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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PAWKIE, adj. Also pawky, pauky. -ie, pauckie (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); †packy; †pakie (Sc. 1718 News from Bathgate 27).  Now adopted in Eng., esp. in reference to supposed characteristics of the Scots. [′pǫke]

1. Wily, sly, cunning, crafty (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 104, 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Taynor); shrewd, astute, sagacious, “sharp”, having one's wits about one, resourceful, “hard-headed” (Uls. 1929 , Fif. 1958); comb. pawkie-witted, id. Gen.Sc., obsol. Hence pawkiness, paukiness, guile, cunning, sagacity, common sense; pawkily, adv., shrewdly, resourcefully, in a wily and sagacious manner (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1706 J. Watson Choice Coll.i. 69:
I wily, witty was, and Gash, With my auld felni packy pash.
Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis:
We call one pawky, who is witty, sly, or cunning in his words or actions, especially the first, but without any harm or bad designs.
Sc. 1714 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 16:
Where they us'd to rant and reel, He pawkily on them could steal.
Sc. 1727 P. Walker Six Saints (1901) I. 328:
Some of our pawky-witted primitive trucklers, in my hearing, said that they would pray for him.
Fif. 1766 Session Papers, Reid v. Fouler (18 Feb.) 34:
This man, on account of his slyness, has been nicknamed Paukie Willie Brown; but with all his paukiness, he was not able to make his deposition hang together.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 86:
Some fiend or fairy, nae sae very chancy, Has driven me by pauky wiles uncommon.
Ayr. 1785 Burns To James Smith i.:
Dear Smith, the slee'st, pawkie thiof, That e'er attempted stealth or rief!
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
Their pawky policy, and earthly ingine, their flights and refinements, and periods of eloquence.
s.Sc. 1858 Wilson's Tales of the Borders X. 134:
This she set about with the characteristic pawkiness . . . of the Scotch.
Fif. 1884 G. Bruce Reminisc. 46:
[He] pawkily ingratiated himself into the good graces of the sturdy old Puritan, Cromwell.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xvii.:
He spoke in a smooth rich voice, with an infinite effect of pawkiness.
Sc. 1920 D. Rorie Auld Doctor 6:
There aince was a very pawky duke, Far kent for his joukery-pawkery.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood viii.:
The Woodilee folk are pawky bodies even when they're fou.
Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 172:
Gin ye ever gang to a richt herd's supper, ye'll meet men that are jist like their grandfaithers: canny, pawky and intelligent as ye make them.

2. Characterised by a sly, quiet wit, quizzical, sardonic, having a matter-of-fact, humorously critical outlook on life (Abd. 1913; Mry. 1925; Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (27 Nov.)). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. Also Superl. pawkiest. Hence pawkiness, n., dry humour, sly wit.e.Lth. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 49:
To con thy saftly-melting lays, Or pawky strains.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds iii.:
Oh, he was a deacon at a pawky song!
Ayr. 1833 Galt Eben Erskine I. i.:
A gash, long-headed carle, with just so much pawkie humour as showed that he knew the weak side of the bailies and counsellors.
Sc. 1838 J. W. Carlyle Letters (1883) I. 97:
Old Scotch rhyme, reckoned “pawky”, clever and symbolical, in this house.
Lth. 1856 M. Oliphant Lilliesleaf lii.:
Mary was looking at him and me, and well I kent, by the pawkie smile upon her face, that she read us both.
Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 49:
Old Yacob . . . possessed a considerable amount of good common sense, quiet, pawky humour.
Sc. 1883 Chambers's Jnl. (13 Jan.) 31:
It was a face in which were combined shrewdness, humour, kindliness, keen perception and sagacity; while to these was superadded a certain “pawkiness” (to use a Scotch word which has no equivalent in English).
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle x.:
When Mrs. Petullo broke down miserably in her third verse, he smiled to himself pawkily.
Ags. 1948 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 80:
Forfar seems to have attracted to its Town Council men who were especially gifted with a couthie directness and pawkiness that is peculiar to the town.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 114:
He had a pawky sense of humour too which had lain dormant in him so long that the family had quite forgotten its existence.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 179:
But from these old days in Glasgow it is his name that comes most endearingly to mind as one of the pawkiest, most eccentric, yet sternest, characters every to occupy a city pulpit, or walk its streets leaving a trail of savoury anecdotes behind.
Edb. 2003:
Thon bairn wis the pawkiest Ah'd ever met.

3. Of tasks, skills, etc.: requiring care or special knowledge, difficult, tricky, demanding.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 12:
The pauky knack Of brewing Ale amaist like Wine.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 39:
The man in music maist expert, Wha cou'd sweet melody impart, And tune the reed, Wi'sic a slee and pawky art.

4. Roguish, arch, coquettish, wanton (Ags. 1808 Jam.); lively, merry, vivacious, jaunty. Henee pawkily, merrily, mischievously, in a roguish manner. Also ¶used subst.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 80:
The pawky auld carle came o'er the lee, Wi' mony good e'ens and days to me.
Abd. 1755 Lord Glenbervie Diaries (Bickley 1928) II. 359:
Pale complexion and black and what the Scotch call pawky eyes, which under a quiet manner betrayed an amorous disposition.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 210:
I've been near pauky courts, and aften there Ha'e ca'd hystericks frae the dowy fair.
Ags. 1774 Weekly Mag. (30 Dec.) 15:
Ilka lad, wi'pawky een, looks at his lass.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Guidwife of Wauchope iii.:
Her pauky smile, her kittle e'en.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Remains 67:
A pawky cat came frae the mill-ee — Wi'a bonnie bowsie tailie.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Tales (1874) 657:
My bonnie, haughty, pawkie, sweet Elizabeth!
Fif. 1882 J. Hutton Poet. Musings 20:
An' she thinks it sma' faut to be pawkie a wee, For a pawkie can hide what nae gawkie can see.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 73:
She pawkily tested my answer awee.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin Borderland (1933) 62:
May . . . Janet's bricht and pawky face Be lang a joy to mither.

5. Quaint, fantastic, amusing, funny (Cai. 1965).Abd. 1844 W. Thom Rhymes 78:
I think I see its pawkie boughs, Whaur lovers weel might hide.
Cai. 1930 John o' Groat Jnl. (21 Feb.):
'At's him 'at used til write fae Ontario 'boot 'e peedy, pauky, gunshie kind o' swinies they hed oot 'ere.

6. Self-satisfied, proud, vain. Also in n.Eng. dial. Rare.Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 119:
Ae nicht short syne, some bierdly chiels, Right pauky o' their bra's.

[O.Sc. pawky, = 1., 1676, pakiness, 1687. from Pawk, + -Ie. Also in n.Eng. dial.. = proud, saucy.]

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"Pawkie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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