the unluckyy bait.
Abd. 1826  D. Anderson Poems 7:
Sawny, left to ruminate Alone, o'er his unsonsy fate.

2. Bringing bad luck, ill-omened, uncanny, supernaturally malign, associated with evil powers: (1) of persons and animals. Also in n.Eng. dial. Comb. unsonsy-like, uncanny-looking, having a weird appearance. Dmf. 1810  R. Cromek Remains 289:
The wise and discerning people, instead of flying in the face ofthe ‘Unsonsie Carlin', pay her tribute in seeret, to avert her glamour.
Sc. 1838  Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 101:
It was an unsonsy like beast, an' he had a druther that it wasna a canny creature.
Rxb. 1861  Chambers's Jnl. (14 Dec.) 384:
In Teviotdale a crowing hen is looked upon as “unsonsie,” or “uncanny.”
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
The cradle an' its unsonsie occupant were umost in her thochts.
Kcb. 1894  Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
What for should I no pray to the deil? He's a desperate onsonsy chiel yon.

(2) of things and places. Hence unsonsiness, the power to bring bad luck, ill omen. Sc. 1724  Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
Unsonsy Pictures aft she makes Of any ane she hates.
Wgt. 1804  R. Couper Poems II. 258:
Drink deep — love fast — unsonsy time Peers down baith sour an' wanny O.
Sc. 1814  Scott Waverley lxvii.:
At these unsonsy hours the glen has a bad name.
Slk. 1822  Hogg Perils of Man (1972) xvi.:
Hech! but it is an unsonsy place this! I wadna live here an there warna another place to be had aneath the shoulder o' heaven.
Sc. 1824  Scots Mag. (Sept.) 286:
I ventured, maugre its unsonsiness, to break her injunction with respect to eating a piece of it.
Dmf. 1830  W. Bennet Traits Sc. Life Il. 238:
It being unsonsy for any to drink of it.
Bwk. 1876  W. Brockie Leaderside Legends 19:
He had been out at a' times o' nicht, An' neer had seen an unsonsy sicht.
Sc. 1897  W. Beatty Secretar xiv.:
As unsonsy a place as I could have chanced on.

(3) specif. of a blow, weapon, etc.: severe, harmful, causing death or injury. Sc. 1716  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 66:
And mony a ane had gotten his Death By this unsonsie Tooly.
Sc. a.1719  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) II. 230:
On his forehead there did light A sharp unsonsie shaft.
Wgt. 1804  R. Couper Poetry II. 83:
But wae betide th'unsonsy rung! It met his luckless niz.
Edb. 1822  R. Wilson Poems 44:
Some ane gets unsonsy clank For some misdeed afore.
Dmf. 1823  J. Kennedy Poems 136:
Amang them dealt unsonsy blows.

3. Unpleasant, treacherous, troublesome, mischievous (Sc. 1808 Jam.). See Sonsie, adj., 3. (1). Sc. 1728  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 159:
He leugh, and with unsonsy Jest Cry'd . . . Did not my Arrow flie right smart? Ye'll find it sticking in your Heart.
Abd. c.1780  Bards Bon-Accord (Walker 1887) 323:
'Tis only senseless, sa'rless sotts . . . Wha frae their foul unsonsy throats Sic venom skyte.
Dmf. 1822  A. Cunningham Tales (1874) 183:
If you indulge yourself in such unsonsie pranks.
s.Sc. 1885  W. Scrope Salmon Fishing 220:
I was nae little fashed wi' the unsonsie callant blowin' up the bairdie every now and than, to mak' sure that it wasna oot.

4. Unhandsome, plain, unattractive; slovenly, untidy (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 203). See Sonsie, adj., 3. (2), Unlucky. Edb. 1828  M. & M. Corbett Tales & Leg. III. 35:
The pipe is but an ill companion for a lassie . . . it's an unsonsy thing for the like o' you.
Sc. 1829  E. Logan Restalrig iii.:
Wha kens what unsonsy fashions he may hae learned in the countries ower the sea.
Kcb. 1894  Crockett Raiders xxi.:
I'm nane so unsonsy yet, though I be auld eneuch to be the laddie's mither.

[Un- + Sonsie, in its various senses. O.Sc. unsonsie, luckless, uncanny, c.1550.]

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"Unsonsie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2019 <>



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