Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MUDDLE, v. Sc. usages:

1. To grub about in the soil or in dirty conditions with the fingers, esp. to work potatoes away from the root by hand so that the stem remains undisturbed (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Sh., Ayr. 1963); fig. to feel one's way or carry out a job in a secretive manner (Ayr. 1825 Jam.); to pilfer, steal (Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. XI. 319). Hence muddler, a pilferer. Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie xxxv.:
I'll gang warily and cannily ouer to Castle Rooksborough mysel', and muddle about the root o' this affair till I get at it.
Ayr. 1823  Galt Entail lxi.:
He felt the cauld hand o' Death muddling about the root o' life.
Ags. 1833  J. Kennedy G. Chalmers 150:
Aul' thieves are coorse hangmen, especially muddlers o' potatoes.
Rnf. a.1850  Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) M. 69:
Muddle. Innocently to take away some young partartows with the hand from a shaw to see the progress of them.

2. To tickle a person while lying on top of him to prevent his escape (Cld. 1825 Jam.).

3. To have sexual intercourse with (Sc. 1825 Jam.).

[Some of the meanings may be influenced by Middle, v.]

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"Muddle v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Feb 2019 <>



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