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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

POWHEID, n. Also -head, poweed (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.); powat, -et, -it; †powart, powrit (Fif. 1825 Jam., 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 260); ¶powhood (Sc. 1828 Blackwood's Mag. (Aug.) 177). Dim. powtie (Ags. c.1890). [′pʌuhid, ′pʌuət]

1. A tadpole (w.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 80, powat; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 385; Rxb. 1825 Jam., powart; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 134, powit; Slg. 1910 Scotsman (12 Sept.); Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall Antiq. Soc. XIII. 35; Mry., ‡Bnff., ‡Abd., Slg., Lth., Dmb., Lnk., sm. and s.Sc. 1966). Also in reduced form powie (Per. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif. 1966) and in extended form powowit (Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 260). Also attrib., = having a large round head. Cf. also Powlick.Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 218:
When ducks a-paddock-hunting scour the bog And powheads spartle in the oosy flosh.
Peb. 1793 R. Brown Carlop Green (1817) 119:
The pug-like smilan' Pegh; Wi' the powowit poll.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xliii.:
I would as soon meet wi' a pow-head in my porridge at ony time, as wi' the auld red-nebbit runt!
Sc. 1829 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1863) II. 239:
A' the warld's hotchin wi' authors noo, like a pond wi' powheads.
Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (20 Feb.):
The floor lookit to be in a perfect sotter, baith but an' ben, wi' sprawlin' weans, mindin' me o' naething but powheads in a puil.
Abd. 1876 S. Smiles Naturalist 8:
The Denburn, at the foot of the Green, yielded no end of horse-leeches, powets, frogs, and other creatures.
Gall. 1889 M. M. Harper Bards 161:
In a' loops o' the loch famed for powheads an' stanks.
s.Sc. 1904 W. G. Stevenson Glen Sloken ix.:
Afore they're puddocks they're jist powowits wi' a heid an' a tail.
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 65:
Ye daurna plunk the schule To catch pow-heids in the ditch.
m.Sc. 1998 Mavis Beckett in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 38:
Wurrums! Whit wurrums? She had powheids an bandies but she'd niver keepit wurrums.

2. A seal, applied to any member of the genus Phocidae (Sc. 1880 Jam.).Fif. 1718 Burgess Ticket Buckhaven 1:
To take and kill Selches, Powarts, Ottars and suchlike.

3. “A Vesuvian match, so called from its resemblance to a tadpole” (Gall. 1903 E.D.D.).

4. The minute hand of a clock (Rxb. 1825 Jam., powart), prob. from the resemblance to a tadpole of the hand of a large old-fashioned clock with its black bulbous pointer.

5. Comb. black pow-heid, the black-cap, Sylvia atricapilla (†Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Slk. 1966).

6. Used erron. for Poo, n., a crab.Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 14:
I think o' flappin' butteries yet or weyvin' powets' creels.

[O.Sc. powart, a tadpole, 1633, < Pow, n.1, + Heid. Cf. Eng. dial. pole-head, id.]

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"Powheid n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Jun 2023 <>



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