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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SLAW, adj., adv. Also slaa(a); erron. slae (Ags. 1927 M. Angus Sun and Candlelight 15). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. slow (Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 224; Ayr. 1790 Burns Sherramuir ii.; n.Sc. 1808 Jam., Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie In Two Tongues 19; Ork., ‡wm.Sc. 1970). Hence slawlie, slawly, slawness (Lnk. 1825 Jam.), now only liter. [slɑ:]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng. Sc. combs. (1) slow-belly, a parasite found in the wool of sheep, prob. the louse, Pediculus pediculus; (2) slow-thumbs, -thooms, a slow-moving person, a very slow worker, a laggard (Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1970)(1) Kcb. 1899 Crockett Anna Mark xiv.:
Some yarn is alive enough when it comes here — both with ‘high jumpers' and ‘slow bellies'.

2. Easy-going, lax, slack, having insufficient spirit or attack.Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.:
Slaa cats maks pert mice.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
Of a dog: ‘too slaa wi' the kye.'
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 15:
Perched on a tree, an unseen bird maks skraik,
skraik as if bairn's rachteted gun. The one strong note.
But no! A stooping, stout auld buddie taks her
painfou wey, mumblin, stumblin and slaw.

II. adv. Slowly, without haste, in a leisurely manner. Poet.Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poetry I. 180:
What's a' yon reek, sae lurid like, Slaw rising owre the binn.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 27:
Till said to Tweed, Though ye rin wi' speed, and I rin slaw, Where ye drown ae man, I drown twa.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods ix.:
Mair neebours, comin' saft an' slaw.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 14:
Rest comes slaw to you an' me.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 32:
alang the stoorie desert pad,
and his scadda raxin slawlie and siccarlie,
cawed attoore the groo pad
ower a binsh o broon lavastane,
intil the thorn buss.
Lnk. 1998 Duncan Glen Selected New Poems 13:
A man doonby says, slawly
"It's faur oot the wey, but gey
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 18:
Fin we are slawly meevin -
Ma first time doon yon road -
On fower cord-bearers' showders,
They'll ken me fur a wechty load.

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"Slaw adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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