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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.

SOWL, n., int. Also sowal (Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 29, 31), sowel, sowell. Sc. altered forms and usages of Eng. soul. For the hist. Sc. forms see Saul. [sʌul]

1. Sc. forms of Eng. soul.Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 92:
"Luk. A'm elimeenated ivery livin' sowl in the parish. Thir's forteen fock whar I thowt might hiv deun id, an' thir all got perfect aleebis. Noo whar dae I go fae here?"
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 45:
The sowl's a flouer that blossoms in the harnpan
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 49:
My faither's wearied, a window life
scunners him wha cuid never thole
hauf-deid fowk wi kirkyaird sowls.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 9:
The richteous deid step oot yince mair;
Their sowels frae glory ramstam doun
Tae meet them at the gantin lair.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 57:
The gurly sea, rock-spatter't, sprays
brave sowls wha promenade her bays.
ne.Sc. 2003 Press and Journal 8 Dec 12:
We live in a politically correct warl an a lang wye fae granny's day fin as bairns we were tellt that a peck o dirt nivver hairm't a sowel an that drinkin oot o a burn wis aa richt cis rinnin watter clear't itsel.

(1) Sc. combs.: ¶(i) sowl-bolts, in phr. to knock the sowl-bolts oot o', to knock the life out of; ¶(ii) soul-couper, one who sells his soul (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (iii) soul-heezin', uplifting the soul (Ib.). See Heeze, v.(i) Sh. 1902 J. Burgess Sh. Folk 77:
If du has, I'll knock the bloomin' sowl-bolts out of him.

(2) Sc. phrs.: (i) for sowl and body, = with great vigour, as if one's life depended on it, with might and main (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork. 1971); (ii) gaird my sowl, = good gracious! bless me! (God) preserve me (Ork. 1971). Cf. Ser, v.2(i) Sh. 1900 Shetland News (10 March):
Shü begood ta rub da saep blots oot o' dem fir sowl an' body.
(ii) Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. I. 130:
Gaird my sowl, min, is du no heard o da Paet Commission?

2. With def. art, or voc. with my, as an expression of familiarity, pity or mild disparagement for someone: poor chap, silly fellow, the creature (Cai., wm.Sc. 1971).Uls. 1884 Cruck-a-Leaghan & Slieve Gallion Lays 6:
The farmer, the sowl, was as thrawn as a mule.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 11:
A thocht the sowl wad take a dwam.
Gsw. 1958 C. Hanley Dancing in the Streets 122:
The sowl ran away fur the polis!
Arg. 1960:
All right, ma sowl, just you go away home.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 9:
Tartuffe! Oh fine. I think
You'll funn him fitter than fower fiddles, in the pink!
The sowell!
Sc. 1993 Scotsman 5 Jun :
Poor sowel didn't know you could get out again after bedtime by dreeping from the bedroom window.
Sc. 2000 Herald 7 Feb 13:
My mother would have described him as "a harmless wee sowel" ...
Ayr. 2000:
Ye're a wee sowl.
Edb. 2004:
C'mere ya wee sowel, ye!

II. int. As an emphatic or asseverative exclam.: believe me, upon my word (Wgt. 1971). In pl. form as an expletive. Cf. Saul. Comb. sowl-boy, a nickname for a native of Wigtownshire where this exclam. is thought to be very common (Gall. 1971).Fif. 1882 S. Tytler Sc. Marriages I. 90:
Sowl! man, he has his ain share in them.
Uls. 1884 Cruck-a-Leaghan & Slieve Gallion Lays 44:
Sowl it happen'd as shure as there's grace for the poor.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 134:
“Sowls!” Geordie Moncrieff said, “ye'll need ta steady yoursel, he's a jimp o' a sea.”

[The form prob. represents a Sc. 17th-c. pronunciation of the Eng. form sowl(e) as found in the Bible.]

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"Sowl n., interj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jul 2024 <>



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