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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DOUR, adj. and v. Also †doure, †dowr(e), doore, door, †dure. Superl. dourest[du:r]

I. adj. Sometimes used adv.

1. Of persons and things: hard, stern, severe, relentless (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Gen.Sc. Also in Nhb. dial.Sc. 1811 J. Ramsay Acc. Curling 41:
Our buirdly leaders down white ice Their whinstanes doure send snooving.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxi.:
He's snell and dure aneugh in casting up their nonsense to them.
Sc. 1829 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 191:
That drawin up o' the knees, that tells death's doure.
Sh. 1886 “G. Temple” Britta 31:
“He's a dour man,” she said at length, “bit a just; an' he's kind — in his ain wy.”
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 87:
Auld age maist feckly glowrs right dour Upo' the ailings o' the poor.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost ix.:
He was, however, a dure man, . . . no of the right sort . . . to take up the case of a forlorn lassie.
Slk. 1818 Hogg Brownie of Bodsbeck I. iii.:
I had a gay steeve dour aik stick in my hand.

2. Obstinate, dogged, unyielding (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Gen.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xlvi.:
O, unhappy lassie, dinna be dour, and turn your back on your happiness again!
Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1856) III. 284:
But they're dour, . . . obstinater than either pigs or cuddies.
Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 20:
The “dour” obstinacy, now exhibited by him, took even his own wife aback.
em.Sc. 1895 “I. Maclaren” Auld Langsyne 289:
A'll be obleeged gin ye wud turn the key in this lock. It's a wee dour tae manage.
Edb. 1811 H. Macneill Bygane Times 17:
And spite o' lectures night and day, Hae got at length my ain dour way.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Brigs of Ayr (Cent. ed.) II. 79–80:
He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstl'd lang, Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.

Hence (1) dourly, with dogged reluctance; (2) dourness, obstinacy, pertinacity; wilfulness.(1) Ags. 1896 J. M. Barrie Margaret Ogilvy vi.:
I “do” it dourly with my teeth clenched.
(2) Sc. 1808 E. Hamilton Glenburnie ix.:
“Waes me!” said Mrs MacClarty, “the gudeman taks Sandie's doorness mickle to heart!”
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 30:
He had perhaps more self-knowledge than his father and found to his distaste a certain hardness in his character, an intolerance of anything which might stay his plans. But what he saw in himself as dourness the others sensed as grittiness and determination to improve the lot of the whole family ...
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 39:
He . . . had some guid notions, it must be admitted, which he carried through with a maisterful dourness of his ain.

3. (1) Of people: sullen, sulky; humourless, dull, gloomy (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, Kcb.10 1940; m.Dmf.3 c.1920; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1825 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 58:
I have seen some grim carls . . . dreigh at the thocht, and dour at the delivery.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 26:
Tho' mony conters gars me look some sour, It's nae my natural turn to be dowr.
Ags. 1889 J. M. Barrie W. in Thrums xi.:
We sat dour an' sullen.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 84:
'Ye theivan wee pyat, its tane or its tither,
deil kens yer wame maun be whummlan aroun'
But naa, tho I'm lossan the rag aathegither,
yon dour feckless tyke is biddan abuin.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 154:
Sine's bairns were singing and dancing. The youngest ones could not understand why the grown-ups were so dour.
em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 12:
'I thought it was her that was doing the soliciting,' Lauderdale muttered to Rebus: a rare moment of humour from one of the dourest buggers Rebus had ever worked with.
em.Sc. 1992 Ian Rankin Strip Jack (1993) 125:
So they drank in dour silence, merely exchanging looks whenever the Englishman or his two friends said anything.
Knr. 1886 “H. Haliburton” Horace in Homespun 10:
Rab sits an' sulks, — a dour ane Rab! Wee Johnnie gets a gift o' gab.
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 51:
Be thine the task — my mountain reed — To cheer me, when I'm dour or sad.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Willie Wastle (Cent. ed.) i.:
He had a wife was dour and din.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. ix.:
It's no worth the doure thought that gars your brows sae gloom.

Hence (a) dourly, sulkily, sullenly; (b) dourness, doorness, sullenness (Sc. 1825 Jam.2).(a) Sc. 1984 Alan Temperley in Alexander Scott and James Aitchison New Writing Scotland 2 108:
The boy showed no repentance and was given a paper for a punishment exercise. Dourly, anger boiling up afresh, he caught it in his man's hand, crumpled at the first touch.
Sc. 1984 Robert Crawford in Alexander Scott and James Aitchison New Writing Scotland 2 90:
The vast computer
Dourly commanded by whiteless eyes.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman 16 Aug 22:
On a cool evening, there wasn't much to warm the cockles in terms of quality play, in a tie as dourly competitive as might have been expected in a local derby.
Fif. 1894 (2nd ed.) D. S. Meldrum Story of Margrédel xiii.:
“It's private,” Marg'et said, dourly.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 196:
An' gif we use her this way soon an' late, She will some time fu dourly tak the pet.
wm.Sc. 1934 John MacNair Reid Homeward Journey (1988) 17:
Moral hypocrisy was expected of him, and in showing himself dourly ill-pleased when the boys were ribald,...
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 179:
"There are times," said Andrew dourly, "when, in the course of his job, a man finds himself with little or nothing to do. I used to let them kick a ball about. Am I not a patron of the sport in town?"
wm.Sc. 1979 Robin Jenkins Fergus Lamont 9:
I waited too, but at the same time I dourly wheeled my barrow over to the goalposts of dung and shovelled them in.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Raiders xlii.:
The man slunk back, but, as it seemed, dourly and unconvinced before the threatening finger.

(2) Of the weather, etc.: bleak, gloomy, harsh (Fif.10, Kcb.10 1940).Abd. 1921 Abd. Book-Lover III. No. 5, 141:
Bit aathing lookit glum an' dour wi' laich cloods black abeen.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 58:
In dourest season
o near-tint sun
that crouseness vaunts
oot o shaddas,
oot o snell-wun narra wynds.
Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 43:
The hill-taps a' are white wi' snaw, An' dull an' dour's the day .
Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 167:
Angry Boreas loudly skirling, Drave his blatt'ring hailstanes dour.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller 135:
Scotch skies are dour, bur the wind their master, Will clear the stars.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Winter Night (Cent. ed.) i.:
When biting Boreas, fell and doure, Sharp shivers thro' the leafless bow'r.
s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 35:
The winter had been driech and dour.

4. Of land: hard, barren, unfertile (Cai.9, Abd.9, Per., Slg. (per Abd.27), Fif.10, Rxb.5 1940); of vegetation: slow in growth (Lth. 1825 Jam.2).Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate iv.:
He had got one of the dourest and most intractable farms on the Mearns.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 32:
a groo-graithit taet
againss the mair groo
o the ondeemas luft,
o the doore orrie erd
in sicna groo border
whaur the nicht
mells a weird wi the bricht.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 75:
We must put in before we can take out: the soil is a medium - sometimes a dour one - where the farmer converts dung into herbs and grasses by the processes of nature.
m.Sc. 1982 Douglas Fraser in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 9:
Wi' mony a craig an cleugh,
The rouch hills, the teugh hills
That froun dour and grim,
The hie hills, the stey hills,
They daur ye to sclim.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iv.:
Yon's the dourest land that ever I was on.
Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 142:
An' lan' that's dowre, ye loosen it.

Comb.: †dour seed, “a name given to a late species of oats from its tardiness in ripening” (Jam.2).Edb. 1793 G. Robertson Agric. m.Lth. 65:
These [Halkerton, or Angus oats] are emphatically called dour seed; . . . a weighty kind, giving on rich lands a great increase, though they are too late for a cold situation.

Hence dourness, slowness in growth.Slk. 1794 T. Johnston Agric. Slk. 28:
The time of sowing . . . is also varied according to the earliness or dourness of the seed.

5. In curling: dull, sticky, dragging, used both of the ice when the frost gives way and of stones which lack keenness.Ayr. 1904 J. Gillespie Humour Sc. Life 88:
He had a pair of “dour” curling-stones which . . . he could not play up.
Dmf. 1920 D. J. Bell-Irving Tally-ho 24:
The ice suddenly became so “dour and drug” that the minister found himself in the happy position of being the only man who could play up.

Hence dourness, lack of keenness.Ayr. 1833 in J. Cairnie Curling 69:
They scarcely go the length of charging it with dourness, they assert, that in the latter circumstances it requires some additional force to impel it to the tee.

6. Of a task: hard, difficult (Sc. 1779 J. Beattie Scotticisms 10, dure; Fif.10, Slg.3, Edb.1 1940); of a struggle or contention: obstinate, relentless.Sc. 1920 D. Rorie Auld Doctor 11:
An awfu' fecht it was to see, A fecht baith fell an' dour, sirs.
Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 79:
It was a dour job to get the pain to flit.
Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 185:
The ither night, out owre a can, An unco dowre debate began.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 315:
A'll hae tae ride the cuddy for three days efter this, an' that's dour wark.
Dmf. 1874 “R. Wanlock” Moorland Rhymes 30:
Wow, but the braes are dour tae spiel.

7. Slow, sluggish, reluctant, used in various contexts, e.g. of a pupil to learn (Fif.10 1940; wm.Sc. 1945 (per Abd.27)), of a fish to bite, of a fire to burn.Sc. 1724–27 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) I. Dedication:
While kettles dringe on ingles dour.
n.Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
He's very dour at his lare.
Abd. 1828 “J. Ruddiman” Tales and Sk. 27:
A door loon the dominie says he was, for his tawse could never mak any impression on his head.
Fif. 1823 W. Tennant Cardinal Beaton 90:
As dure a scholar as was ever at St Leonards.
Fif. 1935 St Andrews Cit. (24 Aug.) 11/5:
Although one or two sea-trout were seen moving, they were dour to take the lure.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) Pref. 2:
Unless unco doure indeed to learn.
Gsw. 1924 J. H. Bone Crystal Set 10:
Granny (viewing her fire) “Awfu' dour the day, the chimbly canna be drawin'.”

8. Used as an intensive = very.s.Sc. 1843 W. Scrope Salmon Fishing 139:
My feet wur dour sair wi' gangin sae lang on the channel.

II. v.

1. With at: to look at (someone) in sullen obstinacy.Ayr. 1916 (per Mry.2):
It's nae yiss speakin' to him; he jist dours at ye.

2. To withdraw in a sullen, morose manner, to mope. Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1817) 270:
Douring in the hermit's cell.

[O.Sc. has dour(e), dowr(e), dur, from 1375, also dourlie, durnes. Appar. from O.Fr. dur, Lat. durus, hard, burdensome, though the phonological development should give [dør, dyr]. Phs. the orig. vowel sound has remained through the influence of school Latin.]

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"Dour adj., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2024 <>



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