(plurals include the standard and common cowans, as well as the obsolete cowanis)
- A worker in unmortared stone; a stonemason who has not served an apprenticeship.
- (freemasonry) A person who attempts to pass himself off as a Freemason without having experienced the rituals or going through the degrees.
- (slang) A sneak; an inquisitive or prying person.
- (in attributive use) uninitiated, outside, “profane”
First attested in 1598.
First attested in 1722; perhaps from the Scottish Gaelic cobhan (“coffer”, “box”, “ark”).