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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

POWTER, v.1, n. Also pout(e)r: pooter. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. potter. [′pʌuter]

I. v. 1 tr. or intr. and absol. To poke or stir repeatedly, to keep up a continual poking or prodding action (Sc. 1808 Jam., pouter; Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) P. 61; Rnf., Lnk., Wgt. 1966); “to rummage in the dark” (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.); fig. to interfere, to poke into from curiosity or officiousness. Also in Eng. dial. Ppl.adjs. poutered, gen. in phr. poutered oot, of land: exhausted through over-use (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.); pouterin, fig. of persons: interfering, nosy, officious. Used fig. in 1933 quot. = to egg on or incite.Sc. 1812 The Scotchman 6:
Its baith queer an divertin to see a wheen wee crowlies o four year auld pouteran among the saun wi thair bits o fingers.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley lxiv.:
There's no the like o' him ony gate for powtering wi' his fingers amang the het peat ashes.
wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 176:
If she's pouterin' at the fire, and keeping it in for me, I'll tell her she had nae business staying up.
Dmf. 1887 Mod. Sc.Poets (Edwards) X. 337:
Nae pouterin' Schule Boards keepit bairns frae learnin' things divine.
Rnf. 1888 J. Nicholson Wee Tibbie's Garland 169:
I pottert the ribs an' chappit the coal.
Sc. 1891 N. Dickson Kirk Beadle 55:
I'm ready for Andra wi' Scripture warrant for this day's wark if he has onything to pouter about.
Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 65:
And he pouters on the board Wi' his great big stick.
Sc. 1933 Border Mag. (Aug.) 125:
“That's richt, Backburnbus, you pin him,” powtered Sneck, “I wadna let him aff wi't.”

2. As in Eng., to work in a fiddling, feckless way (Slk. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 133, pouter; Ork., Bnff., Abd., Ags. Per., Ayr., sm.Sc., Uls. 1966); tr. to achieve in a pottering, casual manner. Ppl.adj. pouterin, pottering, trifling (Gregor).Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 156:
Pouter'd lang wi' spades and shules, Before they try'd the plowing.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 220:
He just scartit the taps o' the knowes, an' powter't aboot in atween the stanes.
wm.Sc. 1888 Anon. Archie Macnab 29:
He went ahin the box again, and began to pouter wi' his fingers aboot the bress tube affair.
Per. 1904 R. Ford Hum. Sc. Stories 37:
I was pouterin' aboot amang them up to the ee-holes.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Rhymes 33:
Diggin' sewers in the street. There he poutered out a livin'.

3. tr. To remove growing potatoes from the ground without disturbing the Shaws or foliage (Gall. 1966), to Libb.wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 255:
Just gang awa out and pouter a few [potatoes] frae the roots o' the shaws wi' your hands.

4. To walk in an aimless way.Lth. 1888 D. Carmichael Cosietattle 66:
Sae we maun try an' dae withoot, Just pouter on oor ain way.

5. To paddle or poke about in a liquid, “to make a noise in a liquid” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 133; Ags., Wgt. 1966).Arg. 1949 Mitchison & Macintosh Men and Herring 101:
So they went down near the Skate . . . and they pootered their way in at their leisure, for they knew there were rocks about.

II. n. 1. A poking or prodding movement, a stirring, a prod or thrust; the noise so made.Ayr. 1836 Tait's Mag. (June) 390:
The fire being low, and he being cauldrife, [he] lifted his timber toe and give it a powter.
Ayr. 1840 J. McKillop Poems (1870) 116:
It must hae cost him mony a nibble, An' mony a pouter wi' the dibble.
Ayr. 1880 Jam.:
Gie the fire a pouter.

2. A careless or messy worker, an inefficient untidy person, an aimless and ineffectual muddler (Ayr. 1880 Jam., pouter). Cf. Powt, n., 4.

[Freq. form of Powt, v.]

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



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