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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.

GOWPEN, n., v. Also gowpan, †goupen, -in, -an; gjop(pe)n, -in, -m, †giopen, gyoppne (Sh.), gypon (Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 136), goopan, guppen (Ork.); gop(p)en, -in, goapen, -in (Uls.); gowpeen, †gowpin(g), †goup-; †goppine (Sc. 1717 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. App. xcii.). [Sc. ′gʌupən, s.Sc. -in, Sh. ′g(j)ɔp-, ′gjop-, ′g(j)øp-; Ork. + ′gupən, ′gʌp-; Wgt., Uls. ′gopən, ′gɔp-]

I. n. 1. The two hands held together so as to form a hollow receptacle (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 239; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., gjoppms; Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151, goopan; Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 27). Gen.Sc., obsol.; the hollow of the hand (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1892 Ballymena Obs., gopen; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); hence, more loosely, †the hold, grasp (of the hand). Now more freq. in pl. Also in n.Eng. dial.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 216:
An' weel it's kent his winsome Lady, Has ay her heapit goupins ready.
Sc. a.1844 J. Maidment New Bk. Old Ballads (1885) 43:
But hold me fast, let me not go, Or from your goupen break.
Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 141:
Bring gowd in your gowpens to big up the touir.
Sc. 1871 N. & Q. (Ser. 4) VIII. 324:
In some parts of Scotland the singular form, “The full of the gowpin”, means as much as may be contained in both hands.
Ayr. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 94:
[He] filled his big gowpens wi' glaur.
Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928):
De fill o' de gopens, as much as can be held in both hands put together.
Edb. 1917 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's xxx. 28:
The Lizard, sae sma', yer gowpen wad haud.

2. As much as can be held in the two hands when placed together, a “double” handful (Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II 593, giopen; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl., goppen, goapen; Ork. 1929 Marw., guppen). Gen.Sc., obsol. Hence extended to indicate a considerable quantity, esp. in phr. gowd in gowpens (Fif. 1886 G. Bruce Poems 69, gowden gowps; Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 11, -gowpens; Ags., Rxb. 1955), wealth untold. Also in Eng. (mainly n.) dial.Sc. 1705 Dialogue between a Country-Man and a Landwart School-Master 7:
Our Fore-fathers thought they would all get Gold in Goupins.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.T.Misc. (1876) I. 32:
When we came to London Town, We dream'd of gowd in gowpens here.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 10:
That gou'd in goupens he had got, The army to betray.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 64:
Till he can lend the stoitering state a lift Wi' gowd in gowpins as a grassum gift.
Ayr. c.1827 Galt Howdie, etc. (1923) 17:
Grasping a gowpen of earth in each hand she scattered it with an air to the wind.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shepherd's Cal. I. 180:
What has he to maintain a lady spouse with? The wind o' his lungs, forsooth! — thinks to sell that for goud in goupings.
Dmf. 1836 J. Mayne Siller Gun 64:
“And if,” cries John, “at wealth they aim, . . . May they bring gowd-in-Gowpins hame.”
Gsw. 1864 Gsw. Past and Pres. (1884) III. 467:
In place of giving these beggars money in alms, it was common to give them a goupin or nievefu' of oatmeal.
Ags. 1874 C. Sievwright Love Lilts 18:
It's true he has gowpens o' siller While I am as puir as a craw.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 11:
An oot o mi hair, feth! he claachters a goppen.
Dmb. 1894 D. Macleod Past Worthies 128:
Wha'll buy my fine Vale o' Leven grozets; a bawbee the goupen.
Tyr. 1929 “M. Mulcaghey” Ballymulcaghey 226:
Out she come an' threw the hens a gopin' of pirries out of the pigs' pot.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 30:
Wi' baith his loofs did blatter Sic gowpens that syne Johnie's wean Was draiglet weel wi' watter.
Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills & Sea 41:
It mak's nae differ tae me or tae Natur, Fat wye they pit back 'mang her furlin' maitter My fuff o' mist an' gowpen o' stew.
Edb. 1992:
Two gowpenfuls o sugar, four gowpens o flooer, ...

3. In Sc. Law: one of the perquisites allowed to a miller's servant under the custom of Thirlage. Sometimes in phr. lock and gowpen (see second quot.).Sc. 1754 Erskine Principles ii ix. § 12:
The sequels are the small quantities [of grain or meal] given to the servants, under the names of knaveship, bannock, or lock and gowpen.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xiii., Note:
The expression lock for a small quantity of any readily divisible dry substance, as corn, meal, flax, or the like, is still preserved, not only popularly, but in a legal description, as the lock and gowpen, or small quantity and handful, payable in thirlage cases, as in-town multure.

II. v. To scoop up or ladle out with the two hands placed together (Cld. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ayr.4 1928; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Cai., m.Lth. 1955), esp. with reference to grain or meal. Cf. Gowp, v.4Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 177:
My gowpan'd meal — my kennel burn'd — Should bid the mourner sing.
Slg. 1885 A. Murray Poems 93:
If spared, I'll gowpen you some crumbs To haud th' feast!
Mry. 1887 A. G. Wilken Peter Laing 25:
She swypit up the corn an' gowpen't it into a sieve.
Sh. 1952 New Shetlander No. 31. 6:
He gjoppened dem aa in'ta da kishie an pooed apo da raepin-string so at dey couldna win oot.

[O.Sc. has gowpin(g), goup-, gopin(e), in sense 2. of the n. above, from c.1470, in sense 3., from 1583; O.N. gaupn (in pl. gaupnir), the two hands placed together so as to form a bowl, a double handful, Norw. dial, gaupn, id., gaupna, to scoop or ladle with the hands.]

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



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