Home» Publications» SLD Newsletter» Newsletter April 2008» Scots word: Cloot

Scots word


Cloot or clout (rhymes with hoot) means a cloth, rag, dishcloth, duster, bandage, baby's nappy, patch or garment. It is this last sense in which it is used in the well known saw, 'Neer cast a cloot till mey be oot' which recommends that you do not remove your winter semmit (vest) until the hawthorn, or may, is in flower.

clootie tree; image borrowed from Samye Ling website, click to visit
Clootie Tree
You may occasionally see a hawthorn bush with a lot of cloots tied on to it. That will be a fairy bush and each of the rags represents a wish.

The many uses of cloots are well illustrated in the Dictionary of the Scots Language ( http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ ). The earliest literary reference I can find to a dishcloth comes from around 1590 in the poems of John Stewart of Baldynneis: 'Tak thair ane quheis (blow) yit (again) vith my skoullon clout', which might be paraphrased in modern Scots as 'tak anither skelp with my dishcloth'. In 1531, John Bellenden tells us that 'Edward Balliol gart ilk man in his army bind ane quhit clout on his arme' (had each man in his army bind a white cloth on his arm). An Aberdeen informant in 1930 suggests tying 'a cloot aroon her harns (brains)' as a headache cure.

Cloot often appears as a verb in the sense of to patch. Patching is the sense attached to the truism from J. B. Salmond's My Man Sandy (1899): 'They're scarce o' cloots that mend their hose wi' dockens'

Cloots also occurs in the compound 'clip cloots', a term for a person with a sharp tongue, sharp enough to cut cloth.

clootie dumpling
Clootie Dumpling
a visitor to Scotland you should be sure to try a 'clootie dumpling', a birthday treat of spicy fruitcake mixture boiled in a cloot. If you don't eat it all at one go, you can have it fried for breakfast!

To try out your own recipe, visit the Scottish Recipes website.