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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

SONSIE, adj. Also sons(e)y, sonc(e)y, -ie, sonsi, sonsee; sauncy, saunsey; sansie; suncy, sunsey, and erron. sousy. [′sonsi]

1. Bringing good luck or good fortune, of good omen, lucky (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 384; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924), 1953 Traynor). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1711 Speech for Mr Dundasse 3:
It is soncy for me that this did not faw out in the time of the late Ministers.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs Intro.:
It is no Sonsie to meet a bare Foot in the Morning.
Sc. 1726 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 212:
They say the river is not sonsy, nor yet the loch. Apparitions they report to be seen about it.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 46:
Much care is taken that the persons who enter be what are called sonsie folk, for on the admission of the first-foot depends the prosperity or trouble of the year.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales (1874) 310:
It's no sonsie to look so smiling on her wedding-night — a grave bride's best — owre blythe a bride is seldom a blest one.
Sc. 1832 Fraser's Mag. (Oct.) 302:
Each bearing some rough and therefore sousy [sic] offering [New Year's gift].

2. Enjoying good fortune, fortunate, prosperous, attended by good luck (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924)).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 55:
Better be sansie as soon up.

3. Engaging and friendly in appearance or manner, hearty, jolly, often with little more than a gen. complimentary force, “good, honest”: (1) gen. of men or things personified (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 267; Rnf. 1920; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Cai., em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc., Gall. 1971). Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 24:
Now ken, my rev'rend sonsy fair.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 12:
A sonsie pair of lad an' lass was found.
Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 58:
Wow, sonsy Simon! how gaes a'?
Ayr. 1803 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 22:
Sic news! hech man, John, ye're a sonsie auld chiel!
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 72:
Fair fa' ye J —, my sonsy laddie, For yours receiv'd has made me vaudy.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
Ye hae made the douce sonsy lad that he disna ken where to look.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet x.:
A sonsy, merry companion.
Dmf. 1836 Carlyle in Atlantic Monthly (1898) 295:
The Doctor looks very well and sonsy; he seems in good health and well to live.
Bnff. 1856 J. Collie Poems 113:
Some honest sonsie farmer chiel.
Lnk. 1881 D. Thomson Musings 184:
We see the sonsy harvest moon.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 39:
A sonsie chiel wha's name was Jock.
Sc. 1992 Herald (8 Feb) 8:
MacDiarmid was everything which Burns was not and the reverse holds true as well. Burns was handsome and sonsie, courteous and brave, clever and self-perceptive. Burns was educated for his time and his intelligence made use of that.

(2) esp. of women: comely, attractive, good-looking, very freq. in respect of the figure, buxom, plump (Sc. 1808 Jam.: Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson), sometimes also of young children: chubby, sturdy, thriving (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 47). Gen.Sc., also in n.Eng. dial. In nonce usage in 1826 quot. as a n.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iii. ii.:
I've twa sonsy Lasses, young and fair.
Sc. 1757 Smollett Reprisal i. ii.:
Nae gentleman wad plunder a leddy and a right sonsy damsel too.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Wks. (Douglas 1891) IV. 231:
A bonie, strappin, rosy, sonsie lass.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
Is she a pretty girl? her sister does not get beyond a good comely sonsy lass.
Mry. 1824 J. Cock Hamespun Lays 26:
Blessin's on her sonsie bouk.
Dmf. 1826 A. Cunningham Paul Jones III. i.:
I dinna like such condescending sonsies.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 288:
“Commend me, James, to a slim rotundity . . .” “I alloo that lassies should aye be something sonsie”
Edb. 1850 J. Smith Hum. Sc. Stories 5:
A wee sonsy fat girnin' stowcy o' a wean.
Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 168:
Bringin' hame his fish tae thee — Tae me sonsy bairn.
Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 81:
Geordie began to resume his former sonsy condition.
wm.Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xiii.:
What a fine, big, sonsy baby.
e.Lth. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 221:
Sin' they paidl't in Tyne he's groun sonsie an' stout.
Uls. 1914 P. MacGill Children of Dead End 66:
Ye've grown to be a big, soncy man.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xv.:
Sonsy though she was, big and ungainly of body, . . . she was incredibly nimble in her movements.
Kcd. 1934 L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 38:
Chris saw Jock scart his claws in Ma's sonsy leg.
w.Sc. 1934 “Uncle Tom” Mrs. Goudie's Tea-Pairty 21:
Ye're lookin that sonsie in yer new doalman.
m.Sc. 1979 Donald Campbell in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 67:
Mony pokes o skinklin siller,
bonnie dainties cam your wey.
A sonsie quine wi ocht intil her
can mak a fortune, so they say.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 47:
She was a sonsy, plain lass with a happy nature who made him comfortable and as plump and contented as she was herself and who eventually bore him a succession of round children, all looking exactly like herself.

(3) transf., of the appearance, looks, face (Bnff. 1860; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Ork., Ags., Kcb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial. Hence sonsy-faced (Traynor), sonsy-lookin, -luiket.Sc. 1756 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 17:
Ane's gayand auld, but muckle buiket; Yet unco guid, and sonsy luiket.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Haggis i.:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 55:
Spring turns away her sonsy blushing face.
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (Rogers 1905) 168:
Her sonsy face, and bright red hair.
Mry. 1830 Lintie o' Moray (1887) 44:
A dainty haggis dinner graced, Which was baith gweed and sonsy-faced.
Ags. 1879 Forfar Poets (Fenton) 131:
Sonsy cheeks like hairvest baps.
Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 184:
His honest, sonsey Scottish face.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 267:
He was a muckle sonsy-lookin man.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (1 Siptember):
Da haerst-mön aye haes a sonsy face.
Lnk. 1927 G. Rae Where Falcons Fly vi.:
That dour, sour look on Jeemes Beaton's sonsy coontenance.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 142:
Among them all Kate with her bright eyes and sonsy curves was a goodly, cheerful sight.
Sc. 1989 Sunday Times (17 Sep):
Napoleon, The Untold American Story is the predictably bizarre title of the new one-man show from John Sessions. The sonsie-faced lad from Largs has received a lot of coverage for saying that he thinks there are too many obscure references in his work.
Sc. 1997 Scotsman (28 Nov) 23:
You have a child who has completed seven years of primary school during which, despite your fears, and foolishly thinking from time to time that the less than sonsie lassie in charge of your little girl's major waking hours (or little boy's) is about as educated as a wee hairy behind a shop counter, you put this worry behind you.
Sc. 2004 Sunday Herald (11 Jul) 19:
In its 10th year, the Golf Channel has grown from humble beginnings to establish an audience in 70,000,000 homes in the USA alone. The sonsie Laidlaw coupon [face] and his mellifluous Scottish tones have become familiar to millions of American viewers over the breakfast table, ...

(4) of animals:Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 84:
An' my cave, o' aiken timmer Hauds a sonsy clockan' hen.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ii.:
She's a braw sonsie sheep, Jock.
Lnk. 1859 J. Parker Poems 50:
A braw sonsie fleckie, the queen o' a' kye.
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 119:
A nice sonsy rabbit cost me aichteenpence.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (27 Sept.) 2:
He baited his hook with an extra sonsie worm to kill something gigantic.
Sh. 1933 J. Nicolson Hentilagets 14:
An at caain-time hed grouwn ta be A valient, sonsi gimmer.
Slk. 1964 Southern Reporter (2 April) 9:
A big, sonsy, milky ewe must not go away with just a single lamb.

4. Of things or personifications: (1) fine, handsome, impressive; pleasant, cheery.Edb. 1772–3 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 69, 142:
In troth, my callant, I'm sae fain To see your sonsy, canty strain. . . . To mak thee sonsy seem wi' mony a gift.
Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 180:
Thou sonsiest, hamart, auld clay biggin'.
Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 5:
Fan hodden-grey, undy'd or drest, Was sonsy weeds to busk the best.
Abd. 1809 J. Skinner Amusements 93:
A' your sough o' sonsie fleets.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary v.:
A weel-favoured, sonsy, decent periwig.
Mry. 1824 J. Cock Hamespun Lays 118:
Nae yellow Geordies now, I ween, Nor sonsie siller crowns are seen.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters vii.:
He was as proud of the sonsy house as Gourlay himself.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 67:
High trees wi' sonsy taps.
Dmf. 1915 J. L. Waugh Betty Grier 82:
I produced a sonsy specimen of Betty's laundry-work.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 17:
The Mowatt faimly bedd twa mile up Glen Dubh, heid o a sma brae luikin ower thon sonsie wee burn that raged fite wi watter in winter, bit in spring wis green wi treelipin, sappy stringles o girse at its sides.
Sc. 2003 Daily Mail (6 Oct) 46:
Yet there he is - the honest, sonsie television face of Scottish rugby - ready to guide us through Scotland's World Cup adventure.
Sc. 2004 Sun (25 May):
True genius showed its sonsie wee face when the Pakistani shop owner envied the old boys' gambling and drinking and when pensioner Isla was told to "shift her a**e". She started doing the Twist.

(2) big, ample, roomy, capacious, substantial, abundant, characterised by plenty (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Uls. 1953 Traynor); hefty, of a blow. Adv. sonsily, with a bump, palpably.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 68:
Better rough and sonsie, than bare and donsie.
Per. 1729 John o' Blair Donald of Glenisla (1931) 275:
A big dog appeared and in passing by touched me sonsily on the thigh at my haunch bane.
Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 199:
Whether ye hing owre Muslins braw, Or sonsier Sacks, or Plaiding.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 137:
A sonsie Stipen', sound and hale, Yet sunk in debt!
Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 52:
Oh! Wow but this is a sonsy sofa! It wad do brawly for a honeymoon.
Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 591:
Whin I'd geen him tree or four sonsee knubs aboot da shafts.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 121:
She saw it was a sonsie cask.
Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 192:
A sonsie breakfast and weel-countet siller.
Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe ii.:
To fish from the depths of an oaken cupboard “a sonsie tappit hen.”
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 235:
Home-made scones, burstin brönies, and sonsie pancakes.
Fif. 1901 G. Setoun Skipper Barncraig vii.:
Out o ane o' Ellen's sonsy rummers.
Ags. 1920 D. H. Edwards Men & Manners 235:
Clouted and re-clouted with many fabrics, it had . . . “a sonsy weicht, but fell usefu'.”
Uls. 1928 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 67:
A brave sonsy place.
Kcd. 1933 L. G. Gibbon Cloud Howe 17:
They built a new kirk when the old one fell, sonsy and broad.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 9:
An fa can snib the door o Time wi feint a backwird teet
At sonsie simmer's reamin quaich wi barley bree replete,

5. (1) Of persons: sound, sensible, shrewd. Also in Eng. dial., obs.; (2) of animals: tractable, manageable (Sc. 1808 Jam.). C.f. 3.(1) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 153:
Sonsy Sauls wha first contriv'd the Way, With Project deep our Charges to defray.
(2) Ayr. 1786 Burns To his Auld Mare v.:
Hamely, tawie, quiet, an' cannie, An' unco sonsie.
Edb. 1866 J. Inglis Poems 74:
‘She was a sonsy, fine, auldfarrent beast,' Says the guidwife, ‘as ever speel'd a brae.'
w.Lth. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 325:
Blithe looking hoo your craps did grow, Wi' faithfu' Don, the sonsie fallow.

[Deriv. of Sonse, with various extensions of meaning. O.Sc. sonsy, lucky, propitious, 1533.]

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"Sonsie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Oct 2022 <>



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