Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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LOUN, n. Also loon, †lown. Dim. forms loonie, looni(c)kie, lunach (gen. in meanings 5. and 7.). [lun]

1. ‡(1) A rogue, rascal, scoundrel (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict., 1808 Jam.), a worthless person (Dmf. 1889 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 151; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ags., Fif., Lnl., Uls. 1961). Also transf., of things: the cause of some mishap. Cf. (vii) below. Sc. 1701 Scots Mag. (July 1818) 35:
She followed him, and called back againe, you fals loun will you murder your father and my husband both.
Ags. 1725 Sc. Hist. Review IV. 67:
Called him beggarly lown and rascall and fairy-bitten toad.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 11:
Piece long ere than, lowns had begun to spread, An' riefing hereship was become a trade.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 183:
Mind ye what Sam, the lying loun! Had in his Dictionar laid down?
Ayr. 1790 Burns Awa', Whigs, Awa' i.:
Ye're but a pack o' traitor louns.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xxiv.:
There's nae trusting a Presbyterian; they are a' faithless man-sworn louns.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ii.:
Ye'll get nae mae at my hand; nor nae rebel Papist loun amang ye.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
There was the loon that had made the puir wean sae wanrestfu'. . . . Ane of my faither's breek-needles stickin' up to the hilt in the very thick o' its thigh!
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 67:
I never saw aen o' the ferry-lupper loons that could deu the like.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders v.:
Misca' them for a' the sornin' tinklers — the lazy, ill-contrivin' loons i' the country.
Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People & Lang. 33:
In Ulster, as in every other place, the word “loon” has acquired a disrespectful sense.
Bwk. 1911 Lady J. Scott Songs 164:
Yon ill-fa'ured thievin' German loon Has ta'en my rights awa.
Ayr. 1927 J. Carruthers A Man Beset 49:
A partan-faced, sculduddery loon.

Hence (i) loon body, = (1); †(ii) lounery, knavery, rascality; †(iii) loonfow, rascally (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (iv) loun-ill, malingering, pretended illness to avoid work; (v) loon-leuking, knavish, villainous, scamp-like; (vi) loun-like, like a scoundrel, blackguardly; disreputable-looking, shabby, scruffy (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ‡Ags. 1961). Nonce compar. lowner-like; (vii) to be the loon o', to be the one to blame for (Fif. 1919 T.S.D.C.). (i) Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf x.:
If ye leave it flung about in that gate for the first loon body to lift.
(ii) Fif. 1838 A. Bethune Sc. Peasantry 120:
Gin ye'll promise to dee a' this, without cheatry or lounery, ye'll hae lowsance frae yer bondage.
(iv) Edb. 1792 “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 52:
Thir drunken blades, on fast-day noon, On annual rowt frae Embro-town Seiz'd wi' the loon-ill, wurble doun Like swarms o' vermin.
(v) Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin x.:
What, in the name o' wonder, is the meanin' o' thae loon-lookin' things [handcuffs]?
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 293:
Syne the Deil's advocate, wi' Rob's case in hand, Nigh the great blazin' forge took his loon-luikin' stand.
Sc. 1909 J. Colville Studies 137:
A mischievous boy was . . . a loon-lookin' dog.
(vi) Sc. a.1730 A. Pennecuik Collect. Sc. Poems (1787) 10:
Shame light on that lown-like tree [the gallows], Plays sic foul tricks.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 149:
For still the lowner like I am, The more my trade [begging] I'll grace.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 207:
A very lump of loun-like ill-nature.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 115:
Thae loun-like fallows Gie ay cheap bargains to conceal Them frae the gallows.
Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 113:
Nor lazy, nor loun-like, was ane o' them seen, Wi' the muckle wheel birrin' frae mornin' till een.

‡(2) In a milder or playful sense, esp. of a boy: a young scamp, a mischievous rogue (Ags., m.Lth. 1961). Fif. 1830 A. Stewart Dunfermline (1889) 138:
The wild, tricky loons, who on a Halloween night would fill his house with clouds of smoke from their “Jenny reekies.”
Sc. 1846 Edb. Tales (Johnstone) II. 84:
A dour loonie ye were — to tarry at your porridge.
Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays 17:
Will ye no' fa' asleep the nicht Ye restless little loon?
Lnk. 1881 A. Wardrop Poems 105:
Mither a' oor fau'ts wad tell, An' me a loon wad ca'.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 52:
The wee dyvour loons frae Kilwinning.

2. Specif.: a sexually immoral person, gen. of a woman, a strumpet, wanton, concubine (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Hence lounrie, unchastity, immoral relations. Comb. and Phr.: loon-queyn, an immoral or worthless woman (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); to play the loun, to behave unchastely, commit fornication (Fif. 1935). Sc. 1714 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 16:
He kend the Bawds and Louns fou well, And where they us'd to rant and reel.
Ayr. 1719 Session Bk. Dundonald (1936) 608:
William Wallace and Agnes Neil, his spouse, were guilty of lounrie before mariage, and that they had lyn in lounrie for 3 years.
Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 37:
But tell me, man, I should say Master, What muckle de'il in your way chas'd her Lowns baith!
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 134, 226:
Tho' they play'd the loon wi' a poor hizey, she durst nae speak o't for her life, for they could gie ony body o'er to the deil whan they liket. . . . You should be scourged, fause loon quean it thou is.
Ayr. 1786 Burns What ails ye now viii.:
A fornicator-lown he call'd me.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxii.:
If she has been a loon, it was your son made her sae, and he can make her an honest woman again.
Sc. 1830 Lord Thomas & Fair Annet in Child Ballads No. 73 I. iii.:
If I binna gude eneugh for yer wife, I'm our-gude for yer loun.

3. A man of low birth or condition, usu. opposed to laird. Obs. in Eng. Sc. 1783 Gil Brenton in Child Ballads No. 5 A. 50:
O is your bairn to laird or loon?
Kcd. 1830 J. Grant Kcd. Traditions 46:
For laird nor loon, nor knight nor clown Durstna venture her lips to prie.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 31:
Ye ken the sayin — “as the laird bowffs, the loun yaff” [sic].
Knr. 1895 H. Haliburton Dunbar 68:
From lip of lord to lip of loon.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 39:
Dibble them doon, the laird, the loon, King an' the cadgin' caird.

4. In a more gen. sense: (1) a fellow, a chap, a lad, youth, young man, from adolescence onwards (Uls. 1953 Traynor; n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lnl., Wgt. 1961). Sc. 1771 Smollett H. Clinker Melford to Philips, Aug. 8:
Lang life to the wylie loon that gangs a-field with a toom-poke at his lunzie, and comes hame with a sackful of siller.
Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour (17 Sept.):
The usual figure of a Skye boy is a lown with bare legs and feet, a dirty kilt, ragged coat and waistcoat, a bare head, and a stick in his hands.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 142:
An' monie a bourdlie bandster lown, Made there an' unco bletherin.
Dmf. 1809 Scots Mag. (March) 208:
A hame-spun loon, wi' bonnet blue, The gill-stoup was caressin' O.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxix.:
My 'prentice loonie, wha had been at the door seekin' in to his wark.
s.Sc. 1885 W. Scrope Salmon Fishing 218:
He was a stout loon o' his age.
Ags. 1889 Arbroath Guide (20 April) 3:
A galley whaur I was workin' when a bit loon.
Fif. 1929 St Andrews Cit. (9 Feb.) 9:
What's happen't tae oor poet loons?

(2) in reference to a man as a native of a certain place (ne.Sc., Ags. 1961); specif. a male native of Forfar; in sporting journalism: a player in Forfar Athletic Football Club. Cf. Bairn. Mry. 1851 Lintie o' Mry. (Cumming) 29:
And Moray loons may learn How pious were their dads, Sir.
Sc. 1937 St Andrews Cit. (25 Sept.) 2:
A Forfar loon, Professor — had gained knowledge at six universities.
Sc. 1952 Sporting Post (23 Aug.) 4:
Forfar fans are hopeful after the Loons' good showing at Hamilton.

(3) a young farm-worker, a Halflin, essentially one who has not learned to plough; among a gang of workmen: a youth who does the odd jobs (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), ‡Lth. 1961). Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Loun is often used to denote a boy hired either occasionally, or for a term, for the purpose of running of errands, or doing work that requires little exertion. In a village, he who holds the plow is often called the lad, and the boy who acts as herd, or drives the horses, the loun.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
The servant “loon”, who was not yet out of bed.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chrons. Keith ix.:
An Arched “Chumlie”, where the Herd Loon's Stool was placed within one corner.
Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 102:
The loon 'ill mak' a plowman yet — Hard honest wark, the best i' land.
Ags. 1921 A. S. Neill Carroty Broon xxii.:
When Peter was fifteen he was sent to work as “loon” on East Mains farm.
ne.Sc. 1957 Abd. Press & Jnl. (4 Oct.):
“Smiler” was invariably the “loon's” job and I wonder if a more monotonous or tiring one was ever invented.

Phrs.: loun's line, a short length of fishing-line, the last part of a half-fleet of lines to be shot, the catch on which is assigned to the youngest member of the boat's crew (Mry. 1930); loun's piece, the first or outermost slice of a cheese or loaf, which might be rather hard or over-baked or slightly burned and hence thought suitable for the novice or odd-job man (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Cf. knave's piece, — fang s.v. Knave, Fang, Cuckold's Cut. Kcd. 1819 J. Burness Plays, etc. 285:
A quarter kebbuck neist comes ben John aff the loun's piece cuts.

5. (1) A boy up to adolescence or to the end of his schooldays, a boy as opposed to a lassie or quine (n.Sc., Ags., Fif., ‡Lth. 1961, rare elsewhere). Hence ¶loonhood, boyhood. Mry. 1763 Session Papers, Dunbar v. Dunbar State of Process 21:
At this Time the Deponent was a fine cliver Lounie.
Mry. 1828 J. Ruddiman Tales 27:
A door loon the dominie says he was.
Abd. 1844 W. Thom Rhymes 104:
'Tis the puir doited loonie — the mitherless bairn!
Sc. 1864 J. C. Shairp Kilmahoe 36:
That's what they're doing, lass and loon.
Lnk. 1867 J. M. Peacock Reverie 181:
Like twa wee gipsy loons.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 22:
Tells a' aboot the little loon Wha bocht the ribbons in the toon.
Mry. 1883 F. Sutherland Memories 156:
We hinna yet forgot yon haunts Whaur we in loonhood played.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 203:
Half a dozen kindly folk who pitied his “three loons and a lassie.”
Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 117:
Weel, loonikie, fat are ye seekin'?
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 19:
There wis a gey bit kurn o's there, ay, loons an' quines an' a'.
Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe (1937) 15:
His son was no more than a loon when he died.

(2) A male child, a son (n.Sc., Ags. 1961); a baby boy (Ags. 1921 M.M.S. 83; n.Sc., Ags. 1961). Ags. a.1808 in Jam.:
You'll hogg your lunach in a skull.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xii.:
Hedna he Jock Ogg, the gauger's loon, haill twa year at it?
Bnff. 1890 W. Garden Sonnets 237:
He took my loonie hame — hame wi' Himself to sup.
Ags. 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden 67:
His father had been blawin' a' the week aboot the grand sermon they were to get on the Sabbath frae his loon, Tammas.
Abd. 1926 Abd. Univ. Review (July) 227:
The workin' men in Englan' are sayin' 'at they maun hae the Colleges open t' their loons as weel as t' the loons o' folk better t' dee.

[O.Sc. loun, a rascal, 1470, a strumpet, a.1568, a low-born man, 1535, a fellow, 15 . . , Mid.Eng. lowen, a rogue, Mid.Du. loen, a fool, a stupid fellow, a lout.]

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"Loun n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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