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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THOWLESS, adj., adv. Also thoweless, thouless (Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 75; Abd. 1900 Weekly Free Press (15 Sept.)); thaw(e)less (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (7 Jan.)). Lacking energy or spirit, inactive, lethargic, listless, having little initiative or capability, ineffectual (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson, Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai), rarely applied to things. Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. [′θʌulɪs]

Hence thowlessness, want of energy or spirit, dullness, lethargy, stupidity; adv. thowlessly, thowlesslike.Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 76:
Mause begrutten was and bleer'd, Look'd thowless, dowf and sleepy.
Abd. 1780 Aberdeen Jnl. (11 Dec.):
There the dullest, thowless heart, Ye can engage.
Ayr. 1785 Burns 2nd Ep. to J. Lapraik iv.:
‘Conscience,' says I, ‘ye thowless jad.'
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality v.:
The thowless, thriftless, fissenless ministry of that carnal man, John Halftext, the curate.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) ix.:
My innocent, kind, thowless Tibby Hyslop.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 81:
That thowless key is aye amiss. when folks my room wad view.
Dmf. 1877 R. W. Thom Poems 17:
O, but single bliss is a thowless life.
Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk More Bits 206:
Bell's remarks about “wasterfu'ness” and “thowlessness.”
Ayr. 1888 R. Young Galston Char. 15:
Starin' thowlessly aroun'.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters iv.:
Janet was a thowless thing, too like her mother for her mother to like her.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 14:
O that its prickles were a knife indeed, But it is thowless, flabby, dowf, and numb.
Bwk. 1943 W. L. Ferguson Vignettes 70:
His thowlessness 'll drive me wud!
Lnk. 1947 G. Rae Sandy McCrae 21:
Ye haud the rod far ower thowless like.
Gsw. 1972 Molly Weir Best Foot Forward (1974) 112:
But when it came to the sewing machine I was back once more to bewilderment and misery. I hadn't even dreamed I could be so thowless, for I loved the ordinary sewing classes.
m.Sc. 1979 Donald Campbell in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 66:
Even as a teeny lass
ye tried my birse fu sair.
Sermons are as thowless as
the coorse clashin ye prefer.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 17:
here's the wyce tune
aince mair awa an' dinnillin lugs
wi a wow! that disna lippen on drugs
but's a ferlie gien a dicht tae the glum,
tae ilka thowless squeef, tae aa we've become.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 76:
A peetie tes thare's nane o thaim tak tent
o whit the haill shaif o his screivins meant,
insteid o gien thir yearlie coamic turns
in speik faur mair weel-kent in Newton Mearns.
Goad, the haill ettle o the bard's been bent
sae ilka thowless philistine kin pent
his 'Life of Burns' owre neaps, aitmeal-an-thairms.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 25:
Hivvenly licht poors doon an blins an droons
The dozent, thowless wardle.

[O.Sc. thowlesnes, wantonness, lack of virtue, 1375, thowles, dissolute, c.1420, a variant of Thewless, which appears somewhat later in Sc. The variant may have developed from *þeāw, from the orig. O.E. þēaw, virtue. For yet another variant see Thieveless.]

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"Thowless adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Feb 2023 <>



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