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MUTCH noun a type of day cap

The Dictionary of the Scots Language defines a mutch as “A head-dress, especially a close-fitting day cap of white linen or muslin…specifically such as used to be worn by married women”


Mutches have been part of women’s dress for a very long time, as illustrated by this listing from the 1473 Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland: “To my lorde prince … v elne of Holland claith for sarkis and muchis”. In more ‘modern’ times Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany praises the mutches of little girls with: “Their toys and mutches were sae clean”. But a mutch would have been recognised as an article of clothing into the twentieth century as shown by this example from the Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian of 26th August 1911: “E’er that auld granny’s mutch”.


Evidence from informants in 1963 from as far afield as Ulster to Banffshire shows that mutch was applied as much to the wearer as to the article of clothing itself as granny mutch became a nickname for any older woman. An earlier example of this use comes from the Scotsman’s radio listings of 12 March 1937 where a character called Grannie Mutch even has her own programme: “The Page-boy and the Silver Goblet, an old Scots tale told by Grannie Mutch.”


In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries this has come full circle and is used to refer to ‘an old-fashioned little girl’ as this evidence of 1997 from an Edinburgh informant shows: “When I wis wee ma ma aye said a wis dressed like ‘auld grannie mutchie’”. And finally this from the Sunday Mail of 8 September 2002: “That Bairn’s a right wee granny mutch.” 


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