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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

JO, n.1 Also joe; pl. joes. [dʒo:]

1. A sweetheart, a lover; gen. male, but sometimes applied to women (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Edb. 2000s). Gen.Sc., now mostly poet. Comb. penny jo, a prostitute.Peb. 1702 C. B. Gunn Linton Church (1912) 82:
She heard Isobel call Mr Robert, “Heartsome Joe.”
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 44:
Which gars my Jo aft grip my Hand 'Till his Heart pitty-pattys.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 25:
This laid her eery thoughts, but yet her pain For her dear jo did still its strength maintain.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 68:
When lads gang out on Sunday's even To treat their joes.
Ayr. 1796 Burns Cardin o't i.:
Johnie is my only jo — I lo'e him best of onie yet.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery iv.:
Aweel, aweel, I had mair joes than ane, but I favoured nane o' them.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 174:
I would gie somethin' to ken if I would hae ony chance to get her for a Jo.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 128:
Penny joes on causey stanes.
Lnl. 1896 Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 129:
The sang o' the lintie a-courting his joe.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 32:
But my feet danced oot to meet my joe.
Gsw. 1985 Anna Blair Tea at Miss Cranston's 169:
Those who belong to street-scenes may have lives apart, beds where they sleep, firesides where they sit, but for rememberers their place was the street, policemen and penny-jo's, buskers and hawkers and, perhaps most popular of them all, the lamplighters.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 31:
Nae stars i the lift
juist a croodlan wund tae be my jo,
an daurkness straikit out
ayont eternity.

Hence phr. to playjook my jo”, to flirt. See Jouk.Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xviii.:
That's what auld Airlie gies to young birkies like you that come in graund coats to play “Jook my jo” wi' his lasses.

2. Used as a term of endearment: my dear (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). For phr. hinny and jo, see Hinnie.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 57:
There ye'll see ye'r bonny sell, My jo Janet.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Lea Rig i.:
When o'er the hill the e'ening star Tells bughtin time is near, my jo.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vii.:
Your father was a douce, honest man, . . . my jo! [a mother to her son].
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 242:
But, Janet, my joe, warna ye at the corpse-kisting?
m.Lth. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller xvii.:
Gin your friend be worth a preen, He will offer bail, jo.

[Sc. form of Eng. joy, now obs. exc. dial. in this sense, Fr. joie. Found in O.Sc. in all meanings from the early 16th c. Cf. Clarinda's rhyme joys: those in poem of Jan. 1788, which Burns amended to prize. See R. L. Brown Clarinda (1968) 214.]

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"Jo n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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