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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Sow, n.1 Also: sowe, schow, soow, sou, sw, so, sew, souch. [ME and e.m.E. suwe (Ancr. R.), souwe (c1290), sowe (1297), soowe (Chaucer), sew (c1440), sow (1522), soo (1561), OE suᵹu, ON sýr (acc. ).]

I. 1. A sow, a female pig. Also with various qualifying terms.See also Brodsow n.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxx 614.
The mylk of sowis has he tane … & thar-of fede the teyndir thing
a1500 Henr. Fab. 146 (Makc.).
A sow to quhome men for the nonys In hir draff trowch wald saw the precius stonys
a1500 Henr. III 151/37.
The count of ane sow kis Is nocht bettir I wis for the collik
1490–1 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 59.
The lokman, quhaireuir he fyndis any swyne betuix the Castell and the Netherbow … that he tak of euery sow to his fie iiij d.
1522 Stirling B. Rec. I 17.
Ane kow and ane sowe that war commoun dik brekaris
1526 Treas. Acc. V 275.
Till ane puyr wyf for the slauchter of ane sowe xx s.
1531 Bell. Boece II 512.
Ane sow had hir litter with dog heidis
c1540 Lynd. Syde Taillis 106.
The turcumis of hir taill … Mycht be ane supper till ane sow [: trow]
1569 Canongate Ct. Bk. 129.
Foure pundis vj s. ij d. … restand awand be … James to the said Johnne for ane sow
1617 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. II 218.
The wrangous slaying and stiking of tua suyne and ane sow
1714 Household Bk. Gr. Baillie 91.
To the English butcher for making a sow in hambs
(b) 1517 Wigtown B. Ct. 62b.
1518 Wigtown B. Ct. 80b.
For the vrangus slaing of ane schow with ix gris on the hee gait
(c) c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2381.
[Prayers] To Sanct Anthony to saif the soow
(d) 1531 Wigtown B. Ct. 259a.
A galt & a sw
(e) 1658 Edinb. Test. LXIX 131.
Ane sou with tuo grysses
1670 Corshill Baron Ct. 94.
For witholdin from him tuo shilling quhairoff for ane soues grasse
(2) a1500 Colk. Sow i 281.
A flekkit sowis skyn faw
1513 Doug. viii ii 35.
A mylk quhite sow within the woddis lay
15.. Lord Fergus' Gaist 39.
The taill of ane ȝeild sow

b. A boar.Used once in Dalr. to translate Latin sus which is not gender specific. 1596 Dalr. I 123/11.
Gif a sou eit his ȝoung, stane him, and eit nocht his flesche

c. attrib. and comb. Sow-libbar, one who spays sows, a sow-gelder; also, as a term of abuse. 1524 Wigtown B. Ct. 151b.
ii ss for half ane lym of so baikoun
1463 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 286.
De illis duobus croftis … vno videlicet ly sowcroft vocato
1599 Aberd. B. Rec. II 187.
The said gett … was nidderit on bayth the syddis therof be William Skene and his tenentis of the Sow croft adiacent thairto
1589 Burntisland B. Ct. 4 Nov.
Misscallinge off the saidis bailleis … callinge sowlibbaris onwirdie off thair officis
16… Blythsome Wedding in Sempill P. 68/22.
And there will be Sow-libber Peatie

d. ? A sow as depicted on a playing card or ? from F. sceau (a seal) and = Sele n.2 in the same sense. Cf. Selch n. 2. 1597 Edinb. Test. XXXI 176.
Tua dussone cairtis of the sow and the seill price thairof xl s.

2. Applied to a person, as a term of abuse.Cf. sow-libber in 1 c above. a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 321.
Insensuate sow, cesse, false Eustase air
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 460.
c1568 Lauder Minor P. ii 9.
Now euerie fat sow feidis ane vther, And few hes pitie on the pure
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 741 (H).
Tout mowe, woodie sow, sone bowe or I wand thee
16 … Blythsome Wedding in Sempill P. 68/29.
And there will be … Kirstie, that belly-god sow

3. proverb., and in various pejorative similes and figurative expressions.(1) 1562-3 Winȝet I 97 marg.
The commoun prouerb is ouer trew, Lat the sow put in ane fute, &c.
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 537.
It is as meit as a sow to bear a sadle
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 193.
A brousters sw a cotters kw will never be fw
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 195.
A sukin sw wald have manie syndings
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 222.
As the sw fils the draf soures
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1066.
Litle wat the fow sw that lyis in the sty quhat the hungrie misters that gais her by
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1757.
Ye are sa neisewise ye were gude to be a brousters sw
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 152/68.
Sweirnes … Come lyk a sow out of a midding, Full slepy wes his grunȝie
1535 Stewart 39554.
So did thay all [drink] quhill tha war als bout fow, And also slepie, as wes ony sow
1540 Lynd. Sat. 1313 (B).
Or ȝe cum hame … He salbe druckin lyk a sow
1540 Lynd. Sat. 1956 (Ch.).
I wil not gif for al ȝour play worth an sowis fart
a1570-86 Maitl. F. 245/25.
Scho luikis doun oft ay lyk ane sow And will nocht speik quhen I cum in
1606 Rollock's Thess. 9.
Wilt thou neuer be a citizen of heaven, expecting for the glorious comming of Christ, but ay ly as a sowe muzling and grountling vpon the earth?

II. 4. A wooden siege-machine mounted on wheels and with a strong roof, providing protection for fighting men or pioneers.The quots. Liber Plusc. 285 and Bann. Memor. 41 involve puns on 1 above. 1375 Barb. xvii 597.
Off gret gestis a sow thai maid That stalwart heildyne abon it had with armyt men inew tharin
1375 Barb. xvii 621.
And gyff the sow come to the wall To lat it brynnand on hyr fall
1453 Exch. R. V 606.
Pro factura instrumenti, le sow nuncupati, ordinati pro obsidione domus de Haltoun
1460 Hay Alex. 4882.
Sum sett to sowis for to saue the mynouris
1461 Liber Plusc. I 285.
Quod videns Blac Annes, dixit … : ‘Montagu, for al the power that thou may or lang time by pas I sal ger thi sow fery agayn hir wil’
c1475 Wall. viii 775.
The Inglismen … Wp pyk and ter on feyll sowys thai lent
a1500 K. Hart 858.
The castell all about He seigit fast with mony sow and gyne
1533 Boece 509.
Maist parte of the barmkin be assaltis of the ingyne callit the sow, was sloppit & brocht to grund
1533 Bell. Livy II 147/33.
Quhat sal I speik of [the] towris, sowis, braid targis, and other sindri ingynis that thai maid to wyn the toun?
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 41.
The Hammiltounes dissolued the seige and left thair sowe, prepaired for vndermynding, eating draff behind thame
1572–3 Treas. Acc. XII 339.
For preparatioun and making of ane sow of tymmer to the trinchis vij dosane daillis
1668 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 28 (21 July).
Towards threttie or fourtie of the saidis persons with swords pistols … sows and uther bellicall and hostile armes

III. 5. A large mass or block of solidified metal from a furnace.Cf. Sow-iron n. 1644–5 Dumbarton Common Gd. Acc. 137.
Ane sow of leid weyand [etc.]
1651 Falkirk Baron Ct. 2 Dec.
He and the said Patrick Guidlett did cutt ane mykill sew of leide in four peiceis

6. A haystack. 1659 A. Hay Diary 155.
My whole hey was a great ruck of the Lawes meadow, and 3 litle rucks … all which I did put in one sow in the yaird this day

7. Appar., a measure or weight of unknown proportions. 1563 Dumfries B. Ct. fol. 180b.
The complaint … be Adam Raa tuixand tua sowis of salt
1597 Edinb. Test. XXX 219.
Ten sowis of quhyt buistis at viij s. the sow

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"Sow n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Dec 2023 <>



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