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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WAUR, adj., n., adv., v. Also war (Sc. 1776 Outlaw Murray in Child Ballads No. 305 A. xlviii.; Ayr. 1882 Galt Sir A. Wylie xxx.), warr (Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray i.), warre (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 109), waar, woare (Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 7); wer, werr (Sh. 1892 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 51), waer (Sh. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 61). [wɑ:r, wǫ:r: Sh., ‡Ork. wɛr]

I. adj. = Eng. worse (Sc. 1808 Jam., war). Gen.Sc. Double compar. forms waurer, warrer, now gen. jocular (Sh., n.Sc., Slg., Lnl., Ayr., Wgt. 1973). Cf. Eng. dial. worser. Phrs. something waur than onesel, see 1825 and 1880 quots.; (the) waur o(f), = Eng. ‘(the) worse for.' Gen.Sc. See O, prep., 1. (6) (ii). Deriv. waurness, worseness, deterioration. Also in combs. with adjs. as the compar. of Ill-, adv., adj. Waur-willed, less willing, not so determined.Mry. 1715 E. D. Dunbar Documents (1895) 21:
The warrer sort of shoes to be sold for less price.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Kirk's Alarm xviii.:
She could ca' us nae waur than we are.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxviii.:
Ye winna be the waur o' a glass of the right Rosa Solis.
Slk. 1823 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) i.:
I hope ye hae nae been the waur o' auld Andrew's prayers as yet. An some didna pray for ye, it wad maybe be the waur for ye.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 133:
Mony ane's a safter fighter, And waur-will'd nor I, Boney.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Waur, or warse than one's self, a phrase commonly used to denote a visitor from the spiritual world.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller iii.:
The chair is no ae hair the waur o' the wear yet!
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 46:
Gin things be gaun waur in the kintry, I trou There's no muckle sign o' their waurness wi' you.
Abd. 1877 G. MacDonald M. of Lossie I. xi.:
She's aye the wau[r]-natur'd, the less she has to ate.
Bwk. 1879 W. Chisholm Poems 64:
There's naething e'er sae ill, but that It micht be muckle waur.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 111:
In response to a question as to whether he had ever seen “ocht waur than himsel'? ” “No! altho' born in Craighdhu, I never saw ghaist or wraith a' my days.”
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 54:
He's a heap waurer tae mak' oot than the minister on Sawbath.
Abd. 1912 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 22:
O dear me! This is waur and waur.
Ags. 1918 V. Jacob More Songs 23:
Gairmans is bad, but Janet's tongue was waur.
Sh. 1933 J. Nicolson Hentilagets 26:
What maks da case da waar.
Sh. 1969 New Shetlander No. 88. 12:
Der somethin at's wer as da Saxon rover.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 142:
Baillie MacMorin, who led the officers, would have been better to laugh at the boys, give them their holiday and go home to his dinner, but he was a pompous man who took his position unco seriously and was determined that a spineless academic like Hercules Rollock would see how to treat thrawn schoolboys.
'Unbar this door at once, sirs, or it'll be the waur for you, every last one.'
Sc. 2000 Sunday Herald 11 Jun 9:
Just as Scotland's councils need to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century, so the Scottish legal system would be nane the waur o' modernisation.
m.Sc. 2000 Herald 16 Sep 18:
"No hype. No PR agencies. No expensive POS etc." But it's waur nor no kennin what expensive POS are, for we're bein protectit frae oorsels.
Sc. 2003 Daily Mail 16 Jan 15:
Suddenly, subtly and insidiously, MSPs are in election mode. And this week the news cycle changes gear with only the mildest of clunks as polling day in May becomes imminent reality for our rulers who are all too conscious that, in the minds of many Scots, they would be nane the waur o' a guid hingin'.
Sc. 2003 Herald 2 Oct 19:
We will all have our own choices. Mine would include A Man's a Man for a' That, Hamish Henderson's Freedom Come-All-Ye, Auld Lang Syne, Scots Wha Hae, Flower of Scotland, Scotland the Brave, Scotland Yet, and Sic a Parcel o Rogues in a Nation. Some of these may be a bit music hall, but they are nane the waur o that.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal 23 Aug 14:
We did coont oorsels lucky it wis fae Fort William we left an nae farrer sooth at Oban or we micht o been in waur straits wi yon afa landslide at Glen Ogle.

II. n. The worse, that which is inferior, less desirable, etc. Gen.Sc. Phrs. ten waurs, ten times worse (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1973); the waur o, a worse thing than; to come by or win the waur, to come off worst, to get the worst of something (Sh., Cai. 1973); to tak waur wi, to take more badly with, to be more displeased or offended with.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 351:
War, and mair o't.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 43:
Ill comes upon war's back.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 97:
The weak wins aye the waar.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Sweet Tibbie Dunbar ii.:
But say that thou'lt hae me for better or waur.
Sc. 1824 Scott St Ronan's W. i.:
No one dared to strive with a Douglas, for if he did he was sure to come by the waur.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of the Lairds ix.:
When the waur has come to the warst.
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 79:
Gif he was ill afore, he was ten waurs noo.
Ags. 1866 C. Sievwright Sough o' the Shuttle 97:
As for his waft, The waur o't was never yet spun.
Dmf. 1894 J. Cunningham Broomieburn 10:
Times are sair changed for the waur.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Stickit Minister's Wedding 236:
My brother John, who was, they said, ‘ten waurs' than I.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (17 Aug.):
Hit's a gude job 'at doo kens wha doo's spaekin' till, an' at William taks nae waur wi' dee.
Sc. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours 32:
Sheep aye like a change o' pasture, whether it's tae better or tae waur.
Abd. 1952 Buchan Observer (11 March):
Came there “waur on waur's back.”

III. adv. = Eng. worse. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1724 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 38:
The lave will fare the waur in Trouth.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xlii.:
Our faithfu' champions o' the testimony agree e'en waur wi' this.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail ii.:
It'll no fare the waur wi' our basket and our store.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xviii.:
He “hedna been vera stoot, an' was compleenin' war nor eeswal the nicht.”
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 8:
His wobs o' wincy dawdlt waur Nor any scoorin' cloot.
Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 127:
If ye're gaun to dee sune ye micht do waur than arrange that ye should be buried here.
Edb. 1924 Edb. Ev. News (24 Dec.) 4:
I think I micht dae waur Nor lea' the door agee.

Also as compar. of Ill-, adj., adv., in combs. as: (1) waur born, of worse breeding; (2) waur-faured, more ill-favoured, uglier (Ork., ne.Sc., Ags. 1973).(1) Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 10:
Ye ill bred, an waur born chield.
(2) m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 120:
Do I look war-far'd nor I did afore?
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 143:
Brimfu' o' love, and waur-faurt gear, The lad an' lass came through the muir.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 92:
If that wean hasna a far waur faurt name than Jean Saipysaples, I'se leav't to your honour to judge.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine at Exhibition 4:
There's waur-faured lasses than Leezie.

IV. v. 1. tr. or absol. To get the better of, worst, beat, overcome, outdo (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 522; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Per., Ayr. 1973), also fig. Phr. to waur the widdie, to cheat the gallows, ¶transf. in 1922 quot., to risk everything.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 304:
The Water will never warr the Widdie. Eng. He that's born to be hanged will never be drown'd.
Sc. 1769 D. Herd Sc. Songs 212:
Up and war 'em a', Willie.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Death & Dr Hornbook xiii.:
Ane Hornbook's taen up the trade, And faith he'll waur me.
Per. c.1800 Lady Nairne Songs (Rogers 1905) 186:
Time's restless finger sair hath waur'd, And rived thy grey disjaskit wa'.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
Our gudesire was like to be waured afore the Session for want of a paper.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 42:
He waurs a' the parish at the supping o' brochan.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 120:
Ye ken it wud never do to let your nose waur ye.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 51:
I thocht nae woman could waur me in a bargain.
Slk. 1902 Border Mag. (March) 53:
He had warred me this time; but sorrow take me if I am no up wi him the morn.
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 56:
A weel-fa'ard kibble deemie, nae ferlie a' the callants in her ken wud nearlins warred the widdie for her.
Abd. 1929 Deeside Field 59:
The kilt o' reid wis nivver waur'd by green.

2. To ward off, to drive away. This usage is unparalleled and is prob. a mistake for or confusion with Weir, v., 3. The rhyming words are share, bear.Dmf. 1863 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 102:
Legislative power tae waur aff That greedy thief.

[O.Sc. wer, worse, from 1375, war, 1549, to discomfit, c.1460, Early Mid.Eng. werre, warr, O.N. verr(e), adv., adj., cogn. with O.E. wyrse, worse.]

Waur adj., n., adv., v.

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"Waur adj., n., adv., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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