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In Scotland, a wirry-cowe [ˈwɪɾɪkʌu, ˈwʌɾɪkʌu] is a bugbear, goblin, ghost, ghoul or other frightful object. Sometimes the term was used for the Devil or a scarecrow.


Etymology

The word is derived by John Jamieson from worry (Modern Scots wirry), in its old sense of harassment in both English and Lowland Scots, from Old English wyrgan cognate with Dutch wurgen and German würgen and cowe; a hobgoblin, an object of terror.

Charles Mackay thought it more likely that the wirry in wirry-cowe is a corruption of the Scottish Gaelic ùruisg; a brownie (Modern Scots urisk), adding that the urisk was similar in attributes to the lubber fiend of Milton and that worry, in the sense of to vex or torment, is possibly from the Scottish Gaelic uaire meaning stormy.


Art

Draggled sae 'mang muck and stanes,
They looked like wirry-cows
—Allan Ramsay

The word was used by Scott in Guy Mannering.