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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MARROW, n.2, v. Also marraw, marra, marrae; morrow, moro(o), morra. [′mɑrə, I.Sc., Uls. ′morə]

I. n. 1. Also in pl. form marus. A match, an equal, one of like ability, content, appearance, social standing, etc. Freq. used in pl. with sing. meaning as in 1888 quot. (Abd. 1962). Phr. to meet one's marrow, to meet one's match (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 29). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 242:
Love, and Lordship, like no Marrows.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 122:
Attour I hae a ribbon two ell lang, Gin it hae monie marrows I'm beguil'd.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 164:
Good Ralph o' Titherbore, an Slacks — Their marrows there are few.
Bwk. 1801 “Bwk. Sandie” Poems 28:
But Rob, whase marrow ne'er amang us sung, Ay prided in our ain guid mother tongue.
Sc. 1864 J. C. Shairp Kilmahoe 128:
For the peer and the ploughman are marrows to-day.
Per. 1888 R. Ford Glentoddy 87:
Ye'll get a treat in humorous diversion ye ha'ena gotten the marrows o' sin' yon nicht we attendit the theatre in Edinboro' thegither.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 6:
And as for plooin', I've ne'er seen His marrae in a field sin' syne.
Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 76:
Sheu waas da Beuk o' Black Airts, jeust da morroo o' whit 'e gaed till da witches.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (13 Oct.):
A beach that there's nae the marrows o' alang the hale Firth.
Abd. 1990:
'He's the marus o Sean Connery.'
Edb. 1991:
I spoke to a woman yesterday by mistake - she was the marra o my mother.
Slk. 1991 Harvey Holton in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 135:
The minds marrow oo hae had,
sae see calmly an clearly,
an yarrow an hazel oo hae fur bricht they be
an shairly show wi charmit chaunts
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web v:
Scots, Gaelic, Inglis: three leids. Takk ae wird - a birdie wird: the mavis. Noo, doon on the page, the v luiks like the birdie's beak. The m is the wings, booed in flicht, an the s is the marra o the wirm that the mavis etts fur brakkfast.

2. One of a pair, as of gloves, shoes, etc. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 389:
Your Een's no Marrows. Spoken when People mistake what they look at.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 121:
Dod, my een are surely nae marrows. Isna that Glengrant amo' the fouk?
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xv.:
Ye mind hoo ye saw the humorous side o' me wearin' a pair o' boots 'at wisna marrows!
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 177:
'Look at that bonnie shoe. It's just your size, but I burned the marrow o' it.'

3. A companion, a bosom friend, a kindred spirit (Sh., Ags., Ayr. 1962); a partner in business or sport. Hence on marrows (wi), sharing in a joint concern (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). For pl. form used with sing. meaning in 1838 quot. cf. 1.Edb. 1796 H. Macneill Waes o' War (1800) 35:
Hope and Joy — (twin marrows).
Ayr. 1838 Galt in Tait's Mag. (Jan.) 41:
A lad that he had been marrows with in the loom shop.
Fif. 1896 D. S. Meldrum Grey Mantle 250:
Jimmy Gloag was no ne'er-do-weel. . . . I should ken, for he and I were marrows.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 91:
But his ne'er gat a touzle in a fray, In collieshangies wi' his marrows noo.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Tieves wid aye hae morrows.
Edb. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 10:
His marrow, Dod, an' neebor trony, Wha oxtert 'im frae oot the crood.
m.Sc. 1998 David Millar in Donny O'Rourke and Kathleen Jamie New Writing Scotland 16: The Glory Signs 124:
The door opens and here you come. My mate. My mucker. My marra.

4. A mate, a marriage partner (ne.Sc., Ags. 1962). Comb. half-marrow, id. (see Half, adj., 1. (17)). Now chiefly liter.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 265:
No Man can find his Marrow in the Kirn so well as he that has been there himself.
Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 235:
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride, Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 158:
I'm Jenny, an' ye shall be Jockie; 'Tis right we together sud be; For nane of us cud find a marrow.
Sc. 1794 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 624:
Her doughter Geordie lang had sought, And courtit for his marrow.
Sc. 1803 Scott Minstrelsy III. 72:
O stay at hame, my noble lord! O stay at hame, my marrow.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption xx.:
Folks are beginning to speak o' us already as marrows.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 49:
An' the faither selkie lay i' the sea watchin' his marrow i' her trouble.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man i.:
Him that was your marrow and lies now in his resting grave.
Abd. a.1897 M. M. Banks Cal. Customs II. 231:
Oh! it's a bonnie May mornin', I cam t' pu' the yarrow, I hope before I go To see my marrow.

5. Derivs. marrowless, marr(a)less, marrieless, marless, -liss, morro(w)less, morrless. (1) without equal, matchless (Sc. 1818 Sawers; em.Sc.(a) 1962); (2) of articles which normally form a pair, e.g. gloves: odd, not matching. Gen.Sc.; (3) of a man or woman: unmarried (Ags. 1962); (4) of husband and wife: ill-matched (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), widowed (s.Sc. 1801 J. Leyden Complaynt Gl.).(1) Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 134:
Nae equal to you but our dog Sorkie, and he's dead, and ye're marrowless.
(2) Rs. 1720 Pitcalnie MSS. Inventory:
A Pair fine linnen sleeves and morrowless sleeve. A Morrowless stripped musline ruffle.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxxii.:
A miscellaneous assemblage of marrowless cups, cracked cream-pots and ale-glasses.
e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 116:
Prince Charlie hadna a pair o marrless een like that rogue.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden x.:
He creepit doon into the hole wi' naething on but his auld marless buits, an' his bathin' drawers.
Abd. 1956 Abd. Press & Jnl. (26 Nov.):
They wore . . . “marless socks”, a flame-coloured one and a green one each.
Arg. 1990:
A couple o morrless socks.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 177:
'You cannae gang hame wi' two marrowless shoes,' Bryce said. 'Everybody will laugh at you. I'm no' walking about wi' ye like that.'
Abd. 1993:
At's marless socks ye're wearin.
m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 4:
yonder a riven cage o marrieless ribs,
the braith caad fae't
or a femur enn dichtit smuith
bi the lang stravaigin streed
o the baggie breikit beist.
(3) Abd. 1844 W. Thom Rhymes 51:
Awakes A thousand regrets in the marrow-less lass.
Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 96:
The marraless youngsters were langin' for sportin'.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
Condemned to trodge through the warld marrowless — me a daesed, donart auld carl o' a batchelor, an' her a crabbit, miserable feckless bodie o' an auld maid.

6. Used in exclam. of astonishment, (the) deil a marrow, nae a —, the sorrow a —, = well I never! I never heard the like!, you don't say! (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 111; Abd. 1962).Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latter-day Exploits 45:
The gentle shouted, “Goodness-gracious”, And herrin' fishers, “Deil a marrow”.

II. v. 1. To equal, match, come up to, be of equal excellence (Sc. 1818 Sawers). Hence unmarrowed, unequalled. Rarely with wi.Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 181:
Her cheeks nae rose cou'd ever marrow.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 108:
It is my pride, in this birth-right, marrowing wi' my birth-place.
Ags. 1827 A. Laing Archie Allan 9:
Was better na mony, an' marrow't by few.
Mry. 1911 Rymour Club Misc. I. 206:
A January haddock, and a February hen, Are no' to be marrowed in the ither months ten.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 39:
Drumduff had a fine tattie-bogle, Unmarrow'd on neebourin' ferms.
ne.Sc. 1953 Mearns Leader (25 Sept.):
For there's a flavour or guff aboot it that nae ither jam or jeely aither can marraw.

2. tr. To join or unite in matrimony, to mate. Ppl.adj. marrowed, having a sweetheart or prospective partner; ill-marrowed, of marriage partners: ill-matched (Mry.1 1925; Sh., ne.Sc. 1962).Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xvii.:
Charlie Walkinshaw and Bell Fatherlans were a couple marrowed by their Maker, and it's no right to stand in the way of their happiness.
Dmb. 1877 W. Cross Disruption xxxiii.:
The ither twa are marrowed men as weel as me.
Abd. 1933 Abd. Press & Jnl. (16 March):
To ca' them ill-marrowed would anger them sair.

3. tr. and intr. with wi, to marry, be a companion of (someone) in marriage. Also fig.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 64:
Did you there see me mark'd to marrow Mary Scott the flower of Yarrow?
Abd. a.1788 in Burns Works (1800) II. 152:
Thou shalt not sit single, but by a clear ingle I'll marrow thee, Nancy, when thou art my ain.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagen Sketches 280:
He's wise wha marrows wi' content, Though in a rustic biel'.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 44:
He cockit his lug, an' he cockit his e'e An' he said, “Bonnie lass, will ye marra wi' me”.

4. Of small farmers: to co-operate with neighbours in certain tasks (Dmf. 1955). Also in Uls. dial.  (Uls. 1970s).Rnf. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 II. 123:
The farmers begin to plow about the beginning of March; and a great many of them join, two and two, to make out a plough, which, in the language of the country, is called marrowing.
Sc. 1842 J. Aiton Dom. Econ. (1857) 152:
Saunders Heavyside, with whom he marrows.
Dmf. 1931–3 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 191:
Four tenants “marrowing” together combined their beast- and horse-power for the plough, and co-operated at the hay and harvest.

[O.Sc. marrow, = I. 1., c.1470, to associate with, 1482, North.Mid.Eng. marwe, a fellow, companion. Of uncertain, prob. Scand., orig.]

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"Marrow n.2, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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