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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

TARROW, v., n. Also tarro(o) (Sh., Ork.); tarry. [′tɑrə; Ork. ′tɑrʊ]

I. v. 1. intr. To delay, linger, tarry, hang about expectantly (Sc. 1791 Hailes Gl.; I.Sc. 1972).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 63:
Be still taking and tarrowing. Take what you can get, though not all that is due.

2. With at, †on: to feel or display reluctance, to show disdain or hesitation, be pettishly unwilling to accept, to spurn, refuse (Sc. 1808 Jam.). (1) in gen. Agent n. tarrower.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 158:
Fouk sud no at any thing tarrow, Whose chance looked naething to he.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Address Beelzebub 57–9:
At my right han' assigned your seat Or (if you on your station tarrow).
Slk. 1818 Hogg Wool-Gatherer (1874) 84:
Ye hae made her a good offer! an' yet she'll pretend to tarrow at takin't!
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 212:
Tiggers soodna be tarrowers.

(2) specif. to be fractious or fastidious about (one's food), to reject without relish or from pettishness (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Ork. 1972). Also fig.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 135:
He tarrows early that tarrows on his Kail. Spoken when Men complain before they see the utmost that they will get.
Sc. 1729 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 211:
The dawted bairn thus takes the pet, Whimpers and tarrows at its meat.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 64:
But she's as weak, as very water grown, An' tarroes at the hrowst that she had brow'n.
Ayr. 1786 Burns A Dream xv.:
I hae seen their coggie fou, That yet hae tarrow't at it.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 21:
Sic was the fate o' norland Gib Wha tarrow'd at his Coggy.
Sc. 1846 C. I. Johnstone Edb. Tales II. 84:
A dour loonie ye we re — to tarry at your porridge.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 216:
The mair he tarrows the less he gets.
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 41:
Dere waas no ony chimpan or tarooan i dere minds dan, hit A'm seur dey hed a sair wark humlin id ower.

3. To complain (Lnk. 1825 Jam.); to be perverse and peevish (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1972).wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 159:
Her tongue never lay frae mornin' till night; aye tarrow, tarrowing.

4. To be in a weakly state of health (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 190).

5. Of a bird: to desert the nest (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

II. n. 1. A refusal of food, esp. by a child in the sulks (Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 468).

2. A slight illness, an indisposition (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 190).

3. A check or set-back in the growth of springing corn (Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 468). Phr. to be i' the tarrow, of corn in this state, “when the strength of the seed is exhausted before it has power to draw sustenance from the soil” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 190).

[O.Sc. tarow, to be reluctant, a.1400, appar. a variant of Eng. tarry, to delay.]

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"Tarrow v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Apr 2024 <>



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