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

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First published 2000 (DOST Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

S(c)hrew, S(c)hro, n. (adj.) Also: schrewe, schreue, screw; schraw; shroe, schrow. [ME and e.m.E. screwe (c1250), schrewe (c1290), ssrewe (1297), schreu (Cursor M.), schreawe (a1315), sh(e)rewe (Chaucer), shrow (c1570), shroe (1584), srow (a1650), prob. the same word as e.m.E. shyrewe (1538), shrew (1545), shrowe (1578), OE scréawa, scrǽwa a shrew, the animal, with which cf. MHG schrawaz, schrat, schröuwel devil, ON skǫggr old man, prob. of the same ulterior origin.]

A. noun. 1. A wicked, malignant or contumacious person; a rascal, scoundrel, villain.In pl., sometimes coll. = the wicked; also applied to the damned.sing. a1500 Henr. Fab. 704.
Quod the volf, ‘in faith thow [sc. the fox] art ane schrew’
c1475 Wall. i 211.
A hely schrew, wanton in his entent
Ib. iv 45.
The Sothron schrew in ire ansuerd him to
a1500 Bk. Chess 539.
Get I a schrew, I had befor a gud[man]
14.. Edinb. Univ. MS La. ii 318.
The tother [sc. apostles] war gude or wele did Al gif he [sc. Judas] war a schrew kid
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 943 (L).
Behald that bysnyng schrew [E. schew] A subtyle smye (considyr weil his hew) Standis thair bond
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2677.
Now schirs persaue hir slicht and subteltie … O subtell schrew, … Tyner of treuth … lawtie gais by ȝour gait
Ib. 7909.
Wo to him that hes thé to his wife. Thow schameles schrew, and maist wickit of all
a1568 Bann. MS 157b/14.
For to be ane verry knaif That shrew schapis evir
(b) 1535 Stewart 16337.
Donald … Ane rycht scharpe schro full of iniquitie
pl.(1) c1460 Thewis Wysmen 304.
It is nocht anerly Spedful that ȝong men … Hawe knawlege of wysmenis thewis, Bot als of fulys, trumpouris & schrewis
a1500 Lanc. 1986.
If he … but dissemblyng schewis … the vicis one to schrewis
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 63 (Harl.).
O strang tyrran … , Just men oppressand and schrewis sittand hie
Ib. 213.
Job and Dauid … of stark schrewis pvnist peruersite
Ib. 833.
Ȝe subtile schrewis corruptaris of the law
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 205/27.
Fle … fra all schrewis, or ellis thow art eschamit
1513 Doug. viii Prol. 78.
This cuntre is full of Caymis kyn And sik schire schrewis
1531 Bell. Boece I xiv.
Quhy ar thir folk in panis so terribill? Becaus thay wer bot schrewis vicius, Into thair life
1535 Stewart 27319.
Ȝe schaw ȝour self wnfaithfull, fraudfull schrewis
Ib. 51134.
Out of Ingland rycht mony smaik and schrewis Into Scotland King Edward send
Ib. 56470.
Thir fals and feinȝeit schrewis
a1568 Bann. MS 75b/8.
Thair is no moir perrellus pestilence Nor he estait gevin vnto schrewis
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. 301/24.
Thai wickit schrewis, hes laid the plewis That nane or few is, that ar left ocht
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xl 459.
Thefis … In the circle … Ȝed for to steile the catel owte. … & al thai schrawis … That ware in that circle gane … bad thare til the morne-day
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 150/7.
Me thocht amangis the feyndis fell Mahoun gart cry ane dance Off schrewis that wer nevir schrevin
1513 Doug. iii iv 16.
Thir fowlis [sc. harpies] hes a virgynys … face … Bot the vile belleis of thai cursit schrewis Aboundis of fen maist abhomynabill
Ib. vi ix 20.
This other gait … Convoys onto the sted of fell torment Quhar dampnyt schrewis in Tartarus ar sent

b. ? A designing or scheming person. c1420 Wynt. vi 482.
Scho … kythyd hyr as man And cald hyrselff Jhon Magwntyne. Yha wyt yhe welle, a schrewe fyne
1460 Hay Alex. 7234.
He … made a buke … of gude women … And how vise men ar dissauit with schrewis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 251.
I schaw ȝow sisteris in schrift I wes a schrew evir, Bot I wes schene in my schrowd and schew me innocent
1513 Doug. vi viii 106.
That schrew, prouocar of all wikkyt dedis, Eolus nevo cursyt Vlixes sle

c. One unworthy of attention; a nonentity; a fellow. a1500 Lanc. 1052.
Two screwis cam with that of quhich on The knychtis sheld rycht frome his hals haith ton
a1568 Bann. MS 81a/19.
Sen I wes prysit to be pure Thay hald me now bot for a schrew, To me thay tak bot littill cure

d. Used dismissively, as a term of dislike or contempt: A wretch; ? one who is sexually impotent. c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 110.
Bot schout dar I nought For schore of that auld schrew schame him betide
Ib. 126. a1568 Pedder C. 29.
Thay schamed schrewis … Steilis doun, and lyis behind ane pak, Drinkand bot dreggis
a1570-86 Clapperton Maitl. F. 243/26.
Thus am I thirlit on to ane schrew Quhilk dow nothing of chalmer glew

e. A badly, or coarsely, behaved woman. c1460 Thewis Gud Women 6.
The gud wyf schawis … Quhilkis ar thewis of gud women … With sum ill maneris and thewis That folowis ful women & schrewis

2. A harmful or pernicious thing. 1513 Doug. Conscience 17.
That schrew, Riches and geir, that gart all grace go hens
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS No. 104.
Absence is a shro [1641 shroe, Carmichael Prov. No. 22 schrow]

3. A shrew, the animal. 1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Sorex, a rotton, a schro

B. adj. Of immaterial things: Harmful, pernicious. a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 237 (Arund.).
For couatice in his cheyne hes ws knytt, Ane schrew [Harl., Asl. schrewit] ensampill of synnaris can ws smyt
1638 Baillie I 76.
He of Liberton does us a very shreue turne

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"Shrew n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



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