Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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TAW, n.1, v.1 Also taa; tyaw. Pl. taws(e), tawes, tauze (Sc. 1808 Jam.), ta(w)z (Sc. 1718–25 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I.24, II.269). [tɑ:, t:; pl. tɑ: z, t:z]

I. n. 1. A thong of a whip, a strap-tail (Sc. 1880 Jam.); most commonly in pl. taws(e), occas. double pl. tawses, a whip with tails, the lash for a whipping-top, specif. a leather strap with thongs, now used as an instrument of punisishment in Sc. schools, the belt. Gen.Sc. and n.Eng. dial.; also fig. Also in phr. a pair of tawse. Combs. tawse-swasher, a wielder of the tawse, a schoolmaster; ¶tawse-waled, marked or bruised by the tawse. Phr. to come thro' the taws, to come through a bitter or chastening experience, to suffer hardship or distress. Abd. 1714 R. Smith Poems 39:
Thou ought to be whipt with the Taws.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 266:
Never take the taws, when a word will do the turn.
e.Lth. 1759 Address to Farmers Scot. 4:
A receptacle for his snuff, a napkin of a very singular complexion, and the tauze.
Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 6:
A pair o' tawse, to gie them paiks.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvi.:
To gar Jock Dalgleish lay the tawse on your back.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck xii.:
He might be skelpit wi' the taws o' divine wrath.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 28:
The nippy taw Comes whiskin' whiles athort us a'.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 159:
An' when a' wives come thro' the taws, They'll aiblins then excuse my zeal.
Ags. 1861 Arbroath Guide (6 April) 4:
A wabster and a dominie, wha had naething but a pair o' taws and a shuttle.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes xiii.:
The smile, which, in spite of pain, had illuminated his tawse-waled cheeks.
Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 115:
The veins swall'd on his forehead like whip-taws.
Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk More Bits 22:
The cane and the “wee taws” were occasionally, but mildly used. The “big taws”, seldom produced excepting on “capital offence” occasions.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 142:
The ancient tawse-swasher pled weariness .
Lnk. 1895 W. C. Fraser Whaups 18:
From the faint odour of burning leather we knew that he was roasting the tawse taes.
Fif. 1898 S. Tytler Mrs Carmichael's Goddesses xvi.:
There will be nae mair tawses.
Edb. 1898 J. Baillie W. Crichton 175, 201:
He kept a pair of tawse like the other teachers. . . . What kind of a “taw” did he keep?
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 143:
You've lost the taw o' your whup.
Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 38:
You got a skud or skelp with the tawse.
Edb. 1926 Edb. Ev. News (6 Aug.) 4:
He leathered it [a top] wi' tawse o' tow.

2. A strip or thin slat of wood used in making potato baskets (see quot.). Slg. 1966 Stat. Acc.3 145:
The narrower and thinner strips of oak that went lengthwise were called “the tawse”.

3. A child's word for the penis (Slg., Fif., wm.Sc. 1972).

4. Difficulty, laborious effort, much ado (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Cf. II. 2.

II. v. For other Sc. forms see Tyauve.

1. tr. As in Eng., to make (hides) soft by beating in the preparation of leather, to heckle flax. Hence (1) to pull and tug at (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) T. 93; Kcd. 1944), to knead, draw out or twist some adhesive, plastic, stringy or fibrous substance e.g. in the making of toffee or the like, to make pliable like mortar (Ags., Peb. 1972); to spoil by too much handling (Bwk. 1825 Jam.). Pa.p. strong ¶tawen, see 1810 quot. Ags. 1808 Jam.:
Be sure you taw the leaven weel.
Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 89:
They've tawen't sae till now they've made it An unco sight.
Per. 1903 H. Dryerre Blairgowrie 207:
If the profits on the rock were great, the work, for many years at any rate, was very hard, until the hand “tawing”, as it is termed, was superseded by machinery.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Ti taw roset or taffee.

Adj. tawie, fig. of an animal: tractable, docile, easy to handle and command. Ayr. 1785 Burns To Auld Mare v.:
Ye ne'er was donsie But hamely, tawie, quiet an' cannie.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems II. 134:
Tho' bauld when at hame He fand, whan afiel' he was tawie an' tame.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 262:
But tawie, canny on thou trod Wi' cautious speed.

(2) Of a suckling: to tug at the breast with the lips or hands, to suck long and greedily Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B.), also. in gen. Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 23:
A saw um bebbin and taain oot ov a bottle.

2. intr. To work laboriously, to toil and moil, to struggle, throw the limbs about in physical effort, wrestle. Vbl.n. tawin, -an, wrestling, strugghng, a struggle, difficulty (Kcd. 1972). Phr. with a tawan, with a struggle, reluctantly. Per. 1753 A. Nicol Rural Muse 53:
That perfect mettle to find out Would be an unca tawing.
Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 25:
I was lying tawin an' wamlin under lucky-minny.
Ags. 1803 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 638:
In browster houses 'twas a tawin' To get him up ere cocks were crawin'.
Ags. 1808 Jam.:
He callit me sometimes Provost, and sometimes my Lord; but it was ay with a tawan.
Ags. 1879 Arbroath Guide (12 April) 3:
I micht hae gotten on some wye wi' a tawin'.
Ags. 1894 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. iv.:
Ye'll hae a ta-win till ye get onybody to faut that it's ca'ed aifter noo.

3. tr. Also in form tawse. To beat, whip with a strap or tawse (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl., taws, taz). Gen.Sc., rare. Obs. in Eng. Vbl.n. tawsing. See I. 1. Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken xvi.:
I would have her tawed through the town at the cart's tail.
Abd. 1923 A. Shewan Spirat Adhuc Amor 227:
Two brothers were removed from the Gym. owing to an excessive tawsing, and a boy was tawsed once for twenty minutes.
Sc. 1954 Scotsman (2 Oct.) 6:
Whether the individual child is tawsed or not.

[O.Sc. pl. tawis, a whip for a top, 1513, tawes, a school-strap, a.1585, taw, to beat, 1676, from Eng. taw, v., to prepare leather, to whip, n., tawed leather.]

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"Taw n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jan 2021 <>



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