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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

COUP, COWP, v.1, tr. and intr. Coup is the most common spelling, but cowp represents the most gen. pronunciation. Rarer spellings are cope, coap, coop, kup, cup. Also found in n.Eng. dial. [kʌup Sc., but Uls. + kop; kop s.Arg.; kup, kʌp I.Sc.]

I. tr.

1. To upset, overturn, capsize; of a plough: to turn over (the ground); used fig.: to lay low, to ruin; also used with o'er, aff, etc. (coup Cai., Bnff., Abd., Fif., Edb., Arg., Gsw., Ayr., Rxb., Dmf.; coop Sh., Ork.; cope Arg. 2000s). Gen.Sc. Ppl.adjs. (1) coupin', upsetting, worrying; (2) coupit, “confined to bed from illness of any kind” (Lth., Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson Rxb. W.-B., obs.).Sc. 1908 W. Allan in Gsw. Ballad Club III. 18:
Wha canna blithely battle wi' the coupin' thraws o' life, Is but a coof wha ne'er was meant to enter on its strife.
Ork.(D) 1904 Dennison Orcad. Sk. 16:
Cup no' the kist, ye'll spill the gin.
Rs. 1996 Alec John Williamson in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 165:
He came into the camp to say that his horse had couped the cart and got a shaft in her side and some of her intestines were out.
Bnff.(D) 1847 A. Cumming Tales of the North (1896) 32:
Death gae'm a whaff, and couped him aff, In some Italian city.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 1:
"Slawer, quine, slawer gyaun doon the brae, ... Forbye, ye micht cowp the tractor an lair her at the brae foun, bi the boggy bittie aside the burn".
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 14:
In his gyte flicht he caed ower a pucklie chukken's fa bedd far they war, cheepin desperately wi their shargart shanks in the air. Sae he managed tae win awa, fur his enemy stoppit a meenit bi the cowpit chukkens.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 7:
oot ther in the soss
oot ther in the stoor
the ba skyters yin wey
is blootert the ither
a man is cowped.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 16:
“Yon Chancellor the ungodly's cairt,” I said, “will coup.”
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 114:
Sea-maws twirl mirligo.
A peat-stack's cowped aroun the door.
Scarts breenge ablow.
em.Sc.(b) 1991 Athole Cameron in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 52:
we get weans
comin oot the wa's, dreepin frae the skies
coupin dustbins ringin doorbells.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 195:
It was supposed to be springtime; he'd just come through a winter in which an appalling flu virus had raced around the city, cowping half the population; now it seemed, as the weather changed, he was finally coming down with it.
Bwk. 1801 A. Brown in Minstrelsy of the Merse (ed. Crockett 1893) 112:
Let them wha thocht to coup the State Gae hide their heads frae a' that.
Gsw. 1990 Alan Spence The Magic Flute (1991) 81:
'Somebody cowped the table and spilled what was left of the soup. That was it. Developed into a total rammy. ... '
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 220:
Whare routh o' wine coups o'er the chair.
Tyr. 1929 “M. Mulcaghey” Rhymes of a Besom Man 24:
If all the cargo's to the side, You're likely goin' to “cope” the boat.

2. (1) To tilt up, to empty by overturning; “to turn a thing on its edge or corner” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kup); “to shoot or empty the load of a coup or cart” (Sc. 1887 Jam.6); hence, to spend (of money). With doon: used fig. with personal obj., to set down, to “dump.” Gen.Sc. except for Ags. (coup Cai., Bnff., Abd., Fif., Edb., Arg., Gsw., Ayr., Rxb., Dmf.; coop Sh., Ork.; cope Arg., 2000s). Vbl.n. couping, see quot.Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs 24:
He has cowped the mickle Dish into the little.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 99:
The potatoes . . . were poured in a large basin . . . or “cooped” in the middle of the table.
Abd.(D) 1920 G. P. Dunbar Guff o' Peat Reek 29:
The mull he coupit ower his face, An' smored himsel' wi' snuff.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 48:
True, he dauchlit afore the keekin-gless a thochtie langer nur maist; his nails were buffed an smeeth's a puil o ice; his efter-shave wis heidy an cowpit on wi a ladle: ...
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 43:
But the past - Carlin's past - was there with them too; he could never go by that dog without seeing it coated in yellow paint - some unsentimental person had once cowped a tin of the stuff over the statue and now he always saw it like that.
Edb. 1772 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 16:
Than sometimes 'ere [sic] they flit their doup, They'll ablins a' their siller coup For liquor clear frae cutty stoup.
s.Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 52:
There's no wan o' thae College men kens the workin' o' an elder's mind till he gets coapt doon amang us.
Ayr. 1803 Farmer's Mag. (Nov.) 385:
A mode of digging called couping; which is, by cutting the turf into oblong pieces, and turning them about half over, or on their edges, so as to resemble ploughing.

(2) To have sexual intercourse with.Edb. 1994 Irvine Welsh Acid House 89:
'Ah'd cowp it,' Kylie licked her bottom lip. 'In a fuckin minute,' Victoria nodded severely, eyes widened.
Arg. 1992:
He wiz copin her while he wiz merried.

(3) To toss off, to quaff (liquor), to swallow. Gen. followed by an adv. like aff, ower, up. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1940.Sc. 1832–46 A. Rodger in Whistle-Binkie (3rd Series) 9:
So, fy let us coup aff our bicker, And toast meikle joy to the twa.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman 17 Jun 8:
I reckon that even were I to coup vintage champagne glass-for-glass with Conrad Wilson, the sum of 2 million ... could pay my expenses for at least the next 20 years.
Abd. [1768] A. Ross Helenore (1778) 71:
Another said, I couped Mungo's ale, Clean heels o'er head, fan it was ripe and stale.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes III. xv.:
I s' warran' he'll coup them [porridge] ower afore they sud be wastit. He canna bide waste.
Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 22:
They'll reach the howff by fa' o' nicht, In Poussie Nancy's cowp the horn, An' tak' the wanderin' gate the morn.
Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems and Sketches 133:
Coup up the whisky an' toom doun the beer.

3. “To twist or sprain (one's ankle)” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Ib.:
A've coupit ma cuit.

II. intr.

1. (1) To overbalance, to fall over, tumble, capsize. Also used with in ower. Used fig. = to turn bankrupt, to fail. Also refl. Known to Bnff.2, Abd.19, Fif.10, Slg.3, Lnk.11, Kcb.1 1940.Sc. 1989 Scotsman 9 Mar 14:
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh fell
Down the stairs on her bahookie;
Though she was sober
She couped right over -
And now she's wearing a stookie.
Sc. 2000 Herald 14 Aug 18:
I am reminded of the qualified marine engineer who contradicted a similar claim from a company executive (following the cowping of the Townsend Thoreson car-ferry) by asserting that these things are built to the cheapest standards with which the Government and the insurance companies will let them get away.
Sh.(D) 1931 W. J. Tulloch in Shet. Almanac 197:
As shu wis in da act o' lowsin da knot, da bag coopit in ower, takin' Sharlit wi' it.
Abd.(D) 1788 J. Skinner Christmass Bawing x. in Caled. Mag. 498:
An' heels-o'er-gowdie cowpit he, An' rave his guid horn penner In twa that day.
m.Sc. 1939 James Barke The Land of the Leal (1987) 8:
'Steady yourself on the jamb o' the fire, son, and watch and no' coup yourself.'
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 62:
He splash'd thro' dubs, ower hillocks loupit, Till in a deep moss-hag he coupit.
Kcb. 1814 J. Train Strains Mountain Muse 98:
Gib's old cronies say, That he would coup some not far distant day.

(2) Of sheep: to turn aval (see Aval(d), adj.1, n.1). Found gen. as ppl.adj. coupit, vbl.n. coupin'. Hence Coupy, n., a sheep which has rolled over on its back.Sc. 1932 J. Muir in Scots Mag. (Aug.) 347:
On his daily round he would go lower than was necessary to see if any sheep were coupit about the burn.
Arg. 1993:
They're like a loat of copit yowes.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 89:
Nae lambin', nae coupin', nane maukit, Nor fear o' them smoorin wi' snaw.

2. To bend, incline, “to heel over so as to be in danger of falling” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kup).m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 51:
The towers that ettle at the skies Crack, coup and tummle.
Rnf. 1877 J. M. Neilson Poems 32:
He bit by bit Wad cowp afore ilk stiffer breeze, His mark tae hit.

3. To fall asleep in a sitting position. Used also with ower.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 211:
The silly fule, fancy-struck, will coup ower on his chair wi' a lang dismal sich.
Rnf. [1790] A. Wilson Hogmenae (1844) 296:
Auld Saunders begoud for to wink, Syne couped as sound as a peerie.

III. Phrs. and Combs.: 1. coup-cairry, carrying a person in a sitting position, in a chair, etc. (Per. 1975). Used attrib. in quot.; 2. coup-cairts, coup the cairts, (see quot.); 3. coupfacken, coofacken, “rough ploughing in Autumn, so that frost may have access to the ground” (Bnff. (Keith) 1916 T.S.D.C. II.; Bnff.2 1940); cf. 9; 4. coup-the-cairter, a strong variety of whisky; used attrib. in quot.; cf. Cairter; 5. coup-up, “a recess in a single road where empty hutches are thrown off the road to allow full ones to pass” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 20); †6. to be coupit i' the shearn, to be disgraced; 7. to be cowpit owre the tail, to be ruined, brought to grief; 8. to coup carls, cope-carlie, — karley, to turn head over heels (Gall. 1825 Jam.2, coup carls; Ant. and Dwn. 1924 “Rus” in North. Whig (31 Jan.), cope-carlie; Tyr. 1931 “Tyroner” in Ib. (7 Dec.) 9/6, cope karley); 9. to coup (cowp) -fya(a)ch, -f(y)auch, to plough up the green strip that is left between the furrows after a piece of land has been brak-furred (Bnff.7 1927, coup-fyach; Bnff.2 1937, cowp-fyaach; Abd. (Garioch) 1916 T.S.D.C. II.; see also Fauch; 10. to coup one's cairt(s), (1) to turn head over heels; (2) “to be sick” (Ags.17 1940, -cairt); 11. to coup o(w)er (owre), (1) see II. 3; (2) (see quot.); known to Fif.10 1940; 12. to coup someone's hurly, “to upset someone's plan, checkmate a move” (Cai.9 1939); 13. to cowp the cairt ower (something), to surpass (something); 14. to coup (cowp) the cran(s), †(1) to turn a somersault; †(2) to go bankrupt, be ruined; (3) of women: to lose one's reputation, to have an illegitimate child (Fif.10 1940); (4) with o': to foil the plans of (Abd.19 1940); †(5) to die; (6) to beat everything, “beat the band”; 15. to coup (cowp) the creels, (1) to turn a somersault, to fall head over heels (Fif.10 1940); (2) to bring forth an illegitimate child (Fif.10 1940; Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); †(3) to die (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2); (4) with o' or on: to foil the plans of, to get the better of (Abd.19 1940); (5) to go to ruin. The expression derives from the loading of panniers at an uneven rate so that the balance is upset and the baskets become lop-sided or capsize (Kcd. 1899 A. C. Cameron Fettercairn 263). See Creel, n., 1; 16. to coup the harrows (on), to nonplus; 17. to cowp the kirn (see quot.); 18. (to) coup (cowp) the la(i)dle, to play see-saw (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940); used fig. = to let the cat out of the bag; also as n.phr. = the game of see-saw (Abd. 1825 Jam.2); used attrib. with folk to denote those delighting in simple pleasures; 19. to cowp the rim o', to drink in honour of; 20. to coup the traces, to kick over the traces; 21. to gang coup, to overturn, to upset.1. Ags. 1909 P. C. Carragher Arbroath 24:
In carrying Lord Panmure, "Coup Cairry" fashion, down the stairs of the old hostelry (a man to each leg of the chair).
2. Abd. 1927 Whippin-the-cat in Abd. Press and Jnl. (29 Oct.) 5:
After this there was sometimes an intermediate stage, when their lower limbs were encased in what might be euphemistically termed trousers buttoned on to an upper garment that was a sort of compromise between a jacket and a waistcoat, the whole being known by the elegant and expressive name of “coup-cairts.”
Edb. 1988:
In the early twentieth century coup the cairts was a type of women's knickers with a panel at the back that was untied to allow the wearer to go to the toilet.
3. Upper Deeside 1917 (per Abd.8):
Coupfacken. Coup, fauch, and rib are synonyms for ploughing lightly and so broadly that the plough raises only one-half of the breadth taken on, and turns it on to the undisturbed half, thus leaving the land in ridges.
4. Sc. 1941 R. Logan in Scots Mag. (April) 57:
But I was kind o' put off my guard wi' the thocht o' the drink. . . . Richt coup-the-cairter stuff, and nane o' your mournin hems tae the gless!
6. Ayr. 1816 in A. Boswell Poet. Works (1871) 150:
And tho' he's coupit i' the shearn, Troth I ken nought ill about him.
7. Bch. 1929 (per Abd.1):
He his tried this an' that for a speck, bit he is cowpit owre the tail noo.
9. Bch. 1925 (per Abd.15), obsol.:
We wis cowpf(y)auchin the winter furr afore we wid grub it, for it's a fearfu' mess o' growth.
10. (1) Abd.4 1928:
“Ye've fairly coupit yer cairts”; said to a boy falling with feet in the air.
11. (2) Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Coup owre. A vulgar phrase applied to a woman, when confined in childbed. The prep. is sometimes prefixed; as, She's just at the o'er-coupin', i.e. She is very near the time of childbirth.
13. Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xvii.:
It fair cowps the cairt ower onything ever I heard.
14. (1) Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St Patrick III. x.:
We'll . . . aiblins gar him cowp the cran heels-o'er-head down the hill gin he be sae bal' as try tae speel't.
(2) Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxvii.:
I . . . concocted . . . a savoury hachis that made the whole cabal coup the crans; and instead of disgrace I came by preferment.
wm.Sc. [1835–37] Laird of Logan (1868) 170–171:
It's a great misery to me that I hinna books to let ye look ower, to see my losses. . . . It wouldna put a plack in your pouch — aiblins every twa or three pages ye wad see, this ane or that ane, cowpet the crans, and deep in my debt.
(3) Ayr. a.1796 Burns Reply to a Trimming Ep. (Cent. ed.) v.:
But, fegs! the Session says I maun Gae fa' upo' anither plan Than garrin lasses coup the cran, Clean heels owre body.
(4) Bnff. 1924 Burnie's Jeannie in Swatches o' Hamespun 37:
A'll coup the crans o' ye, ma mannie.
(5) Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Doun i' th' Loudons 259:
At first she thaucht the mannie mad, Or shored to coup the cran.
(6) m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xi.:
But oh — the thing fair coups the crans! . . . and me an elder thae ten year!
15. (1) Sc. 1716 Ramsay Chr. Kirk ii. xvii. in Poems (1721):
When he was strute, twa sturdy Chiels, Be's Oxter and be's Coller Held up frae cowping o' the Creels The liquid Logick Scholar.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin xxxiii.:
Mrs Patch . . . tint her balance, an' fairly coupit the creels on the tap o' me.
Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 170:
For, tent him, when thus up he speels, When near the tap, may coup the creels.
(3) Sc. 1914 R. B. Cunninghame Graham Sc. Stories 102:
Ye mind . . . the old bridge just where yon English tourist coupit his creels, and gaed to heaven.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shepherd's Calendar I. 4:
If you should take it into your head to coup the creels just now, you know it would be out of the power of man to get you to a Christian burial.
(4) Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlix.:
The Miss's gotten some ane to help 'er to coup the creels o' the aul' 'oman.
Bch.(D) 1934 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (March) 129:
A houp 'at they coupit the creels on the blackgaird 'at hid been sae brutal as ta cut the finger o' the aul' leddy wi' a k-nife.
(5) Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales from “The Toon” 93:
The country wad coup the creels a' thegither if yon skirlin' limmers got the hing o' maitters.
Ags. 1846 Montrose Standard (15 May) 3/3:
I really doot oor kirk's gaun ti' coup the creels a' thegither.
16. Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Chron. of Glenbuckie xxi.:
M'Clymont felt as if his colloquist had fairly “coupet the harrows on him.”
17. Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 80:
Great efforts were made in the harvest field not to be the last at the landing when the field was finished; this was called cowping the kirn on the luckless reaper who completed his or her task behind all the others. It was considered a great disgrace to occupy this position.
18. Bnff.2 1930:
The bairns hid a filie's gran fun at cowp-the-laidle.
Abd. 1906 Auld Folk Noo Awa' in Bnffsh. Jnl. (26 June) 2:
And sing the “coup the ladle” folk . . . The kin'ly “rock the cradle” folk.
Abd.(D) 1920 C. Murray In the Country Places 1:
The mason's mear syne he set up in the closs An' coupit the ladle fu' keen.
Abd.(D) 1928 P. Gray Making of a King, etc. 47:
J. A. (aghast) — . . . That's cowpit the ladle noo!
19. Abd. 1928 J. Baxter A' Ae 'Oo' 20:
Here in Luckie Lowrie's Inn We'll cowp the rim o' Tammie's win!
20. Edb. 1922 P. Macgillivray Bog-Myrtle and Peat Reek 69:
For sic a witch did Adam fa' An' coup the holy traces O!
21. Ags. 1897 J. Y. Gray in A. Reid Bards of Ags. and the Mearns 200:
[He'll] get twa stools for horses an' drive to the fair, Till coup gangs his coach.

[O.Sc. has cowp, coup, to turn up, to upset, 1558–66, to empty out by overturning, 1653 (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. cowp, to strike (N.E.D.), from Fr. couper, to cut, coup, a blow, O.Fr. colp (Hatz. and Darm.).]

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