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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LOW, n.1, v.1 Also lowe; lou (Sc. 1710 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 278); louw (Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 37); ¶lough. [lʌu]

I. n. 1. A flame, the reddest part of a fire (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dictionary, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Dim. lowie, a little flame, a flicker (Abd. 1812 W. Ingram Poems 97). Comb. blue low, a type of firework. Hence loweless, having no flame, extinguished.Fif. 1704 P.S.A.S. LVI. 55:
It is not so bright as a candle, the low thereof being blue, yet it gave such a light as they could discern others faces.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 70:
There is little wit in his pow that lights the candle at the low.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 142:
How loot ye the low take your rock by the beard?
Sc. 1817 Scott O. Mortality xx.:
I'll gi'e him a tass o' whisky shall mak the blue low come out at his mouth.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 51:
Then squibs, Roman caunels, an' skyrockets flew, Wi' blue lows, an' firewheels, an' crackers, like stew.
Lnk. 1866 D. Wingate Annie Weir 11:
Owre the glowing loweless wick.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 18:
Fire wus set tae the reufs o' the hooses, . . . an' hid wus no' lang till a' the biggan' wus i' fearfu' lows.
Lnk. 1897 J. Wright Scenes Sc. Life 18:
She was generally seated at the “fire-en',” and if not reading would be watching the “lowes.”
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs of Fields 3:
Bit nae mair than a thow Is hell's hettest lowe.
Abd. 1954 Abd. Press & Jnl. (18 Aug.) 8:
Grannie, who still prefers the old box iron, had just got the stone into the lough of the coal fire.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 126:
That's what I am - a nobody who'll die and gie a lowe to somebody's fire.
Arg. 1992:
The tent wiz goin up in lows.
Ags. 1993 Mary McIntosh in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 112:
He pit his ee tae the gaig. It wis the skimmer o a caunle, the low gien smaa licht. The har on the back o his craig prinkled at the pewlin soon cummin oot o that bleck pit.

2. Fire in gen., a fire, whether indoors or out, a blaze (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc.; a blaze kindled on a river by salmon poachers (Sc. 1867 W. H. Smyth Sailors' W.-B. 457). Comb. lowe-licht, fire-light.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
Boils up their Livers in a Warlock's Pow, Rins withershins about the Hemlock Low.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 142:
But to do as I did, alas, and awow! To busk up a rock at the cheek of the low.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Weary Pund o' Tow ii.:
There sat a bottle in a bole Beyont the ingle low.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 120:
Ye maun make brydal brose o't but water or lowe.
Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 149:
I wadna set up my impudent nose an' my muckle rough brisket afore the lowe, an' tak a' the fire to mysel.
Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 47:
Whilst Lizzie an' the bairns right glad Danc'd merrily round the low.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 151:
When ruddy lowe mak's bien the ingle neuk.
Per. 1897 C. Ramsay Dunning Folk-Lore 4:
She stappit her windies fu' o' weet strae; set low tilt.
m.Sc. 1919 J. Buchan Mr Standfast xiii.:
I havena seen such a cheery lowe since Dickson's mill at Gawly.
Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 44:
Oh, it's fine te ken there's a canty beild, Wi' the lowe-licht blinkin ben.
Bch. 1929 J. Milne Dreams o' Buchan 3:
When grannie sits her doon An' daurna leave the lowe.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 47:
She cud bigg a snaa-mannie wi Dad. She cud powk the coals i the lowe, till the lum cracklit an reidened in dauncin flame; she cud ...

3. A gleam, glow, radiance, as of fire or the like. Gen.Sc.m.Lth. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller 65:
But my manly Jamie, wi' forehead sae hie, Has a lowe in his cheek, an' a star in his ee.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 74:
Whar Will-o'-the-Wisp sheds his eeriefu' lowe.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Grey Man i.:
Fierce and dark in the lowe of the furnace.
Lth. 1915 J. Fergus The Sodger 29:
It's lang, ower lang, sin' I hae seen the heather's purple lowe.
Ags. 1924 A. Gray Any Man's Life 44:
By the lowe o' the fire I wad look at your bonny hair.
Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xiii.:
When he cracked a spunk the lowe of the flame was like an evil eye winking.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 62:
Whan the rid lowe hits Loch Grannoch's mirror
atween the Fell an Craiglowrie Hill,
syne bid fareweel tae the dour winter,
tae dowie lift an the crannreuch's chill.

4. Fig.: a spiritual glow, a state of ardour or excitement, a blaze of feeling. Gen.Sc.Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Young Friend vi.:
The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love, Luxuriantly indulge it.
Rnf. 1850 A. M'Gilvray Poems 69:
'Most every woman blaws a lowe Within the breast of Strang.
Bnff. 1887 W. Philip Covedale v.:
There's a lump o' sense in yon man's heid, and a lowe o' truth at his heart.
Sh. 1888 B. R. Anderson Broken Lights 98:
Dat's da only plan love kens to raise a lowe.
Dmf. 1913 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 45:
The fire at which the torch o' early love was lit is seldom the yin that keeps the lowe alunt in the days that are to come.
s.Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Penny Wheep 25:
Wha sauch-like i' the lowe o' luve Lies sabbin' noo!

5. Phrs.: (1) in or on (a) low, on fire, alight, glowing. Gen.Sc.; also fig., in a state of emotional tension or excitement. See also Alow2; (2) to haud ane's low, to restrain violent feelings, hold oneself in check, act warily (Fif.17 1951); (3) to tak low, to catch fire, go up in flames. Gen.Sc.; also fig. of the emotions.(1) Sc. 1736 Scots Mag. (Aug. 1784) 397:
Then, then my saul was in a low, That gart my numbers safely row.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 192:
He, like frightsome wirrikow, Had wont to rail, And set our stamacks in a low.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. ix.:
I expect every day to hear the barn yard's in a low.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 12:
When the man is fire, and the wife is tow; The deil comes in and blaws 't in lowe.
m.Sc. 1832 A. Rodger Poems (1838) 257:
They've torn her mantle, an' her curch They've set on lowe.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes xx.:
The lum's in a low!
Gsw. 1877 J. Young Prose and Verse 53:
When civil discord's fiery flacht Set Europe in a lowe.
Sc. 1899 R. Ford Vagabond Songs 115:
But when I speak o' takin' a wife, She aye gets up in a lowe.
Gall. 1928 Gallov. Annual 89:
Oh, I ken a'm easy angert, A'm juist up in a fuff an' a lowe.
(3) Sc. 1699 G. Turnbull Diary (S.H.S.) 381:
My son Will . . . being in the chamber alone att the fire his cloths tooke low.
e.Lth. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1809) 30:
Whane'er this speech came frae his pow, Meg's passion like a rock took low.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 124:
To light her pipe she thought nae sin in — Teazin' her tow; Countin' wi' care her costs an' winnin', The stock took low!
Mry. 1883 F. Sutherland Uncle Peter 15:
My hairt ae nicht took lowe.
Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 44:
A reid dawin.
Sun and Yirth jurmummelt.
A bairn's face taks lowe
i the causey.

II. v. 1. To burn with a bright flame, to blaze (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 89, 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also used fig. Phr. neither to burn nor lowe, to be intractable, to do neither one thing nor the other (Fif. 1957). Cf. Hap, v.3Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 24:
Dryest wood will eithest low.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 66:
Wi' the cauld stream she quencht her lowan drouth.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Deil iii.:
An' tho' yon lowin heugh's thy hame, Thou travels far.
Rxb. 1868 D. Anderson Musings 10:
A weel filled pipe, a cutty stool, A gude peat fire lowing bonny.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms Title-page:
It lowed an' was nane the waur. [A translation of the motto of the Church of Scotland “Nec tamen consumebatur” (Exod. iii. 2).]
Sh. 1888 Edmonston & Saxby Home of Naturalist 198:
A lowan taund (blazing peat), or anything that would do duty as a lighted torch.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders vi.:
Striking a light with his flint and steel, and transferring the flame when it lowes up to the bowl of his tiny elf's pipe.
Bwk. 1947 W. L. Ferguson Makar's Medley 15:
Troy lowin' up like Blaikie's ferm Yon hervest nicht!
Ayr. 1999:
The fire's lowin up.

2. To gleam, glow, flare. Gen.Sc.; fig., in 1893 quot., to flash (into one's mind).Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 194:
There took she up his green mantle Of lowing gowd the hem.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 165:
He was feared for ghosts, . . . and ance on a Halloween, he swarfed at the apparition of a lowin turnip.
Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xlvi.:
I see the blew lift again, an' the gerse jist lowin' green.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 68:
His een lowed like flames o' white fire.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxx.:
It lowed up in my mind that this was the girl's father.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls 63:
“That will I not!” cried Mirren Weir, with a loweing eye.
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 50:
My face lowed up like wine.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 67:
The essence lowin' pure in it, As tho' the fire owrecam' the clay.

3. Fig. of human beings: to be in a state of ardour, to be blazing with love, excitement, anger, etc. Phr. to get one's lowin laid, to have one's ardour quenched, to be dashed in one's enthusiasm, “squashed”, put in one's place (Abd., Kcd. 1961).Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 78:
A' lowan wi' love, my fancy did rove Around her with good will — O.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 53:
My very breast is lowin' in a flame.
Abd. 1784 Caled. Mercury (11 Oct.):
He'll get (by middling wi' sic fowk) His lowin laid.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 258:
An' in her stainless bosom lowes the light o' purest love.
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 76:
Altho' the nicht was wat an' cauld, Wi' lowin' heart he left the fauld.
Sc. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 31:
But ae thing bides unchanging The love that lowes in my breast.

[O.Sc. low, fire, 1375, low, to burn, 1632, Mid.Eng. lowe, n. and v., O.N. logi, a flame, loga, to blaze.]

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"Low n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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