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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid


LOWP  v. leap, spring (to one's feet), jump, prance, etc.

Lowp, for those with an interest in pedigree, can trace its noble lineage back through medieval Scottish literature and beyond, to the Old Norse verb hlaupa, to leap. To fill out the family tree a little further, Old Norse hlaupa is sib to Old English hleapan, from which 'leap' is descended.

Lowp appears in some of the earliest texts in Scottish literature, including this passage from the late fourteenth century Legends of the Saints:


"The wikit wife gert hir dochtir ga ... and spring and loupe befor thaim al".


Innocent enough out of context, but the dancer was Salome, and when her father the king said he would grant her any reward, she asked for the head of John the Baptist.

Later forms of lowping could involve other perils. The late eighteenth-century Statistical Account for Angus records that:


"Twenty or thirty years ago, what is commonly called the louping ague greatly prevailed. This disease, in its symptoms, has a considerable resemblance to St Vitus's dance. Those affected with it, when in a paroxysm, often leap or spring in a very surprising manner".


In the days when horses were important for transport, as in Walter Scott's novel Waverley (1814), you might find:


" 'A louping-on-stane', or structure of masonry erected for the traveller's convenience in the front of the house".


Staying with the equine theme, the following adage appears in J. Kelly's collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721):


"As good holds the stirrup, as he that loups on. That is, the servant may be as good a man as the master".


Modern uses of the word have also evolved, including the use of loupin to indicate infestation or overcrowding. A performance of Don Giovanni in 2001 at Glasgow's Theatre Royal attracted the following comments from a Herald reviewer:


"Peter Howson's larger-than-life, extrovert sets were ... positively louping with atmosphere".



This week's Scots word was written by Dr Maggie Scott.

First published 8th January 2007