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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

COUTH, adj. and n. [kuθ]

I. adj.

1. Of persons: †(1) Agreeable, affable, sociable, friendly. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 282:
Nor will North Britain yield for Fouth Of ilka thing, and Fellows couth, To any but her Sister South.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 109:
They are couth, And unco happy.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems (1878) 86:
He casts a wink, she's kirr and couth And draws the water to his mouth.

Adv. couthly.Abd. 1847 G. Rust Poems 144: 
The cheek that's damp ye couthly dry.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 187: 
Our Troker couthly took her han'.

(2) Soft, flabby.Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 112:
O blythe an' merry sporting youth! To me shall ne'er return, 'Neath age an' ailment now run couth, On my last legs I mourn.
Rxb. 1940 (per Lnk.11):
Recently I heard a stout, elderly man excuse his breathlessless at the top of a hill by saying: “I'm owre couth for this job; I ha'ena the win' for't noo.”

2. Of places and things: comfortable, snug, neat. Known to Lnk.11 (1940) for Rxb.Sc. a.1749 The Miller in Sc. Songs (ed. Aitken 1874) 222:
His house was warm and couth, And room in it to hold me.
Sc. 1788 R. Galloway Poems 181:
A mankie gown, of our ain kintra growth, Did mak them very braw, and unco couth.

II. n.

(1) Kindness.Sc. a.1806 in R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 125:
O, blessins on thy couth, lord John; Weel's me to see this day.

Hence couthless, adj., cold, unfeeling.Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 114:
To read their fu'some, puffing lays, Their fause, unmeaning, couthless praise Wad gar ane think their votaries Were perfect saunts.

(2) Appar. anything by which one might be known or recognised, anything that might be understood, in quot. a word, identifiable utterance. The usage is nonce and prob. metri causaSc. 1783 Gay Goshawk in Child Ballads No. 96. A. ii.: 
Whan frae her mouth I never heard couth.

[O.Sc. has couth, etc., known, familiar (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. cuð, couð, etc., known, acquainted (Stratmann), and O.E. cūð, known, famous, familiar (Sweet). Cūð is pa.p. of cunnan, to know, but is found only as an adj. (Sweet Anglo-Saxon Primer). The Mod.Sc. senses have prob. developed from that of “familiar” in O.Sc.]

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"Couth adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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