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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BOW, BOWE, Bou, Boue, n.4 Used as in Eng. in rainbow, fiddle bow, bow and arrow but with pronunciation as below. The following uses are not found in mod. St.Eng. [bʌu]

1. (1) “An arch, a gateway” (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd.9, Lnk.3 1935). Given in N.E.D. as obs. except dial.Sc. 1701–1731 R. Wodrow Analecta (Maitland Club 1842) II. 90:
The bridge of Glasgou [is] in great hazard; it being, as they say, cracked in one place, and the watter at the tope of the highest boues.
Sc. 1826 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 50:
Four and twenty bows in the auld brig o' Callander!
Abd. 18th c. J. Robertson Bon-Accord (1839) 142:
There is a provincial adage or byeword to express the rarity of an object, "There's nae sic anidder in a' the four bows o' Aeberdeen!" (There is not such another within the four gates of Aberdeen.)
Abd. 1923 H. Beaton Benachie 230:
Aye great bows, bit they're a' itha Castle- Unseemly boasting.
Fif.10 1935:
In aneth the bow o' the brig.
Peb. [1826] R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes (1870) 21:
Dingle, dingle, gowd bow [said of a dingle dousie, q.v.].

(2) (See quot.)Fif. 1900 “S. Tytler” Jean Keir of Craigneil ii.:
He had constituted himself Harry Beatoun's tenant, both of the How (Hollow) and the Bow (an arch of upland).

(3) Phrases: (a) da green bow, a scour or diarrhoea in sheep, usu. after being brought down to grass from the hill, resulting in thin green stools, so called from the arc of the evacuations (Sh. 1957); (b) full bow (see quot.); (c) hale-bow, with full force (Kcd. 1919 T.S.D.C.), at full tension, cf. Eng. completely bent (on something). See Hale; (d) to be on bow, “to be excited, elated” (Cai.4 c.1920).(b) Fif. 1914 T.S.D.C. I.:
The gas was burnin' full bow — i.e. at full cock.

2. “The curve of a street, furrow, etc.” (Bnff.2 1935).Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Bow. The curve or bending of a street.
Sc. 1825 Scott Bonnie Dundee in Doom of Devorgoil (1830) II. 1:
As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow, Ilk carline was flyting and shaking her pow.

3. “Wooden yoke for attaching oxen to the plough” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.; Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2 1934).Sc. 1765 Caled. Mercury (9 March):
A considerable number of ash trees, fit for Coach-makers, and for chairs, oxen-bows, sieves.
ne.Sc. 1827 G. R. Kinloch Ballad Bk. (1885) 44:
Lassie, I am gaun to Lawren'-fair, To buy some ousen, some graith, and some bows.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North Rural Life in 18th Cent. vi.:
A yoke lay across the necks of each pair of oxen; and a "bow," consisting of a piece of ash, birch, or willow, bent to the proper shape, surrounded every separate ox's neck. The points of the bows were stuck upward through the yoke, and securely pinned in that position.
Abd. 1920 Anon. Gleanings Deeside Par. II. 10:
Wi' legs on 'im like owsen bowes.
Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 352:
All the teams at one time were of oxen, and eight or ten, or even twelve, of them were yoked in one plough, by means of bows and yokes fastened to a long chain.

4. An ash, birch or willow wand tied at both ends and used as described in quots; the grass-nail on a scythe (Per. 1975)..Sc. 1812 Sir J. Sinclair Systems Husb. Scot. I. 329:
By using what they call a bow, fixed at the heel of the scythe, they are enabled to lay the barley almost as straight as if cut with the sickle. [Still used in ne.Sc.]

5. (1) “The semicircular handle of a pail, pot, etc.“ (Bnff.2, Abd.19, Ags.1 1935). Cf. Bool, n.2Abd.(D) 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 1:
Aw gid awa' owre wi' the girdle — the bow o' 't cam' oot, an' aw thocht the 'smith mith clink it in again.
Mearns 1844 W. Jamie Muse of the Mearns 23:
Tradition says, into this Pot A golden vessel lies; And Miltown once did see the bow, But, ah, it wadna rise.

(2) The curved iron bars on the top of the cage in a coal-mine. e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 187:
This was followed by a furious scrambling to get up on the bows, or top iron rods of the cage.

(3) The card irons in a jacquard loom (Ayr. 1951).

6. A fold, knot, bunch.Sc. 1887 Jam.6 Add.; Abd.2 1935:
A bow or bou of ribbons.

7. pl. Sugar-tongs.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Bows. The name commonly given in former times, in Sc., to sugar-tongs. It is supposed to be now obsolete, existing only in the recollection of old people.

8. Phrases: (1), (2), (4) and (5) are metaphors from 3 above. (1) to go (gae) owre the bows, “to go beyond all bounds” (Abd.2, Ags.2 1935); (2) to be or gae throu(gh) the bows, (a) same as (1); (b) to thrash out a quarrel; (3) to err on the bow-hand, to fail in a design. Metaphor either from archery or from violin playing; (4) to fall thro (throwe) the bows (bowse), (a) to go beyond all bounds; (b) to be in vain; (5) to take one throw the bows, “to call one to a severe reckoning” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2; Bnff.2, Abd.9 1935).(1) Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxvii.:
Fowk 't's been there'll be able to gie's . . . the benefit o' their prayers if we be likely to gae owre the bows.
(2) (a) Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 15; Bnff.2 1935:
“He's fairly through the bows wee drink.” “She's gane a' through the bows wee pride an' ill-naiter.”
Abd.1 1929; Ags.1 1935:
He gaed throu the bows wi' drink an' his father sent him frae the place.
(b) Id.:
There wis a richt fracaa a fyle, bit they sune gaed throu' the bows wi't.
(3) Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel iv.:
You have now erred as far on the bow-hand.
(4) (a) ne.Sc.(D) 1922 “The Beylie” in Mair Swatches o' Hamespun 81:
Aw'm thinkin' she's fa'en throwe the bowse like idders we ken o'.
(b) Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden i.:
Weel, a' my efforts to find oot Sandy's secret fell thro the bows.

9. Combs.: (1) “bow-brig. An arched bridge, as distinguished from one formed of planks, or of long stones laid across the water” (Abd. 1825 Jam.2 (2) bow-cheer, -cheir, armchair; (3) bow-han', -hand, -haun, “style of fiddling, skill on the fiddle” (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10, Kcb.9 1935); (4) bow-sell, bowsel, a binding for cattle in a stall, the two sides of which are rigid curved rods of iron. [See Sell.](1) Mry.1 1925:
Bow-brig. A bridge with a semicircular arch.
(2) Abd. 1865 William Alexander The Laird of Drammochdyle (1986) 157:
Come yer wa's ben to the bow-cheer here.
Abd.(D) 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War (1918) 32:
Fan a'thing's sattled for the nicht in stable an' in byre, It's fine to hae yer ain bow-cheer drawn up anent the fire.
Abd. 1934 “Sub Divo” in Abd. Univ. Rev. (Nov.) 8:
But by cam' the Reaper 'at leave disna speir' An' to fill a new lair, he teem't a bow-cheir.
(3) Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet, Letter x.:
“Hout awa, Maggie,” he said . . . “though the gentleman may hae gien ye siller, he may have nae bow-hand for a' that.”
Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 192:
You've a fine finger, and a bauld bow-haun. attrib. fiddling.
Ayr. 1847 Ballads and Songs of Ayrsh. (ed. Paterson, Second Series) 52:
Frae Will Cobraith, o' guid bow-han' renown, His lessons [on the fiddle] he got.
(4) Bnff.2 1930:
Th' maister bocht acht bow-sells at Bogie's roup.
Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie, etc. 6:
A bowsel, a bird cage, a swye an' three crooks.

[O.Sc. bow, bowe, (1) a bow for shooting with, (2) an arch, esp. of a bridge, (3) the bow of a yoke, (4) the curved handle of a pot (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. bow, bowe, early boȝe, O.E. boga, a bow, from bog-, ablaut stem of O.E. būgan, to bend, cogn. O.N. boge, bogi. See also Boo, n.3, irreg. mod. variant.]

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"Bow n.4". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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