Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HOWF, n.1, v. Also howff, houf(f)(e); hoff (Edb. 1758 Caled. Mercury (14 Oct.)); hooff; ¶hauf (Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xvii.). [hʌuf]

I. n. 1. An enclosed open space, a yard, an area, e.g. one used for storing timber (Ags., Per., Fif. 1957). Sc. 1711 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 460:
The room or howff at the east side of the port on the north end of the bridge is now possest [by] the guard kept there by the dragoons.
Edb. 1741 Caled. Mercury (29 Sept.):
Parcel of fine St Remo Limons . . . to be sold by Alexander Skirving at the Timber Hooff (or Bush) Leith.
Gsw. 1766 Gsw. Past & Present (1884) III. 290:
Together with two Cellars (formerly three) immediately under the first storie, next to the staircase of the said tenement, and houff under the said Turnpike.
Abd. 1776 Abd. Journal (24 June):
That large Wright's Shop, Houf and Pertinents. . . . consisting of a working Shop, a Ware Room, and Counting Room, together with a large Houf and Sawpit.
Slg. 1798 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (31 Jan.) I. 39:
To be Let, and entered to at Whitsunday next, The Big House at the Houffe.
s.Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 322:
The side o' the quarry, whar it marches wi' the howf o' the auld house that stands by the brink.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (13 Oct.):
The auld coal houf at fit o' brae wi' Duffy at the door.

2. In Dundee: a burial-ground in the centre of the city, orig. the courtyard of the Greyfriars Monastery; any churchyard or cemetery, freq. applied to a private burial-ground (Kcd., Ayr. 1957). Ags. 1776 First Hist. Dundee (Millar 1923) 149:
To the North of the gardens belonging to the High Street & a little further West is the Houff or common burrying ground.
Sc. 1837 Tait's Mag. (Feb.) 106:
When I leave this mailin', it may be to tak up my quarters in the howff o' Lochcairnie kirk.
Sc. 1924 Scots Mag. (July) 241:
On a table-stane in the auld Kirkyaird, They ca' “the Houff”.
Abd. 1957 Deeside Field (Ser. 2) 2. 22:
A grassy mound, known now as “The Houff” and reputed to have been a burial ground.

3. A place of resort, a favourite haunt, a meeting place, freq. of a public house, and sometimes implying a place of disrepute. Gen.Sc.; “a place of abode” (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Also fig. Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
Whan we were weary'd at the Gowff, Then Maggy Johnston's was our Howff.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 177:
Now steekit frae the gowany field, Frae ilka fav'rite houff and bield.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 693:
The Globe Tavern here, which for these many years has been my Howff.
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 227:
High bounds he oure the rocks and hills, A' houffs and haunts he kens.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
As the browst (or brewing) of the Howff retained, nevertheless, its unrivalled reputation, most of the old customers continued to give it a preference.
Ags. 1838 Montrose Standard (18 Jan.) 3:
Daniel Fraser, who keeps a vagrants' howff . . . at threepence a night.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 260:
She saw them wha she'd envied sair, Mothers, wi' minds the houfs o' care.
Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It 'ill a' come Richt xv.:
Bit I'll close wi' him [the Devil], an' warstle them oot o' his grip, and hurl him back tae his ain howff.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle ii.:
The brewster-wife at the howff near Loch Lomond mouth keeps a good glass of aqua.
Per.4 1950:
He's makin a fair howf o this hoose.
Sc. 1955 J. Beith The Corbies 157:
Together they sought the shelter of a howff off the High Street.

Also fig. esp. in phr. to hae no howf o', to have no desire to associate with, no liking for. Only in Setoun. Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ix.:
She has no howf o' teachers at a'. Ye would notice that the nicht.
Fif. 1901 Id. Skipper of Barncraig xvii.:
Philosophy's like onions, grand for a strong digestion, but some folk canna thole them; I've no howf o' them mysel', nor yet o' your philosophy.

4. A rude shelter or refuge (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ags., Slg., Rnf. 1957); a natural or improvised shelter used by mountaineers (Gen.Sc.), hence howffing, vbl.n., the use of such a shelter; a shelter with latrine used by workmen on a building site (Sc. 1952 Builder (20 June) 952; Fif. 1957). m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 134:
I cam frae that, an' was fou douf, No lighting on your hidden houf.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost vii.:
Mrs Pawkie . . . who, on account of her kindliness towards the bairns in their childhood, has given her a howf among us.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town i.:
They were but weavers' howffs at the best, and when the looms were broken up they were little use.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 2:
The place isnae fit for a howf for a tramp, Tae let abe ca'in't a hame!
Sc. 1948 Sc. Mountaineering Club Jnl. 3:
The best known example of a mountain howff is the Shelter Stone of Loch Avon.
wm.Sc. 1949 Scots Mag. (July) 278:
Both these places are natural caves. But using such ready-made obvious shelters is not howffing as we interpret it. We prefer to build our own small howff, use it and move on.
Sc. 1953 Ib. (Sept.) 464:
I have noticed that it is men who go in for the building of “howffs” or bivouacs, the digging of snowholes. Jock Nimlin, the foremost howff-builder, writes: “As is usually the case, these formidable-looking rocks on the cave floor were loosely bedded and easy to remove.”

Hence †howffy, houffie, adj., snug, comfortable (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).

II. v. 1., mostly intr. To dwell, to lodge, to take up one's abode; to haunt, to frequent (em.Sc., Kcb., Dmf. 1957); occas. with about: to loiter, to hang around. Ppl.adj. howffed, situated, lodged, domiciled. Sc. 1732 Mons Alexander in Struani Reditum 4:
The Muses leave the Grecian Height Where they were wont to howf langsine.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Often used merely to denote a short stay in a house. “Where did you gae?” “I was houff'd.”
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Where was't that Robertson and you were used to howff thegither?
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 7:
Wi' a' the joys, an' hopes, an' fears, That houff the spring-time o' our years.
Fif. 1845 T. C. Latto Minister's Kail-yard 60:
They trock an' houff wi' southrons, till They lose a' guid, an' learn a' ill.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 33:
Oor auld grey smiddy, weel ye ken, Is howff'd a mile ayont the glen.
Kcd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 14:
He's come to howff in my kailyard.
ne.Sc. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 72:
Onybody wad 'a' kent faur the twal' poun' gaed; . . . Alastair saw ye houfin' aboot the dask.

2. To take shelter or refuge (Ags. 1957). Clc. 1860 J. Crawford Doric Lays 81:
The puir bieldless body has scougg't the cauld blast, 'Yont our hallan he's houf't till the gurl gaed past.
s.Sc. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. II. 203:
He drave doun the maukins to howff 'mang the whins.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 18:
As we howf by the burn i' the mist's weety blaw.

3. With up: to bury. Cf. I. 2. Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 79:
The Bedral, who houfs up the best in the land, Aye cracks to the Gauger wi' bonnet in hand.

[O.Sc. howf, of Dundee, 1565, a timber yard, 1638, a burial ground, 1647; Du., Ger. hof, an enclosed space, a courtyard. For the diphthong, cf. Doup, Howp.]

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"Howf n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Oct 2021 <>



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