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CUDDIE n. a donkey; a horse

The Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) defines this as a donkey or ass but to some Scots speakers it’s a general term for a horse of any description. The DSL does give a further definition: “Also used of a horse: a short thick, strong horse”. A clue to a crossword in the Scottish Express of 2nd September 2016 seems also to lead to a cuddy being a horse and not a donkey: “28. Latin for a cuddie, and famous play by Peter Shaffer (5)” (the answer, of course, is equus).


A cuddie can also be one of our many derogatory terms for a person who is obstinate or none too bright which would point more in the direction of a donkey. It is also used as another word for a vaulting horse in a gymnasium.


Cuddy also appears in various compounds as in “cuddy-heid” noted by J B Hunter in his “Old Heriot’s Vocabulary” column in the Scotsman of 9th September 1911. A load of heavy or bulky character would be called a ‘cuddy-lade’ an informant from Berwickshire in 1923 tells us. A piggy-back, Alison Campsie in the Scotsman of 25th February 2016, informs us “…In the east, also known as cuddie back, after a horse.” In the House with Green Shutters George Douglas tells us: “The ‘Scotch Cuddy’ is so called because he is a beast of burden, and not from the nature of his wits. He is a travelling packman.”


The origin is doubtful but it has been suggested that it may come from the name Cuddy which is a diminutive of Cuthbert.


Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries