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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.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BOW, Bowe, n.5, v.2 Also bowie[bʌu Sc., but Cai. + ′bwi: and Ags. + ′bu:i]

1. n. “A buoy” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1887 Jam.6; 1914 Angus Gl.; Mry.4 1933; Bnff.4 1926).Sh.(D) 1898 “Junda” Echoes from Klingrahool 51:
Set oot upon a haagless [boundless] sea Ta flot, or sink for want o' bowes.
Sh.(D) 1899 J. Spence Sh. Folk-Lore 131:
The bow (buoy) is floating close at hand, attached to the boat by means of a vaarline [spare line].
Bch. 1881 J. W. Ritchie Geordie Tough's Squeel (1931) 4:
The but wis fu' o' herrin' nets, An' swings, an' bows, an' straps, an' kits.
Ayr. 1886 J. Meikle Lintie 112:
There's no room to put down anither bow atween Ned's Bicht an' the key en'.

2. v. “To buoy up, to fasten buoys to” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); to mark (a channel) by buoys.Gsw. 1751 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 331:
The river from the Garvell Point to Port Glasgow should be bowied or parchd on both sides.

3. Combs.: (1) Bow-kig, bowkit, “a small keg used as a buoy” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1914 Angus Gl. s.v. bowkit). (2) Bow-rope, “buoy rope — i.e. the rope between the boat and buoy from which the lines or nets are suspended” (Mry.4 1933). (3) Bow-row. (See quot.) [′bʌu-′rʌu]. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 15; Bnff.2 1935:
When a line is shot a buoy or bow is attached to each end. If the line in being hauled breaks, the fishermen row to the other buoy, and haul it from the other end. Such a row gets the name of bow-row; as, “We brook wir line the day, an' we hid a bow-row.”

(4) Bow-tow, “a buoy-rope” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Bnff.4 1926); transf. a nickname for a native of Newhaven, a fisher quarter of Edinburgh (Edb. 1964 J. T. R. Ritchie Singing Street 5). Also fig.Sh. 1931 J. Nicolson Shet. Incidents and Tales 53:
Each sixaern [six-oared boat] was furnished with a “fleet” of lines. . . . The fleet had four “bow-tows” of from 90 to 100 fathoms.
Ags. 1986 Review Of Scottish Culture 2 40:
At Arbroath a piece of old line useless for anything else, called a bow-tow (also applied as a term of abuse for a useless person), was used.

(5) Shaan bow, the middle buoy.Mry.4 1934:
The teydin and the teesit are the names applied to the opposite ends of the fleet of lines, and buoys are used for supporting them. When a longer set of lines is used buoys are required for the middle or belly of the line. The fishermen's name for this buoy or for the buoys is the “shaan bow.”

[O.Sc. bow, variant of boy, a buoy (D.O.S.T.). O.Fr. boye, mod.Fr. bouée, buoy; Du. boei, Mid.Du. boeie, buoy, fetter. It is not clear whether the Eng. was orig. from O.Fr. or Mid.Du. (N.E.D.).]

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"Bow n.5, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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