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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

DOUCE, adj. Compar. doucer, Superl. doucest. Also douse, douss, dooce, dowse. Dim. doucie; deriv. ¶dousy (Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 92). [du(:)s]

1. Sedate, sober, quiet, respectable, often with a connotation of circumspection or cautiousness. Gen.Sc. Also used adv. Found in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 21:
Then farewell Maggy douce and fell, Of Brewers a' thou boor the Bell.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
A douce woman she was, civil to the customers, and had a gude name wi' whig and tory.
Sc. 1887 R. L. Stevenson Underwoods 9:
Our Marg'et, aye sae keen to crack, Douce-stappin in the stoury track.
Sc. 1998 Herald (24 Mar) 17:
The Kirk Session meeting in doucest Bearsden where the presbytery elder is giving a report on the most recent meeting of Dumbarton Presbytery.
Sc. 2000 Herald 28 Nov 17:
As the true story behind the SQA collapse began to emerge in public hearings before two committees of the Scottish parliament, knives were being sharpened at Victoria Quay. Or, to use language more suited to douce civil servants, contingency plans were being made for the dismemberment of the inspectorate.
Sh. 1934 W. Moffatt Shetland 20:
Who would imagine that a woman so soberly clad would entertain a wayward thought, or be other than a thrifty, cleanly, sober, dowse, church-going body?
n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
“There war na douce ongains betweesh them”; their conduct was not consistent with modesty.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 5:
A little way further, where the Water of Mark joins the Esk, there is a douce plain house that was the minister's manse, with a walled garden and a steading behind.
Abd. 1991 Douglas Kynoch in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 87:
An whiles, yon haan o hers that straikit me sae croose
Made on as though tae flyte bairn cantrips nae that douce.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 18:
Big, bonny cat-beast, douce an tame,
Ye wanner roun ma kitchen fleer
An wanner throwe ma thochts; I'll sweir
That there ye've fun a second hame.
Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 47:
O happy is the douce-gaun wight, Whose saul ne'er mints a swervin.
Ags. 1845 P. Livingston Poems 68:
I cast my e'en across the kirk, Whar folk should aye sit douse.
m.Sc. 1994 John Murray in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 99:
... thinks on sermons past that he can resurrect wioot yerkin his elders fae thair doucie dwams, ...
wm.Sc. 1961 Ian Hamilton Finlay in Hamish Whyte Noise and Smoky Breath (1983) 44:
An wan time
ah wis a moose
a richt wee douce
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 3:
Wee Marianne. Obedient to the letter!
That auld-fashioned. So awfy-shy. Sae douce!
Butter widnae melt, she wouldny boo a goose.
Lukkin' oot thae big blue een and never blinkin' -
Ah bet your daddy's never shair whit you're thinkin'.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 21:
Then, startled, for he had been reared after all in the douce ways of the city, he saw a man's figure hoisted roughly on to the stool, an end of the rope thrown round a branch above, a noose slipped over his head and round his throat. Then the cutty-stool was kicked away, the victim's body jerked once, and hung dangling there, gently turning round and round while the mesmerised spectator stood rooted at the window until he was chilled to the marrow.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 16:
Douce little ladies scurrying up and down the Cowgate bought and read his tracts, ...
wm.Sc. 1991 James Russell Grant in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 54:
Plaicairds an notices screichin at ye like a lot ae parrots
It's douce an taen ma fancy this workaeday street
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 132:
He saw the crowds of filthy ragged people, the barefoot bairns, the hawkers and chapmen, soldiers, fleshers with their packs of dogs to guard the cattle, traders, ministers, merchants' daughters douce to look at but with tongues that would clip clouts ...
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie and Tam 115:
Baudrons . . . was really a douce, sensible, and as kindly a cat as ye'd find in a day's walk.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 51:
And the faces remain, the douce Dutch faces of my ancestors; the Nordic seas that glimmer in a pair of Viking eyes; the suns of Spain that burnish the complexion.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr (Cent. ed.) ll. 168–9:
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an' douce, Meet owre a pint or in the council-house.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost ii.:
I had all the douce demeanour and sagacity which it behoved a magistrate to possess.

Hence (1) doucelik, sedate; (2) doucely, dousely, soberly, sedately, quietly, decorously, “cannily”; (3) douceness, sedateness, sobriety (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.).(1) Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 29:
The shilpit mune of autumn
Keeks wanly thro the mirk,
The manse stauns bien and doucelik
In the yaird ablow the kirk.
(2) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 296:
He dousely drew in Mair Gear frae ilka gentle Goss Than bought a new ane.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xiv.:
When we had a Scots Parliament, . . . they sate dousely down and made laws for a hail country.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman 15 Dec 3:
The editor of the doucely-named Scottish Conservative, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, MP, undoucely raged that the Scotland portrayed in the public prints and television screens is simply not recognisable as the Scotland he knows and loves.
Inv. 1764 A. Ross Freemasonry in Inv. (1877) 62:
The minute informs us, that “the Lodge was orderly and douceley shut.”
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 30:
Or when tae kirk I doucely hie, An' settle doon wi' thankfu' sigh Tae ha'e a nap upo' the sly.
m.Sc. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 46:
The cross-legged Joker jinks owerheid in a Cossack jig,
But doucely, doucely; the bus dunts slow tae a staund,
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 7:
A thae gowden lyrics liggin aside ye, Chris
Yirdit there i the moul wi yer best-loo'ed thochts
An doucely tae yer sicht - bricht een o berries,
The lichtsome loup o grailse, bairn's croon o curlin hair
Flaught'rin afore the win', jinkin its ilka jawp.
Rnf. 1792 A. Wilson Poems (1844) 204:
Ye very reverend haly dads, Wha fill the black gown dously.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Dream xi.:
So, ye may dousely fill a Throne, For a' their clish-ma-claver.
(3) Ayr. 1822 Galt Steam-Boat ix.:
A sky-blue silk dress, with great red roses and tulips, . . . was surely not in . . . becoming concordance with the natural douceness of my character.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 25:
A douceness, not to say a blateness, seemed to have spread the mantle of its silence owre us a'.

2. Pleasant, kindly, gentle, lovable (Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10, Arg.1, Lnk.11 1940). Also in n.Eng. dial.Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 68:
The rude norlin' blast . . . Was douce as the westlin' breeze.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs 73:
Sae, I'll e'en lat the tocher gae, For Jean's baith douce and neat.
Lth. 1925 C. P. Slater Marget Pow 47:
There stood a weary dusty-foot, with a pale douce-like face, and he begged for a bit of bread.
Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Hist. and Trad. Tales 128:
The douse folk that ha'e aften afforded me bield frae the doure blast.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Wars of Montrose III. 95:
If the bonny douce lad needs the double o't it shall be forthcoming.
Dwn. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 21:
Awow! she was a darlin' chucky, . . . Sae bonnie, winsome, douse an' canty.

Hence dousely, tenderly, lovingly.Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 91:
Yet Rabby aye was dousely dautet.

3. Neat, tidy, comfortable (Slg.3 1940; Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.; Uls.2 1929); used of persons and things; also used of persons to mean “stoutish” (m.Dmf.3 c.1920).Sc. 1989 Scotsman 2 Dec 21:
From crawling in low gears to execute the humblest maneouvres, I graduated to trundling round a left-hand circuit that included a douce little roundabout that loomed large in the beginning.
Sc. 1993 Herald 28 May 18:
Better late than never is the story of the Glasgow rugby player on tour in a douce little town in France.
Fif. 1982 Hamish Brown in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 155:
Ye'd better bide wi tweedy braes -
Wir doucer hills o hame, mun.
s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 308:
My wee bit house is clean and douce.
Gall. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 115:
He was a douce auld buddy, and likit things faet and so . . . he set off to the village for some bits of things to mense the house.

[O.Sc. douce, douse, sweet, pleasant, a.1568, also doucelie, c.1590; Mid.Eng. douce; O.Fr. dous, fem. douce; Lat. dulcis.]

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"Douce adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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