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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TOW, n.1 Also †towe. [tʌu]

1. As in Eng., flax or hemp fibre. Sc. combs., phrs. and derivs.: (1) (like) fire and tow, see Fire, III. 2.; (2) tap o' tow, see Tap, n.1, 2.; (3) to gie one's rock anither tow, to give one something else to think of; (4) to hae ither tow on one's rock (Sc. 1825 Jam.), — ither tow to tease (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), to have other concerns, other business to attend to, other intentions in mind, used gen. proverbially. See also Rock, n.2; (5) to set the low to one's ain tow, to be involved in trouble of one's own making, to be hoist on one's own petard; (6) tow ban(d), a strap or band made of woven tow; the waist-band of a skirt or trousers (Bnff., Abd. 1972). Also attrib.; (7) tow-card, a toothed instrument from combing flax. See Caird, n.2; (8) tow(e)n, made of or consisting of tow; (9) tow fud, the waste material from processed flax; also applied contemptuously to a person. For the second element cf. mill-fud s.v. Mill, n., 1. (25); (10) tow-grown, of old weathered or wizened wood: reduced to a fibrous state; (11) tow-gun, a pop-gun with tow wadding (Ayr. 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 191; Ags., Slg., Ayr. 1972); (12) towie, (i) adj., like tow in texture or colour, flaxen. Adj. towie-heidit, flaxen-haired (Bwk. 1972); (ii) n., a factory hand who collects and packs tow after heckling (Ags. 1972); (13) tow-plucker, a flax-heckler (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); †(14) tow rape, a rope of hemp, sc. the hangman's rope; †(15) tow-rock, a distaff used in spinning hemp; †(16) tow-tap, the bunch of flax or hemp put on the distaff at one time for spinning.(3) Rnf. 1819 Harp Rnf. (Motherwell) 163:
I'll gie his rock anither tow, And gar the body change his tune.
(4) Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 39:
I have another tow on my rock.
Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journal (M.C.) 155:
The Dutch has some other tow in their rock.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck xvi.:
The king has gotten ither tow to tease than persecuting Whigs.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 55:
For on their rocks now focks hae ither tow, Then ware their spite sae sair on me and yow.
(5) Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar xxvii.:
Gif she will talk, she'll maybe set the low to her ain tow.
(6) Edb. 1816 J. Aikman Poems 237:
An' shortly in a tou-ban' tether He brought me down.
(7) Gsw. 1725 Table of Dues of the Bridge, etc. of Gsw. (1 June):
Every Pair of Wooling or Tow-cards . . . 4d.
m.Lth. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 9:
A pair o' gude tow-cards.
Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 156:
To shape the letters wi' a burnt stick on the back o' a tow-card.
(8) Dmf. 1755 W. A. J. Prevost Annals Dmf. Dales (1954) 87:
His wife is to spin six slips of town yarn.
(9) Dmf. 1875 P. Ponder Kirkcumdoon 20:
Lucky Rae wi' a governess! an auld towfud, her faither a dirty, raggit, oogly foumart een'd cretur.
(10) Sh. 1959 New Shetlander No. 51. 12:
A piece of a life belt and a towgrown pit prop.
(11) Ayr. 1833 J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 132:
He wadna been aff wi' Miss Dawson as clean as a tow-gun.
Gsw. 1860 Justiciary Reports (1861) 663:
He had a tow-gun, or something of that kind, and was going to teach them to be soldiers.
Rnf. 1871 J. Nicholson Idylls 53:
Nane can fire a towgun like oor Wee Kate.
wm.Sc. a.1930 N. Munro Looker-on (1933) 181:
Jumping-jacks, dolls, peeries, tow-guns.
(12) (i) Abd. 1924 Scottish Tongue (Will) 141:
Wi' a towie bit powie o' flaxeny hue.
(ii) Ags. 1928 H. Lauder Roamin' 37:
My task at Gordon's Mill was to be a “towie”.
(14) Kcb. 1902 Crockett Dark o' the Moon xxxix.:
Saunders Lennox's tow rape will break mony a promise on Monday mornin' by nine o' Kirkcudbright clock.
(15) Ayr. c.1770 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes (1870) 82:
The spindle in the tae hand and the tow-rock in the tither.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 19:
Tugging at their tow rocks.
Edb. 1788 D. Crawford Poems 53:
She liv'd right snugly in a glen, Wi' her tow-rock.
(16) Edb. 1851 A. MacLagan Sketches 241:
The tears o'er the tow-tap will whiles fa' like rain.

2. A stuffing or wadding of tow for a pop-gun.Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 27:
The tae tow drives the tither oot, like wi' the bountree shootin'.

3. A mop of unkempt hair.Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs of Fields 27:
Her auld grey tow turned tae a lowe O' ringlets lang and gowden.

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"Tow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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