Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HERLING, n. Also hir(r)ling; †hirline (Kcb. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XI. 13); herlin (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). A name given to immature sea-trout, Salmo trutta (sw.Sc. 1808 Jam.; sm.Sc. 1957). Dmf. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 I. 19:
Herlings are a small kind of trout, a little larger than a herring, and shaped like a salmon; its flesh is reddish, like that of the salmon or sea trout, but considerably paler.
Dmf. 1818  Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) V. 179:
We . . . had our share . . . of a capital breakfast almost as good as the Castle morning meal excepting the lack of herlings.
Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 291:
Get ye into water deep Ye hirrlings, and therein sleep.
Slk. a.1835  Hogg Tales, etc. (1837) I. 271:
She at length appeared with a fish in her mouth, something like a large hirling.
Kcb. 1931  P. Castle Where to fish in Scot. 70:
About the end of September, a run of short deep built “black nebs” arrive much heavier and more sporting than the early herling, from ½-lb. to 1½ lbs. in weight.
Dmf. 1955  Scotsman (5 April):
Several Miles good Salmon, Sea Trout, and Herling Fishing to Ratepayers at Low Charge.

Combs.: herling bosom, -house, -net, a net in which herling are caught. Also used fig. Dmf. 1820  Blackwood's Mag. (May) 159:
They syle its current through their herling nets 'tween yule and yule.
Dmf. 1834  Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club I. 51:
They are caught . . . in the Frith [Solway] by the stake-nets of small mesh, or, as they are called, herling-houses.
Dmf. 1836  A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. ii.:
We'll find it a close herling-bosom, out of which there's nae chance of escape.
Sc. 1893  Scottish Leader (10 July) 4:
Ten men were arrested by the Annan water bailiffs on a charge of poaching, herling and small-meshed herling nets being found in their possession.

[O.Sc. hirling, id., 1684. Orig. uncertain. ? ad. Eng. herle, barb of an angling fly.]

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"Herling n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 11 Dec 2018 <>



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