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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TWA, num. adj., n. Also †tua (Sc. 1818 Lord Derwentwater in Child Ballads No. 208 J. iv.); twaa; twae (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 50; Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 48, 98; Dmf. 1789 Burns Five Carlins vii.; Sc. 1894 Stevenson Catriona xi.; Dmf. 1894 J. Cunningham Broomieburn 54; Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 10; Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 16), †tuae (Gall. 1715 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) I. 350), tway (Dmf. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) vii.; Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 230; Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 32), twey (Dmf. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 282), tweah (Rxb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 III. 297), tweae (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 173); and anglicised form †tow (Lnk. c.1779 Rymour Club Misc. (1928) III. 168). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. two (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 23; Ayr. 1786 Burns Twa Dogs 5; Sc. 1792 Tam Lin in Child Ballads No. 39 A. v., 1816 Scott Antiquary xxi.; Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.; Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders v.; Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 123; Sc. 1925 H. McDiarmid Sangschaw 5). See also Qua. [I., n., em.Sc.(a), wm., sm.Sc. twɑ:, twǫ:; em.Sc. (b), Lnk., s.Sc. twe:]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng. Also applied to a small number, two or three, a few, several (I.Sc. 1973). Phrs. ae thing that's no twa, one thing for certain; twa words, a discussion, argument, dispute (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ags., Per. 1973).Per. 1804 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 128:
I tell him there will be two words to that.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption xxvi.:
Stop, stop! Luckie; we maun ha'e twa words aboot that.
Sc. 1879 Stevenson Deacon Brodie ii. iv.:
There'll be twa words about this in the Kirk Session.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton xxvi.:
I'll gie them twa line o' ma min'.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (30 July, 13 Aug.):
Try da grice wi' a aire o' blaedig wi' yon twa tatties. . . . Wi' dis roopin o' der herrin' der no sic a chance o' gettin' twa.
Sh.9 1947:
“Twa” in Shetland can mean “two”, or any number. “Feetch dee wis in twa paets.” What is meant is “Fetch you in (or get in) some peats.”
Ork. 1960:
I'll awa an bake twa bannocks.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 4:
"No Faither," protested Bryce, "I wis jist goin' up a step or twa to look better ower to the ridge there, where Mither's to hae her hoose. You're maybe too auld to big it, but when I'm up, I'll dae it mysel'."
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 18:
Like weans in the wid, like twa turtledoos
Like a richt perra lovebirds, like coos
Rolling in clover, ...
wm.Sc. 1988 Scotsman 16 Jan :
"Aye!" said I. "And three ither pairs roon aboot forby. I took pictures o twae pairs in the fifties, wet work under a low brig wi the feet in the watter."
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 40:
Or boued their crouns, as thir twae whuddit bye,
And the pearly argonauts on the surface swaw
Felt nae reeshle o the steir ava.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 140:
'I thocht she was a tourist.'
'No. She's a fine ain. I've been speaking to her at the post office twa or three times.'
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 32:
There's twaa wyes o kennin -
Wi yer heid, yer rizzon an muckle respec
For the weel-stored min'; ...
Sth. 1996 Gordon Stewart in Timothy Neat The Summer Walkers: Travelling People and Pearl-Fishers in the Highlands of Scotland 99:
'Keep them,' he'd say, 'spotless - for a day or two,' the horses he meant - 'with clean bedding and good food, they'll be right as rain in a day or twa!'
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 17:
At Jan Palak Square
A mindit on oor ain martyrs,
A thoosan mile awa.
Twa wummin, young an auld
Droont ower the heid o releegion
In Covenantin times.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) twa-beast, used attrib., drawn by a pair of horses, of a plough, swingle-tree, etc. (Ork. 1825 Jam., twa-beast-tree, Ork. 1973); (2) twa-bedded, having two beds, twin-bedded (Sh., Ags. 1973); (3) twa-biggin, a long building consisting of two farm houses with their stables, etc., built end to end; (4) two-built house, id.; (5) twa-cord, of a rope: consisting of two strands, two-ply (I.Sc. 1973); (6) twa-eyed (beef)-steak, a jocular name for a herring or kipper (Uls. 1886 Patterson Gl.; Cai., Bnff., Per. 1973); ¶(7) twa-face, v., to cheat, deceive; (8) twa-fanglet, indecisive, unable to make one's mind up (Mry., Bnff., Abd. 1973); (9) twa-faul(d), -fad, (i) in phr. to fa twa fauld, of a woman: to be delivered of a child (Abd. 1916 T.S.D.C. II. 47). See Fa, v., 9.; (ii) adv., in two folds, bent double, freq. of persons bowed with age or infirmity (Sc. 1808 Jam.; I., n.Sc., em.Sc. (a), Lnl., Ayr. 1973); (iii) adj., deceitful, two-faced (Abd. 1925; ne.Sc. 1973); (10) twa-hand barrow, a litter carried by two men. one in front and one behind. See Hand, n., 9. (3); (11) twa-hand crack, a conversation between two, tête-à-tête. See (12)(i); (12) twa-han(d)it, with both hands in use, deft, dexterous, efficient (Cai. 1973); in combs. (i) twa-han(d)it crack, = (11) (Sc. 1808 Jam.; em.Sc.(a), Dmb., Ayr.1973); (ii) twa-han(d)it work, work so badly performed that it has to be done over again (Sc. 1825 Jam.; I.Sc., Abd., Ags., Fif. 1973); (13) twa-horse ferm (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 201; Ork., Ags., Per. 1973), -place (ne.Sc. 1973), a farm requiring only two horses to work it; (14) twa-horse tree, the swingle-tree of a two-horse plough (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ork. 1973); (15) twa-horse wark, = (13); (16) twa-lofted, of a house: three-storied; †(17) twae-man-rank, two by two, two abreast; (18) twae-mask, the parts of a herring-net attached to the upper and lower ropes and made of double mesh to give added strength (Bwk. 1973). See Mask, n.2, and Gaird, v., 3.; (19) twa pair, used attrib. of a farm: worked by two pair of horses, two-plough (Ork., Cai., ne.Sc. 1973); (20) twa pa(i)rt, -pert, twappirt, n. and adv., two thirds (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., Abd., Lnk., Wgt. 1973). Phr. the twa part and third, two thirds and the remaining one (Sc. Ib.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 446); (21) twa-shillinie, adj., of a concert singer whose voice is thin and not strong enough to carry beyond the front (orig. two-shilling) seats in the audience (Per. 1949), used jocularly; (22) twa-skippet, of a man's cap or hat: having two peaks, one in front and one behind, “fore-and-aft” (Per., Fif., Lnl., wm. Sc. 1973). See Scuip, n., 4.; (23) twa-snooted, id. (ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Bwk. 1973). Hence twa-snooter, a cap of this sort, a deerstalker hat (Ags. 1973). See Snout, 2.; (24) twa-spitch, v., to dig soil two spade-depths, to trench ground (Wgt. 1905 E.D.D.); (25) twa taes, in phr. to show twa taes, of grain: to germinate, sprout (Ork. 1973); (26) twa three, -thry, twae(t)hree, -hrei (s.Sc.) tware(e), -r(r)ie, twaeree, and, after Eng., twa(a)rthre(e), twartree, -trie (I.Sc.), tworee (Arg.), two or three, an unspecified few, several (Sc. 1825 Jam., twa three, twarrie, twaeree; Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 512, tw'artree; Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 39; Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 127; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Cai. 1917 J. Mowat Cai. Proverbs 6; Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 213, two-ree; Rxb. 1925 Kelso Chronicle (27 March) 2, twarie; Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (14 Jan.), twarthre; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein, twaeree; Rxb. 1942 Zai, twaethree, -hrei, twaeree), twarthae, sometimes construed as a n. (ne.Sc. 1973). See II. 1. (10) below. Gen.Sc. [′twɑθri, -çri, s.Sc. + -çrei, m.Sc. + ′twɑri, s.Sc. ′tweri]; (27) twa year'l, -yerild, Sc. forms of Eng. two-year-old, n. and adj. (I.Sc. 1973).(1) Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 107:
There was the “ae-baste pleugh,” the “twa-baste pleugh,” and the “fower-baste pleugh.”
(2) Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 16:
In the twae-bedded room the weans are up.
(3) Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 323:
Dis neebar an' Willick hid been brou't ap i' a twabiggin'.
Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 222:
The house was what was known as a “twa bigging”, that was two houses built together, where the farms were intermixed.
(4) Ork. 1911 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 17:
In Costa there is still a very good example of a two-built house, a farm steading occupied by two families about 100 years ago . . . forming one long stretch over 143 ft. long by 13 ft. 6 ins. wide.
Ork. 1924 P. Ork. A.S. II. 38:
In a twa-built hoose in Rousay there was a peerie boy that had to gang from the wan hoose to the ither every night.
(5) Sh. 1898 Shetland News (11 June):
William is wantin' da tows laid tre'cord. He says dey'll no haud a ook if he mak's dem twa-cord.
(6) Edb. 1906 V. Spiganovicz Night Life 68:
“A two-eyed steak?” “Aye, ye ken a kippered herrin's got twa een.”
(7) Bnff. 1907 Bnff. Jnl. (13 Oct. 1953):
I'm nae gyaun tae twa-face 'er, onywye.
(9) (ii) Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis s.v. Doublit:
In Scotland we say of persons “dying or swooning, whose members are not able to support themselves”, that they fell twofold.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 76:
Before auld age your vitals nip, And lay ye twafald o'er a rung.
Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 211:
In this country, where everybody, from their want of stays, goes two-fold.
Ayr. 1787 Burns To Daunton Me v.:
He hirples twa-fauld as he dow.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales (1874) 266:
A human figure tottered in, leaning two-fold over a staff.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 106:
I'm ga'in twa-faald wi' age, an' roomatics.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 61:
He wes bent twa fad.
Bnff. 1966 Banffshire Advert. (8 Dec.):
Like an old man, bent twa faul.
(iii) Sc. 1791 R. Cumming Willie and Jamie 11:
He downa bide nae mean or twafauld art.
(10) Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 45:
Thither on a twa-han' barrow Luckless Tammie Tod was borne.
(11) Sc. 1834 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) IV. 205:
He's the grandest companion I ken at a twa-haun crack.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 71:
Tie ye tae a twa-han' crack, an' spier ye whit ye mean.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 32:
Wi' noo an' then a social dram Or twa-haund crack atween.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 53:
Sae taen up were they wi' twa-hand crack.
(12) wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 305:
I could not but admire the twa handed way in whilk the milk of charity was squeezed frae the human heart.
(i) Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xv.:
To begin a twa-handed crack with him.
Gsw. 1863 W. Miller Nursery Songs 68:
At a twa-handed crack o'er some kittle laid plan.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xix.:
Sit ye down here and let us have a two-handed crack.
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 289:
Meetin' there wi' some cronies in a twa-handit crack.
Abd. 1928 Abd. Book-Lover VI. i. 13:
Eident aye still he'll manage a twa hannit crack.
(ii) Bnff. 1930:
He didna plan richt at the beginnin', an' ga' himsel' twa-han'it wark.
(13) Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 223:
A twa horse fairm.
(14) Rxb. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 50:
The plough is drawn by a strong stretcher, commonly called a two-horse-tree, with an iron staple in the middle.
(15) Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 51:
A twa-horse wark, maybe? or dae ye make it oot wi' ae beast an' an owse?
(16) Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiv.:
Folk are far frae respecting me as they wad do if I lived in a twa-lofted sclated house.
(17) s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 174:
They gaed yont the toon-gate twae-man-rank.
(19) Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 77:
Tam entered on a “tack” of Skirfauls, “a twa-pair toon.”
(20) Gall. 1796 J. Lauderdale Poems 88:
The twa-part didna ken o't.
Sc. 1805 Young Allan in Child Ballads No. 245 A. xx.:
He's gett the twa part of my goud, The therd part of my lan.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (20 Jan.):
I ran da gless twappirt.
Sh. 1931 Manson's Almanac 195:
Axin fur a tumbler, I filt it twapert.
(22) Gsw. 1883 W. Thomson Leddy May 152:
Hoo I wished for ma twa-skippet bannet jist then.
(23) Ags. 1891 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) XIV. 181:
I clapt on my twa-snooter.
Abd. 1936 J. H. White England have my Bones 56:
The twa-snooted bonnet protects both quarters, besides having two admirable flaps with which it is possible to comfort the ears in a snowstorm.
(25) Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. IV. i. 35:
To germinate or “show twa-taes” — the common phrase applied to the appearance of the plumule and radicle.
(26) Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair ix.:
Racer Jess, an' twa-three whores.
Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 8:
O' blankets he had twa'r three pair.
Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St. Patrick I. xi.:
The burning o' the twae'ree tents.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 140:
Some twa-three bumpers they might ply.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 24:
A dresser, table, twa'ree chairs.
Mry. 1865 W. H. Tester Poems, 80, 113:
Some twa-three mair o's . . . Geordie Robb, an' ither twa-three mair.
Rxb. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 186:
They waste twae-three chappins o' 'ream i' their tea.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sketches 100:
He daundered doon wi' twa-three mair.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 3:
Rin dee wis oot, jewel, an' bring maamie in twartree paets.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 19:
Twae-three men frae Kippenshiel.
Ork. 1919 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 77:
Gaen da boy twa-r-tree mens wark tae deu.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 25:
"Hugh said they wid be safe here for twa-three days like they usually are, but somebody'll tell't the gauger there's kegs here somewheres at the mill."
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 9:
Haud on brother - Since Ah've been away, Dorine,
Tell me, the last twa-three days, how's everybody
Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 30:
The son brak out in lauchter:
"There's a twa-three chiel at the inn
Can mak a hantle o siller
An'll show me hou it's duin!"
ne.Sc. 1992 Press and Journal 19 Dec 4:
... she's eaten nithing bit beans and lentils and bran for twa-three year noo. ...
Uls. 1993:
Fetch me twarthae more potatoes.
Sh. 1994 Laureen Johnson in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 165:
I kent ower weel what her airrand wid be. Shö wid be reddin up her faimily tree. I aye get twartree o dem every simmer.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 14:
Anither John thinks colour blue,
is jist the hue for pentin
thon gas-works hulk.
Its roostit bulk
needs twa-three penters sent in.
(27) wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 14:
A twa year'l quey frae Aberdour.
Sh. 1923 Shetlander No. 3. 2:
Flauchtin a aer o' oo' aff da catmuggit twayerild hug ta fit me bits o' socks.

II. n. 1. As in Eng. Sc. phrs., combs. and derivs.: (1) a twa, in two, in twain. Cf. Eng. a two, used id. arch.; (2) baith the twae, both, ony o' the twa(e), either, nane o' the twa(e), neither (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc.; (3) to be at twa, to be at variance, in disagreement. Also in Eng. dial.; (4) twa and a plack, see Plack, 4. (12); (5) twa and twae, non-committal, cautious; (6) twaerie, twoerie, a nonce form of two used in a children's counting-out rhyme (Edb. c.1845 Rymour Club Misc. (1911) I. 164); (7) twaeock, tweck, in the game of Buttony: one of the larger size of buttons which counted as two in calculating the score (Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Ags., Slg. 1973); in pl. twecks, twex, the game itself (Ags. 1964). See also Mite, n., 3. (3). For the form see -Ock, suff., II.; (8) two's ammel, the main swingle-tree of a plough to which the smaller ones for either horse are attached (Cai. 1905 E.D.D., Cai. 1973); (9) twasome, -sum, see Twasome, n., adj., adv.; (10) twa-three, a few, construed as a n. with indef. art. and suppression of o before the noun qualified. Cf. I. 1. (26) above and O, prep., 1. (5).(1) Per. 1816 J. Duff Poems 10:
Sorrow brak her neck a twa.
(2) Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 65:
A Lord, a Duke, or baith the twa.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 183:
I ken whether it's gude, bad, or middlin — if ony o' the twa last. . .
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 38:
The wife o' Muckle Whitfield Is good at baith the twae.
Per. 1891 R. Ford Thistledown 278:
A woman that isna a drap's bluid to ony o' the twa o' us.
Sc. 1935 D. Rorie Lum Hat 46:
You an' yer fit! Baith the twa o' them!
(3) Abd. 1879 G. MacDonald Sir Gibbie xxvii.:
The Maister cam to mak aye ane o' them 'at was at twa.
(5) Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail lxxxvi.:
The canny twa and twae toun of Aberdeen-awa.
(6) Lth. 1825 Jam.:
One-erie, two-erie, tickerie, seven.
Sh. 1937 J. Nicolson Restin' Chair Yarns 94:
Eeneri twaeri tukkeri seven. Eeneri twaeri zistery zan.
(7) Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 179:
A boy's collection of “Mites” was estimated in twos and called “Twecks.”
Ags. 1964 Dundee Courier (24 June):
A box o' buttons ca'd twex and mites.
Ags. 1972:
The game is called twecks or mites and is played with buttons which are called the twecks or mites. Each boy throws his buttons at a target and the possessor of the button which lands nearest picks them all up, arranges them on the palm of his hand, throws them up, bounces them off the back of his hand and tries to catch them again. He keeps those he catches; the boy in second place then does the same with the dropped ones, and so on.
Dundee 1987 Norman Lynn Row Laddie Sixty Years On 57-8:
The button currency with which the school-ager gambled consisted of 'Twecks and Mites'. Mite the smaller counted as one, while the tweck might be of different values, acording to size and ornamentation.
(10) Bwk. 1801 “Bwk. Sandie” Poems 81:
A twathree lines ye may direct To Sandie i' The Merse.
Abd. 1861 J. Davidson Poems 98:
At ane a twathree nichts ago.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Frae the Heather 74:
A frugal wife in the lane wild glen. And bairns a gey twa-three.
Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 334:
I must put in a two-three hours the night on the weeds.
Sh. 1952 New Shetlander No. 31. 6:
A braa twartree baets a gloy.
Arg. 1952 N. Mitchison Lobsters on the Agenda vi.:
A two-three from up the Glen.

2. A pair, a couple.Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 40:
Her ownsell chose him, Livingston, They were a comely tway.
Abd. 1893 G. MacDonald Sc. Songs 1:
What can be the matter wi siccan a twae?

[O.Sc. twa, tway, a.1400, twa part, 1375, twa thre, 1557, the retention of orig. a [ɑ] is due to the previous w which has in some dialects prevented fronting to [e:]. Cf. Wha, whae and P.L.D. § 94.]

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"Twa num. adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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