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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.

PLOWTER, v., n. Also plout(t)er, ploughter, plyowter, ‡peowter, pyowter; pl(l)euter, plewter, plooter, plu(i)t(t)er, plutter, and metathetic form pulter (Ork.); and with variant diphthong (esp. in ne.Sc.) pl(e)iter, pl(e)yter, plighter, plither, ploit(t)er. [Sc. ′plʌutər, m.Sc. ′plut-, ′pløt-, ′plɪt; ne.Sc. + ′pləit-, Ork. ′pult-]

I. v. 1. intr. (1) To dabble with the hands or feet, gen. in a liquid, to splash aimlessly in mud or water, to wade messily through wet ground (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129, plleuter; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., plouter; Ork. 1929 Marw., pulter); “to walk feebly” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 234:
Plouterin in the dubs, or brastlin up the braes.
Sc. 1833 M. Scott T. Cringle's Log xvii.:
I found a score of Crusanos, all ploutering in the water, puffing and blowing and shouting.
Ags. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston xxix.:
She plowtered aye and wuish at a pickle claise as she could get them.
Abd. 1874 W. Scott Dowie Nicht 37:
The auld boy's plyouterin throw the slush an snaw, an a'm feart he gets his deed o' caul.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 8:
Plowteran' awa' 'mang 'e ebb steins, makan' straicht for 'e mooth 'e cave.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo i.:
[He] as a boy, ploitered diligently amang my lime.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxix.:
Drimdorran looked uneasy, plowtering with his ladle in the glass that tinkled to his shaking.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 69:
What ploiters aboot in the water sac late?
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 7:
The flichterin burdies daibbelt an dookeet; an A fair ill-wulled thum o ther plowtereen an ther swattereen.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 26:
Old Sinclair had gone pleitering out to the byres.
m.Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (May) 141:
I'm real pleased to tak' my rod and ploiter awa' up the Docherty on a summer's nicht.
Mry. 1956 Northern Scot (7 April):
Young Kirsty was washin', she did for us baith, She plowtert an' plasht tae her elbuks in graith.
Abd. 1964 Abd. Press & Jnl. (25 July):
Plowtering home over the uneven terrain.
wm.Sc. 1985 Pat Gerber in Alexander Scott New Writing Scotland 3 28:
We ploughter thigh-high through tangled heather clumps to reach the bronze strip of bracken.
Sc. 1991 Roderick Watson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 103:
Ye micht jalouse he could really see
the waas dung doun at the end o the tale,
ar Achilles' triumph in his gowden cairt
wi michty Hector pleitered in the sharn,
an mebbe he could.

Comb. and deriv.: plouterdeuk, n., a dish made of oatmeal and hot buttermilk (Abd. 1900). See Deuk; plowtery, pl(e)yterie, ploiterie, adj. of the weather or the like: wet, showery, rainy, puddly (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129, plleutrie); of work: messy, dirty, disagreeable (Ib.).Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 39:
“But min',” said Mains, “the ploitery roads.”
Bnff. 1957 Banffshire Jnl. (14 May):
The winter an' spring hed been pleytery an' caul'.
Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (21 Feb.):
Wi' the bygane weet an' peowtrie time I was fairly haudden agen wi' the plooin' on yon soor clay lan' o mine.

(2) to work or act in an idle, aimless way, to potter or fiddle about (Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., plouter, pluitter), to idle away time (Watson). Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. plowterin, ploitterin, feckless, ineffectual, useless, worthless. Deriv. ploiterer, a poor aimless worker.Sc. 1824 Scots Mag. (May) 530:
The body has been plowtering in law-books a' the days o' his life.
Sc. 1832 Tait's Mag. (July) 424:
That . . . pechling, pingin, plouterin, potherin, asthmatical rotten body, Borrowstoun.
Sc. 1836 Michael Scott The Cruise of the Midge II. 243:
... I swam out to the reef, and there plowtering about in the dead water, under the lee of it, enjoyed the most glorious shower-bath from the descending spray, ...
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
She's a plleuterin', hanless lassie.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 286:
I haenae time to byde, but maun awa and plowter in the sun awee mair.
Edb. 1893 W. Stevenson Wee J. Paterson 76:
It disna look weel to see a man plouterin' aboot an' dain' women's wark.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 233:
What are ye ploiterin' aboot here for in the weet?
Kcb. 1897 S. R. Crockett Lochinvar xxxviii.:
Plowtering discontentedly in the red embers with a burned stick.
Arg. 1910 N. Munro Fancy Farm 142:
Plowterin' at the garden till their faces are like sodger's coats.
m.Sc. 1946 R. G. Nettell Rum & Green Ginger iii.:
She . . . kept him pluttering about to clean the windows, and wash the damp step in the early morning.
s.Sc. 1947 L. Derwent Clashmaclavers 21:
She never tires, and shows a loud contempt for those who do, referring to them scornfully, as: “Peeliewally ploiterers”.
 m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 211:
True, there were no carrots in Scotland - indeed there were none anywhere in Britain - in those days for folk to pleiter with, making a Domhnach Curran, Carrot Sunday, as they would do of a Michaelmas in centuries to come, ...
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 68:
Yince mair I scouk up tae the auld year's turnin
an luk back skelly on the twalmonth gane,
ma saul a-swither atween joy an shame
that here I pleiter on for aw ma girnin
when better men hae pit thair freens tae murnin.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 148:
' ... I had a darlin' wee hoose, wi' a big back green, and a wash-house, and sheds. I could plouter aboot there and keep an animal, and nobody ever bothered me. ... '
Gsw. 1995 Alan Spence Stone Garden (1997) 212:
God bless you. Plowter on, and it helps it definitely helps. At least for a couple of hundred yards.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 5:
The sun wis bleezin hett ower the rigs, as the fairmhauns plytered an tcyauved wi the tractor, finally cowpin it ooto the soss o the bog.

(3) to fumble about, “to rummage or grope in the dark” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Edb., wm.Sc., Slk. 1966). Cf. Ploocher.

2. tr. (1) To dabble (something) in a liquid, specif. in linen manufacture: to moisten yarn (Ags. 1900).

(2) To make a mess of in working, to spoil by inept or excessive handling or the like, freq. of a piece of land badly cultivated (Sh., Abd. 1966).Dmf. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 245:
To pluter a piece of ground, to injure it by ill management, as by over-plowing it. To pluter out the fire, to put it out by too frequent application of the poker.
Mry. 1833 F. Sutherland Memories 20:
Last Tiseday morn I plied my teckle . . . Roon puir auld Lossie's ploutert tide, Whaur huntit troots in terror hide.
Kcb.4 1900:
Superficial tillage by which a farm may be ploitered oot.
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (23 Nov.):
The grun's nae plooed nor latten aleen — jist fair connacht an' blaudit an' pleytert a' throwe ither.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 31:
that sweels aroond him lik the groo scaum
o the sperflin stoor
as the heavie ammo buits plowter the saund attoore.

II. n. 1. The act of working or walking in wetness or mud, a splashing about; a wet, dirty and disagreeable task or enterprise, a messy job (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129); a botched or mismanaged job, an exhibition of slovenliness or inefficiency. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 294:
For mony a foul weary plouter She'd cost him through gutters and glaur.
Sc. 1829 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1864) II. 180:
Be persuaded . . . before supper is brought ben, to tak a warm bath. . . . Faith, I think I shall tak a plouter.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
The plleuter it they hid amo' the water, ga' thim the caul.
Ags. 1891 J. Geddes Valhalla 61:
Keepin' the hoosie clean, canty, an' trig — He had plenty o' ploiter, had Johnnie.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 81:
The weary pleiter of the land and its life while you waited for rain or thaw!
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 14:
It's aiblins daft, this ploiter o pursuit
owre bitter acres whaur the braith micht freeze, ...

2. A splash, dashing of liquid, plash (Sh., Ags. 1966); a shower of rain. Phr. to play plowter, to go splash.Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) I. 142:
Sometimes playin plouter into a wat place up to the oxters.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129:
A hard like a plleuter amo' the wattir.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xiv.:
The sea was extremely little, but there went a hollow plowter round the base of it.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 70:
Gie us a touslie gale or a plooter o' wat.
Sc. 1943 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 437:
The plouter o' the water in the sheuch.

3. A wet, muddy or marshy spot, a bog, mire (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) P. 51, pleuter).Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 59:
I kent on the hill far the burnie first ran, . . . Till tint in a ploiter o' graivel an' san'.
Mry. 1966 Northern Scot (28 May) 6:
Whit richt had they, the sneesty sneuters, And him wi' roads a' glaur and pleuters!

4. A sloppy or sticky mess of food or the like, a hotch-potch (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 129; Sh., ne., em.Sc.(a), Lnk., Gall. 1966). Also in dim. form plleuterie, id. Comb. plowterlowe, id., gen. in phr. to gae a' tae plowterlowe, to become wet and messy, to go into a mush, freq. of overcooked food (‡Abd. 1948), phs. with punning reference to Waterloo. See also Potterlow, id.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 130:
She didna yse thim verra weel; for she ga' thim bit a plleuterie o' half-bilet neeps.

5. A messy inefficient worker, a muddler, sloven, botcher (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. XIII. 35; Per., Kcb. 1950; Rxb. 1954 Hawick News (18 June) 7; m.Sc. 1966). Cf. Plowster, n., 2.

[Freq. form of Plowt, but cf. also Du. ploeteren, to dabble in water, to drudge.]

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



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