Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

GORBEL, n., v. Also -al; garbal, -el, and dim. gorblet. [gɔrbəl]

I. n. 1. An unfledged bird (Mry. 1808 Jam., gorbel s.v. gorbling; n.Sc. 1825 Jam., gorblet, Fif. Ib., garbel; Slg. a.1900; Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Hamely Sk. 135; ne.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif. 1929 Colville 291; ne.Sc., Per., Peb. 1955), specif. the last-hatched bird in a nest (Lnk. 1955). Edb. 1828  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xxii.:
Yattering sparrows fed their gorbals in the far boles.
Edb. 1856  J. Ballantine Poems 58:
And whiles the doubie o' the school tak's lead o' a' the rest, The birdie sure to sing is aye the gorbel o' the nest.
Bnff. 1876  S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist ii.:
There he recovered two other “gorbals.”
Abd. 1928  N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xvii.:
Sittin' there wi' yer mou's open, . . . like a lot o' gorbals waitin' to be fed.

Comb.: †gorbal-hair, the down of unfledged birds (Abd., Mearns 1825 Jam., gorblet-); also applied fig. to the first downy hairs on a boy's lip. Abd. 1889  Bon-Accord (25 May) 7:
Don't me insult, ye cheeky chip, Scarce gorbal hair upon your lip.

2. Extended to indicate a young child; the youngest of a large family (Lnk. 1955). Per. 1835  J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. 45:
The fairies . . . being permitted, it was supposed, to kidnap the tithe of unchristened children from their mothers' sides while they slept, replacing them with their own “unearthly skin-an'-bane gorbels.”
Mry. 1897  J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 157:
Pete's puir ten shillin's a week canna haud fower gorbals o' loons gyan.

3. In pl.: prob. = beaks, mouths, in phr. a' guts an' garbals, “having no muscle or stamina” (Cai. 1907 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 73 s.v. garrybag; Bnff.2 1927). Cf. 1912 quot. s.v. Gorb, n., 1.

II. v. Found only as ppl.adj. gorbellit, applied to an egg in which the chick has started to develop (ne.Sc., Per., Peb. 1955). Abd. 1920  C. Murray Country Places 1:
Took the yirlin's fower eggs fae his bonnet, an', fegs, When gorbell't they're fykie to blaw.

[A dim. form of Gorb, q.v.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Gorbel n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 10 Dec 2018 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down