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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.

GUIDWIFE, n. Also gud-, good-, gud-, geud-; gweed-, gueed- (ne.); †guide-. [For phonetics, see Guid; accented ′wəif.]

1. (1) The female head of a household, the mistress. Gen.Sc. Freq. used as a polite form of address. Also in n.Eng. dial.Sc. 1702 Atholl MSS. (23 July):
I would be very glad to have the honour to see your ladyship and my Uncle heer now when I am good wife of the house.
Lnk. 1724 P. Walker Life A. Peden 64:
When the Lad came to the House, the Good-wife hasted, and gave him Meat to them.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween vii.:
The auld Guidwife's weel-hoordet nits Are round an' round divided.
Ags. 1788 Carmyllie Session Rec. MS. (7 March):
Her Goodwife upbraided her when she came back, for staying so long.
Rxb. 1820 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 130:
The milk would instantly be bewitched, and . . . the honest gudewife would take from the churn stuff no better than dish-water.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet, Letter x.:
“Ay, ye might have said in braid Scotland, gudewife,” added the fiddler.
Sc. 1847 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 296:
Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers, And dinna think that we are beggars; For we are bairns come out to play, Get up and gie's our hogmanay!
ne.Sc. 1874 Gregor Olden Time 118–119:
The last act of her installation as “gueedwife” was leading her to the girnal, or mehl-bowie, and pressing her hand into the meal as far as possible.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 5:
The geudwife was oot under de end o' the byre trampan' blankids i' a muckle tub.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 181:
The meal was frugal, with Puritan fare that any Glasgow gude-wife would have scorned to put on her table.
Hebr 1995 Angus Duncan Hebridean Island: Memories of Scarp 48:
There was always a low chair for the guidwife, or mistress, at one end of the hearth, 'the upper side of the fire' as we called, and another for the guidman, or master, at the end next the door, 'the lower side of the fire'.

(2) The mistress of a farm, gen. with the name of the farm specified (‡ne.Sc., Ags., em.Sc., Ayr. 1955), “a female farmer, a woman who manages a farm” (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
They say the twa reiving loons drave the cow frae the gudewife o' Bell's-moor.
Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales 37:
“An' the kye's awa; an' the capons, and the cabbage stocks,” said auld Sarah Geddes, the guidwife of Ordifish.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 69:
My granny becam' The guidewife o' a seven-plough farm.
Abd. 1936 D. Bruce Cried on Sunday 6:
It's jist Weeda M'Robbie an' the gweedwife o' Cassyen! Ye'll be pitten them i' the kitchie.

In phr. hale guidwife an half gudeman, used of a managing, domineering woman (Abd.27 1950).ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 93:
An' watched her plot an' plan, Till she had risen frae whole gudewife To mair than half gudeman.

(3) The landlady or mistress of an inn (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.).Ayr. 1790 Burns Guidwife Chorus:
Then, guidwife, count the lawin, And bring a coggie mair!
Mry. 1851 Lintie o' Moray (Cumming) 52:
The “White Horse” is her sign . . . She's a jewel o' a good gude-wife.
Sc. 1894 Scots Mag. (June) 5:
“We'll jest ha'e anither gill for auld lang syne. Here goodwife,” he shouted, “anither gill o' yer best!”

†(4) The female head of an institution, a matron, housekeeper. Cf. Guidman, n., 2. (2).Abd. 1715 E. Bain Merchant Guilds (1887) 173:
The Master of Hospital was ordained to pay the “Goodwife” of the Hospital weekly.

2. A wife (Sh., n.Sc., Ags., m.Lth., Ayr., s.Sc. 1955). Sometimes used vocatively.Per. 1711 T. L. K. Oliphant Lairds of Gask (1870) 18:
Give my service to your Lady to the young Goodwife and to hir husband.
Sc. 1751 Charmer II. 58:
Down in yon meadow a couple did tarie, The goodwife she drank naithing but sack and canary.
Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 172:
Our goodman came hame at e'en . . . “What's this now, goodwife?”
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xiii.:
The young gudewife, strong in the charms of her Sunday gown and biggonets.
Abd. 1827 J. Imlah May Flowers 20:
A cantie an' couthie gudewife is my Katie.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 113:
John Thamson's gudewife cam her liege lord to seek.
em.Sc. (a) 1896 “I. Maclaren” Kate Carnegie 73:
It was rare to hear a man call his wife by name; it was usually “gudewife.”
Kcb. 1898 T. Murray Frae the Heather 116:
Get up, gudewife, and clean my shoon.
Sc. 1926 “H. M'Diarmid” Penny Wheep 22:
But oot my gudewife cam' an' straucht To rate the slut begood.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 18:
Marianne, Tartuffe and his guidwife'll bask
In Heaven's ilka blessing, and sich treasure
Will merely crown their earthly pleasure!
Abd. 1991 George Bruce in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 21:
... whiles I watch, my guid-wife puts
into this auld haund a clam-shall fossil
brocht tae Edinburgh frae Chesapeake Bay,

[O.Sc. has gud(e)wife, guid-, good-, in sense 1. above, from 1375.]

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"Guidwife n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Apr 2024 <>



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