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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.

OWSE, n. Also ouse; pl. ous(s)en, ows(s)en, owzen, -an. An ox (ne.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 102, Ork., ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1964). Also attrib. [ʌus]Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.T. Misc. (1876) I. 8:
I have three owsen in a plough, Twa good ga'en yads, and gear enough.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.H.S.) II. 38:
Whan weary owsen hameward come.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Lea Rig i.:
Owsen frae the furrow'd field Return sae dowf and weary O.
Sc. c.1801 Braes o' Yarrow in Child Ballads No. 214 E. 15:
Tak hame your ousen, tak hame your kye.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vi.:
Tak tent ye dinna o'erdrive the owsen.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 592:
The lives o' men are nae mair countit on now-a-days than they were a wheen auld ousen or auld naigs.
Abd. 1863 G. MacDonald D. Elginbrod:
As strong as an ox, or “owse”, as David called it.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 183:
The laird, they say, has taurry sheep, and owsen by the score.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 72:
The loon 'at wis alang wi' 'im — ca'in' the owsen wi' the gaud.
Lnl. 1910 J. White Eppie Gray 3:
The hill taps are a' in a flame, An' wearied owsen wanner hame.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 69:
Those ploughs were hauled by teams of twelve owsen, an outfit no ploughman could turn in a tidy headland, so the furrows were drawn along the field in the shape of a capital S - as it were preparing to turn all the time.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
His “owsen” continued to “stowff eidently” up one “dreel” and down the next.

Hence ¶oussen'd, deriving from oxen.Mry. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 61:
The wain, wi' a' its oussen'd strength, Is sticking by the mill.

Combs.: 1. †ouse-John, a nickname for an ox-herd; 2. owsegate, a measure of land, an Oxgate, Oxgang; 3. ows(s)en-bow(e), the wooden collar worn by draught oxen (Rxb. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl., 1825 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial. See Bow, n.4, 3.; 4. ousen('s) milk, a jocular name for Sowens, or unboiled flummery, often used as a substitute for milk on porridge (Dmf. 1808 Jam.); 5. owsen-pleuch, -pleugh, owzen-, a plough drawn by oxen; 6. owsgang, an Oxgang (Bnff. 1964); 7. owssen-staw, a stall for an ox (Ork. 1964).1. Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 106:
Ouse-John, the master of the pack.
2. Abd. 1923 Swatches o' Hamespun 86:
“Better fog braw an' weel on the ae owsegate, nor hae t' scraup hard on the twa” is our way of putting “Do not cut off more than you can well chew.”
3. Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 232:
When heather cows grow owsen bows, I winna langer tarry.
Abd. 1920 R. H. Calder Deeside Gleanings 10:
Wi' legs on 'im like owsen bowes.
4. Abd. 1840 Quarterly Jnl. Agric. XI. 417:
Raw sowens, under the not inappropriate designation of “ousen's milk”, was frequently resorted to as substitute for being eaten with the oatmeal porridge.
5. Ags. 1830 A. Balfour Weeds 127:
The owsen-pleugh was in the yoke at the bear-seed.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 35:
In Cromar, the Garioch, and other districts of Aberdeenshire, the “twal owsen” plough was pretty common so late as 1792 . . . and it did not go finally out of use in this part of the country till 1815 or 1816.
Abd. 1895 J. Davidson Old Abd. Ministers 112:
When agriculture took a spurt at the beginning of the present century, and the pasture lands were “riven in” with the “owsen-pleuch.”
6. Bnff. 1901 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 29:
“The owsgang at the Rottenhillock Park”, near Barnyards of Cullen House is still so spoken of at the present day.
7. Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 146:
She sought it in the owsen-staw.

[O.Sc. oussin, oxen, 1596, the irreg. form being phs. influenced by Du. os, ossen.]

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"Owse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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