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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BOW-KAIL, n. “Cabbage” (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1935). Also used attrib. [′bʌu ′kel]Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems, etc. 43:
Whan tir'd o' pu'in bowkail stocks, An' burnin' nits, an' crackin' jokes.
Lnk. 1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 34:
Ye had as good a gane hame an' a counted bow-kail stocks, as to come here to count kindred wi' me.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween iv.:
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift, An' wander'd thro' the Bow-kail.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 7:
Where Adam and his Wife, as story tells, Did plant their bow-kail, and the garden delve.

[In respect of form and meaning, bow may derive either from bog-, variant stem of O.E. būgan, to bend, or from O.E. bolla, a bowl. The original meaning of the first root is to curve, and of the second to swell, bulge, both of which would apply to the rounded shape of the cabbage as contrasted with the branching arms of the kail. O.Sc. boll kaill occurs only once in D.O.S.T. (see bowcaill) and late (1691), whereas forms with bow- are fully exemplified, the earliest appearance being 1506. The former is prob. an analogical form based on Boll, Bow, q.v.]

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"Bow-kail n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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