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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FOWK, n. Also fouk(e), †fouck, †foulk; ‡fyowk (Bch. 1891 Trans. Bch. Field Club II. 13); foak, fock, fok(e). Sc. forms of Eng. folk. Dim. foukie. The double pl. folkses is sometimes found in m.Sc. [fʌuk]

Sc. usages, now mostly obs., dial. or colloq. in Eng.:

1. People, mankind collectively and indefinitely. Gen.Sc. Freq. in pl., dim. foukies.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems 224:
Wha's that gi'es Fowk a Fright At sic untimous time of Night?
Abd. 1778 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 66:
And, O, the gath'ring that was on the green Of little foukies, clad in green and blue!
Ayr. 1793 Burns Tam o' Shanter 3–4:
As market-days are wearing late, And folk begin to take the gate.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality v.:
The Duke — that was him that lost his head at London; folk said it wasna a very gude ane, but it was aye a sair loss to him.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 41:
But he was kent by a' fock, By duddy fock an' braw fock.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 4:
'E fowk a' said lang aifterhen at 'e lassie wis fey.
Gall. 1928 Gallovid. Annual 90:
“Wha's sayin' that?” “Oh, naebody — juist fowk!”
Edb. 1931 E. Albert Herrin Jennie 103:
Folkses should lee' me alane on Seturday-nicht.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 6:
" ... Noo, Mrs Manson, will thoo stick this bill up in thee window or on the coonter, the wey fock kin see id, for id'll be the grettest attraction o' the 'ear in Stenwick."
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 167:
What a mercy it is when fock is telled da truth fae da start. I'm seen mair as wan gettin a braa forsmo fae da records.
Dundee 2000 Ellie McDonald Pathfinder 10:
The road's aye thrang wi fowk
but whaur I staun
is a scunneration tae me,

2. The inhabitants of a place. Gen.Sc.Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 75:
For by thir lads Auld Reekie's fock Ken but a sample o' the stock.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality Dedic.:
To his Loving Countrymen, whether they are denominated Men of the South, Gentlemen of the North, People of the West, or Folk of Fife.
Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 75:
Ye foke o' Currie and New-mill.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb ii.:
The fouk o' this place wud ca' their very tykes aifter the Yerl o' Fife.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums ii.:
The manse fowk doesna deal wi' him, except they're wantin' short-bread. He's Auld Kirk.
Abd. 1920 M. Argo Makkin o' John 15:
Yon toon's fowk are aye yap.

3. The members of one's family, parents, relatives, kindred (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); the members of one's own community, sect, etc. Sing. and pl. both used. Gen.Sc.Ags. 1776 C. Keith Farmer's Ha' xlix.:
I wish our fowk soon hame again, And nae to dander 'yont the main.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. ix.:
Lord Bittlebrains would do weel to remember what his folks have been.
Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 2:
His folk had been lang in Luna Braes.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 391:
I sew to a' our ain folk, an' to some o' the civillest o' the profane.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 35:
Maikie couldna tell his folk dat shü wis a sea-woman.
Edb. 1884 in Modern Sc. Poets (ed. Edwards) VII. 225:
I'm no amang my ain fowk, Ye're strangers a' to me.
Dmf. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 5:
Nae frien' or fremit daun'ers in For a' my fowk are gane.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 9:
Ee canna pass keind — it belangs eer foak, man!

4. Servants, workpeople, employees. Mostly in sing. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Comb. ferm fowk, the staff on a farm (ne.Sc., Fif., Gall., Dmf. 1953).Edb. 1786 G. Robertson Ha'rst Rig (1801) 9:
Upon the morn the master looks To see gin a' his fowk ha'e hooks.
Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chron. (7 Sept.) 3:
Ay, ay, stealin' the corn — that's no gude. None o' my fouk hae tried that, that I ken o'.
Abd. 1928 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 189:
Aw wisna feein' fowk, bit jist gid awa' owre by to see fat wis deein'.

5. Two or more single persons, individuals. Sing. and pl. both used, though sing. is commoner. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 136:
There are many and various sorts of machines for travelling in Holland. There are phaetons made for holding six folks.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 12:
But tho' the young fouks liked other sair, They never yet had dint o' warld's care.
s.Sc. 1818 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) V. 155:
Odd Scott here's twae fo'k's come frae Glasgow to provoke mey to fight a duel.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 4:
This night ye may gae hame wi' Marion, . . . . . . twa fouk mak the road mair cheery.

6. Human beings, as opposed to animals or to supernatural beings (Abd., Kcb. 1953). Also attrib. In 1931 quot. the speech of a child is being represented.Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck i.:
It's no ae Brownie . . . that's about the house, but a great multitude — they say they're ha'f deils ha'f fock.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. and Poems 108:
Nane o' dis wisened-up bits o' things at dey ca' folk noo-a-days, da maist o' dem claes.
Kcb. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 166:
Instead o' stickin strecht up an doon like ither folkses, they slopit forrit.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 1:
Every livan' t'ing o' folk kind 'at was eeble tae pit ae fit afore anither, ran for de shore.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 36:
Och, they jeust thrawed the neck o't, an' heaved it ower the shore, for it wad ne'er been a “folks” in the dees o't!

7. For combs. changed, guid, wee fowk, folk of peace, the fairies, see arts. under these epithets.

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"Fowk n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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