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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

BONNY, BONNIE, Bonie, Bony, Boannie, adj., adv., n. [′bɔnɪ, ′bonĕ, ′bɔn Sc.; ′buni s.Sc.]

I. adj. Gen.Sc.

1. Beautiful, pretty, fair. Also Superl. bonniest. Phr. nae bonnie, no bonnie, unattractive, ugly. Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 3:
A bonnie bride's soon buskit.
Sc. 2000 Scotsman 25 May 17:
So where's that other crucial part of the formula, the baddie? Well again there are actually two, and it's an all-Scottish affair with Robert Carlyle as Renard, in a make-up job that makes him look like Begbie meets the Phantom of the Opera. Nae bonnie, in other words.
ne.Sc. 1998 Aberdeen Evening Express 20 Nov 11:
I've never mastered the art of her salmon mousse, which always falollops when I attempt the delicate manoeuvre of tipping it out of its affa artistic mould. ...Tastes fine but nae bonnie.
Abd. 1981 Christina Forbes Middleton The Dance in the Village 36:
I saved up ma money an' bocht a new frock
In the bonniest shade o' blue.
Abd. 1993:
At neeps is nae lookin bonnie - ower muckle drucht.
Edb. 1996:
She micht hae loads o siller but she's no bonnie.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Banks and Braes o' Bonie Doon (Cent. ed.) ii.:
Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon.

2. Handsome, attractive.Sc. 1910 L. MacLean Watt In Poets' Corner 124:
I've tint a bonnie laddie, A lissom, lichtsome loon.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 242:
'Whit laddie was it they hingit, Jean?' said the man. She looked at him harder. How did he not ken?
'The bonnie yin, the bonnie yin. Oh, I forget him. But ye had tae gang, ye had been oot wi the saints at Pentland - as he had. ... '
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne in Mod. Sc. Minstrel (ed. C. Rogers 1855) I. 218:
Bonnie Charlie's now awa'.

3. A term of eulogy or appreciation or endearment.Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped x.:
Am I no a bonny fighter?
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 9:
The ship cam' fest afore a bonnie sooth wind.
Abd. 1881 W. Paul Past and Pres. Abdsh. 111:
The country people here used to call a healthy wound, a “bonny sair.”
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne in Mod. Sc. Minstrel (ed. C. Rogers 1855) I. 195:
Wha'll buy my caller herrin'? They're bonnie fish and halesome farin'.
wm.Sc. [1835] Laird of Logan (1868) 390:
Hush, hushie, bonnie doo.

4. Great, considerable.Abd. 1920 M. Argo The Makkin o' John (4th ed.) 6:
Bit we wad ha'e kent a bonnie differ wi' frem't fowk.
Rxb. 1897 J. C. Dibdin Sc. Border Life 60:
A bonny fricht they got when they waukened.

5. Used ironically: fine.Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xxiii.:
Weel, my bonnie man, I see ye are thinking shame o' yoursell, and nae great wonder.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 148:
That's a bonny question to put to a chiel. Come back in thirty years and ask me again. Likely I'll still be here, taking home peats, sharing this ground wi maas and puddocks.
Bnff. 1882 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars vi.:
She was a feel, and he was a knave, and a bonnie barg'in they've made o' ane anither.
Abd.13 1910:
I'll lat ye see the bonny side o' the door.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 10:
At length out o' the pool I wan, A bonnie, draigl't droukit man.

6. Used with an(d) with adv. force = “jolly” (colloq.), very.Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Chron. of Glenbuckie 58:
The elders are bonny and angry about it.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (11 Jan.) 3/3:
Dauvit wad be bonnie an' mad if I let it away wi' a useless whalp like you.

7. Phr.: bonny on, keen about, eager for, well-disposed to. m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 66:
She wasna quite sae bonny on't [courtship] as he was.

Hence: (1) bonniness, bonnieness, bonyness, n., beauty, handsomeness; (2) bonnily, bonnilie, adv., beautifully, finely. (1) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 6:
For bonyness an' other good outthrow, They were as right as ever trade the dew.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Middleton in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of Winning Poems and Stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 35:
"Fae Caitir Fhrangach I larned that bonnieness isna aathing, an fyles is a mask fur coorseness. ... "
Ags. 1928 A. Gray Gossip 30:
O' a' the bonniness that's here Nae jot I'll miss.
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 5:
Tamas and Mysie were kenspeckle at Thistle games, she cleeking him tenderly and he droolingly proud of her rosy-cheeked bonniness.
(2) Hdg. 1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 19:
There let your charms blink bonnilie.
Kcb. 1885 A. J. Armstrong Friend and Foe i.:
"Ah! they're [potatoes] lauchin' bonnily,cc. she continued, lifting the lid from the pot.

II. adv. Corresponding to the adj. Sometimes used to qualify another adj. or adv. = very (Ork., ne.Sc. 1975).Sc. 1822 A. Cunningham My Ain Countree in Sir Marmaduke Maxwell, etc. 177:
My hamely hearth burn'd bonnie.
Sc. 1883 A. S. Swan Aldersyde x.:
Bonnie gled I was tae see his back.
Mry. 1898 J. Slater Seaside Idylls 6:
I wyte she kens. Bonnie does she ken.
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 39:
A'body kent bonnie weel the laird wis loasin' money.
Bch.(D) 1930 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 106–107:
Knowie: He'd eest t' play fyles at waddin's. Ye'll min on' him. Betty: Eh bonnie that. He played at ma ain waddin' nae less.
Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 21:
I was bonny angry mysel'.
Dmb. 1931 A. J. Cronin Hatter's Castle xxiv.:
Impelled . . . by his own bitterness, . . . he continued: “Ye've brocht up a' your children bonnie, bonnie.”

III. n.

1. A small quantity of anything.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 72; Abd.2 1935:
But bonny o't, like Boles good mother.

2. In phr. bonny o(n), used ironically with imprecative force: devil take -, confound. w.Lth. 1892 R. Steuart Legends 90:
Bonny on them, but I wud like tae be at the hanging o' them.

IV. Phrs.: to make a' the bonnie things o', to make much of, to fuss over; to make a bonny hand o(f), to make a good profit from, to do well out of.Sc. 1829 Scott Surgeon's Daughter i.:
Envying the "bonny hand" the doctor was likely to make of it, by having disposal of the wealthy stranger's travelling funds.
Ags. 1893 Arbroath Guide (11 Feb.) 4/3; Ags.1 1935:
She drove Francie frae the fireside, ca'd him an ill-daein' useless foongil, an' made a' the bonnie things o' Tam, the cat.

V. Combs.: (1) bonny-die, bonnie-, a trinket, toy, pretty thing; (2) bonny penny, boannie-, “a big price” (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Lnk.3, Kcb.9 1935); (3) bonnie wallie, bonny —, a trinket, toy. Usually in pl.(1) Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate (1822) vi.:
Gie the ladie back her bonnie die there, and be blithe to be sae rid on't.
Fif. 1912–1919 Rym. Club Misc. II. 155:
Truth to tell, no one would dream of looking for that pincushion in the strange place where it is to be found; for, naturally enough, you would look to find it on my lady's mirror among the rest of her bonnie-dies.
Edb. 1881 (6th ed.) J. Smith J. Blair's Maunderings 79:
Expensive bonny-dies that there's no the least occasion for.
[See Die, n.1.](2) Sc. 1993 Herald 30 Jan 14:
... you never get the impression that they're strapped for cash or finding the public purse strings too tightly drawn. All the signs are that from great grannie down to the wee princes they're good for a bonnie penny yet awhile.
Sh. 1926–1928 J.G. Lowrie buys a Ford in Sh. Times:
Ye'll be wantin' a boannie penny fur dis een.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood vii.:
A bonny penny she'll be for books.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 77:
He was an honest, kindly man too and his acres turned him quite a bonny penny.
(3) Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate (1822) xviii.:
For she has silks and sattins, and tobacco . . . and bonnie wallies baith of silver and gowd.
Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 120:
Whenever I gat ought, I min' it brawly, I spent it ay on some bit bonny wallie.

[Origin obscure. Earliest quot. in D.O.S.T. a.1500, earliest spellings bony, bonie.]

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"Bonny adj., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Oct 2022 <>



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