Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

COWLIE, Couli(e), Cawlie, n. Also cowl, cull. [′kʌuli]

1. A boy (Sc. 1808 Jam., coulie, cowlie); “name given to town-boys by George Heriot's boys” (Edb. 1910 Scotsman (3 Sept.), cowlie). Edb. 1825 R. Chambers Trad. of Edb. (1847) 109:
Their neglected grass-green precincts too frequently formed an arena whereon the high and mighty quarrels of Old and New Town cowlies we brought to a lapidarian arbitration.

2. “A contemptuous name for a man” (Sc. 1808 Jam., cawlie); “a big, hulking fellow” (Cai.9 1938, cowlie); a cant term for a man (Abd.16 1930, cowl; Per., Arg., Gall. 1907 A. McCormick Tinkler-Gypsies, App. xvii., cowl, cull). Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 67:
The Cowlies on the Straw, with the Morties will be glad, But ilk an must maund on his awn Pad.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 37:
E'en-now some couli gets his aits, An' dirt wi' words they mingle.
Edb. 1825 Jam.2:
A man who picks up a girl on the street, is called her cowlie.

[O.Sc. has cowll, 1665, a fellow, and coulie, cowlie, a low fellow, a.1689, of obscure origin (D.O.S.T.). Cf. slang or colloq. Eng. cull(y) (now rare), a dupe, a man or fellow, also of obscure origin, although N.E.D. suggests a connection with cullion.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Cowlie ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Aug 2020 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: