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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.

BRAW, Bra', Braa, Bragh, adj. and adv. Also brah. Cf. also Brave. [brɑ: + a: I.Sc., n.Sc.; brǫ: em.Sc., wm.Sc.; brɒ: sm.Sc., s.Sc.]

1. adj.

(1) (a) Of things: fine, splendid, illustrious; also used ironically. Gen.Sc. Hence brawness, handsomeness, splendour (Per. c.1900 C. M. Stuart Sabbath Nights (1924) 109), ¶brawsome, handsome (Per. 1904 R. Ford Hum. Stories (Ser. 2) 84).Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf x.:
And I'll tell ye, grannie, it's needless to sit rhyming ower the stile of a' your kith, kin, and allies, as if there was a charm in their braw names to do us good.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 90:
But that's the braw thing wi nostalgia,
for gin the couthie stoopit white-haired cratur's
aye at her gate an' smilin, whit maitter?
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (ed. Rogers 1905) 170:
He wanted a wife, his braw house to keep, But favour wi' woom' was fashious to seek.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 10:
"That's braw stuff!" he pronounced as a fine French brandy trickled down his gullet.

(b) Of persons: worthy; in slightly familiar usage. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 357:
Peter, my braw man, Mr North is ordering you to bring but a bottle o' primrose wine.

(2) Handsome, of fine physique; “stout, able-bodied, fit for warfare” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Also of animals. Gen.Sc. Also Superl. brawest. Sc. 1904 Bonny Earl of Murray in Ballads (ed. Child) No. 181 A. iv.:
He was a braw gallant, And he played at the ba.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 14:
" ... Foo braw, foo majestic she is! I lue her an wint tae boo doon tae her. I'll help her anna tae luik efter the helpless littlins."
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 20:
an juist whit
in the nemm o the wee man
did ye dae tae the horse
ma best brawest cuddie, puir meg
that wis the tocher aff ma ain faither.
m.Sc. 1992 James Meek Last Orders 14:
When I chapped the third time the door opened and out marched the Orange brigade band of Milngavie, in good order, with six braw laddies playing fifes and a baton-twirler at their head.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 18:
As the braw straggle skirled their way to the outskirts of the town the Sheriff's men, leaning from an upstairs window, dropped plaids on the company and took a handful of them in a blind fankle of wool and fringe.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Tam Glen (Cent. ed.) ii.:
I'm thinking, wi' sic a braw fellow In poortith I might make a fen'.
Uls. 1924 North. Whig (2 Jan.):
Thick dads mak bragh lads — Thick soda farls (scones) make big fellows.

(3) Well or gaily dressed; fine, as applied to clothes. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1724–1727 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 8:
The maid pat on her kirtle brown, She was the brawest in a' the town.
Abd. [1768] J. Beattie Address x. in A. Ross Helenore (1778) 7:
'Tis true, we Norlans manna fa' To eat sae nice, or gang sae bra'.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Cotter's Saturday Night iv.:
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthfu' bloom, Love sparkling in her e'e, Comes hame, perhaps, to shew a braw new gown.

(4) Pleasant, often as applied to the weather. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
We gae'd on a braw simmer morning.
Sc. 2004 Edinburgh Evening News 21 Jan :
Presenting the braw trophy to 2-1 winners Preston, he commiserated in the same breath with City. Diplomacy can positively pour from the Fettesian on occasion.
Abd.4 1930:
It's braw tae be bonnie an' weel-likit.
Dundee 1990 Sheila Stephen in Joy Hendry Chapman 60 52:
"thon wiz a right brah summer, nineteen sixty fehv! Lang het days. Nichts tae."
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc. 8:
It's bra' to see the blyth sun Come blinkin' o'er the lea.

(5) “Very good, surpassing in whatever respect” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1823 J. G. Lockhart Reg. Dalton III. 162:
I was looking yonder, and how could I help saying your leddyship had braw reason to be proud?
Abd. 1927 G. R. Harvey Shepherds 14:
Aye, a great hist o' them, brichter than the meen, an' the brawest singers ye iver h'ard.
Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales of my Grandmother 186:
Mony braw thanks to you for the gown.

Phr.: in braw time, in very good time. Common in Ags., but known also to Abd.9, Fif.10, Lnl.1 1935.Ags. 1889 J. M. Barrie W. in Thrums xvi.:
“I wouldna wonder 'at he's no bein' in time to meet Jamie, an' that would be a pretty business.” “Od, ye're sure he'll be in braw time.”

(6) Considerable. Very common in Sh., but also used elsewhere.Sh.(D) 1916 J. J. H. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Maerch 24):
Methuselah's aald-age-pension wid 'a come til a braa mite.
Fif.10 1935:
It cost a bra penny.
Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Streams from Helicon 81:
He had ance a bra Fortune; it's all gane to Wrack.
Ayr. 1900 “G. Douglas” House with Green Shutters (1901) xv.:
Yon new houses of his must be bringing in a braw penny.

2. adv.

(1) Well, finely. Gen.Sc.em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 112:
Ye're aye dead busy, ye daft auld hizzy,
Tryin tae mak me speak braw.
Rxb. 1897 J. C. Dibdin Sc. Border Life 75:
I ken braw mysel what's tae dae; dinna think tae humbug and pit me intil the dark.

(2) Intensive use, synon. with very. Gen.Sc.Abd. 1920 M. Argo Makkin' o' John 3:
A'm fell gled to see ye. Are ye braw weel?
Mearns 1890 J. Kerr Reminisc. of a Wanderer I. 102:
I'll get your admission there braw easy made.

(3) Entirely.Sc. 1724–1727 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 9:
Frae tap to tae they were braw new.

3. Phr.: bra(w) an(d) —, bran-, “often used intensively, sometimes as a superlative, when joined by the copula to another word, whether adj. or adv.; as, braw and able, abundantly able for any work or undertaking; braw and weel, in good health; braw and soon, in full time” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); braw an' early (Kcb.1 1936).Sc. 1887 R. L. Stevenson Underwoods 78:
Their sense, that aince was braw an' plain, Tint a'thegether.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 47:
An' Lindy, what he cud, his courage cheers, Looks bra' an' canty, when she came in by.
Ags. 1895 Caledonia I. 433:
Fouk joggit alang bran canny-wise.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iii.:
I kent braw an' weel what Geordie had it on his tongue to say a' the time.

4. Combs.: (1) brawest-faur'd, handsomest; (2) Braw Lad, used in Galashiels to designate the young man chosen annually to represent the Burgh at the Braw Lads' Gathering on June 29. His companion for the day is the Braw Lass, also elected by the townspeople. The pl., Braw Lads and Braw Lasses, is applied to the younger portion of the community as a whole. Cf. “Braw lads of Galla water” (Burns); (3) brawlike, fine, splendid; (4) braw-warld, showy, gaudy.(1) Sc.(E) 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah 3:
Ane he sees comin evir an' ay, thro' the mirks o' time, like the brawest-faur'd o' the sons o' men.
(2) Slk. 1935 Braw Lads' Day Souvenir (publ. A. Walker and Son) 34:
Resounding cheers greeted the appearance of Provost Mercer on the balcony, accompanied by the Braw Lad, to whom he handed the Burgh Standard, enjoining him to carry it for the honour of the town and its ancient traditions.
Ib. 38:
People, he was told, were heard speaking of Braw Lads' weather. [Because the weather on every Braw Lads' Day since its inception in 1930 had been fine.]
(3) Sc. 1995 James S. Adam New Verses for an Auld Sang 25:
Langsyne scrievt Wattie Scott whit's in oor banes:
'oor answer aye was peeble them wi stanes
gin oor MPs at hame were nae guid bairns';
they'll finnd us ready nou with brawlike cairns.
(4) Sc. 1823 Scott Q. Durward xxvii.:
These fine gallants, with their golden chains and looped-up bonnets, with braw-warld dyes and devices on them.

[O.Sc. braw, bra, fine, splendid, excellent; variant of brawf, brave; in early examples not clearly separable from braw(e) with w for v (D.O.S.T.); Prov. and Languedoc show brau form, applied to bulls = wild, savage, later taken into Fr. (16th cent.) as brave (Godefroy 1881–1902). See note to Brave.]

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"Braw adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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