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dour, adj.

Brit. /dʊə/
U.S. /dʊ(ə)r/
Scottish /dur/
Forms:  lME 18– dour; also Sc. pre-17 dowre, pre-17 17–18 doure, pre-17 17–18 dowr, pre-17 17– dour, 18 door, 19– doore. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. Partly a borrowing from Latin. Etymons: French dour, dur; Latin dūrus.
Etymology: < (i) Anglo-Norman (rare) dour, Anglo-Norman and Middle French dur (French dur  ) (of a person's disposition) stubborn, obstinate, cruel (11th cent. in Old French), (of a person) tough, hardy, robust, (of conditions) harsh, severe (both 12th cent.),
and its etymon (ii) classical Latin dūrus dure adj.  
Compare dure adj.
Anglo-Norman etymon.
Although the Anglo-Norman spelling dour is attested only in the late 13th-cent. French version of the Ancrene Riwle, there is frequent rhyme evidence indicating the merger of French // with //, especially before sonorants (see further I. Short Manual of Anglo-Norman (2007) §7, and compare A. J. Aitken & C. Macafee Older Sc. Vowels (2002) §14.6.(6)).
Possible transmission via Celtic.
It has been suggested that in Scots the word may have been reinforced by (or even partly transmitted via) Scottish Gaelic dùr stubborn, obstinate, surly (Early Irish dúr hard, severe, obdurate; < classical Latin dūrus).
The spelling pronunciation with /-aʊ-/ appears to be relatively recent (20th cent.); it is not recorded in N.E.D. (1897).
orig. Eng. regional (northern) and Sc.

 1. Of a person, a person's disposition or behaviour, etc.: characterized by severity, sternness, or grim fortitude; hardy, robust.

?a1425  (?a1350)    T. Castleford Chron. (1996) I. l. 19882   In herte he had yitte sorou to dour Þat he might noght his broþer succour.
1487  (a1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (St. John's Cambr.) x. 170   [He] wes dour & stout.
a1522   G. Douglas in tr. Virgil Æneid (1957) ii. v. 23   The dowr Vlixes als, and Athamas.
c1540   J. Bellenden tr. Livy Hist. Rome (1901) I. ii. xvii. 196   Þir legatis was gevin ane doure ansuere be martius.
a1774   R. Fergusson Poems (1785) 136   Auld age maist feckly glowrs right dour Upo' the ailings o' the poor.
1848   E. Bulwer-Lytton Harold II. vi. i. 78   Tostig is a man..dour and haughty.
1893   Pall Mall Gaz. 14 Nov. 2/3   Lornsen was a Frisian Schleswig-Holsteiner by birth, and had all the characteristics of that doughty, dour race.
1932   ‘L. G. Gibbon’ Sunset Song i. 18   Maybe there were some twenty to thirty holdings in all, the crofters dour folk of the old Pict stock.
1960   J. S. Watson Reign of George III xxi. 567   The dour discipline of Wellington's army.
2000   Birmingham Evening Mail (Nexis) 22 Jan. 53   Dixon's dour resistance ensured a narrow 6-4 win.

?a1425—2000(Hide quotations)


 2. Of a person, a person's disposition or behaviour, etc.: characterized by taciturnity, pessimism, or morose humourlessness. Also of a person's appearance: sullen, gloomy.

1488  (c1478)    Hary Actis & Deidis Schir William Wallace (Adv.) (1968–9) iv. l. 187   Malancoly he was of complexioun..dour in his contenance.
c1700   Elegy on Blew-stone (single sheet)    His bulk none e'er did ken, Dour and Deaf and riven with Grief, When he preserved Men.
1724   A. Ramsay Mouldy-mowdiwart in Health (new ed.) 36   Some said my Looks were groff and sowr, Fretfu', drumbly, dull and dowr.
1847   E. Brontë Wuthering Heights I. vii. 121   He managed to continue work till nine o'clock, and, then, marched dumb and dour, to his chamber.
1891   J. Ogg Glints i' Gloamin 63   Alas! there 's naething left but cracklin' lips, Heidaches, an' lowin' drouth, an' dour reflections.
1925   Scribner's Mag. Oct. 373   It was exactly the kind of crowd which a dour philosopher might have described as typical of ‘pleasure-mad America’.
1959   M. D. McNamee Willamette Interlude i. ii. 46   The dour expression on Captain Moller's face..cast a gloom over the diners.
2013   C. McCullough Bittersweet (2015) 7   The headmistress, a dour Scot, welcomed the eleven girls..with a speech designed to depress their expectations.

1488—2013(Hide quotations)


 3. Of conditions, an environment, or the weather: harsh, bleak, gloomy, dreary.

a1500  (c1425)    Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Nero) viii. l. 2509   Dyntis doure [a1530 Royal dowre] war seyn.
1596   J. Dalrymple tr. J. Leslie Hist. Scotl. (1888) I. 249   He led a dour and hard lyfe.
1787   R. Burns Poems (new ed.) 199   Biting Boreas, fell and doure.
1829   Edinb. Lit. Jrnl. 17 Jan. 140/1   The sky has been looking gay dour for this half-hour past! we'll hae plenty o' caulds and sair throats the morn.
1891   J. C. Atkinson Forty Years Moorland Parish 261   The dour, merciless intensity of a northern moorland..storm.
1932   E. Wharton Let. 25 Mar. (1988) 547   We have had—& are still having—a dour & windy spring after our incredibly lovely early winter.
1977   F. Ormsby Store of Candles 5   Never again would dour fields lie Quite so forbidding.
2010   N.Y. Times Mag. 17 Oct. 50/2   They are pushed from their urban homes into the ghettos of dour apartment blocks.

a1500—2010(Hide quotations)


 4. Chiefly Sc. Of a person, a person's disposition or behaviour, etc.: characterized by stubbornness, intractability, or dogged tenacity; obstinately unwilling to do something. Also fig.

a1522   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Æneid (1960) xiii. vi. 106   All our prayeris..Mycht nowder bow that dowr mannys mynd.
1787   R. Burns Poems (new ed.) 71   He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstl'd lang, Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.
1816   Scott Old Mortality viii, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. II. 189   He's that dour ye might tear him to pieces, and..ne'er get a word out o' him.
1855   E. C. Gaskell North & South I. xvii. 209   Thornton's as dour as a door-nail; an obstinate chap.
1910   N. Munro Fancy Farm xiii. 125   Seeming pliant and irresolute men who relinquish trivial positions with an air of generosity, but are dour to surrender an idea.
1946   J. Barke Wind that shakes Barley 235   He lit the fire; but it was dour to burn.
2008   P. Kerr Cruise Connection vi. 91   His dour determination to do things his way..had made his promotional progress distinctly slower than it should have been.

a1522—2008(Hide quotations)




  ˈdourness   n.  (a) lateness, tardiness (obsolete);  (b) the quality of being dour; severity, stubbornness, sullenness.

1794   T. Johnston Gen. View Agric. Selkirk 28   The time of sowing is..varied according to the earliness or dourness (lateness) of the seed.
1882   Sat. Rev. No. 1411. 629   Scotchmen..have the same caution..courage, and ‘dourness’ [as Yorkshiremen].
1973   I. Murdoch Black Prince (1979) 56   I did not mind the dourness. I dislike girls who are skittish.
2017   Sunday Times (Nexis) 2 July (News section) 18   She was known for a certain dourness, which did little to endear her to the voters.

1794—2017(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

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