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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

POW, n.2 Also power pou, poo. Dim. powie. [pʌu]

1. A pool of water (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Cai. 1956), gen. a shallow or marshy one, a watery or marshy place (Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 386); a puddle or pot-hole in the street (Sh., Rs. 1966); a sea-pool in the rocks (Sh., Abd. 1966). Adj. powie, in powie-waar, a type of sea-weed used in making poultices, found in rock pools (Abd. 1950). Also in place-names. Combs. duck(ie)-pow, midden-pow (see first element) (Ork. 1966). Phr. to mak a pow, to urinate, of a child (Sh. 1966).Slg. 1707 R. Sibbald Hist. Slg. (1892) 61:
Many of the Gentry get Salmonds in their powes.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 490:
Small tracts of water called pows.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 286:
I' the very first pow I gat sic a louthe o' fish that I carried 'till me back cracked again.
Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frf. 157:
Banks of the “Pow” or lint-pond, Kinnaird.
Bwk. 1860 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1863) 169:
Near to the castle [Dunse] is the Hen-poo, a fine sheet of water.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 469:
They cam doon the pow wi the bicht o' the raip trailin on the tap o' the water.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminiscences 120:
The lasses tripped along with their bare feet until they sighted the market green, when they sought the nearest “pow o' water,” washed their feet, and donned their white hose and well-polished shoes.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 112:
Girzzie wis geen ta fill da collie wi' a aire o' sillock oil, an' shü wis laid da half o' hit ower da hertstane fil hit wis run in a pow.

2. A name applied to a field, freq. a marshy or low-lying one which has at one time been under water.Ork. 1724 H. Marwick Merchant Lairds (1936) I. 113:
The catle quoy of Holand commonly caled Jealy Leslys pou.
Ork. 1774 P. Fea Diary (7 Oct. ):
They only Cut the Otts of the short land and the pow.

3. A slow-moving stream, a natural or artificial ditch, one which meanders through flat heavy land (Sc. 1808 Jam.), esp. that bordering the Tay, Forth and Solway (Per. 1966). Comb. pow Meg, the name given to a variety of pear formerly grown in the Carse of Gowrie (Per. 1814 Mem. Caled. Hortic. Soc. II. 110, 1826 J. C. Loudon Encycl. Gardening 706).Sc. 1773 Reports to Lord Commissioners relative to Rivers Forth, etc. 24:
Towing paths should be made along one side of the river with single horse-bridges over the pows or brooks.
Per. 1808 Jam.:
In common language, a very slow-running water is tautologically called a dead pow.
Per. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I I. 437:
The proprietors . . . marked out the most eligible lines where there was any apparent declivity, or where the water stagnated in greatest abundance; and in these cut large drains, called Pows, resembling small canals.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel ii.:
The Pow-Burn, and the Quarry-holes.
Slg. 1835 Trans. Highl. Soc. 13:
Pows, or small brooks, coming from the higher grounds.
Per. 1868 Ib. 168:
The pow of Inchaffray, running to the Earn from the west end of a large peat morass.
Per. 1901 A. Philip Songs of Gowrie 20:
Fish from the pows and streams.
Per. 1949 Sc. Agric. (Summer) 7:
At one time the fertile Carse of Gowrie . . . was probably a flat muddy waste interspersed by slightly elevated areas of “black land”, which formed islands or inches. No effective improvement could be carried out on such lands until “pows” or large, open ditches were dug.

4. A small creek, gen. at the mouth of such a stream as defined above, and serving as a landing-place or wharf for small vessels (Per., Slg., Cld. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1903 E.D.D.; sm.Sc. 1966). Combs. pow-fit; pow-lady, -lord, a jocular term for a female or male carter at such a place; pow-side.Sc. 1746 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 49:
Pock, stop, and herry-water nets, which they should find people making use of in the Forth above the Pow of Alloa.
Slg. 1756 Session Papers, Petition J. Kempt (12 Nov.) 4:
The Vessel having this Victual on board was to proceed therewith from the Pow of Errol, where it was deliverable at the Fallin Pow in the River Forth.
Clc. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VIII. 595:
The quay is built of rough hewn stone, in a substantial manner, and runs within the land and forms a pow or small creek, where the rivulet . . . falls into the river.
Clc. 1808 Jam.:
The males and females, employed in driving coals to the quay, are humourously called the Pow-lords and Pow-ladies.
Gall. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 285:
I gaed out ae fine simmer night to haud my halve at the Pow fit.
Slg. 1824 Caled. Mercury (24 Jan.):
So great is the predilection for whisky of the true highland flavour, that a cargo of peats from Ferintosh was discharged this week at Cambus Pow.
Gall. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 467:
He wus dauneran awa doon the pow side, wunneran whut wus tae be done.

[O.Sc. poll, = 3., 1375, pow, 1481, in placename Powfoulis, 1483, Gael. poll, a pit, a pond, mud, mire. The word is very common in placenames, and is cognate with Puil, pool, q.v.]

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"Pow n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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