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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1951 (DOST Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Foul, Fowl, adj. Also: ful(e, foule, foull, fouyl; fowle, fowll, fowill. [ME. fowl(e, foul(e, ful(e, OE. fúl, ON. fúl-, fúll.].

1. Loathsome, repulsive, very ugly or unclean, filthy, in bad condition.(a) a1400 Leg. S. ix. 224.
His handis … Bundyne with chenȝeis of fule mak; The angel sad to the ful thynge [etc.]
Ib. xii. 445.
The feynd … grynnand one hyme, mad fule bere
c1500 Rowll Cursing 232.
Feyndis … With full berdis blasand in the wind
1562 Aberd. Eccles. Rec. 12.
To be tene to the deipist and fullest pule or wattir … thair to be thryse douckit
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii. 60.
Fule swine, or corrupted salmon, sould not be sauld
(b) 1375 Barb. v. 404.
A foull mellé thair can he mak
a1400 Leg. S. ii. 774.
Than his master askit he, Quhar-for his birth wes sa wile, Sa foule, and sa horribyle
c1420 Wynt. v. 3376.
For the stynk off his foule gare Mony … to ded brystyd
1456 Hay II. 134/32.
[To] slepe on hard bedding in foule clathis
Ib. 135/35.
Bathing in evill or foull wateris
c1475 Wall. ii. 337.
A rousty swerd … Thocht it was foule, nobyll it was of steyll
Ib. vii. 456.
The reik … , rycht foull off offensioune
a1508 Kennedy Flyting 449.
Into the Katryne thou maid a foull cahute
1558 Inverness B. Rec. I. 16.
Ane roud of land … on the est syd of the Foull Doub, … and Finlay Donaldsonis berne … lyand sydlingis to the said Foull Poull
a1605 Montg. Son. xxviii. 8.
Scho clambe on him with hir foull clubbit feit
1626 M. Works Acc. XIX. 7.
For ane pund of foull butter to the quheill wrichtis
1687 New Mills Manuf. 152.
He is to have two pence for the score of irone pounds foull wool
(c) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 770.
A fowle padow … that wes laythe to se
c1450-2 Howlat 101.
I come to speir … Quhy I am formed so fowle
a1500 Henr. III. 157/43.
This question, … Quha was farest, or fowlest, of us thre
1513 Doug. vi. iv. 6.
A hieduus hoill, … With a fowle layk, als blak as ony craw
1564 Reg. Privy. C. I. 297.
To be tane to the depast and fowlest pule of wattir of the toun … , thair to be thryse dowkit
1611-57 Mure Dido iii. 102.
Conjuring … the fowle thre headed Hecate from hell
1642 Stirling Merch. Guild 58.
Butter, ayther fresh or salt, fowl or clein
fig. 1650 Strathbogie Presb. 154.
George Robertsone had said he sould cause that lowne the minister haue a fowll face

b. Of land: Overrun with weeds. Also fig. unsafe for travel. 1473 Reg. Cupar A. I. 176.
Thar land at is foule, tha sal mak labur with diligent cwre to clenge it
Ib. 177.
Guldy placis at ar fouyl tha sal labour to clenge
1592 Reg. Privy C. IV. 821.
Schawing [him] … that thair wes forceis cumand to tak him and that the feildis wer fowill before

c. Of weather: Wet, rainy, stormy. 1549 Compl. 56/27.
Tempest, stormis, fayr veddir, foul veddir
1619 M. Works Acc. XV. ii. 76 b.
For four horsis supperis that nycht becaus it wes foull
1630 Kirkcaldy Presb. 35.
Absent in respect of the fowl wether

d. Infected with plague; dealing with infected persons or places. Also the foul ill, the falling sickness.(1) 1560 Rolland Seven S. 1192.
The foull ill tak hir
Ib. 2613.
The foull ill hir betide
(2) 1585 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 430.
That all the fowle lugeis, fowle folk, and fowle geir be placeit be eist the greitt fowle luge
1587 Ib. 506.
The said thesaurer … to mak the lugeis for the fowle clengeris, buriers and pvre
1645 S. Leith Rec. 59.
Thei had choysine David Stoup constant on-waiter upon the foul cleansers
1646 Glasgow B. Rec. II. 101.
The mwir quher the foull persounes are
1647 Ib. 119.
Thomas Stewart … to goe and cleange the rest of the foule houssis
1690 McNab Hist. Glasgow Gardeners (1903) 5.
John Woddrow ... was infected with the plague and sent to the foull moor, where he was cleansed

2. Vile in some respect; detestable, depraved. a. Of persons. a1400 Leg. S. xviii. 645.
I … That am sa fule be-in & owt
c1420 Wynt. v. 3376.
All thus The end fell off foule Arryus
Ib. 5262.
Foule wreche, quhat is that for thé
1456 Hay I. 28/31.
Thai … ar als foule in the dede as he him selfe
a1500 Rauf C. 892.
I rid that thow … forsaik thy Mahoun; Fy on that foull feind!
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxvi. 14. Ib. 93, 95.
With that the fowll sevin deidly synnis Begowth to leip at anis

b. Of character, appetites, or actions.(a) a1400 Leg. S. x. 372.
He are worth to bryn in fyr, That that did foreful desyre
Ib. xxxiii. 121.
That scho do nocht sa fule a dede
c1420 Wynt. ii. 1411.
[To] ly with thame in ful delite, That thai mycht stanche thair appetit
1535 Stewart 29109.
And speciallie and vice did in him ring, … Fuill arrosie, as that my author writis
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 221.
Scho vmbethocht hyre … , That it a foule fandynge was
c1420 Wynt. iv. 173.
Swa chartyid he suld be Fra foule lust and inquyte
1456 Hay II. 65/27.
Foule and vilaynus speche fylis the mouth of a noble knycht
1490 Irland Mir. I. 54/30.
Out of a foule conscience procedis all euill syn and wykit werkis
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1237.
Quhose foull abhominatioun … I thynk gret schame to putt in wryte
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1279.
On foull badrie his minde was onlie set
1594 Reg. Privy C. V. 173.
Preasing his Majestie … to capitulat with him in materis maist foule and ignominious
1603 Philotus lxxxiii.
I sall hir ane exampill mak, … For to commit sa foull ane fack
(c) a1500 Henr. Orph. 323 (A).
He fand … Antiochus thar for his fowle incest
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlix. 8.
The falt [of treason] sa filthy is and fowle
1513 Doug. iv. Prol. 113.
Thare beyn twa luffis, … That ane leful, the tother fowle delyte
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2666.
Committand thare fowll fornication
1574 Reg. Privy C. II. 420.
The cryme being sa fowll and odious

c. abject, degrading, discreditable. 1375 Barb. i. 235.
He … May nocht knaw weill … the wrechyt dome, That is cowplyt to foule thyrldome
Ib. ix. 273.
Fell neuir men so foull myschans Eftir so sturdy cuntynans
c1420 Wynt. i. 498.
Off Came … Come serwytwde and foule threllage
Ib. v. 1021.
Thare him fell a foule endyng
?1438 Alex. ii. 1485.
‘Fy!’ said Clarus, ‘of that foull lyfe. Thair sall nane … Call me flear’

3. Guilty of an offence 14.. Acts I. 70/2.
Gif the defendour be foul, thar sal be done on hym rychtuis dome
1456 Hay I. 134/31.
The … purpos in mysdedis makis the man foule or clene
a1500 Doug. K. Hart 622.
Mak answer now, … Ȝour self excuse and mad ȝow foule or clene
1574–5 Prestwick B. Rec. 75.
Quhill he be owder maid clene or fowll of the crymes
1582 Reg. Privy C. III. 621.
Quhairthrow the persones … foull of the bill may be triit and mail answerable
1597 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 178.
To remayne [in ward] … quhill thai be tryet fowle or clene of the commotioun and truble

b. Foull hand, participation in a raid 1589 Reg. Privy C. IV. 357.
Giff ony brokin men of that surename … passis with thair fang and foull have to the montanis

4. In the imprecation foul fall, etc. (Cf. Fall v. 6.b.) ?1438 Alex. i. 477.
Foule him befall That recryand will nocht me call
c1475 Wall. i. 430.
Foule mot ȝow fall
a1500 Seven S. 2073.
Fair on, foull mot thé fall
c1500-c1512 Dunbar Flyt. 246.
Fowll fell thé
c1530-40 Stewart Maitl. F. lxxxii. 36.
Foull fall the frost that evir it fell
1572 Sat. P. xxxi. 27.
Foull fall thame hes the wyte
a1585 Polwart Flyt 771 (T).
Foul fall thy banis

b. Used as a negative. Cf. Fende n. 3. a1682 F. Semple Banishm. Poverty xxvii in Watson's Coll.i. 14.
I … stour'd to Leith To try my credit at the wine, But foul a dribble fyld my teeth

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"Foul adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Dec 2023 <>



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