A wirey-cow, wirry-carl [] etc. was in Scotland, a bugbear, goblin, ghost, ghoul or other frightful object. Sometimes it was used for the Devil, or a scarecrow.

The word was used by Scott in Guy Mannering. The word is derived by John Jamieson from "worry" ("wirry", in its old sense of harassment in both English and Lowland Scots and "to cow/cowe" (i.e. "to frighten") , but as the second element sometimes appeared as "carl", Charles MacKay thought more likely that the second word was a corruption of "carl" (a man or fellow). The first word is possibly akin to "Urisk" (ùruisg, a brownie). The "urisk" was similar in attributes to the "lubber fiend" of Milton, and the wirry-cow itself.

It is noteworthy that "wirry-" appears in several other old compound words.


  • MacKay, Charles – A Dictionary of Lowland Scotch (1888)

Search another word or see Wirry-cowon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature