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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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.

GOWF, n.1, v.1 Also gowff, gouf, †goff (Sc. 1743 T. Mathison The Goff 3), †gof, †goof (Kcd. 1712–30 C. Wright G. Guthrie (1900) 29), and golf. The standard form golf represents a revival of the Middle Sc. form. Loudoun Gowf Club, Newmilns, retains the old form in its title. [‡gʌuf, †gof]

I. n. 1. The game of golf, played first in Scot. in the 15th c. and popularised in Eng. about 150 years later. Formerly freq. used with the def. art.Sc. 1713 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) II. 209:
When the expresse came to him with letters giving accompt of the Irish Massacre, he [Charles I.] was playing at the gouf in the Links of Leith.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
Whan we were weary'd at the Gowff, Then Maggy Johnston's was our Howff.
Sc. 1754 in R. Clark Golf (1875) 73:
The Antient City of St Andrews . . . being the Alma Mater of the Golf.
Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 V. 48:
Playing at the golf is a favourite and wholesome amusement.
Sc. 1824 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) VIII. 296:
I should doubt much the assertion that the word Golf is derived from the verb to gowff or strike hard. On the contrary I conceive the verb itself is derived from the game and that to gowff is to strike sharp and strong as in that amusement.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 134:
As at the gowff, some canny play'r Should tee a common ba' wi' care.
Rxb. 1915 Kelso Chron. (18 June) 3:
The youngsters haein' a bit ootin' . . . the auld yins playin' bools an' gowf.
Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie 11:
While their sturdy country cousins, . . . Left their sylvan homes in dozens To enjoy a game at “gowff.”
m.Lth. 1990s:
Yer faither's aye playin at the gowf on Seturday moarnins.

Combs.: (1) gowf ba', (a) a golf-ball; also curtailed dim. gowfie (Hdg. 1950); †(b) the ball used in the game of shinty (Ayr.4 1928, gowf-); †(c) the game of shinty (Id.); (2) golf (†goff)-club, the stick or club used in the game of golf; (3) golf-house, a golf clubhouse. Gen.Sc., obsol.; (4) golf-links, a golf course by the sea-shore. Gen.Sc.; (5) gowf-stick, = (2) (Abd. 1920; ‡Abd., m.Lth. 1955).(1) (a) Sc. 1700 J. Maidment Analecta Scotica (1837) II. 135:
I have seen a lump of the bigness and shape of a Gouf ball.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet i.:
Alan, my darling, hae patience; I'll get him off on the instant like a gowff ba'.
Sc. 1914 W. F. Gray Old Sc. Judges 186:
Being shown one day a field of unusually, large turnips, his only remark was that those grown on his own land were no bigger than “gouf ba's.”
(c) Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 51:
What games do ye practise to pass your meal hours, . . . It'll no be the marbles, nor yet the gowf-ba'.
Ayr. 1873 A. Aitken Poems 40:
I kent him whan, just at the school, a wee callan, Learning questions and psalms, playing bools an' gowfba'.
(2) Sc. 1707 Foulis Acc. Bk. (S.H.S.) 466:
To pay for 2 golfe clubs 1lib, and 4 balls 14sh.
Sc. 1753 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 421:
The city of Edinburgh's silver goff-club was played for Aug. 4.
Sc. 1800 A. Carlyle Autobiog. (1860) 343:
He had told us to bring golf clubs and balls that we might play at that game on Molesly Hurst.
(3) Edb. 1768 [G. Robb] Golf and Golfers (1863) 21:
In 1768 the members of this club subscribed £30 each, and built a “goff-house” at the south-west corner of Leith Links in which to hold their business and social meetings.
Ags. 1894 “Vathek” Brechin 37:
The members have erected a neat golf-house hard by the first teeing-ground.
(4) Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 217:
The small stream of Swilcan, which runs through the Golf-links.
Sc. 1805 Morison Decisions 16141:
No hurt or damage shall be done to the golf links.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 21:
Thirs gowf links, boolin rinks,
dominoes an tidd'ly winks, ...

2. A golf-club.Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 182:
To brandish no gof on the links.
Sc. 1827 R. Chambers Picture Scot. II. 332:
The cradle of the former [James VI], and his little nursery-chair, besides Prince Henry's golfs, were preserved in the tower till a recent period.

II. v. To play at golf. Vbl.n. gowfin', golf, formerly common with def. art. and freq. attrib.Sc. 1743 T. Mathison The Goff 7:
See low Pygmalion skill'd in Goffing art.
Sc. 1827 Scott Surgeon's Daughter, Pref. 25:
I must away to my business — we cannot be gowffing all the morning, and telling old stories all the afternoon.
Knr. 1886 “H. Haliburton” Horace 78:
Some at the gowfin' spend their leisure. To some the rifle range gie's pleasure.
Dmf. 1912 A. Anderson Later Poems 149:
I tried the gowfin' when at Troon The links are bonnie there to see.
ne.Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 42:
But he gowff't an' he preach't to the en' o' his days.

Hence (1) gowfer, one who plays golf, a golfer; †(2) golfing course, a golf course; †(3) golfing-ground, id.; †(4) golfing links, id.; †(5) golfing match, a competition between golf-players, a golf match; †(6) gowffin' stick, a golf-club. Cf. Combs. under 1.(1) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 223:
Driving their Baws frae Whins or Tee, There's no ae Gowfer to be seen.
Sc. 1744 Scots Mag. (April) 197:
We have the sole disposal of the booking-money, the determination of disputes among goffers.
Edb. 1811 H. Macneill Bygane Times 15:
Ah Sandy! — it's a dangerous game; Mark, how some Gowfers come to shame!
Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie & Tam 80:
Weel, that beats a'! Tammas MacCrowdie a gowffer!
wm.Sc. 1908 Gsw. Ballad Club III. 214:
He's a gowffer, the doctor, and plays wi' his might.
Abd. 1921 T. L. Morrison Murmurings 19:
Murmurs sweet Rise ower Balbithans Braes, tae greet The goufer at Kintore.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 65:
The sea's skin is nickit wi white slits.
The gowfer's club heid whangs the souchin baa.
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 16:
Aneath the auld trees of Bruntsfield Links,
not one gowfer in sicht.
(2) Sc. 1887 Session Cases 701:
The short game (putting) does not interfere with the golfing course.
(3) Sc. 1800 A. Carlyle Autobiog. (1860) 343:
We crossed the river to the golfing-ground.
Edb. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (23 Jan.):
Bounded . . . on the north by the Golfing-ground of the Links [of Leith].
(4) Sc. 1887 Session Cases 687:
The golfing links means the golf course.
(5) Sc. 1807 J. Hall Travels I. 125:
There are frequent golfing matches between the golfers of St Andrews and those of Leith.
(6) Fif. 1894 J. W. M'Laren Tibbie & Tam 80:
Picture my auld cronie in a' his native habiliment . . . wi' a set o' gowffin' sticks . . . ower his shouther.

[O.Sc. has golf, gouf, gowf, goff, goofe, etc., the game of golf, from 1457, golf-ball, from 1585, golf-club, from 1503, gouffer, 1649. Of disputed origin, but prob. ad. Mid. Du. kolf, a club, kolf-bal, a ball for club games.]

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"Gowf n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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