Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HOWF, n.1, v. Also howff, houf(f)(e); hoff (Edb. 1758 Caled. Mercury (14 Oct.)); hooff; ¶hauf (Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xvii.), half. [hʌuf]

I. n. 1. An enclosed open space, a yard, an area, e.g. one used for storing timber (Ags., Per., Fif. 1957).Sc. 1711 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 460:
The room or howff at the east side of the port on the north end of the bridge is now possest [by] the guard kept there by the dragoons.
Edb. 1741 Caled. Mercury (29 Sept.):
Parcel of fine St Remo Limons . . . to be sold by Alexander Skirving at the Timber Hooff (or Bush) Leith.
Gsw. 1766 Gsw. Past & Present (1884) III. 290:
Together with two Cellars (formerly three) immediately under the first storie, next to the staircase of the said tenement, and houff under the said Turnpike.
Abd. 1776 Abd. Journal (24 June):
That large Wright's Shop, Houf and Pertinents. . . . consisting of a working Shop, a Ware Room, and Counting Room, together with a large Houf and Sawpit.
Slg. 1798 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (31 Jan.) I. 39:
To be Let, and entered to at Whitsunday next, The Big House at the Houffe.
s.Sc. 1839 Wilson's Tales of the Borders V. 322:
The side o' the quarry, whar it marches wi' the howf o' the auld house that stands by the brink.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (13 Oct.):
The auld coal houf at fit o' brae wi' Duffy at the door.

2. In Dundee: a burial-ground in the centre of the city, orig. the courtyard of the Greyfriars Monastery; any churchyard or cemetery, freq. applied to a private burial-ground (Kcd., Ayr. 1957).Ags. 1776 First Hist. Dundee (Millar 1923) 149:
To the North of the gardens belonging to the High Street & a little further West is the Houff or common burrying ground.
Sc. 1837 Tait's Mag. (Feb.) 106:
When I leave this mailin', it may be to tak up my quarters in the howff o' Lochcairnie kirk.
Sc. 1924 Scots Mag. (July) 241:
On a table-stane in the auld Kirkyaird, They ca' “the Houff”.
Abd. 1957 Deeside Field (Ser. 2) 2. 22:
A grassy mound, known now as “The Houff” and reputed to have been a burial ground.

3. A place of resort, a favourite haunt, a meeting place, freq. of a public house, and sometimes implying a place of disrepute. Gen.Sc.; “a place of abode” (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis). Also attrib. and fig.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
Whan we were weary'd at the Gowff, Then Maggy Johnston's was our Howff.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 177:
Now steekit frae the gowany field, Frae ilka fav'rite houff and bield.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 693:
The Globe Tavern here, which for these many years has been my Howff.
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 227:
High bounds he oure the rocks and hills, A' houffs and haunts he kens.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
As the browst (or brewing) of the Howff retained, nevertheless, its unrivalled reputation, most of the old customers continued to give it a preference.
Ags. 1838 Montrose Standard (18 Jan.) 3:
Daniel Fraser, who keeps a vagrants' howff . . . at threepence a night.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 260:
She saw them wha she'd envied sair, Mothers, wi' minds the houfs o' care.
Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It 'ill a' come Richt xv.:
Bit I'll close wi' him [the Devil], an' warstle them oot o' his grip, and hurl him back tae his ain howff.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle ii.:
The brewster-wife at the howff near Loch Lomond mouth keeps a good glass of aqua.
Per.4 1950:
He's makin a fair howf o this hoose.
Sc. 1955 J. Beith The Corbies 157:
Together they sought the shelter of a howff off the High Street.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 211:
" ... It's well seen that I can't tempt you as well as Peggy up at the howff yonder. I'll wager you haven't a brass farthing left among the three of you - now have you?"
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 10:
Tonight, though, there were none of his cronies in the howff and after the one stoup which was all he could afford, he bade the other tipplers good-night and went outside.
m.Sc. 1980 Walter Perrie By Moon and Sun 32:
Mourn ye drinkin men
O mourn
and bare your heads
let pass the cortège
of our howffs
their undrunk spirits
their untasted wines
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 42:
The lads f'ae the Mairt
wi sharn on their feet
birl aboot the howff sawins,
(Tam on the moothie
Peem on the spoons),
heechin, skirlin, lowpin, fleein,
faain doon,
stotterin hame....
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 31:
yirdit apairt
in the howff o his ain hert
that nane save he can prove.
Gsw. 1999 Jimmy Boyle Hero of the Underworld 36:
Our howff was the Offal Room, which we entered by descending a wide, concrete ramp that let deep into the bowels of the Abattoir basement.
Sc. 1999 Herald 9 Oct 11:
... and in this little lane is a pub, The Old Ship Inn, Perth's oldest tavern.
Probably the best way to see Perth is to start with a small refreshment (of about half-a-gallon of real ale) in this fine old howf.
Sc. 2000 Herald 3 Nov 11:
An American bar, even in a respectable Virginia hotel, is not our jolly Scottish howff. It is a place where men perch on high stools and lean over drinks, staring into space, as furtive as cormorants on a rock.

Also fig. esp. in phr. to hae no howf o', to have no desire to associate with, no liking for.Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin 99, 119:
Frae that day till this, I've had nae half o' the gauger fraternity, an' but unco little notion o' "Justices' Justice.". . . He had but little half o' the musical profession.
Fif. 1883 W. D. Latto Bodkin Papers 38:
Ane o' thae paper men that ye've sae muckle hauf o'.
Fif. 1896 G. Setoun R. Urquhart ix.:
She has no howf o' teachers at a'. Ye would notice that the nicht.
Fif. 1901 Id. Skipper of Barncraig xvii.:
Philosophy's like onions, grand for a strong digestion, but some folk canna thole them; I've no howf o' them mysel', nor yet o' your philosophy.

4. A rude shelter or refuge (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ags., Slg., Rnf. 1957); a natural or improvised shelter used by mountaineers (Gen.Sc.), hence howffing, vbl.n., the use of such a shelter; a shelter with latrine used by workmen on a building site (Sc. 1952 Builder (20 June) 952; Fif. 1957).m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 134:
I cam frae that, an' was fou douf, No lighting on your hidden houf.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost vii.:
Mrs Pawkie . . . who, on account of her kindliness towards the bairns in their childhood, has given her a howf among us.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town i.:
They were but weavers' howffs at the best, and when the looms were broken up they were little use.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs 2:
The place isnae fit for a howf for a tramp, Tae let abe ca'in't a hame!
Sc. 1948 Sc. Mountaineering Club Jnl. 3:
The best known example of a mountain howff is the Shelter Stone of Loch Avon.
wm.Sc. 1949 Scots Mag. (July) 278:
Both these places are natural caves. But using such ready-made obvious shelters is not howffing as we interpret it. We prefer to build our own small howff, use it and move on.
Sc. 1953 Ib. (Sept.) 464:
I have noticed that it is men who go in for the building of “howffs” or bivouacs, the digging of snowholes. Jock Nimlin, the foremost howff-builder, writes: “As is usually the case, these formidable-looking rocks on the cave floor were loosely bedded and easy to remove.”
Fif. 1983 Hamish Brown Time Gentlemen 104:
So we approach the howff
In silence,
Push open a hingeless door ...
m.Sc. 1987 Dave Brown and Ian Mitchell Mountain Days and Bothy Nights 1992 pp (122-3) :
He described in the B.B.C. Scotland Odyssey programme how he and a pal built a howff out of a pair of builders' trestles and some building rubble found behind the hotel.

Hence †howffy, houffie, adj., snug, comfortable (Rxb. 1825 Jam.).

II. v. 1., mostly intr. To dwell, to lodge, to take up one's abode; to haunt, to frequent (em.Sc., Kcb., Dmf. 1957); occas. with about: to loiter, to hang around. Ppl.adj. howffed, situated, lodged, domiciled.Sc. 1732 Mons Alexander in Struani Reditum 4:
The Muses leave the Grecian Height Where they were wont to howf langsine.
Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Often used merely to denote a short stay in a house. “Where did you gae?” “I was houff'd.”
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xvii.:
Where was't that Robertson and you were used to howff thegither?
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 7:
Wi' a' the joys, an' hopes, an' fears, That houff the spring-time o' our years.
Fif. 1845 T. C. Latto Minister's Kail-yard 60:
They trock an' houff wi' southrons, till They lose a' guid, an' learn a' ill.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 33:
Oor auld grey smiddy, weel ye ken, Is howff'd a mile ayont the glen.
Kcd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 14:
He's come to howff in my kailyard.
ne.Sc. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 72:
Onybody wad 'a' kent faur the twal' poun' gaed; . . . Alastair saw ye houfin' aboot the dask.

2. To take shelter or refuge (Ags. 1957).Clc. 1860 J. Crawford Doric Lays 81:
The puir bieldless body has scougg't the cauld blast, 'Yont our hallan he's houf't till the gurl gaed past.
s.Sc. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. II. 203:
He drave doun the maukins to howff 'mang the whins.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 18:
As we howf by the burn i' the mist's weety blaw.

3. With up: to bury. Cf. I. 2.Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 79:
The Bedral, who houfs up the best in the land, Aye cracks to the Gauger wi' bonnet in hand.

[O.Sc. howf, of Dundee, 1565, a timber yard, 1638, a burial ground, 1647; Du., Ger. hof, an enclosed space, a courtyard. For the diphthong, cf. Doup, Howp.]

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

"Howf n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: