Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KEEL, n.1, v.1 Also keil, kiel, kyle. [kil]

I. n. 1. Ruddle, red ochre, used esp. for marking sheep (Sc. 1808 Jam., also kyle-stone; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 290; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc.; the mark so made on animals. Also attrib., and fig. = blood. Red keel is ruddle, black keel is plumbago (s.Sc. 1902 E.D.D.). For cauk and keel, see Cauk, n. Kcd. 1699  J. Anderson Black Bk. Kcd. (1843) 100:
She gave him two wedder skins but he could find no mark or keil upon them.
Sc. 1700  R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 68:
To procure some keil if it be to be had.
Abd. c.1760  J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 63:
I never needed tar nor keil To mark her upo' hip or heel.
Sc. 1807  J. Headrick Agric. Arran 94:
These rocks are red sandstone schistus, often alternating with red argillaceous schistus, called keel by the people of Scotland; because it is often used for drawing lines on boards, etc.
Bwk. 1868  Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club V. 376:
Fragments of drift-coal, and keel, an earthy red haematite, near the brick work at Ale mill.
Arg. 1878  Trans. Highl. Soc. 20:
Leaving a brand mark, where that is used, and the keel mark of the farm.
Sc. 1879  P. H. Waddell Isaiah xliv. 13:
The joiner, he straughts his line, an' figures the lenth wi' kiel.
Mry. 1897  J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. ix.:
She administered punishment with what she called the “belt an' the buckle,” and in her tempers often threatened to “tak' the keil oot o' their hides.”
Dmf. 1956  Dmf. & Gall. Standard (24 Nov.):
Forty-five Blackfaced Ewes Strayed off Kelloside . . . red keel near shoulder or near rib.

Hence (1) keelar, see Cauk, v.1, II. 1.; (2) keelman, a dealer in keel; (3) keelie, adj., having to do with keel, keel-stained. (2) Kcb. 1796  in Scott O. Mortality (1829) Intro.:
To 3 Chappins of Yell with Sandy the Keelman . . . 0. 0. 9.
Gall. 1832  Edb. Ev. Courant (20 Aug.):
The sheep-keelman was urged by necessity to do so, as the day was nearly spent.
(3) Kcb. 1829  in Scott O. Mortality Intro.:
[Sandy the Keelman], a well known humorist, still alive, popularly called by the name of Old Keelybags, who deals in the keel or chalk with which farmers mark their flocks.
Gall. 1832  Edb. Ev. Courant (20 Aug.):
He made the attempt, mounted on his old nag, with a wet keely wallet hanging at each side of the animal.
Gall. 1935  Sc. Country (G. Scott-Moncrieff) 41:
Their outside walls may be harled or whitewashed; intricate keelie patterns decorate the doorstep, and maybe the kitchen.

2. In weaving: the mark made with keel by the warper at each end of his warp to ensure that the weaver returns the correct amount of woven yarn (wm.Sc., Slk. 1959). Comb.: thrum keel, the final mark on the web which indicates the end of the work. Also fig., = life's end. Lnk. 1805  G. McIndoe Poems 10:
The lay hung gleed, the keels forgotten.
Kcd. 1822  G. Menzies Poems (1854) 200:
Wha cares tho' we see our thrum keel gen tomorrow? For syne a' oor sorrows wad aye hae an end.
Rnf. 1827  W. Taylor Poems 60:
Waesuck! the simple silly flie, Likewise the gaudy butterflie, If in thy wab, they ne'er get free Their thrum keel's in.
Ayr. 1866  T. Bruce Summer Queen (1874) 323:
The pattern weel might stan' the light, Fair woven to the keel.
Clc. 1885  J. Beveridge Poets Clc. 139:
Work hard and mak' your shuttles flee, And tramp your treadles, till ye see Your hinmost keel and thrum in.
Lnk. 1888  R. Bennett Poems 59:
While quick resolves the varied yairn To patterns new, Until their practised e'en discern The keel come thro'.
Fif. 1919 3 :
A common expression is “Is your keel in?” or “Is your keel shining (in sight)?”

3. A kind of coloured crayon or pencil (see 1926 quot.) (Ags., Bwk., wm.Sc. 1959). e.Lth. 1905  J. Lumsden Croonings 20:
Thae matchless triumphs o' the keel an' brush.
Bnff. 1926  Sc. N. & Q. (Sept.) 168:
The word “keel” is fairly commonly used in Banffshire, especially amongst wood workers. It is used for the solid pencil without the wood. It used also to be procurable in lump form in red, blue and black, which was of somewhat harder composition than the present day “keel” or lumber pencil.

II. v. To mark with ruddle (Ayr. 1928; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., n.Sc., Lnk., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1959). Also fig., to stain, to stigmatise. Ppl.adj. keel(e)d, vbl.n. keelin(g). Phrs.: keeled and set by, engaged to be married (Lnk. 1959); to keel the gowan, to beat everything (Bwk. 1959). See to cow(e) the gowan s.v. Cow, v.1, n.2 e.Lth. 1726  Caled. Mercury (25 April):
There are about 20 of them [sheep] . . . burnt in the Face with a B, and keel'd red in the Hind.
Slk. 1818  Hogg B. of Bodsbeck xii.:
The sheep were all neatly smeared and keeled.
Bwk. 1823  A. Hewit Poems 139:
Red, red, the hill wi' bluid was keel'd Frae heaps o' slain.
Bwk. 1842  Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 18:
The common proverb as applicable to any thing particularly excelling, “That cowes, or keels, the gowan.”
Sc. 1882  Trans. Highl. Soc. 143:
The selected tup, his breast having been previously “keiled” red by the shepherd.
Gall. 1932  A. McCormick Galloway 200:
As is usual when the sheep are being gathered for the “keeling,” they were in great bloom.
Uls. 1951  E. E. Evans Mourne Country 132:
The sheep are collected there for keeling and splaying.
Slk. 1956  Southern Reporter (1 Nov.) 4:
The keelings, the dippings, and getting hoggs away to their wintering quarters.

[O.Sc. keyle, 1., 1480. Orig. obscure. Gael. cìl, ruddle, a species of clay, is prob. from Sc. keel.]

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"Keel n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Oct 2018 <>



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