AskDefine | Define tawse

Dictionary Definition

tawse n : a leather strap for punishing children

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


Apparently a plural form of taw, though attested earlier.



  1. In the context of "mostly|Scotland": A leather strap or thong which is split into (typically about three) tails, used for corporal punishment in schools.

Extensive Definition

A tawse (the plural of Scots taw, a thong of a whip) is an implement for physical punishment, called tawsing. It was used for educational and domestic discipline, primarily in Scotland.
A tawse consists of a strip of leather, with one end split into a number of tails. The thickness of the leather and the number of tails varied. Many Scottish saddlers made tawses for local customers. The tawse was also referred to as the belt, which is normally a term for an unforked implement, as worn in trousers (see Belt (clothing)).
The products of the best-known producer, John J Dick, were made in a village called Lochgelly in Fife, Scotland. Lochgelly tawses were produced in four different weights; Light, Medium, Heavy & Extra Heavy. Each tawse would be stamped either L, M, H or XH to indicate its thickness.
Scottish schools used the tawse to beat pupils on the palms. In the 1980s a European court judgement led to its use being banned in UK schools in 1998.
Original Lochgelly tawses are considered collectables and may be sold for several hundred pounds each.
tawse in German: Tawse
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