Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GOWAN, n. Also ¶gown (Ags. 1846 G. Macfarlane Rhymes 59). [′gʌuən]

1. A general name given to various wild flowers, either yellow or white with yellow centres, e.g. various species of the Ranunculus family (Sc. 1808 Jam.), such as the buttercup or meadow crowfoot, R. acris and R. bulbosus (Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frfsh. 4; Gall. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.), the creeping meadow crowfoot, R. repens (Lnk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 14) and the marsh marigold, Caltha palustris (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bwk. 1853 B. & H. 217); the corn marigold, Chrysanthemum segetum (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 489; Mry. 1798 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 202; n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; ‡Abd. 1955), the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale (Sc. 1886 B. & H. 217), and the lesser celandine, Ficaria verna (Rxb. 1863 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (2 June) 29), in almost every case the word being prefixed by yellow. The term (large) white gowan is used to indicate the ox-eye daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Rnf. 1812 J. Wilson Agric. Rnf. 136; ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 193; Bnff., Abd., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1955). When not prefixed by a defining word gowan is now used to indicate the common daisy, Bellis perennis (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 487; Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 25; Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frfsh. 113; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; ne. and em.Sc., Ayr., Dmf. 1955), “among school-children entirely superseded by daisy, but the Sc. word still survives among older folk” (Arg.1 1929); also the ox-eye daisy or marguerite (Mry., Abd., em.Sc.(a), m.Lth., Peb., Slg., Dmf., s.Sc. 1955), and the marsh ragwort, Senecio aquaticus (Sh. 1947 Folk Bk. (Tait) I. 82, Sh. 1955), cf. horse-gowan, below. Also in Eng. dial. Dim. gowanie (Ags. 1897 Bards Ags. & Mearns (Reid) 88).Ork. 1701 J. Brand Orkney 31:
We saw the pleasantest mixture of Gowans so commonly called or Daisies white and yellow on every side of the way growing very thick.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 109:
While on Burn Banks the yellow Gowan grows.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 7:
Wad gather gowans, an' string them on a straw, An' knit about her bony neck an' arms.
Ayr. 1788 Burns Auld Lang Syne iii.:
We twa hae run about the braes, And pou'd the gowans fine.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 59:
Seeking birds'-nests with eager ein; Or pu'ing gowans on the green.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxiv.:
The sheets . . . were washed wi' the fairy-well water, and bleached on the bonny white gowans, and beetled by Nelly and hersell.
Bwk. 1835 Lady J. Scott Songs (1911) 178:
Like dew on the gowan lying Is the fa' o' her fairy feet.
Ayr. 1848 J. Ramsay Woodnotes 249:
O! was ye whare Irwine rows roun' the stey brae, Whare the gowd gowan glints 'neath the snaw-blossomed slae.
Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 38:
The gowans whiten Struie brae, The Chapel haughs are green.
Rxb. 1901 W. Laidlaw Poetry & Prose 13:
She gather'd the gowans from her lover's grave.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 23:
And lambs as thick on ilka green As simmer gowans.
Sc. 1944 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 87:
Green corn over the bank, bejewelled with bold yellow gowans and red poppies!
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 29:
The day was warm and balmy, here and there clumps of gowans splashed the green turf and banks of harebell fluttered mist-blue against the kirk wall.
Gsw. 1986 Michael Elder Take the High Road: The Man from France 187:
"This is where he'd been. See? There are gowans. And bittersweet. And bluebells. ..."
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 67:
Yon white starns wi gowden core,
the gowans, are on the gress aince mair,

Hence †(1) gowan'd, covered with gowans; (2) gowany, gowan(n)ie, gowny, -ie, (a) covered with gowans, daisied (Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 48). Gen.Sc.; (b) of the weather: bright (Bnff.7 1927, Bnff.2 1946), promising, deceptively fine. Cf. Gowan-gabbit, below.(1) Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 80:
On yon gowan'd lawn she was seen.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 265:
Clear is Allan's siller stream, An' sweet her gowan'd lea.
Sc. 1897 Scots Mag. (Oct.) xx. 370:
But I'm mindin' no' o' gowaned fields, nor breezy heathery braes.
(2) (a) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
O Peggy, sweeter than the dawning Day, Sweeter than gowany Glens, or new mawn Hay.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 86:
And welcome to the gowany meads The pride o' a' the insect thrang.
Ayr. a.1796 Burns Pastoral Poetry viii.:
In gowany glens thy burnie strays, Where bonie lasses bleach their claes.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xlv.:
The green was even, gowany, and fair.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xxx.:
“Gien ye wad sit doon a meenute, mem”, returned Donal, “ — here's a bonnie gowany spot — I wad read a bit till ye.”
Dmf. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 32:
It speaks o' dule an' sadness, An' the deid that lay on the gowany brae.
(b) Fif. 1825 Jam.:
A gowanie day, a day which has a flattering appearance, but attended with such circumstances as are commonly understood to indicate an approaching storm.

2. Phrs.: (1) not to care a gowan, not to care in the least, not to care a button (Bnff.7 1927; m.Lth.1 1955); (2) to cow the gowan, see Cow, v.1, n.2, III. 7.; (3) to have the gowan under one's feet, to be (safe) in the open.(1) Abd. 1847 W. Thom Rhymes 57:
Love roam'd awa frae Uryside, Wi' bow an' barbet keen, Nor car'd a gowan whaur he gaed.
(3) Abd. 1755 R. Forbes Jnl. from London 30:
I . . . wad hae gien twice forty pennies to had the gowan oner my feet again.

3. Combs.: (1) benner gowan, the feverfew, see s.v.; (2) dog gowan. id.. see Dog, III. 2.; (3) ewe (yowe)-gowan, the common daisy, Bellis perennis (Ags., Peb. 1955), “apparently denominated from the ewe, as being frequent in pastures, and fed on by sheep” (Jam.); also in n.Eng. dial.; †(4) gowan-shank, “the stalk of a mountain-daisy” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); (5) horse-gowan, gen. applied to the ox-eye daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora of Mry. 25; Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 16; Per., Slg., Edb. 1886 B. & H. 216; Cld. 1880 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Inv., ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a), m.Lth., Rxb. 1955) and to C. segetum (Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club II. 16), also to the field camomile, Anthemis arvensis (Ib.), to the sow-thistle, Sonchus arvensis (Cai. 1955), to various species of the chicory family, such as the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XII. 965; Nai. 1892 Trans. Northern Assoc. I. v. 64; Abd.4 1931) and the Hypochæris and the Crepis (Sc. 1808 Jam.), the marsh ragwort, Senecio aquaticus (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., 1947 Folk Bk. (Tait) I. 82; Wgt. 1955); and to the corn mayweed, Matricaria inodora (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 108; Abd. 1923 J. W. H. Trail Flora Abd. 196); (6) lapper (lopper(ed)) gowan, (a) the globe-flower, Trollius europæus (Cld. 1825 Jam., lopper-; Rxb. 1886 B. & H. 216, 1923 Watson W.-B., lapper-, Rxb. 1955), family Ranunculus; (b) the ox-eye daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., lopper(ed)-); (7) lapper't gowan, the marsh marigold, Caltha palustris (Rxb. 1863 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (2 June), 1923 Watson W.-B.); (8) lucken (-in, -an, lockin)-gowan, = (6) (a) (Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scotica I. 296; Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants (1832) 241; Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frfsh. 5; Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 30; Rxb. 1863 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. (2 June); Edb. 1886 B. & H. 216, lockin-, luckin-; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 143; Rxb. 1955), so called from the fact that the flower remains closed except in bright weather; (9) May gowan, = (3) (Ags., Bwk. 1886 B. & H. 216; Ags. 1955); †(10) meadow gowan, = (7) (Ayr. 1886 B. & H. 216); †(11) milk-gowan, the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale (Slk. 1825 Jam.); (12) sheep's gowan, the white clover or trefoil, Trifolium repens (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 53; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); †(13) tushylucky gowan, the coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara (Dmf. 1886 B. & H. 217); †(14) witch-gowan, = (11) (Sc., Dmf. Ib.). Also used attrib.(3) Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck x.:
What secret can come frae you, but some bit waefu' love story, enough to mak the pinks an' the ewe gowans blush to the very lip?
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 53:
He wad watch the wee ewe-gowan waken.
(4) Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 130:
Ilk wing was like a claver-leaf, His [wasp's] legs like gowan-shanks.
(5) Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 105:
As to the Horse-gowans, we never saw this plant so abundant anywhere else.
Abd. 1882 G. Macdonald Castle Warlock xxiv.:
The great horse-gowans that adorned the thin soil of one of the few fields yet in some poor sense their own.
Fif. 1882 “S. Tytler” Sc. Marriages III. viii.:
If anyone calls it desecration for small fingers to pull a white horse-gowan, or a blood-red cock-rose . . . then Birkenbarns Kirk-yard was desecrated.
Ags. 1948 J. C. Rodger Mary Ann 10:
Aye, it's bonnie prent, horses' gowans on a blue grund.
Sh. 1949 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 267:
The dockens by the midden, and the withered horse-gowans on the home-fields, nodded and swayed eerily in the wind.
(8) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 51:
We'll pou the Daizies on the Green, The lucken Gowans frae the Bog.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Poems (1874) 414:
The bonnie lucken gowan Has fauldit up her e'e.
Ags. 1874 C. Sievwright Love Lilts 25:
By the water-side, where the willows wave An' the luckan-gowans bloom.
Fif. 1888 D. Beveridge Ochils & Forth 290:
Globeflower. The “bonnie lucken gowan” of Hogg was formerly in great repute as a charm.
Fif. 1897 “S. Tytler” Witch-wife xix.:
Something caught her eye which was . . . neither “lucken gowan,” nor celandine, nor burnished leaf.
(9) Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club II. 19:
“Ye'll get round again, if ye had your fit on the May gowan” [Berwickshire saying].
(14) Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 110:
Witch-gowan flowers, are large yellow gowans, with a stalk filled with pernicious sap, resembling milk, which when anointed, on the eyes is believed to cause instant blindness.

[O.Sc. has gouwane, gowan, a daisy, from 1542, a variant of North. Eng. golland, 1538; see Gollan, and P.L.D. § 78.2.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Gowan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: