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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CRAW, CRA(A), Kra(a), n.1 Sc. forms of Eng. crow (see P.L.D. § 34.1), in Eng. generally applied to the carrion crow, Corvus corone, but in Sc., as in Ir. and n.Eng., usually applied to the rook, Corvus frugilegus. Also used for the hooded crow, Corvus cornix, esp. in Sh. where the carrion crow is unknown (Sh. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 86, craa). The Eng. form crow is illustrated only in combs. peculiar to Sc. The word is often extended jocularly or derisively to human beings. [krɑ: n.Sc.; s.Sc. + krɒ, but m.Sc. + krǫ:]

I. Sc. forms of Eng. crow.

Ork. 1995 Orcadian 13 Apr 21:
The hoodie crow who sits on the high wires has a weird voice, and often wakes me with un-bird-like calls. At first hearing, this was distinctly uncanny, but now I just say: "It's Craw again."
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 30:
The wings ootraxxin noo
Ower my unfaithered heid
Are shaddas o the craa that claims us aa -
The erne, the hawk, the spurgie,
Jenny wren sae smaa -

II. Sc. usage: a man perching on the eaves of a cornstack to pass the sheaves from the forker on the cart to the builder (Fif. 1957). Cf. Craw, v., 2., Cran, v.3 II.

III. Phrases not found in St.Eng.: †1. a craw (in one's throat), a strong craving for drink, esp. that induced by a night's debauch; 2. to be shot amo' the craws, to be involved in trouble through bad associates; 3. to sit like craws in the mist, “to sit in the dark” (Sc. 1825 Jam.2); known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17 1940.1. Edb. 1872 (2nd ed.) J. Smith Habbie and Madge (1881) 18:
For it's no a craw I'm fashed wi' this mornin'; it's mair like an eagle or a vulture. An' no a single chance o' gettin't shot.
2. Ork., Abd., Ags., Per. 1975:
Ye'll get shot amo' the craws some day, if ye keep company o' that kin.
3. Fif.10 1942:
Is there no eneugh sense amang ye to licht the lamp? Sittin' there like craws i' the mist!

IV. Combs. not found in St.Eng.:

A. Plant names: 1. craw(s)-a(i)pple, the crab apple, Malus sylvestris (Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 236); 2. craw-bell, crow-, the daffodil, Narcissus pseudo-narcissus (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); crow-bells in this sense is found in Eng. in 16th cent. (see N.E.D.); 3. crawberry, as in Eng. applied to the black crowberry, but also used for the cranberry, Oxycoccus palustris (or Vaccinium oxycoccos (Linn.)) (Abd. 1886 B. and H. 127); known to Abd. correspondents 1940; 4. crawcrooks, -croops, -croups, -croobs, (1) the crowberry, Empetrum nigrum (Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot. II. 117, -croups; n.Sc. 1808 Jam., -croops; w.Per. 1825 Jam.2, -croobs; Bwk. 1886 B. and H. 127, -crooks); (2) the cranberry (Mry.1 1925, -crooks; Ags.17 1940); 5. craw-dulse, “fringed fucus; Fucus ciliatus, Linn. In S[cot.] this is eaten like the Fucus palmatus” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); “the modern name for Fucus ciliatus is Rhodymenia ciliata or Calliblepharis ciliata. As it is said to be rare in the British Isles and is only found on the south coast of Eng., the possibility is that Jam. was wrong in his information” (Abd.16 1938); 6. crawflower, crow-, (1) the wood hyacinth, Scilla nonscripta; (2) the buttercup, Ranunculus acris; also in Eng. dial.; 7. craw-nebs, the kidney-vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria, from the shape of its flowers (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 52); 8. craw-pea(s), -peis, -piz, -peyse, (1) the meadow vetchling, Lathyrus pratensis, “the meadow vetchling, and some vetches; also, the pods of such” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -peas, -peis; also Bnff.2, Abd.2 1940; Abd.16 1936, -peyse); also in Cum. dial.; (2) the crowberry, Empetrum nigrum (Mry. 1886 B. and H. 132); 9. craw-peep, the buttercup, Ranunculus acris, also in comb. crabbie (< craw-peep)-blossom; 10. craw-sheu, -shoe, krasho, the buckbean, bog-bean, or marsh trefoil, Menyanthes trifoliata (Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. (1922) 94, -sheu; 1929 Marw., krasho); 11. craw (craa-, kraa-)tae(s), -tees, (1) the common buttercup, Ranunculus acris (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (2) the creeping crowfoot, Ranunculus repens (Ib.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kraatae; w.Fif. 1930 (per Ags.3), craw-taes; Arg.1 1940, craatae; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (3) bird's-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus (Edb., Bwk. 1886 B. and H. 127; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -taes); known to Cai.7, Abd.9, Fif.10, Kcb.1 1940; (4) Sclla nutans (Edb., Bwk. 1886 B. and H. 127, -tees), which phs. is intended for Scilla nonscripta, the wood hyacinth, in which sense it is known to our Kcb. correspondents. Also in Eng. dial.1. Sc. 1852 H. Miller Schools and Schoolm. (1858) vii.:
But they all liked brambles, and sloes, and craws-apples, tolerably well.
2. Rxb. 1803 J. Leyden Scenes of Infancy (ed. J. Morton 1819) i. 321:
Mid yellow crow-bells, on the riv'let's banks.
3. Rnf. 1815 R. Tannahill Poems 140:
He pu'd me the crawberry, ripe frae the boggy fen.
4. (2) Ags.(D) 1887 Brechin Advertiser (4 Oct.) 3/3:
Awa ower the hill o' Buckhood faur the blaeberries an' the brawlins, the rasps an' the crawcrooks a' grow in rich, luxurious abundance.
Lth. 1885 “J. Strathesk” More Bits from Blinkbonny 297:
Wi' blaeberries, crawcroups, bram'les, an' slaes.
6. (1) Rnf. 1807 R. Tannahill Poems (1815) 111:
The crow-flow'r blue, and meadow pink, I wove in primrose-braided link.
(2) Ags. 1846 Montrose Review (9 Oct.) 6/3:
Ere yellow crawflowers deck the braes.
8. (1) Abd. 1931 in Abd. Press and Jnl. (15 Jan.):
Like “A.K.” we knew vetches as “craw piz.”
Ags. 1865 D. Tasker Musings 92:
Far awa' doon i' yon Cool mossy dell, Whaur blossom th' craw-pea An' wavin' blue-bell.
9. Ags. 1888 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) II. 46:
A local name for the Crawflower on the Links of Montrose is the "Crawpeep", familiarly known also as the "crabbie blossom".
10. Ork. 1914 J. Spence Flora Orcad. 99:
Buck-bean or Bog-bean, Menyanthes trifoliata. Locally known as “craw-shoe.” The leaves were used instead of hops to give bitterness to the wort of home-brewed ale; and the bruised leaves were applied to the sores of scrofula.
11. (2) Ags. 1885 T. Stewart in Mod. Sc. Poets (ed. Edwards) VIII. 190:
A sunny knowe whaur furz and crawtaes cling.
(4) Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 148:
Blue hether bells, the crawtae sweet an mild.
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
crawtae, crawsfoot a wild hyacinth.

B. Bird names: 1. craajuck, craw-, the common sheldrake, Tadorna tadorna (Arg.1 1940). The form has been prob. adapted to craw and deuk from Gael. crà-gheadh, 'red-goose', the shelduck; 2. craa maa, the kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla (Sh. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 206).

C. Shellfish, etc.: 1. craw-feet, “Pennatula phosphorea, one of the Actinozoa” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 31), a kind of sea-pen; 2. craw-peel, -pil, kraapeel, a small black mussel found on the fore-shore (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1914 Angus Gl., kraapeel); “mostly used collect.” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); 3. cra(w)'s lupiks, — lupek, “a kind of heart-shaped crab of the genus Lithodidæ” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), craw's lupek s.v. lupi).2. Kcd. 1948 (per Abd.27):
The shore at Cove in Kincardineshire is known as the Crawpeel Shore.
3. Sh.(D) 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 145:
On arriving at the house, Maron sent the goodman to the seashore to procure three crabs, of a kind called cra's lupiks.

D. General applications: 1. craw-bogle, a scarecrow (Abd.2, Lnk.11 1940; Fif.14 1945); 2. craw (crow) coal, craws, “usually a thin seam of inferior coal” (Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 639; Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 21; Fif. 1931 Econ. Geol. Fife, App. 147; Fif.10 1940); also used in n.Eng. dial.; †3. craw-deil, = 1; 4. craw-doolie, a scarecrow (Ags. 1975). See Doolie, n.1, 2; 5. craw-feet, in phr. to get one's crawfeet, to get a sense of balance acquired by workmen at great heights (Per. 1950); 6. kraahead, the chimney head (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1914 Angus Gl., kraahead); 7. crawmill, a large rattle used to frighten crows, a child's wooden rattle, a corn-craik, ricketie (Ags. 1975). See Ricket, n., 2; 8. craw-nancy, a scarecrow (Lnk., s.Sc. 1975); 9. craw-paet, the top peat in a small heap of peats. See Deck, n.3; 10. craw-picker, “one who picks stones from coal or shale at the pit head” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 21; Fif.10 1940). Vbl.n. craw-picking; 11. craw(s)-plantin, a rookery (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.; Abd.13 1928, craws-); 12. crawpockies, “the eggs of sharks, skate, and dog-fish” (Ork. 1887 Jam.6); †13. craw-prod, craprod, “a pin fixed in the top of a gable, to which the ropes, fastening the roof of a cottage, were tied” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., s.v. prod); 14. craw road, (1) “the direct way as the crow flies” (Rxb. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.); (2) the road to death; the way to a hopeless situation (Fif. 2000s); 15. craw-scare, -herd, a boy employed to frighten crows from the crops (Kcb.10 1940, -herd); 16. craw-siller, mica (Sh. 1825 Jam.2; 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1908 Jak. (1928));  ¶17. craw-steel, a crowbar; 18. craw-steen, -stane, the top stone on a gable (Cai.3 1931, -stane); 19. crawstep, one of a set of projecting steps on the gable of old houses (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10, Lnk.11 (for Rxb.) and Kcb. correspondents 1940); cf. catsteps s.v. Cat, n.1, III. 15.; 20. craw stob = 13; 21. Craw Sunday (see quot.); 22. craw-tae (Eng. crow's-foot), (1) one of the wrinkles commonly found at the outer corners of the eyes of elderly people; gen. in pl. (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940); †(2) a caltrop; also fig.; (3) a sheep-mark, as described in quot.; (4) a kind of spanner with two moveable toes for turning a nut in a difficult position (Fif. 1956); (5) a lead clasp used to bind down the edge of the covering of a flat roof where it overlaps slates (Fif. 1955); (6) a cat's cradle formed with string looped round the fingers (Ork. 1975); 23. craw-well, ? a well from which water is drawn up by wind-power. 24. craw-widdie, -wud, a rookery (Bnff.2, Abd. correspondents, Kcb.10 (-wud) 1940); 25. craw's bridal, — marriage, — weddan, a large assembly of crows (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, -bridal (s.v.); ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore N.-E. Scot. 136, — weddan; Bnff.7 1926, — marriage); known to Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10, Slg.3 1940; 26. craw's (craas') court, “a court of judgment held by crows” (Sh. 1825 Jam.2; 1866 Edm. Gl.), see 1915 quot. Also craw-court, a parliament of rooks (Per. 1975); 27. craw's nest, a robbers' den; known to Lnk.11 1940 (for Rxb.), as used in children's games, a stance in a version of the game of hide-and-seek or Hickety Bickety (Sc. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 123); 28. craw's purse, crow-, the ovarium of a skate (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 69; Cai.7 1940); 29. crow's spur, a kind of stone, not identified, used for millstones; 1. Dmf. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours 129:
Mon, General, gin ye had on ma' auld claes ye'd mak' a gran' craw-bogle!
2. Sc. 1789 J. Williams Nat. Hist. Miner. Kingdom I. 65:
The craw coal, as it is called in Scotland . . . is the upmost seam of coal in the field, which is always supposed to be a thin one.
Slg. 1781 Caled. Mercury (16 June):
Coals Unsorted, but clean Riddled from the Crow-Coal Seam at Kinnaird.
Lnk. 1864 J. Greenshields Annals Lesmahagow 243:
Craw Coal and Tills . . . 6 ft. 4 in.
3. Ayr. [1836] J. Ramsay Woodnotes (1848) 49:
He'll be the king o' craw-deils a', Or may be, lass, wha kens, Some tailor's midden run awa'.
4. Ags. 1960 Dundee Courier (16 April) 6:
On the modern farm even the scarecrows must apparently move with the times! I had a look at one of these up-to-date models - I hesitate to call it a craw-doolie.
7. Ork.(D) 1904 Dennison Orcad. Sk. 2:
Some hed tootin' horns an' craw-mills.
Ags. 1824 J. Bowick Characters 49:
The child with penny fife, A crow-mill, or a box for trinkets small.
Ags. 1887 J. McBain Arbroath 32:
A pole with an iron ladder attached to it, and surmounted by a rotating object which the wondering youngsters think must be a "craw mill". . . an anemometer for recording the velocity and force of the wind.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 98:
My very teeth were rattlin on ither like a craw-mill.
Ags. c.1940 in G. Michie Glen Anthol. (1959) 15:
The fair, Whaur organs and craw-mills and pipes filled the air.
8. m.Sc. 1949 F. Urquhart Dying Stallion (1967) 47:
Sittin' like a craw nancy in front o' that fire.
9. Sh. 1956 New Shetlander No. 43. 20:
The top peat on the daek is the kra-paet, probably where da kra, or corbie, perches.
10. Ayr. 1952 J. Veitch G. D. Brown 24:
For a while he and his mother lived at Kayshill Farm, Trabboch, but she was convinced that "craw-picking"at the pit-head was not good enough for him.
13. Ags. 1879 T. Ormond in A. L. Fenton Forfar Poets 129:
And gracefully the ivy green Did round the craprods thread.
14. (1) Rxb. 1901 R. Murray Hawick Characters 78:
He got . . . shelter in a garret for three days and three nights, after which he took the craw road to Stirling.
(2) m.Sc. 1989 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay The Guid Sisters 30:
Well the minute she saw the cage an the burds, she went the craw road. She fell in love wi thae wee burds. She lookit eftir thum better nor she looked eftir her ain bairns.
m.Sc. 1992 Iain Banks The Crow Road (1993) 126:
I asked her if she'd ever heard Grandma Margot use the saying: away the Crow Road (or the Craw Rod, if she was being especially broad-accented that day). It meant dying; being dead. `Aye, he's away the crow road,' meant `He's dead.'
em.Sc. 1997 Ian Rankin Black & Blue (1999) 199:
Of course, it might be that the fish were for the crow road anyway: nitrates and phosphates from sewage, plus agricultural fertilisers ... all drained into the seas.
15. Sc. 1874 A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 343:
A “craw-scare” fell asleep in church one Sunday . . . and, believing himself to be among the rooks, he “wampished” his arms over his head, and shouted, “Habbocraws.”
16. Sh. 1814 J. Shirreff Agric. Sh. 121:
Mica-slate is the most common rock of the primitive class in Zetland. It is composed of quartz and mica; the last ingredient is termed by the natives craw-siller.
17. Mry. 1872 W. H. Tester Poems 163:
Oh, for a craw-steel, a file and a pick.
18. Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Sketch Bk. 28:
[The wind] sheuk the wast breest o' her till hid splet f'ae steeth tae craw-steen.
19. Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xx.:
It brought a rent, reckoning from the crawstep to the groundsill, that he might ca' fourteen punds a-year.
20. Bch. 1929 W. Littlejohn Bch. Cottar Stories 18:
On the top of the sod gable a stick was put in to fix the top sod of the wall to the others and this was known as the “craw stob” of the house.
21. Rnf. 1871 D. Gilmour The “Pen” Folk (1873) 16:
On the first Sunday in March, — “Craw Sunday,” as it was called, from its being then thought that on that day the crows commenced housekeeping for the year.
22. (1) Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xx.:
An there's the minister: leevin an' lifelike; no' a grey hair on his heid, nor a craw-tae at his een.
(2) Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary iii.:
His friend, the Rev. Doctor Heavysterne from the Low Countries, had sustained much injury by sitting down suddenly and incautiously on three ancient calthrops, or craw-taes, which had been lately dug up in the bog near Bannockburn.
Per. 1745 A. G. M. MacGregor Hist. Clan Gregor (1901) II. 366:
Our enemies created a scheme to sow many thousands of Crowtoes in the Ford in thoughts to stop us from going through.
Edb. 1776 Caled. Mercury (22 July):
They are determined to set Stamps and scatter Crawtoes in their Gardens [against thieves].
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 342:
Amang the mires o' heresy . Whare some Socinian sharp craw-tae Might lie unseen.
(3) Lth. 1773 Edb. Ev. Courant (27 Feb.):
The sheep are burnt in the face with a craw-toe or the letter Y reversed.
23. Peb. 1884 J. Grosart Poems 100:
I mind, lang syne the Venlaw Hill Was dotted ower wi' craw-wells.
24. Bnff.(D) 1924 Burnie's Jeannie in Swatches 21:
Ca canny, my buckie. There's mair nor me taks the lithe o' the craw-widdie.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 22:
The craw-wud soonds like a schule that's at the skailin'.
26. Sh. 1809 A. Edmonston Ancient and Present State of Zet. II. 234:
The crows generally appear in pairs, even during winter, except when attracted to a spot in search of food, or when they assemble for the purpose of holding what is called the craw's court.
Sh. 1915 Seton Gordon Hill Birds 98:
In Shetland an event, known as the “Craas' court,” occurs in spring. A large flock of Hoodies appear from all directions. Apparently the court is held for the purpose of dealing out sentence to certain Crows who have been guilty of some offence, for after an hour or so of deliberation the whole assembly turn fiercely on certain individuals and peck them to death.
Ags. 1965 Dundee Courier (13 March) 8:
They are never sweir to hold a parliament, or "craw court", to discuss things, and if necessary to take disciplinary measures against any individual rook transgressing their laws.
Fif. 1816 A. Mercer Craw-court Title:
Proceedings of a Craw-court held in the Woods of Pittencrieff.
27. Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxvi.:
Some gaed east, and some gaed west, And some gaed to the craw's nest.
28. Ork. a.1688 J. Wallace Orkney (1693) 18:
On the shore is to be found . . . also that which they call the Crow-Purse.
29. Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 V. 53:
The stone is of that kind called by the country people crow's spur [at Moulin].

[Found in O.Sc. in forms craw and crau, from c.1450 (D.O.S.T.).]

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"Craw n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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