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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HOWDIE, n., v. Also howdy, houdie, -y; how-dey (Uls. 1924 W. Lutton Montiaghisms 26); haudie (Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Clay Biggin' 33), haudy (Abd. 1765 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd ii. xxxi.). [′hʌudi]

I. n. 1. A midwife, formerly applied to an untrained woman who also performed other kinds of sick nursing. Gen.Sc. Also found in n.Eng. dials.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd ii. iii.:
When Mungo's Mear stood still, and swat with Fright, When he brought East the Howdy under Night.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Scotch Drink xii.:
Nae howdie gets a social night, Or plack frae them.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. i.:
The laird's servant . . . rade express by this e'en to fetch the houdie, and he just staid the drinking o' twa pints o' tippeny, to tell us how my leddy was ta'en wi' her pains.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1874) 241:
I thought ye war outher riding for the doctor or the houdy.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 112:
Packed aff his lane, by moss an' cairn, To ca' the howdie.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 19:
Jenny Jock . . . wus a howdy, an' hed muckle tae deu wi' takin' folk intae the warld an' pittan' dem dacently oot o'd.
Abd. 1917 C. Murray Sough o' War 47:
Ye hear the howdie's on the go again.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood iv.:
It was the season of births, too, as well as of deaths, and the howdie was never off the road.
Bwk. 1947 W. L. Ferguson Makar's Medley 19:
The howdie she cam bustlin' ben, “Guess what the Lord's gie'n Peg?”
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 186:
On the one good day in October he had to run for the howdie to his wife and his daughter both, so he lost that fine day too.

Hence ¶howdyfication, a confinement.Kcb. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 97:
Dr McWhirter had been away at a howdyfication about The Cairn.

2. Used among medical students, esp. in Aberdeen University, to mean (1) a confinement; (2) the class of Midwifery; (3) the Professor of Midwifery. See 4. (1).

3. A rough-mannered woman (Peb. 1910).

4. Combs.: (1) howdie digs, see quot. Obs. since 1948; (2) howdie-fee, the fee given for attendance at a confinement (Dmf. 1825 Jam.); (3) howdy haste, great or urgent haste (Abd.4 1930); (4) howdy skelp, a slap administered by the midwife to a newly born child to make it use its lungs; (5) howdie-trade, the practice of midwifery (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. Add.); (6) howdie-wark, a confinement; (7) howdie-wife, a midwife (Sc. 1877 Jam., houdy-; Cai., ne.Sc., em.Sc., Lnk. 1957).(1) Abd. 1929 E. Linklater White-Maa's Saga i.:
The Howdie Digs were rooms where students engaged in acquiring practical knowledge of midwifery lived for the three weeks or so of their specialised course. The rooms were close to the Maternity Hospital.
(2) Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (June) 277:
I creeshed kimmer's loof weel wi' howdy fee, Else a cradle had never been rocked for me.
(3) Abd.1 1929:
Siccan howdy-haste — gar a body think auld Nick wis at yer heels.
(4) Sc. 1922 P. Macgillivray Bog-Myrtle 87:
But O she kens to bring them hame — . . . And bairns that get her Howdy-skelp Need never fear the sea.
(5) Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 23:
Hamilton, a cunnin chiel, That kens the howdie trade as weel.
(6) Fif. 1900 Proc. Philosoph. Soc. Gsw. XXXI. 41:
A confinement is referred to as a cryin', a cryin' match, or howdie wark.
(7) Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 25:
The first to help the howdie wife, or cut the cryin' cheese.
Sc. 1935 I. Bennet Fishermen 286:
Jean had sent for an old dotard howdie-wife, and between them they had attended on her.

II. v. Also curtailed form howd (Sc. 1808 Jam.). To act as a midwife, to deliver a child. Also fig. Vbl.n. howdyin(g), howdiein, midwifery (Edb. 1957); a confinement (Lnk., Kcb. 1957).Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 61:
I creeshed weel kimmer's loof wi' howdying fee.
Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 36:
She wad need to hae nae ither trade in hand but howdieing!
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 156:
As to their howdyings, there were juist the twa kinds of them, — the ane that sent for me five meenonts owre late, and the ither ane that was hauf a day owre sune.
Lnk. 1895 W. Stewart Lilts and Larks 31:
Quick, plunk the cork — eleven — twall! That twall's a doobly true ane, It's clinked in the auld year's skull, An' howdied hame the new ane.
Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 60:
Yae nicht Dr M'Ure wus oot at a howdyin.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 50:
Ae day, gin Science takks ower,
Aa bairns will hae a howdiein like Jesus -
Bi the Virgin and the Speerit, in a test tube.

[In O.Sc. a.1700. Orig. unknown. The word seems to have originated in Edinburgh, phs. as a cant or nick-name. It is doubtful whether it was ever in common parlance or even in common liter. use till after Burns.]

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"Howdie n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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