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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MOWDIEWORT, n., v. Also mowdi-, -y-, -e-; moudie-, -y-, -i-, -e-; moodie-, mod(i)(e)-, mody-; mothie-; †moldo-; mulli-; mo(u)ld-; -wart, -wert; -worp, -warp; -wark, -wurk; ¶-mart (Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 119). Freq. found in contracted forms mowdi(e), -y; moudie, -y (Gall., s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson); mouldie; moodie, -y (Sc. 1903 E.D.D.; Edb. 1926 Broughton Mag. (Summer) 10). [′mʌudiwʌrt, -wɑrp, †-k; ne.Sc., Lth. + ′mudi]

I. n. 1. The common mole, Talpa europaea (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. In 1891 quot. fig. of a human being. Used as a nickname for a coal-miner.Sc. 1739 Last Part of the Tincklar's Testament 6:
Their Light is as the Eagles, but these Hirelings Light is as The Molls or Moldowarts.
Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 201:
The mouse is a merry beast, And the moudewort wants the een.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 39–40:
Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd an' snowket; Whyles mice and modewurks they howket.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 62:
List'ning to the chirp O' wand'ring mouse, or moudy's carkin hoke.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Tales (1874) 234:
“I wadna gie a boddle,” said he, “for a woman's religion, nor for her love neither — mere traps for moudiworts.”
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 12:
The tother was a cunning tyke, Was fit t' assail a bumbee byke, Cats, moudie-worts, or mice.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 68, 92:
A moudiewort needs nae lantern . . . The moudiewort feedsna on midges.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 149:
Ae moodiewart there was that socht To mine an' mak' a gain o't.
Ags. 1893 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xvi.:
It's cheenged times, cheenged times wi' Hughie Taggart, an' wi' Maister Andrews, puir man, noo that the moudies hae gotten him.
e.Lth. c.1900 Scots Mag. (Sept. 1971) 536:
In the early part of this century, miners in East Lothian were known as "Moudies".
s.Sc. 1902 Sc. Fairy Tales 148:
He held the stane till his een-strings crackit, when he was as blin' as a moudiwort.
Cai.9 1939:
“Black as the mulliwark” applied to a dirty person, esp. a child.
Bch. 1944 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 370:
His min's on besoms . . . An' mowdiewarts' an' myawkins' skins an' the troots in the Gonar burn.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 124:
... Gerda, neat and pretty as a velvet moudie, ...
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 69:
Scalin alang the glen wis a lythesome linn o deer, a hale breenge o bawds, a fleerich o mappies, a kirn o creepie-crawlies an a hotterel o mowdies, tods, brocks an bantam chukkens.

2. Combs.: (1) mowdie(wort)-brod, -burd (Fif. 1825 Jam.), the mouldboard of a plough; (2) mowdie-catcher, a mole-catcher (Lth. 1963); (3) moudie(wort)-hill(ock), -hillan, a mole-hill (Gall., s.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Dmf. 1958); (4) mowdie-hoop, a mole-hill (Fif. 1825 Jam.). The second element is prob. ad. Du. molshoop, a mole-heap; (5) mowdie-howker, = (2) (sm. Sc. 1963). See Howk, v.; (6) mowdieman, a mole catcher (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 351; w.Lth., Ayr., sm. and s.Sc. 1963). See also 7.; (7) mowdie mill, a horse-driven mill, presumably because the shaft and most of the bearings were underground (‡Fif. 1962); (8) moudie-poke, a mole catcher's bag (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (9) moudie-skin, the skin of a mole, particularly used as a material for making purses (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Kcb. 1963). Cf. (10); (10) mowdie-spung, a purse made of moleskin. See Spung; (11) moudie stuff, the material moleskin; (12) moudie-tammock, a mole-hill (Kcb. 1963). See Tammock; (13) mowdie(wort)-trap, a mole-trap (Kcb. 1963); (14) moudie-trout, the immature sea-trout, Salmo trutta.(1) Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Mowdie-Brod. A wooden board on the Scottish plough, which turned over the furrow, now exchanged for a cast-iron plate denominated a Fur-side.
(3) Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 25:
Toss The moudy-hillan to the air in stoor.
Dmf. 1826 H. Duncan Scottish Exiles III. xi.:
It's nae mair to be compared to our castle, than a moudiewark-hill to a mountain.
Slk. 1836 Fraser's Mag. (Oct.) 435:
Like a colley dog watchin a movin moudy hillock.
e.Lth. 1883 P. McNeill Tranent 163:
The houses . . . seem as if they had been cast up, like moudie-hillocks, out of the bowels of the earth.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 11:
You'd socht a mowdie-hill to fa' on, Instead o' this ramstamran ca' on.
(6) Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters x.:
He's a son of oald Wilson, the mowdieman of Brigabee.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 26:
Where meet the herds and the hinds and the faithers o' weans, And the mowdie-man tae.
Dmf. 1962 Stat. Acc.3 140:
The “mowdie-man” cannot get an apprentice.
(9) Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Jan.) 425:
The shilling moves the prison hold within, And scorns the limits of the moudy-skin.
(10) Kcb. 1885 J. S. McCulloch Poems 78:
Weel, oot I flung my mowdie-spung, Intendin' to hae paid.
(11) Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 40:
His breeks and doublet were of buff, His jerkin o' the moudie stuff.
(12) Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales (1874) 235:
The bonnie green hills of Annandale turned, by the malice of man's wit, into moudie-tammocks.
(13) Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 171:
I bocht . . . a lot o' moudywort traps.
(14) Sc. 1880–4 F. Day Fishes II. 85:
It is locally known as herling or hirling, whit(l)ing, phinock, moudie-trout, silverwhite, and blacktail, in different Scotch districts.

3. A sneaking, underhand person, an intriguer (w.Lth. 1963); a spy or informer; a prowler (Ayr. 1963). Cf. II. Phr. to ack or play the mowdiewort.Fif. 1832 Fife Herald (8 Nov.):
The Tories would fain he were like themselves — they would have him a plotter, a miner, a miserable moudiwort.
Rxb. c.1870:
He's just a moudiewort. Ye aye ken whar he's working frae the dirt he casts up.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxiii.:
“Molie canna ha'e 't an' haud it, ye ken.” “Ou ay, an' Dawvid acks the moudie-wort wi' him.”
Sc. 1892 A. Lang Golfing Papers 30:
Some coof has played the moudiewarp, Rin in, an' stimied me!
Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xx.:
Ay, there's eneuch to be offered for the apprehension o' that hizzie to keep ye bien awhile, ye moudiewart.

4. A retiring solitary person, a recluse; a slow, dull-witted, or slovenly person (Abd.4 1929).Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 252–3:
During the last hour [of election] , when the absentees, who had been persistently hunted up, were driven in, . . . they were saluted with possibly appropriate, but certainly opprobrious epithets, such as “Howkit-out mowdies.”
Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Lady Jean's Son xvi.:
It was my own deserts and qualifications I misdoubted — a mowdiewart of an auld bachelor.

5. A small person, esp. one of dark complexion and with a profusion of hair (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 115, mothiewort); used playfully of a child.Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie ciii.:
It's my fear that their bairns will be sic wee modiwarts o' things, that when they begin to tottle about the house, we'll hae to tie bells to their backs to hear whar they gang.
Sc. 1899 Mont.-Fleming 100:
“If I catch ye, ye young moodiewort,” is often a mother's threat.

6. A person with defective eyesight.Sc. 1859 E. B. Ramsay Reminiscences 189:
I was married to a moudiewart last, but now I am getting a husband who can see me.

7. In dim. form: a mole-catcher (m. and s.Sc. 1963).Ayr. 1882 A. L. Orr Laigh Flichts 37:
The moudie clutched the candle up, Syne clapt it to his pipe.
Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 140:
He was known as the “Mowdie” , . . . the “Doctor”, Ggemmie.

8. A tool used by plumbers for scraping the insides of metal pipes (Lnk. 1963).

9. A mole hill (Ayr. 1963).Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 66:
An' sae impress't by a' within his luik, A moudie for a mountain he'd hae tuik.

10. A mole on the skin, a wart (m.Dmf.3 c.1920; Rnf., Ayr. 1963), a jocular mistranslation of Eng. mole in this sense.

11. Used fig. in quot. of a coin concealed or buried in the lining of a coat.Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man II. ix.:
My kind master took out from between several of the button holes in the breast of my great coat, two gold mowdiwarts, three silver marks, and several placks and bodles.

II. v. In form mowdy: to loiter or prowl about in a secretive manner, to burrow about (Lnk., Ayr. 1963). Cf. Mole, v.Lnk. 1947 B.B.C. Broadcast (25 May):
A wheen laddies mowdying aboot the close.

[O.Sc. mowdewart, the mole, c.1470, variant of Mid.Eng. moldwarp, O.E. molde, mould + weorpan, to throw. For first element see mowd s.v. Muild.]

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"Mowdiewort n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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