Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

SELL, n.1 Also sail(l), sel, seal, sale, sael; sele (Jam.), cell; erron. soll. The †rope, iron loop or chain by which cattle are bound by the neck to their stalls, specif. the part of the chain which goes round the animal's neck sometimes called the owersell (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D., sael; ne.Sc. 1969). See also bowsell s.v. Bow, n.3, 9. (4). [sel] e.Lth. 1812  Foord Acct. Bk. MS. 127:
To mending the sails and harrow.
Abd. 1817  J. Christie Instructions 137:
'Twill be guid spade-shafts, bows and seals, Strong harrow-bills, and threshing flails.
Sc. 1825  Jam.:
By means of this implement, the devil and his myrmidons, the witches, are believed to exercise a considerable portion of their power in doing injury to men by the destruction of their cattle. Although a sele is so formed as merely to inclose the neck of one ox or cow in the stall, it is asserted that two have often been found, of a morning, bound in one. . . . If the person who first sees them does not give or procure instant relief, they are inevitably suffocated.
Sc. 1844  H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 112:
The seal is made entirely of iron-chain, and slides up and down the inclined stake by means of the iron ring.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxvii.:
Iron goods consisting chiefly of second hand “sells and thrammels”.
Mry. 1887  A. G. Wilken Peter Laing 40:
They widna hae pitten oot their kye without a rantree stick roon their necks like a sell, an' a thrawn woodie or a bit o' birk or sauch was fat they ty't the soll [sic] wi'.
Abd. 1925  R. L. Cassie Gangrel Muse 18:
Milkin' bye, the saels he's lowsin', Byre doors wide tae the wa'.
Sc. 1935  Sc. N. & Q. (Feb.) 23:
Th' cells winna bin' th' nowte i' th' byre.

[O.Sc. seill, id., 1597, O.N. seil, a rope (cf. O.E. sāl, id.). The v. seal from O.E. slan, to tie (up cattle) with a rope, is found in Eng. dial.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Sell n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Mar 2018 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND:

Browse Up
Browse Down