Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SKEEL, n.1, v. Also skeil (Edb. 1796 Edb. Mag. (May) 385; m.Lth. 1819 J. Thomson Poems 202). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. skill (Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxxix., Rxb. 1913 Kelso Chron. (16 May) 3; Sc. 1933 Sc. N. and Q. (Sept.) 130; Sh., ne.Sc. 1970). Hence skeeled, skilled (ne.Sc. 1888 D. Grant Keckleton 110), skeelfu, skilful (Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxiv.; Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs of Fields 25). [skil. Cf. Dreel, Sweel, Teel, etc.]

I. n. 1. As in current or arch. Eng., knowledge, expertness, discrimination, experience. Phrs. a man or woman of skill, an expert in some particular subject, gen. one called in by a Court to report on some technical matter in question (Sc. 1946 A. D. Gibb Legal Terms 54); to hae skeel o', to be versed or experienced in, have practice in, freq. implying a taste or liking for or favourable opinion of (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gall. 1710  Session Rec. Penninghame (1933) I. 258:
To take some women of skill and go view her tomorrow and take notice of her condition.
Cai. 1776  Weekly Mag. (25 Jan.) 145:
I hinna skeel Of fowks that lig o'er muckle wi' the deil.
Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 4:
Gif ye hae skeil o' rhyming gear.
Mry. 1806  J. Cock Simple Strains 143:
Our Wife likes skate, but well I wat, I needna ha'e grite skill o't.
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality xvii.:
They hae little skeel o' arms.
Sc. 1833  Acts 3 & 4 William IV c.46. § 92:
The Amount shall be ascertained by such Magistrate by means of a Remit to Persons of Skill.
s.Sc. 1847  H. S. Riddell Poems 8:
To tell they had nae skill o' foulk That stood on ceremony.
Abd. 1879  11 Years at Farm Wk. 2:
I have nae skill o' sic music, annoyin' folk at this time in the morning.
Sc. 1887  Stevenson Underwoods 78:
For a' your lear, for a' your skeel.
Ayr. 1901  G. Douglas Green Shutters xxv.:
Have ye skill o' drink?

Hence adj. skeelie, -y, skeily, skilly, skilled, experienced, practised (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 266; ne. and m.Sc. 1970). Also adv. Abd. 1768  A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 102:
Upo' your milk your skilly hand ye'll try.
Sc. 1803  Sir Patrick Spens in
Child Ballads (1956) II. 26:
O whare will I get a skeely skipper, To sail this new ship o' mine?
Sc. 1816  Scott O. Mortality xxxvii.:
Maist skeily folk think that bodes rain.
ne.Sc. 1862  Fraser's Mag. (Feb.) 156:
I've seen them [Eskimo boats] dancin' thro' the jabble as skeely as a loom or a deuk.
Sc. 1893  Stevenson Catriona xii.:
He maun be extraordinar skilly.
Lth. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 32:
It was a raivelled hasp he had to redd, an' he did it unco skeely.
Wgt. 1912  A.O.W.B. Fables 52:
We'se need some skilly plannin' to win oot.
m.Sc. 1922  J. Buchan Huntingtower iii.:
There wasna ane in the countryside sae bauld a rider at the hunt, or sic a skeely fisher.
Abd. 1951  Huntly Express (16 Feb.):
In takin' oot a mids, a skeely horse ploughman can still beat anything done by tractor.
Sc. 1965  Scotland's Mag. (Nov.) 53:
Who better than Douglas Young, skilly in Greek studies?

2. Specif. Skill in the art of healing, medical or veterinary capability, freq. of a non-professional kind (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1970). Phr. to get skeel, to consult a doctor (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Per. 1802  S. Kerr Poems 22:
They never cou'd attain the skeel, To cure fouks ails, an' mak them weel.
Sc. 1808  E. Hamilton Glenburnie x.:
I'm mista'en if auld John Smith havena as meikle skeel as ony doctor amang them.
Slk. 1829  Hogg Tales (1874) 202:
I canna afford to maintain them, and get skeel for them, and nurse them.
Abd. 1877  W. Alexander Rural Life 169:
A sort of high priestess and sorceress or witch. And her “skeel” found recognition outside caird circles too.
Per. 1881  D. Macara Crieff 136:
When this couple of Fowlis sinners had sat before the congregation and received a “rebuke”, the interesting young lady came to reside pro tem. with a relative in Crieff, as she said, “to be near skill.”
m.Sc. 1917  J. Buchan Poems 23:
Sic skeel o' sheep, sic sarious mind At kirk and prayer.
Lth. 1930  J. Cockburn Country Love 89:
Or if some bairn should be noweel . . . They rin to you for auld wife skeel.

Hence skeelie, -y, skilly, skeily, having such skill, real or supposed (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Fif. 1970). Also in n.Eng. dial. A skeelie wife, a woman credited with great or supernatural ability in curing known or mysterious ailments, esp. one called to emergencies or confinements; an untrained midwife. Abd. 1790  A. Shirrefs Poems 266:
A skilly wife, our parish howdy.
Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems 199:
Skilly fouk to look the blains.
Sc. 1814  J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. II. 48:
The gardener was the skilly man of his district; deeply learned in the virtues of simples, and often applied to when the operation of blood-letting was to be performed.
Rxb. 1820  Scots Mag. (April) 344:
Prescribed by skilly auld wives, whereby the charms of the fairies might be averted.
Sc. 1824  Scott St Ronan's W. xxxviii.:
Mistress Dods was an uncommon skeely body about a sick-bed.
Arg. 1896  N. Munro Lost Pibroch (1935) 46:
A skilly woman or a stretching-board was no nearer than a day's tramp over the hill.
Bwk. 1897  R. M. Calder Poems 122:
A skeilie sort o' body amang horses, sheep, an' kye.
Cai. 1921  Old-Lore Misc. IX. i. 19:
The skilly man professed to find holes in the underskin, which they sought for very diligently.
Per. 1932  Our Meigle Book 129:
Births, too, were times of celebrations. The proceedings were stage-managed by the local handywoman or “skilly buddy”, who, on her arrival, was treated to a stiff glass of whisky.
ne.Sc. 1955  Mearns Leader (9 Dec.) 6:
She's fat the aul'-farrant fowk wid ca' a skeely wife; for there's nae an ache or pain but Granny Gowdie could gie something tae ease or cure.

II. v. To prove, test (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 230); to scan expertly, investigate, determine; specif. to look for weather signs (Bnff., Abd., 1970). Deriv. skeeler, the rolling of a marble before a game to decide by its nearness to the ring which player is to lead off (Ags. 1921 T.S.D.C.). Bch. 1900  :
The men of old in Buchan's howes Looked up at morn to skeel your tap To see gin it was fair an' clear.
Bch. 1920  :
He's gyaun tae skeel the wark.
Abd. 1955  W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxviii.:
I'se skeel fat 'e widder's sayin tull't noo.

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"Skeel n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Dec 2017 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/skeel_n1_v>

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