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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SOUR, adj., v., n. Also soor, sooer (Kcb. 1911 G. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 52), sure (Sc. 1707 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 104), soure (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 186), sowr. Deriv. soorness (Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 83). [′su(ə)r]

I. adj. 1. Sc. form of Eng. sour. wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 5:
There's nae airn sae hard but rust'll fret it.
There's nae cloth sae fine but moths'll eat it.
So it shouldny surprise us when a soor auld biddy
Turns her back on the world that's turnt it's back on her already.
Dundee 1989 W. N. Herbert in Joy Hendry Chapman 55-6 94:
ma memries o Perthshire unfurl
lik new poonds an fehvurs, thi soor
an soakit smells o blue an green -
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 26:
Liftin' oor wee Danny
Get up oan the caur,
Where are ye goin', Missus?
Says the conductor, face that soor.

Sc. combs.: (1) soor blaund, fermented whey of buttermilk (Sh. 1914 Old-Lore Misc. VII. i. 70). See Bland, n., 1.; (2) sour bread, a kind of oatcake baked of sour leaven at Christmas (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 174); (3) sour cake, -caik, id. (ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 157); †a similar cake baked in Rutherglen for St. Luke's Fair, which began on the third Monday in October, Old Style; (4) soor-cloot, a person of harsh, gloomy or fault-finding disposition (Abd., Slg., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1971); †(5) sour cogue, a kind of curds made from sour cream, hatted kit (see Hat, v.1, 2.); (6) sour dock(en), the common sorrel, Rumex acetosa (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 174; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk., Kcb., s.Sc. 1971). Also in Eng. dial.; (7) sour-doo(c)k, -douk, buttermilk (Lth. 1825 Jam.; Per., Fif., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc. Also attrib. and fig. of a sour mean person (n.Sc., em.Sc.(a), Lnk., sm.Sc. 1971). Combs. sour dook cairt, the cart from which buttermilk was sold in towns (‡Edb. 1956); sour-dook sodger, a member of the Yeomanry, freq. recruited from farmers and their workers. See also Dook, n.1, 3. (3); (8) sour drap, an acid drop (Sh. 1971); also attrib. = melancholy, dismal; (9) sour-face, = (4). Also sour-faced, adj.; (10) sour fish, fish kept until it has acquired a game flavour (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1971); †(11) sour grass, -garss, grasses of the sedge family, Carex (Lnk., Ayr. 1825 Jam.); (12) soor-leek, -lick, (i) = (6) (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Watson; Kcb., Rxb. 1971). Comb. red or wee sour leek, id. (Uls. 1886 B. and H. 302); (ii) water-dock, Rumex hydrolapathum (Uls. Northern Whig (5 Dec.) 13); (13) sour milk, buttermilk (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., Ayr. 1971). Also in n.Eng. and Ir. dial. Also fig. and attrib. = surly, morose, embittered. Combs. sour milk cairt, -cert, see (7); sour milk coal, coal of very poor quality; sour milk (jock(ey)), in pl., the Yeomanry (see (7)). Hist.; (14) sour moued, having a sulky look (Abd. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1971). Hence sour-like-mood, sour-mood-like, id. (Gregor; ne.Sc. 1971); (15) sour ploom, †-plumb, (i) a native of Galashiels (Lnk., s.Sc. 1971); round green boiled sweets of a tart flavour, orig. associated with Galashiels. Gen.Sc. See Ploom, 1. Also fig.; (ii) = (4), a “wet blanket” (em. and wm.Sc. 1971); (16) sour poos, = (2) (Nai., Mry. 1941 M. M. Banks Cal. Customs III. 208). See Poos; (17) sour scone, -skon, id. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 432; Mry. 1825 Jam.); fig., = (4) (MacTaggart); ¶(18) sour thaw, see quot.(3) Sc. 1703 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 336:
For eall and sourcaiks . . . 0 3 6.
Per. 1737 Ochtertyre Ho. Bk. (S.H.S.) 6:
Supper . . . sour cakes fryed.
Lnk. 1793 D. Ure Rutherglen 94:
Another ancient custom, for the observance of which Rutherglen has been long famous, is the baking of sour cakes.
Mry. 1839 W. Rhind Sketches 15:
Sour cakes of a similar composition as sowins, with aromatic seeds, were also an essential luxury at Christmas feasts.
Lnk. 1880 P. M'Arthur Amusements 20:
On the evening of the last market-day of the year in Rutherglen — called Draigle Dubbs Fair — the old women, dressed for the occasion, used to assemble in a house appointed for the meeting, and arranged themselves in a wide circle round the hearth. They then proceeded to knead what was called “soor cakes”, handing the dough from one to another, till it was made as thin as a wafer, when it was baked on a “girdle.”
(4) Sc. c.1925 R. Thomas Sandie McWhustler's Waddin' 14:
Tae ma wey o' thinkin' Roddy was aye a soor-cloot. I ne'er kent 'm tae say a guid wird aboot onybody.
(5) Sc. 1833 R. Pitcairn Trials II. 285:
Prepared by milking from a cow upon butter milk, kept till it is pretty sour. It is also called ‘sour cogue' and ‘Corstorphine cream'.
(7) Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie viii.:
Gie a wean his parritch, An' dinna spare the sour-douk can.
m.Lth. 1868 St Andrews Gazette (8 Feb.):
When the Mid-Lothian farmers turned out for the first time as Yeomanry Cavalry, . . . the ragged-urchins . . . running after them shouted, “Soor dook! Soor dook!” . . . . The “Fenian bobbies” are wiser in their generation than the “Soor dook” sodgers.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 92:
Soor-dook for ilk thirsty man.
Gsw. 1950 H. W. Pryde McFlannel Family Affairs 121:
Ah mind the day when Ah used tae think soor dook wis a rare slockener.
m.Lth. 1951 Scientific Survey S.E. Scot. (Brit. Assoc.) 109:
A feature of the highways being the “soor-dook” cart, the last of which disappeared only some three years ago.
Fif. 1956 People's Friend (10 Nov.):
When weddings were held in the home, after the marriage ceremony those waiting outside used to cry, “Hard up, soor dook, canna throw the money oot.”
(8) Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 76:
Sour draps, sugar candy, or rock.
Abd. 1924 D. Scott Hum. Sc. Stories 89:
There was ae awfu' quaet, sad, soordrap tune 'at made a'body sit as quaet's mice.
(9) Edb. 1931 E. Albert Herrin' Jennie 115:
You're an awfu' bloke for to laugh. I thocht ye was a real soor-face.
Sc. 1993 Herald 24 Dec 7:
On television she has been in everything from Bergerac to Taggart and Lovejoy, in which she played the English gentry's soor-faced housekeeper.
Dmf. 1997 Nell Thomson Spit the First Sook 16:
Sunday School was a must for us all. I never really enjoyed it. The teachers seemed to be soor faced old wimen, wae fancy hats and specs on the end of their nose.
m.Sc. 2000 Scotland on Sunday 17 Dec 21:
Ach, suit yersels. Here Davie, look it's that soor-faced Wendyrella and that wee nyaff Buttons.
Sc. 2003 Aberdeen Evening Express 25 Nov 16:
So why is it that we continue to get it so wrong in this country? How often have you come away from somewhere thinking: "nice food, shame about the soor-faced waitress"?
(10) Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 470:
The love for fish in a semi-putrescent state, named sour fish, or souked fish, still prevails.
Sh. 1926–8 Shetland Times:
Soor fish maks wir stammicks laek a maidie piltock.
(11) Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 305:
This tribe of plants [sedge-grasses] are called sour grasses.
(12) Rxb. 1876 Science-Gossip 39:
On account of its acid taste, Rumex acetosa gets [the name] “sour leeks.”
(13) Sc. 1743 R. Maxwell Select Trans. 347:
These Vats you ought to keep full of sour Milk.
Edb. 1791 W. Creech Fugitive Pieces (1815) 94:
It is estimated that £1000 a year is paid in Edinburgh during the months of June, July, August, and September, for butter milk, or sour milk, as it is called.
Lnk. 1794 J. Naismith Agric. Cld. 37:
About 13 or 14 fathoms below this, lies a coal, call'd about Glasgow, the sour milk coal. It burns slowly, and affords but a weak heat.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 249:
No ken the Soor-milks? the Yeomanry, to be sure, wi' the hairy-heel'd, long-chafted naigs.
s.Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 51:
Giving him sour milk to his sowans at supper-time.
Gsw. 1865 A. Smith Summer in Skye II. 265:
During the disturbed years that preceded the Reform Bill, we see the moneyed classes — “soor-milk jockeys” they were profanely nicknamed by the mob — eagerly enrolling themselves in yeomanry corps.
Ayr. 1885 R. Lawson Maybole 74:
The yeomanry Cavalry (familiarly known as the “Sour Milk Jocks”).
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 36:
A' the soor-milk Wast ran doun the Tweed.
Bte. 1952 People's Friend (22 March) 17:
How many towns or villages in Scotland can still boast of a “soor milk cert?”
(14) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S). II. 185:
Some canker'd surly sour-mow'd carline.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Lament W. Creech ix.:
Ev'ry sour-mou'd girnin blellum.
(15) (i) Slk. 1958 Scotsman (19 April):
“Soor Plooms” glint at you from their glass jars.
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 14:
Mrs Cochrane came roon yesterday way a balaclava an a bag a soor plooms. Ah hope the balaclava comes in haundy. The wee yins ate the soor plooms.
Gsw. 1993 Margaret Sinclair Soor Plooms and Candy Balls 1:
Sookin' a liquorice stick, ma curdy in ma haun,
Soor Plooms an' Humbugs, ah'll hiv some o' thone.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 57:
The bools in the moo o Pretension,
The soor plooms o Censure,
Whyles yoam frae yon airless chaumer.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 53:
She raxed ower the poke an twixt finger an thoom,
A pu'd oot a sticky yin caa'd a soor ploom.
(ii) Fif. 1909 J. C. Craig Sangs o' Bairns 11:
The soor-plooms that are near ye They sairly need the sun.
(16) ne.Sc. 1929 F. M. McNeill Scots Kitchen 175:
There was also a sour cake, known in Moray and Banffshire as Soor Poos, made of oatmeal moistened with the water poured off sowens.
(17) Bnff. a.1829 J. Sellar Poems (1844) 12:
And now sour scons wi' carvy season'd, Are dipt 'mang reamin' beer.
Sc. 1933 Scotsman (22 Dec.):
The Yule-bread proper consisted of “sour-skons” — that is farls (quarter-bannocks) made of oatmeal which had been allowed to steep in cold water till it had become slightly sour.
(18) Sc. 1959 Scotsman (28 Feb.) 12:
A sour thaw, when the air temperature is only a degree or two above freezing. The top soil may become thawed and sticky, but that is as far as it goes.

2. Of weather: cold and wet, inclement (ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Bwk., Lnk. 1971). Obs. in Eng.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 138:
Simmer's showery blinks and winter's sour.
Sc. 1837 Carlyle Fr. Rev. III. i. vii.:
The Earth weeps and blears itself, in sour rain, and worse.
Per. 1893 Harp. Per. (Ford) 378:
Sour an' surly clouds drove past.
Fif. 1895 G. Setoun Sunshine and Haar 28:
A “cauld sour day,” nothing but drizzle.
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 16:
The sun can niver show 'is face, The sky's that sour an' dark.

II. v. ¶1. Sc. form of Eng. sour.m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 3:
an that yer leaves, siller ablow
an green abuin, heiven an yirth
in yin, aye hae shougled wi shame
sinsyne, fer me yer flooer haadsna
the fusty reek o soorit wine,
yer sap the creashiness o bluid
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 49:
... haundit doun fae gaed-afore,
will wither, if division soors
the grund roond Eilean Mor.

In vbl.n. pl. sourins, ? a tasteless or unpalatable dish, but phs. a mistake for Sowans.Sc. 1845 Hogg's Weekly Instructor (Aug.) 409:
What sort o cauld sourins is that? Hout awa, think shame o' yoursel'.

2. tr. and intr. To macerate or soften, esp. of the action of water upon lime, to slake (Sh., Bnff., Abd., Per., Fif., Rxb. 1971).Sc. 1702 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 309:
To the workmen caried water sour the lyme . . . 2s.
Gall. 1719 Session Bk. Minnigaff (1939) 351:
To the burning and souring of the lime.
Abd. 1744 Rec. Old Abd. (S.C.) II. 181:
To 30 bolls of lime at 15d. per boll to be sowrd and prepared for poynting the two spires.
Abd. 1777 J. Anderson Essays I. 328:
Lime that had lain a considerable time beat up with water, as is usual, to allow it to sour, in the common language of masons.
Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. App. I. 259:
The mortar is then put up in a heap, to sour as it is called.
Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 62:
Water on a fireclay holing cause it to sour.
Sh. 1961 New Shetlander No. 57. 8:
The lime was what they called soured. Sand and lime were mixed together and slightly wet and made into a large heap, then left for a time.

3. intr. To carp, cavil, to behave in a sulky manner, to huff.Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 132:
There's naething looks waur than folk stunchilin an' sourin at ither in the presence o' strangers.

III. n. The action or process of slaking (lime). Phr. in the sour, being slaked.Abd. 1777 J. Anderson Essays I. 354:
If lime intended for mortar is allowed to lie in the sour, much of it will be converted to chalk.

[O.Sc. sour caik, 1597, sour coug, sour milk, 1661.]

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"Sour adj., v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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