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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PEW, int., n., v. Also peu, pue, piew, pioo, pyoo, puh, pju. [pju:]

I. int. An exclamation of scorn, derision, disgust or disapproval, expressed by a forcible expulsion of the breath, “pooh!” Also in comb. pyoo fie!, id. Phr. to say pew to, to express displeasure or scorn at, to raise one's voice in protest against, to object to.wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 136:
I'm sure if our John had been in ony ither body's hands he never could ha'e stood it, but ye see he scarcely ever says pew til't.
Abd. 1923 Swatches o' Hamespun 84:
Pyoo fie! ye wee ablich — ye ganjin wee eeshan!

II. n. 1. A stream of air, a breath, exhalation, the slight sound made by this (Sh. 1965). Nonce dim. pouet, a gasp, breath. Phr. to play pew, to breathe, to have life in one, to stir, to be effective, to have an effect, make an impression or difference, freq. used fig. and neg.; with at: to cast aspersions on; with to: to compete with, “hold a candle to”.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 68:
Wi' that he never mair play'd pew, But with a Rair, Away his wretched Spirit flew.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
I couldna hae played pew upon a dry humlock.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xxxvii.:
The genie of Aladdin's lamp could not play peu to you.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
The phrase, He never played pew again, literally signifies, He never drew another breath.
m.Lth. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xix.:
But, woe's me! it [fire engine] did not play puh on the red het stanes.
Rnf. 1830 A. Picken Dominie's Legacy III. 23:
He'll stick you like a calf, an' blaw your brains oot forbye! for offering to play pew at the honour of Mrs. Templeton.
Ayr. 1836 Tait's Mag. (Jan.) 31:
I could see a lord's living that would not play pue to an Edinburgh writer, buying land with a wadset.
Ags. 1893 Arbroath Guide (14 Jan.):
Tho' I'm sittin' here hardly able to draw ae pouet o' breath, wi' that pain in my leg.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
Der 'r no a pju in him, he is quite exhausted. Der 'r never a pju mair in him, there is not a breath in him.

2. A puff or breath of smoke, wind, etc. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 389, pue; Kcb. 1965).Ayr. 1828 D. Wood Poems 11:
I got a coal they said was het, To light my pipe, But feint a pue o' reek could get.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lochinvar liv.:
The topmost chimney still gave forth a faint blue “pew” of peat-reek.
Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 35:
It's very still, there's no' a pue o' wun'.

3. A small quantity of a substance, a trace, “suspicion” (Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 6; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., pioo; Ayr. 1912 D. McNaught Kilmaurs 298; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., pju, Sh. 1965). Phr. a pew o' sea, a faint motion on the water (Sh. 1903 E.D.D.Cld. 1825 Jam.:
A smaller quantity than a pew or tait and larger than a hait.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
Der'r no a pju o' sea, there is not a ripple on the sea.

III. v. 1. To breathe, stir, show signs of life (Sh. 1965).Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
He never pjud ony mair, He never breathed any more.

2. Of smoke, vapour, or the like: to puff or eddy out, o rise through the air (Ayr. 1930; Kcb. 1965).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 389:
The reek's pueing up. Whar comes the reek pueing frae?
Kcb. 1911 Crockett Rose of the Wilderness xxii.:
Its aromatic fumes should not be lost in any foul Edinburgh chimney. They would “pew” out sweetly from the old kitchen hearth.

[Imit. Cf. O.Sc. pew, the thin whistling cry of a bird, c.1470.]

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"Pew interj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Jun 2023 <>



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