Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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DOUCE, adj. Also douse, douss, dooce, dowse, and deriv. ¶dousy (Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 92). [du(:)s]

1. Sedate, sober, quiet, respectable, often with a connotation of circumspection or cautiousness. Gen.Sc. Also used adv. Found in n.Eng. dial. Sc. 1721  Ramsay Poems 21:
Then farewell Maggy douce and fell, Of Brewers a' thou boor the Bell.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality iv.:
A douce woman she was, civil to the customers, and had a gude name wi' whig and tory.
Sc. 1887  R. L. Stevenson Underwoods 9:
Our Marg'et, aye sae keen to crack, Douce-stappin in the stoury track.
Sh. 1934  W. Moffatt Shetland 20:
Who would imagine that a woman so soberly clad would entertain a wayward thought, or be other than a thrifty, cleanly, sober, dowse, church-going body?
n.Sc. 1808  Jam.:
“There war na douce ongains betweesh them”; their conduct was not consistent with modesty.
Bch. 1804  W. Tarras Poems 47:
O happy is the douce-gaun wight, Whose saul ne'er mints a swervin.
Ags. 1845  P. Livingston Poems 68:
I cast my e'en across the kirk, Whar folk should aye sit douse.
Fif. 1894  J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 115:
Baudrons . . . was really a douce, sensible, and as kindly a cat as ye'd find in a day's walk.
Ayr. 1786  Burns Brigs of Ayr (Cent. ed.) ll. 168–9:
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an' douce, Meet owre a pint or in the council-house.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Provost ii.:
I had all the douce demeanour and sagacity which it behoved a magistrate to possess.

Hence (1) doucely, dousely, soberly, sedately, quietly, decorously, “cannily”; (2) douceness, sedateness, sobriety (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.). (1) Sc. 1721  Ramsay Poems 296:
He dousely drew in Mair Gear frae ilka gentle Goss Than bought a new ane.
Sc. 1818  Scott Rob Roy xiv.:
When we had a Scots Parliament, . . . they sate dousely down and made laws for a hail country.
Inv. 1764  A. Ross Freemasonry in Inv. (1877) 62:
The minute informs us, that “the Lodge was orderly and douceley shut.”
Abd. 1920  G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 30:
Or when tae kirk I doucely hie, An' settle doon wi' thankfu' sigh Tae ha'e a nap upo' the sly.
Rnf. 1792  A. Wilson Poems (1844) 204:
Ye very reverend haly dads, Wha fill the black gown dously.
Ayr. 1786  Burns Dream xi.:
So, ye may dousely fill a Throne, For a' their clish-ma-claver.
(2) Ayr. 1822  Galt Steam-Boat ix.:
A sky-blue silk dress, with great red roses and tulips, . . . was surely not in . . . becoming concordance with the natural douceness of my character.
Ayr. 1890  J. Service Notandums 25:
A douceness, not to say a blateness, seemed to have spread the mantle of its silence owre us a'.

2. Pleasant, kindly, gentle, lovable (Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10, Arg.1, Lnk.11 1940). Also in n.Eng. dial. Ags. 1880  J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 68:
The rude norlin' blast . . . Was douce as the westlin' breeze.
Ags. 1920  A. Gray Songs 73:
Sae, I'll e'en lat the tocher gae, For Jean's baith douce and neat.
Lth. 1925  C. P. Slater Marget Pow 47:
There stood a weary dusty-foot, with a pale douce-like face, and he begged for a bit of bread.
Gall. 1843  J. Nicholson Hist. and Trad. Tales 128:
The douse folk that ha'e aften afforded me bield frae the doure blast.
Slk. 1835  Hogg Wars of Montrose III. 95:
If the bonny douce lad needs the double o't it shall be forthcoming.
Dwn. 1844  R. Huddleston Poems 21:
Awow! she was a darlin' chucky, . . . Sae bonnie, winsome, douse an' canty.

Hence dousely, tenderly, lovingly. Rnf. 1790  A. Wilson Poems 91:
Yet Rabby aye was dousely dautet.

3. Neat, tidy, comfortable (Slg.3 1940; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.; Uls.2 1929); used of persons and things; also used of persons to mean “stoutish” (m.Dmf.3 c.1920). s.Sc. 1847  H. S. Riddell Poems 308:
My wee bit house is clean and douce.
Gall. 1877  “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 115:
He was a douce auld buddy, and likit things faet and so . . . he set off to the village for some bits of things to mense the house.

[O.Sc. douce, douse, sweet, pleasant, a.1568, also doucelie, c.1590; Mid.Eng. douce; O.Fr. dous, fem. douce; Lat. dulcis.]

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"Douce adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Jun 2019 <>



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