Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HIRSEL, v.2, n.2 Also hirsl(e), hirsell, hirsil(l), hirstle, hirs(c)hle; hursel(l), hursle, ¶hurstle, hurschle; hersle; harsel. [′hɪrsəl, -ʃəl; ′hʌrsl, ′hʌrʃl]

I. v. 1. intr. To move or slide along a surface awkwardly or in a sitting posture, to shift one's position without rising, to move over, in gen. to slither (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, hirsill; s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry, Gl., hursle; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 271; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Cai., ne.Sc., Ags. 1957). Sc. 1756  M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 202:
When we came down again, and came to a steep, “sit down now, baron, and hirsle on your doup,” which he did.
Edb. 1773  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 184:
Four black trotters cled wi' girsle, Bedown his throat had learn'd to hirsle.
Rxb. 1805  A. Scott Poems 88:
As Janet's shouther on to lean, He hirsel'd near.
Sc. 1815  Scott Guy M. xlv.:
So he sat himsell doun and hirselled doun into the glen.
Ayr. 1823  Galt R. Gilhaize I. vii.:
They both threw themselves flat on the ground, and hirsled down the rocks to conceal themselves.
Kcd. 1857  A. Taylor Lummie 11:
Wi' claspit hands and bristlin' hair, He hirsled backlins wi' his chair.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 85:
Hurschle our a bit, an' lat ma lie doon.
Sh. 1891  J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 11:
For “Seemun,” pür trow, wi his legs in a bing, Geed hirslin aroond laek da staen i da sling.
Ags. 1897  Bards of Ags. (Reid) 206:
Syne [the mermaid] hirsel'd back into the brook.
Slg. 1897  W. Harvey Harp Slg. 224:
Noo hirsel cautious up the ice And be beside the winner.
Cai. 1909  D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 8:
He hirstles awa' roon 'e corner.

Phrs.: (1) to hirsel aff (the stage), fig., to die peacefully, to “slip away”; (2) to hirsel yont, to move further up or along (e.g. a bench or pew) to make room for others, to move over or away from the speaker (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 29; Ayr.4 1928; Abd., Ags., Kcb. 1957). (1) Rnf. 1788  E. Picken Poems 47:
Ance arriv't to hoary age, He hirsl't quaitly aff the stage.
Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 28:
Neither poverty nor age Did gar you hirsel aff the stage.
s.Sc. 1897  E. Hamilton Outlaws xxix.:
If we're to get Sim home we'd best be moving or the man'll hirsle off the while we're talking.
(2) Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xi.:
Peter and the stranger, according to use and wont, did not rise to put the ladies into the pew, but simply “hirsled yont”, and made room for them at the end of it.
Mry. 1873  J. Brown Round Table Club 86:
Puir thing! gin I could hirsle yont tae the winnocky wi' 'er tae lat her get fresh air.
em.Sc. 1909  J. Black Melodies 73:
But hirsle yont, see what a sicht O' holly leaves wi' berries bricht.
Abd. 1916  G. Abel Wylins 49:
Fin Nannie gied a chiel a dird, An' bade him hurschle yont.

2. tr. To shrug (the shoulders) as if to rid oneself of an itch (Kcb.4 1900; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); intr. to walk with hunched shoulders, to slouch (Watson; Cai. 1957). Vbl.n. hirselin, a shrug. Per. 1887  R. Cleland Inchbracken 147:
For De'il tak me, . . . gin I ken what ye're efter, wi' yer winkin's an' yer hirselin's o' the shouther.

3. tr. and refl. To move or shift awkwardly or with difficulty; to cause to slide or slip along or down (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78, hirschle, hurschle; Uls. a.1908 Traynor), to shuffle. Vbl.n. hirs(ch)lan, hurs(ch)lan, the act of pushing along the ground or over the surface of something. Sc. 1721  Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 13:
And whan the Dawn begoud to glow, I hirsl'd up my dizzy Pow.
Per. 1857  J. Stewart Sketches 72:
If he's ta'en to the Office they'll hae him to hirsle.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 78:
Cowp the cairt, an' hirschle oot the box . . . They hirschlet the trees down the face o' the hill in a trink they made for the purpose.
Ags. 1872  Arbroath Guide (30 March) 3:
I birs'd my back against the forge, An' hursell'd oot my feet.
Dmf. 1914  J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 99:
I sat doon, and in quietness watched her for a wee. Then I hirseled my chair nearer her.
Bnff. 1924  Swatches o' Hamespun 81:
He pyochert an' hoastit an' hirselt him ben Te the farrest-but nyeuk.

4. To make haste, push forward, move clumsily or with much effort, scramble, bustle (Tyr. 1931 North. Whig (15 Dec.) 10; Ags., Per. 1957). Also used fig. Lnk. 1808  W. Watson Poems 12:
To look a-wee bit mair afore us, And hirstle sooner aff our doup.
ne.Sc. 1836  J. Grant Tales (1869) 57:
The water was gey and black like, wi' sma' cakes o' ice hirslin' doun upo' ither.
Ags. 1869  W. Pyott Poems (1885) 108:
It hirstles alang by the fit o' the hill.
Ayr. 1875  A. L. Orr Poems 24:
Jen took the hint, an' hursled tae her feet.
Bwk. 1876  W. Brockie Leaderside Leg. 24:
He hirslt up an' hirplt on, As weel as he coud, alang the loan.
Abd. 1917  C. Murray Sough o' War 32:
I maun dicht my pen, an' hirsle to my bed.
em.Sc. 1926  H. Hendry Poems 116:
Dour hirslin' tak's ye to the tap Quicker than gen'us.

5. tr. To harass, hustle, drive forward. Kcb. 1894  Crockett Raiders xlvii.:
Some ill devil had, mayhap, long hirsled and harried an innocent body.
Sc. 1896  Stevenson W. of Hermiston iii.:
It's better ye should come there yourself, than what I would have had to hirstle ye.

6. To move with a rustling or grating noise (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Abd. 1957). Vbl.n. hirs(ch)lan, hurschlan, the noise thus made, the rustling of leaves, paper, etc. (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78; Abd. 1957); ppl.adj. hirs(ch)lin, hurschlin, grating, rustling (Ib.). Bnff. 1869  W. Knight Auld Yule 27:
'Twas in the gloamin', and our way we made 'Mang withered leaves that hirstled to our tread.
Abd. 1875  W. Alexander My Ain Folk 184:
The sound of the tiny voice was accompanied by a slight “hirstling” noise.
Ags. 1894  Arbroath Guide (8 Sept.) 3:
Hearin' a hirslin' din on the floor.

7. To wheeze, breathe noisily through bronchial congestion (Gall., Uls. 1902 E.D.D.; Cai., Abd., Kcd., Kcb., Dmf., Uls. 1957). Wgt. 1912  A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 32:
Weel-pleas't wi' the tune, Some o' his hirslin' neibours gaithert roon.

8. To crackle in burning, to hiss, splutter. Dmf. 1808  Scots Mag. (Aug.) 608:
On Vulcan's hearth thy shins thou birsles, Whan i' the bleeze the sheep-head hirsles.
Ags. 1816  G. Beattie John o' Arnha' (1818) 64:
The spunkies round his hurdies hirsel'd, Till's vera hide was peel'd and birsel'd.

II. n. 1. The act of moving the body sideways in a sitting position, a slithering, hitching motion (Cld. 1825 Jam., hirsil). Gen.Sc.

2. The sliding, slithering or shuffling motion of something slipping or being shifted with difficulty (Abd. 1825 Jam.); the noise or result of such motion, a confused fall (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 78, hirschle, hurschle), a rustle (Abd.6 1913, Abd. 1957). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 78:
The dyke cam a' doon in a hirschle.

3. A pronounced shrug of the shoulders. Also found in Cum. dial. Sc. 1874  A. Hislop Sc. Anecdotes 286:
Nathan turned his queer phiz towards her, and quoth (giving himself a hursle or twa at the same time), “Wi' faith, Madam.”
Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B. 172:
He gaed his shouthers a hirsle.

4. A hurry, in phr. to get a hirsel on, to hurry up, get a move on (Per. 1957).

5. A wheeze or catarrhal sound in the chest (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Gall. 1902 E.D.D.; Ayr.4 1928; Cai., ne.Sc., m.Lth., Kcb., Dmf., Uls. 1957). Uls. 1924  North. Whig (8 Jan.):
A “hirsel” comes from a cold in the chest.
Abd. 1955  W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iii.:
Seen 'ere wis a hirsle 'at widna lat 'er sattle doon an' sleep an' aifter 'at a gweed hard bark.

6. An iron pin or auger used for boring holes when red-hot (Dmf. 1825 Jam., hirsle; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 169, hersle). Cf. v., 8. Gall. 1822  Scots Mag. (July) 100:
I would sooner have handled a red-hot “harsel”.
Sc. 1823  Ib. (Dec.) 714:
Di'el be in them, gin I should ban', they are as het as a burning harsel.

[O.Sc. hirsill, to graze, scrape, from 1513. Of doubtful orig., prob. onomat. with freq. ending. Cf. Firsle, rustle, etc.]

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"Hirsel v.2, n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jan 2019 <>



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