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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
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Loun, Lown, n., (a.). Also: loune, lowne, lowen(e, lound, lune, loon(e. [Late north. ME. (c 1450) lowen (rh. chenoun) worthless person, prob. (though this is recorded only later) e.m.Du. loen (1544–17th c.) homo stupidus, bardus, insulsus (Kilian), un lourdaut, mome, bardus, plumbeus homo, vastus atque agrestis, idiota (Plantijn), and cf. also Du. loen (1642– ) trick, dodge, deceit.The Du. word is appar. conn. with Du. loensch squinting, crafty (cf. mod. Fris. lúmsk, ON. lymsk-r, Norw. dial. lynsk, crafty).Also in mod. Sc., north. and north midl. Eng. dial. as loon, loun, lown, in various senses.Cf. also e.m.E. lowne (Barclay, 1514, also Marlowe, Shakespeare, etc.) and e.m.E. and mod. lit. Eng. loon (Shakespeare, etc.), worthless person, rogue, boor, lout, clown, ? as an adoption f. Scots or north. Eng. or (as with Shakespeare) Warwicksh. dialect.]

1. a. A fellow of the lower orders.: a low fellow, one of the riff-raff, a ragamuffin, a rough; a rascally or ruffianly servant, a groom, menial, varlet.Also freq. coupled with, or opposed to, lad [Lad n. 1 and 3], laird [Lard n.1 3 c (2)] and lord. See these words, and also Forlane ppl. a. b and Ladry n. b, for further examples. a1500 Colk. Sow i. 349.
Mony laddis, mony lownis, Knowf knois kynnis [? Knawis kuoistrynnis] culrownis
a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 485.
Fra honest folk deuoide this lathly loun In sum desert
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 328.
Than I him lichtlyit as a lowne & lathit his maneris
1531 Bell. Boece (M) I. 101. 1533 Boece ii. x. 78, Ib. vi. i. 185.
[He] … repudiat the quene Agasia … cawsing hir … be prostitute and defoulit be his vicios lownys
Ib. xi. vi. 415 b.
Madynnys … be courticianis, syne be thare lownys and sclaiffis thai war abusit
1535 Stewart 1557.
Thus for ane loun than lichlyit is ane lord
Ib. 37775.
The best of thame durst skantlie tell his taill To the leist loun that wes in all the land, Bot gif he … call him schir
a1538 Abell 24 b.
He excludit fra him the nobillis of the land and maid to him familiaris lownis and custronys
c1536 Lynd. Compl. Bagsche 23.
For Bawte now … lyis on the Kingis nycht goun, Quhare I perforce for my offence Man in the clois ly lyke ane loun
a 1568 Sempill Sat. P. xlviii. 8. a1585 Maitl. Q. lx. 49.
With thowsandis mo of lordis and lounis Of that vngratious natioun bred
a1578 Pitsc. II. 9/23.
That it was bot fallowis and lownis and onhonest smaikis that knew nocht quhat thay did, for the honest men and weomen of the towne [etc.]
1583 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 980.
Gud Clemet Marit had a lowne, A knaif that cumbart all the towne With spreitis employed to everie vice
Ib. Pref. 132. c1590 J. Stewart II. 83/137. 1603 Philotus 129.
Ȝe neyther mell with lad nor loun. Bot with the best in all this toun
1611 (16..) J. Melvill Black Bastel 8/2 in Fugitive Poetry I.
That lownes are now made lords my heart it galls
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1498.
There is not a lordlier corpsful nor a loun upon his maisters horse
1622 Pope's New Year Gift.
And Leo pope With scurvie lownes did goe
? 16.. Captain Car A xiii, in F. J. Child Ballads III. (1956 repr.) 430/2.
‘[I will] not geue ouer my hous,’ she saithe, ‘Netheir for lord nor lowne’
1638 Bk. Pasquils 43. 1655 Fugitive Poetry II. xxviii. 110.
Both King and mair and loune
a 1706 Mare of Colinton i. 63.
I had not then with every lown Been bladded frae town to town

b. A dishonest, cheating or lying rascal; a rogue, knave, cheat or trickster. 1511 Glasgow Dioc. Reg. II. 430.
Master William Broun is ane fals manesuorne lown
1540 Lynd. Sat. 2071.
Martin Luther that fals loun
Ib. 2449, 3631. a1568 Pedder C. 6. a1578 Pitsc. I. 85/32.
Ane idill loune that he had no wther scheift to conqueis his leving bot waine trattillis
1582 Cal. Sc. P. VI. 146.
And that fast lowene Cronell Stwart is the holl interpryser of it
1583 Lanark B. Rec. 89.
Quha said thairefter I leid lyk ane fals loun and blutter cairllin
1583 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 808, 810.
My lord, I kend yone lowne in Parise, … Ane condigne doctour to all lownes
Ib. 130. c1590 J. Stewart II. 226 § 105.
Fraud … Vith subtile luik low louring lyk ane loune
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xxxiii. 36.
Let not sik louns with leasings ȝou allure
1587 Moysie Mem. 64.
This loune [sc. ane Inglischeman sent … to poysoun his hienes] wes examinat be the King and confest
a1599 Rollock Wks. I. 409.
Bot quhat suld be with ane deceiving lown that begins to bring the truth in sclander
Ib. II. 65.
There is the louns' religion. I pronounce that in popedom there is but a show of godliness
Ib. 133. 1603 Shetland Sheriff Ct. MS. 85 b.
Calling him ane skolk quhilk is said to be ane loun or ane dissaver
1604-31 Craig vi. 5/18. c1610 Melville Mem. 13. 1619 Sel. Biog. I. 81.
The bishops … gave place to elder and wiser breithren, but, lowns! they never thought a word thereof. They entered like tods and false foxes
1622 Pope's New-Year Gift. 1630 Rutherford Christ & Doves 24. Id. Christs Napkin 5. 1642 The Scots Scouts Discovered 5.
Row Red-Shankes Serm. 2. [At] Basing-stoke … a lordly lowne sware me out of ten shillings with his merry conceits of questions and answers
a1650 Row 419.
For if ye sett up ten or twelve louns over honest men's heads (for honest men will not have your antichristian prelacie), etc.
c1650 Spalding I. 293.
Thir lounes cumis, with six creillis on thair bakis, and beginnis to fill thame up with salmound takin the nicht befoir
a1665 W. Guthrie Lett. Horning 9. 1665 Dunkeld Presb. II. 62.
That I knew the airt of the physiognome of a loun, for ye know that a guiltie conscience bleaks the selfe of it
1665 Lauder Jrnl. 39. a1689 Cleland 103. 1686 G. Stuart Joco-Ser. Disc. 28. 1680 Bonckle Kirk S. 58. (?a1500 Steel) Roy Robert (1700) p. 122.
Nor never stranger weer'd our crown Except of late a mansworn lowne, … John Balion
 Ray A Collection of English Words (London 1691) 47.
A lown or loon, the same with a lout, or more general for an ill-conditioned person. The Scots say, a fausse, i.e. false loon
? a 1700 Edinb. Biblio. Soc. Trans. III. 293.
The Kirks gaing down Make room for a loun, John Paterson's mare gangs foremost

c. A lawless or violent scoundrel, a ruffian; a malefactor, cut-throat, robber, pirate. 1535 Stewart 38605.
Sueno … Ane greit navin of mony loun full large … Furth of Denmark he furneist for till go
Ib. 45689.
That tyme ilkone till him did draw, Forloppin lownis that durst not bide the law
Ib. 51576. 1567 Sat. P. vii. 119.
The nobillis sould nether of thir enduire, That lowne [sc. Bothwell] to leif, nor hir [sc. Queen Mary] to be his huire
1570 Ib. xii. 4.
[Moray] Quha lost his lyfe in Lythquo with ane loun … Feit be our fais
Ib. xviii. 35. 1573 Sempill Ib. xxxix. 301.
To puneis lounes that hes ourlaid this land By murthour
1585–6 Cal. Sc. P. VIII. 252.
The bill of names … of persons suspected of the slaughter I delivered to the King; In good faith, said he, lownes all
1597 Warrender P. II. 354.
Sa monei yong slycht men ver sustenit in thir partis … quha than gatt sik libertie … bayth of steling and reiffing that now … it can nocht be purgitt of sik lownis that entterit in sic custoum than
1599 Rollock Wks. I. 337.
Away with that presumption of mercie, that makis the lowne quhen he is murthering and committing adulterie to say, God is mercifull
Ib. 395.
Sa the Divell is na thing to God but ane burreau, ane minister of his wrath, … then is the loun at hand as ane slaue to put in executioun this wrath
1600-1610 Melvill 258. Ib. 257, 259, 422.
Thairfor the captean, thinking it [an English ship] was a lown, commands to giff thame his nose-piece
1602–3 Ayr B. Acc. 215.
Ireis lownis lyand upoun the coist
1610–11 Ib. 248. 1637 Rutherford Lett. (1891) 235, 297. 1642 Peebles Gleanings 240.
James Dikesoun, callit Lernend, being tryit to be ane notorious loun and theif
c1650 Spalding I. 8. Ib. 43, 46.
Sum slicht louns, folloueris of the Clanchattan, wes execute, bot the principall … malefactouris wes spairit
Ib. 175.
Bot sindrie honest menis houssis … wes robbit and spoyllit … by louns and lymmaris that cam heir at this tyme
1661 Glasgow B. Rec. II. 461.
The thesaurer to pay to Charles M'Clean, jylour, twentie pundis for his extraordinarie paines in attending the tolbuith … having onlie theifes and louns his prisoners

d. A lewd rascal, a lecher, whoremonger. a1585 Polwart Flyt. 647 (T).
Ane anagrame … Suirlie sayis it is a signe of a licherous lowne
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 786.
He that hes a wife of his awin and gois to this town, that is a lown
1650 Strathbogie Presb. 154.
That George Robertsone had said he sould cause that lowne the minister haue a fowll face, for he gottin ane bairne in fornication with Elspeth Gordon
1692 Pitcairn Assembly III. iii. (1817) 52.
How came you to comply with these adulterous louns?

e. Less specifically, often merely as a strong term of opprobrium or abuse: Wretch, rascal, rogue, villain, blackguard.Also qualified by other abusive expressions, as cucold lowne Cukkald n., glengoir loun Glengore n. c, ladrone loun Ladron(e n., land-loppan(d, land-loupper lown, larbair lowne, lave-lugged loun, limmer lown Limmer n. 3 a, lurdan loun, etc.: see these words. See also, for further examples Harlot n. 1 (1), Knave n. 5 (d), and other abusive terms, as smaik, swingeour, thefe, etc. 1548 J. Patten Exped. Scotl. 69 in Dalyell Fragm. Sc. Hist. (1798).]
[A lound is a name of reproch, as a villain or suche lyke
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 178.
Thow lukis lowsy, loun of lownis aw
c1500-c1512 Kennedy Ib. 233.
Lowne lyk Mahowne be bowne me till obey
1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 123.
Quod I, Lovn, thou leys
1533 Gau 15/12.
Wordis of ir … as scheyme happine thé, lowne, hursone, theiff or fwil
1540 Lynd. Sat. 126.
Sollace, that same greit loun
Ib. 1324.
It is half a ȝeir almaist Sen evir that loun laborit my leddir
Ib. 2449, 2913. 1541 Elgin Rec. I. 69.
Sayand to him in jugement, Lovne, fals smaik
a1568 Pedder C. 37. 1548 J. Patten Exped. Scotl. 61 in Dalyell Fragm. Sc. Hist. (1798).
[The Scots] stood … bragging, … crying ‘Cum here loundes, cum here tykes, cum here heretykes,’ & such lyke
a1568 Bann. MS. 158 a/45.
Quhair hes thow bene, hursoun, thow fals cursit loun?
Ib. 157 b/6, 264 b/31. 1567 Sempill Sat. P. viii. 6.
Outher thow art ane papist loun, Hepburne or Hoitbag Hamiltoun
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. xv. 86.
God … tak away thir ydill lownis
1567 G. Ball. 211. 1570–1 Lanark B. Rec. 54. 1579–80 Glasgow B. Rec. (M.C.) 119. c1590 J. Stewart II. 61/156. 1581 Sat. P. xliv. 122.
Sen for loun Villox to be ȝour crounal strang
Ib. 119. a1585 Polwart Flyt. 828 (T).
Lance pissat to the lownes
Ib. 33, 217, 564, etc. 1585 Glasg. Prot. IX. 152.
Calling him pypar lown
1596 Misc. Maitl. C. I. 82.
Johne Graye … callit Sir Bartilmo Simsone ane wastour-fallo, common theve, mansworne theve and lowne
1599 Rollock Wks. I. 351.
Bot vain lown, thou never knew Christis purpose in deing for thee
1540 Lynd. Sat. 2473 (Ch.). 1602 Dundonald Par. Rec. 20, 1605 Ib. 82, etc. 1609 Kinghorn Kirk S. 14. 1604-31 Craig iv. 18.
But such another, As lewde a lowne I seeme to see
1643 Aberd. B. Rec. IV. 8. a1651 Calderwood III.634. 1661–5 Sel. Biog. II. 74.
When I meet with a profain lown that's blaith to hear of the trouble of God's people
1673 Justiciary Rec. II. 168.
Whereupon the pannell cryed, Webster loun, are ye scorning me? I shall shoot yow
1682 Lauder's Observes App. iv. 307.
What, show favor to such a loun as he?

f. Attrib. and comb.Loun-minister (cf. b above), applied by Covenanters to those ministers who accepted the episcopalian and royalist régime; also? lowne-levite.Lowne-sickness (cf. b above), a pretended illness, a piece of malingering. (Cf. the mod. dial. loun-ill, id.).Lowne-like (cf. a above), like menials or riff-raff, meanly, wretchedly.(1) 1579 Perth Kirk S. in Reliq. Antiq. Scot. 92.
Thomas Malcolm is convicted before the assembly to have called Thomas Brown lown carll
1586 in Calderwood IV. 506.
We may easilie judge him of his owne mouth as a lowne servant, that as he has seditiouslie … troubled the estate of the kirk and countrie, so he knows weill his marrowes and companions [etc.]
(2) 1629 Z. Boyd Last B. 184.
Their [Levites'] honour is great if with the shining Vrim of sound … doctrine they joyne the Thummim of a good life, … but if … they bee loiterers and will not labour or labour in doctrine but not in life their double honour shall bee turned in double disgrace. Of all levites the lowne leuite is the greatest
a1650 Row 392.
Christ's minister may not preach Christ's truth, if a loun minister neare by him have taught lies, except the bishop give him leave so to doe
1645 Irving Dumbartonsh. I. 71.]
[Wood admitted before the Presbytery that he had dealt with the keeper of Dumbarton Castle for its surrender and on his refusal, with the words ‘There is no loon like a loon minister’, Wood had replied, ‘There is no loon like a loon provost who keeps the King's castle against those who are sent to receive it’
a 1667 Wodrow Anal. III. 21.
But there is one thing that I am very angry with him for and that is that he is too great a friend to loun ministers
(3) 1620 in Calderwood VII. 414.
All compeered except Mr Johne Chalmers … who was excused by sickness. The Bishop of St Androes said, It was a lowne sickness: he wold not be sicke to come to the communion in Kinghorne
(4) 1642 Second Disc. Northern Scout 6.
But now you would laugh to see how lown-like our lord bishops walkes up and down London

g. adj. Of a deed: Criminal, or, immoral. 1695 Coldingham Kirk S. in Hawick Arch. Soc. XXXVI. 30.
[J. N. refuses to go before the congregation because he had done no] lown deed

2. Applied to a woman: A strumpet, harlot, whore. Also comb. with quein (= wench). a1568 Scott iv. 87.
The denkest sounest doun … The gayest grittest loun
1571 Sat. P. xxix. 26.
Bott quhat, I think, thochte Dauid quhen he wes to lowpe the lowne
1623 Rec. Old Aberd. II. 2.
Jonat Waan … in respect she wes bot ane wagabond banishit loone from vther congregatune … put of the toun as ane vnfamous person
1636 Elgin Rec. II. 231.
Marjory Peterkine [was] … a pandress as also a loun hirselff
1642 Dunferm. Kirk S. 10. 1643 S. Leith Rec. 45.
It was reportit that ther were sundrie comone lounes who hauntit upo the shoir and uthir pairtes of the toune
1646 Ib. 74. 1647 Dunferm. Kirk S. 23. 1652 Elgin Rec. II. 280.
Warned for … fornicatione with Inglisch troupers … scho being a knowne loune
1653 Lanark B. Rec. 151. 1660 Cramond Kirk S. 5 Aug.
That the said Margrat had cald hir a drunken harlot and lowne
1673 Craig-Brown Selkirkshire I. 497. 1682 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. MS. (16 Sept.).
For her calling of Agnes McChesnie in faice of counsell ane lound
1688 Peebles B. Rec. II. 125.
[He] called me unsonsie lune and rigwoodie witch
1694 Ib. 149.
A brazen faced loun
1699 Penninghame Par. Rec. I. 33.comb. 1650 Buccleuch Mun. II. 359.
Ye hawe done weri weill that hes putt that lowen quein to the yett, for I did heir … they war suspecting the wnder stewart and her, bot could not get it prowen; … all till wickednes about the towen go with her, and all lowens lyk her

3. To play the loun. a. To behave as a whoremonger or strumpet; to copulate. a1568 Bann. MS. 124 a/title.
The defence of Crissell Sandelandis … Being in ward for playing of the loun With every ane list geif hir half a croun
1571 Sempill Sat. P. xxviii. 68.
I begouth … To loup on lassis lait and play the lowne
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. cix. 33.
The fairast wenche in all this toun … With hir I mycht not play the loun I am so ald
1604-31 Craig ii. 93.
I with my loue haue plaid the licher long; And shee the loun with many moe then mee

b. To act knavishly or wickedly, to misbehave; to practise trickery, to cheat. 1581 Sempill Sat. P. xliii. 14.
[Fortune] with the one eye sho can lauch and smyle And with the vther lurke and play the loun
1583 Id. Ib. xlv. 328.
With this the word yead through the toun, How lurcan Lowrie played the lowne
1600-1610 Melvill 69.
Alexander Boid, a youthe of a grait … ingyne, bot verie … refractar … , often deleated in grait faultes namlie absenting him selff from the kirk and pleying the loun on the sabbathe
?a1640 Copie of a Baron's Court (1821) 28.
[Baillie:] I mov'd the laird to give him some thing down, Yet notwithstanding, he will play the lown

4. Applied to a boy or youth: A mischievous rogue, a young rascal, a scamp. Also comb. in loun-lad. 1602 Elgin Rec. II. 101.
Thomas James delatis Johnne Gatheraris sone a lows loun quhen the people ar in the kirk
1682 Lauder's Observes App. iv. 303.
Whilk severitie gave occasione to a wheen loun ladds, belonging to the hospital of Hariot's Buildings … , to divert themselves with somewhat like the following tragi-comedy
Ib. 305.
As the lounes was removing him from court to prison, ther chanced a curat to be present who asked … what ailed them at the dog? One of the limmers answered [etc. ]
Ib. 306.
To this a pakie loun answered [etc.]
Ib. 307.
A wylie loun advised him to lay by the sheep's … and put on the foxe's skin

5. a. ? In a more neutral sense: A fellow, lad, man, ‘chap’. a1500 Henr. Fab. 2405.
Than lychtlie in the bukket lap the loun
15.. Christis Kirk 116 (M).
The wyffis come furth … And fand lyff in the loun
a1568 Scott ii. 107.
For thair wes nowder lad nor loun Mycht eit ane baikin loche For fownes

b. A man or (? espec.) youth as opposed to a woman or girl; a young man, lad, boy. 1603 Elgin Rec. II. 111.
Dauid Murray … delaitit the personis eftir following to bein dansing on the communion day at ewin … viz. [6 girls' or womens' names]. John Robertsoun … delatis Meg Gadderar, Elspet Brownie. … Lownis. James Pattoun delatis Johne Skaldkaill and James Thoaw, James Tarres, skynner, William Skynner and his sone, … John Sutherland, younger, [etc.]
1619 Brechin Kirk S. 10 Aug.
Becaus of the great abuse of the commone peopl and namelie lounes and queynes wha usis commonlie to run out off the kirk at the chop off the hour and ofttymes befoir the hour

c. A servant or attendant in an inn. 1687 Sc. Ant. VIII. 157.
To the loune after dinner 01 00 00
1696 Foulis Acc. Bk. 194.
To Thomas Smith a ludgine loun for helping the snecks at the rid walk and gallerie

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"Loun n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 May 2024 <>



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