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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SOWFF, v., n. Also sowf, souf(f). ¶sowph. [sʌuf]

I. v. 1. tr. and absol. To sing, hum or whistle softly or under one's breath (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Sc. a.1813 A. Murray Hist. Eur. Langs. (1823) I. 347; ne.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 213:
[I] bang'd up my blyth auld-fashion'd Whistle, To sowf ye o'er a short Epistle.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 86:
To sowf a tune I'll never crook my mou.
Abd. 1797 Aberdeen Mag. 350:
As lang the lads o' Kyle sall souff his strains.
e.Lth. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 48:
The Scotian Muse . . . wad lead you . . . Wi' her upo' the knowe to lean, An' souf a sang.
Ags. 1860 A. Whamond James Tacket 63:
He was humming, or, to use his own words, soufing it ower before he began.
Mry. 1870 W. Tester Poems 150:
I sowf'd in my glee.
Abd. 1891 T. Mair Arn and His Wife 29:
An' thro' the evenin' — souffin' on At lively Scottish airs.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 39:
He sowfed himsel' across the brig.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 36:
Fin they sowff them [psalm tunes] owre they fess a smell o' the hedder wi' them.

2. To pant, sob, breathe heavily, snore, snooze, doze (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); to faint (Mry. 1930); with ower, to die.Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 124:
Th' unpillow'd crowds that lie Souffin' and sloomin' round.
Kcd. a.1847 G. Menzies Poems (1854) 137:
Syne snaps in twa life's brittle link, An' ower we souff.
Ags. 1890 A. Lowson J. Guidfollow 82:
They a' disappeared frae my vision, an' I waukened soufing.

3. Of wind, water, etc.: to murmur in a low tone; of a breeze or smoke: to puff gently.Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 75:
The lang ane [chimney] sowfed, though rude the blast.
Ags. 1848 Feast Liter. Crumbs (1891) 43:
Souffin' and snellin' the drift it did blaw.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes li.:
The water, as it comes murrin', and souffin', and gurglin', on to me.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 21:
A blast o' wander'd win' cam' in, An' sowff't roun' aunty's pillow'd heid.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 35:
An' the strang souffin' o' its braith Sookit me intill it.
Bwk.2 1948:
The reek cam sowffin oot.

4. tr. and intr. To move with a rush, to whisk or sweep down, through.Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 102:
An' on the fiel's o' brairdin' wheat Comes souflin' doun the hungry craws.
Abd. 1893 G. MacDonald Songs 25:
Up cam the tide and the mune and the sterns, And souft them baith throu a mirksome door!

5. intr. To thump, thud.n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
One stone is said to souff on another, when dashed upon it.

6. To drink hastily, quaff (Mry. 1818 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 466; Ayr. 1930).

II. n. 1. A low whistling, singing or humming (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl., Abd. 1929); a tune.Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 265:
Wi' a souff an' a diddle.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 159:
Jock was a deft and willing dancer, and would foot up Ghillie Callum or Highland Fling to his “ain sowff.”
Ags. 1897 Bards Ags. (Reid) 200:
Garrin' a' my heart thrab wi' the sowf o' its tune.

2. Wheezing, heavy breathing, a snooze, nap, sleep (ne.Sc. 1808 Jam.).Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 35:
Ten times he turn't frae side to back, Ere he anither souff could tak.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 37:
Wi' his sowf an' pech an' fosel.
Sc. 1935 W. Soutar Poems 30:
I'd wauk Scotland frae her souff.

3. A breath of wind, a breeze.Sc. 1942 Glasgow Herald (18 July) 2:
The sowff gangs through the fleury grass.

4. A stroke, blow, smack (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Abd., Kcd., Ags. 1971).Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 503:
A menseless man Came a' at anes athort his hinch A sowph.

5. A person's line of thought or action, his way of thinking or living, in phrs. to hear one's souff, to put one off his souff, see quots. (Kcd. 1971).Sc. 1808 Jam.:
We'll hear his souff, we will learn what strain he is on, what humour he is in, what terms he has to propose.
Kcd.2 1944:
Ye winna pit him aff his souff — you won't put him off his normal routine.

6. A copious drink, a draught.Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shep. MS. 131:
With a souff the stranger's wellcome drank.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 176:
He pat the bottle till's hehd, an' took a gueede hearty souff.

[Prob. orig. a Sc. form of Eng. †solf, to sing in sol-fa, the semantic development being influenced by the somewhat sim. Souch. Cf. South, n., v.2]

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"Sowff v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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