Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BAWBEE, Babie, Babee, Baubee, n. and adj. “A coin of six pennies Scots struck in base silver by James V. and Mary, and in copper by Charles II., William and Mary, and William III. Although issued as sixpenny pieces, the bawbees of base silver were ‘cried doun' to threepenny pieces by an Act of James VI. (1567).” G.M. [′bɑ:′bi, ′b:′bi Sc. (see P.L.D. §§ 85, 93); ′bɒ:′bi sm.Sc., s.Sc.] Modern uses:

1. n.

(1) A halfpenny. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1703 Acc. Bk. Sir J. Foulis (S.H.S. 1894) 325:
For a chopin eall and a babie loafe wt him ther 0. 1. 6.
Sc. 1823 J. G. Lockhart Reg. Dalton III. 176:
There's few properties in the Highlands . . . I would say was more desirable . . . neither debt nor mortgage . . . nor tythes, man, not ae baubee.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 29:
They wad ha'e gotten a pint o' geud eel for t'ree bawbees.
Bnff.(D) 1924 “Knoweheid” in Swatches o' Hamespun 11:
I would not gie him a bawbee.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 57:
A tale, she heard a weerd-wife tell, That thro' the cuintray, telling fortunes yeed, An' at babees an' placks came wond'rous speed.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 24:
Stourie sall no get you for a bawbee less.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff iii.:
I know the price tae a bawbee.
Gsw.(D) 1913 J. J. Bell Courtin' Christina 121:
It's terrible to see the number o' young folk that winna walk if they've a bawbee in their pooch.

(2) Money, gen. in pl. Gen.Sc. Ags. 1929 W. L. Anckorn in Scots Mag. (Mar.) 403:
“I'm no lookin' for bawbees,” he replied.
Hdg. 1902 J. Lumsden Toorle, etc. 182:
He lacks the “friend-in-need,” a wee — My fugitive, — that indispensable Bawbee! (Bawbee, cash capital. A.)
Arg.1 1929:
He's gey keen on the bawbees.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes and Lyrics 97:
My second man . . . Had twa-three bawbees in the bank.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid xiv.:
My grandfather . . . had toiled late and air . . . to gather the needfu' bawbees for my learning.

(3) A dowry. Sc. 1803 [A. Boswell] Songs 8:
And here they cam, awa to steal Jenny's bawbee.
Edb. 1922 P. Macgillivray Bog Myrtle and Peat Reek 60:
I'm young and hae favour o' fortune In gear and a bonny bawbee.

Phrases: (1) At a bawbee, at any value; (2) de'il's bawbee, fairy money; (3) plack and bawbee, every penny. (1) Slk. a.1835 J. Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) VI. 339:
I hae been ower lang a soldier to set my life at a bawbee.
(2) Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 147:
Nae mair ye'll get a de'il's bawbee Into your purse, To twin a slate-stane in a wee, Or may be warse.
(3) Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf i.:
My father paid . . . threescore punds, and it stands me in three hundred, plack and bawbee.
m.Sc. 1892 A. Rodger Poems and Songs (1897) 37:
When due, ye maun pay me down plack an' bawbee.

2. adj. Valued at or costing a halfpenny, hence cheap. Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. xv.:
I fand a bundle of their bawbee blasphemies in my ain kitchen.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Doun i' th' Loudons, etc. Act III. Sc. 3:
A laddie bairn . . . Slank in afore him, axin wad he buy A bawbee box o' matches for his lunt?

Combs.: (1) Baw-Bee Bible, the Shorter Catechism; (2) bawbee jo(e), baubee —, a street-walker. (1) Sc. 1849 D. Young Memorial of Rev. James Fisher 66:
The Shorter Catechism, — a book, the diminutive size and distinguished worth of which were strikingly expressed in the title by which it was long known in Scotland — “The Baw-Bee Bible.”
(2) Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona i.:
Eh, but ye're a green callant! . . . Cleikin' up wi' baubee joes! [Cf. “penny joes on causey stanes” in R. L. Stevenson Underwoods, Late in the Nicht.]
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xiii.:
What's the steer for a bawbee jo?

[O.Sc. bawbé, balbé, babé; bawbee, balbie, babee, babbe. Prob. a shortened form of Sillebawbe, the territorial designation of Alexander Orrok, appointed master of the mint in Scotland 1538. In Scotland a farmer or laird is commonly addressed by the name of his farm or estate, generally shortened when possible — e.g. Muiry for Muiryfaulds or Cannie for Murdo-cannie. For the extension of the name of the mintmaster to his coinage cf. Atcheson, the name of a coin in the time of James VI. In modern times cf. Bradbury = ¥1 note, from the signature of one of the officials, which it bore.]

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"Bawbee n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2020 <>



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