Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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DIDDLE, DEEDLE, v.2, n.2 Also didle.

1. v. To sing in a rather low-pitched key without words, gen. as an accompaniment to dancing (Sh.10 1949; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 38; Bnff.2, Abd. correspondents, Fif.10 (deedle) 1940; Edb.3, Ayr.4 1928; Kcb.10 1940, deedle). Vbl.n. diddlin(g), deedlin. Obs. since early 18th cent. in Eng. but still found in n.Eng. dial. Abd. 1873  J. Ogg Willie Waly 104:
Although I canna join the choir, I'll hooch an' diddle.
Abd. 1915  H. Beaton Back o' Benachie 52:
If no better musical instrument was to be had, “playing on the kame,” or “didlin',” was resorted to . . . for Scotch reels.
Abd. 1917  C. Murray Sough o' War 45:
A mither's diddlin' till her bairn can bring The sleep that flees fae fussle, trumpe or string.
Ags. 1940 17 :
Diddling competitions were advertised and held throughout Angus in 1936–39.
Fif. 1825  Jam.2:
Deedle denotes an intermediate key between cruning or humming, and lilting, which signifies lively singing.

Hence diddler, a person who can diddle an accompaniment for dancing (Bnff.2 1940; Ags. 1931 J. D. Simpson in Abd. Press and Jnl. (15 Jan.)). Bnff. 1949  Bnffsh. Jnl. (29 Nov.):
Francie was a lusty singer, and a remarkable diddler. Diddling the “Braes o' Mar,” his head and whole body nodded, swung and swayed in unison to the uttered and stressed vocables.
Ayr. 1928 4 :
Accomplished “diddlers” or “doodlers” often laid one hand flat on the knees and kept smiting it with the other hand to emphasise the time for the dancers.

2. n. A tune without words in a rather low-pitched key (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 38; Dmf. 1925 W. A. Scott in Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 23). Comb.: deedle-doodle, (1) “a meaningless lilt, rhyme, or song, run over in nurse fashion” (Sc. 1887 Jam.6); (2) “a badly-played tune on a flute, violin, or other instrument” (Ib.).

[Onomat. formations, phs. influenced by Doudle, q.v.]

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"Diddle v.2, n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 11 Dec 2018 <>



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