Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HARROWBILL, n. Also †harrowbell, †harobill, harroble, -abel; †hurrobill. [′hɑrɔbəl]

1. One of the cross-bars or spars of a harrow (Ork. 1887 Jam.). Ags. 1702  R. Finlayson Arbroath Documents (1923):
Ane barrow, 4 hurrobills and 12 scowes.
Ork. 1734  P. Ork. A.S. (1923) I. 65:
Six new ploughs, three new birks, three harrowbells, one hand speck, Seven souples, five old shovels and one new.
Bnff. 1780  Aberdeen Jnl. (9 Oct.):
A great Parcel of Birch Axletrees and Harrowbills of a very large size.

Hence harbilly, adj., like a harrow, and, by extension, rough and prickly; used esp. of a stocking knitted tightly in a coarse wool (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

2. A kind of hard wood formerly imported into Shetland from Norway (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), harrabel), prob. so called from its use in the manufacture of harrows.

3. A miserable, bony animal, emaciated person. Also used attrib. Sh. 1908  Jak. (1928):
A harrabel o' bens, a living skeleton . . . a harrabel craeter.

[Harrow, n.1 + Bill, n.3 Cf. also Dan. harvebul, Sw. dial. harvböle, the framework of a harrow.]

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"Harrowbill n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Oct 2018 <>



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