Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SOUPLE, adj., adv., v., n. Also soople, soupple (Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 284). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. supple. [supl]

I. adj. 1. As in Eng. Sc. combs.: (1) supple cakes, see quots.; (2) soople-neckit, fawning, obsequious; (3) soople Robbie, in pl., the small beetles that run on the surface of water (Abd.21 1930); (4) souple Sandie, the reflection of light from a hand-mirror cast on a wall and made to dance about for amusement (Per. 1971); (5) souple scones, thin pliable scones, gen. of barley meal. Cf. (1); (6) souple Tam, a jointed wooden toy figure, which is manipulated by pulling a string, so that it seems to dance (Sc. 1825 Jam.). (1) Rs. 1810  G. S. Mackenzie Agric. Rs. 166:
Supple cakes, which are made by mixing fine meal with warm water, and a little milk, and toasting the thin cakes gently.
Sc. 1814  J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I. 500:
Supple cakes are made from barley-flour, mixed up with boiling water or milk, and fired on the girdle. These are made very thin, and generally eaten warm with butter as a species of tea-bread.
(2) Per. 1895  R. Ford Tayside Songs 263:
Soople-neckit Sandy Raised himsel' by booin'.
(5) Ayr. 1786  Burns Scotch Drink iv.:
On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, In souple scones, the wale o' food!
Bwk. 1862  J. G. Smith Poems 83:
There were crumpy farles o' cake an' souple scones to spare.
e.Lth. 1885  S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 149:
Tea and white bread have usurped the places, and almost driven “parritch and milk” and “souple barley scones” from the cottage board.
(6) Sc. 1829  M. Scott Tom Cringle xii.:
The captain and the first lieutenant were bobbing in the stern-sheets of their respective gigs like a couple of souple Tams.
Sc. 1842  R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 46:
Ye'll get a whippie and a supple Tam.
m.Lth. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 198:
Ye've been in his han's like a bairn's Souple Tam.

Phrs.: (1) to make soople legs, to hurry. Cf. to make clever legs, id. See Clever, adj., 1.; (2) to play soople-backs, to act obsequiously, to toady. Cf. (2) above. (1) Gsw. 1877  A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 39:
The Dominie, my fegs! Straucht homewards he made soople legs.
(2) Gall. a.1900  “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 10:
To the weel aff folk, they aft soople-backs play.

2. Ingenious, wily, cunning, astute, devious, “slippery” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1920; Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (11 Dec.) 13; I. and n.Sc., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1971). Sc. 1726  Ramsay T.-T. Misc. I. 198:
But, shame light on his souple snout, He wanted Willy's wanton fling.
Edb. 1798  D. Crawford Poems 16:
He surely was a souple lown.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxvi.:
'Twas a soople trick o' your majesty to delve a' out of me.
Dmb. 1846  W. Cross Disruption xviii.:
Odd, Mr. M'Cheatrie, ye're weel named; ye're a souple ane, or I'm mista'en.
Abd. 1873  P. Buchan Inglismill 31:
Deil tak' her blinkin' een an' soople snout, For wilin' men to drink waur than a brute.
Dmf. 1914  J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 58:
I considered that a by-ordinar soople bit o' wark.
Ags. 1918  J. Inglis The Laird 20:
Weel, Pitcarmit raxed his soople heid for a week, an' when Sabbath cam' he had his story o' the Ark a' cut an' dry.

3. Specif. of speech: fluent, ready, tripping, prattling, loquacious. Comb. soople-tongued, ready of speech, tongue-wagging (Sh., Per. 1971). Edb. 1772  Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 71, 87:
In gude black print I saw thee Wi' souple gab. . . . Her tongue was never louder than her breath; But now its turn'd sae souple and sae bauld.
Slk. 1820  Hogg Tales (1837) II. 190:
Haud your auld souple untackit tongue.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ii.:
“They're a' tarred wi' ae stick,” yelpit oot a soople-tongued snippy.
Ags. 1881  Arbroath Guide (29 Jan.) 4:
Aye the same auld souple tongue.
Lnk. 1919  G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 20:
I canna gie her words the soople turn.

4. Limp, helpless (with laughter, drink, etc.) (Sh., Abd., Lnk., s.Sc. 1971). Sh. 1886  J. Burgess Sketches 86:
Erty rowin' aboot ipo da taft, an' maistly ower soople ta sit.
Ayr. 1887  J. Service Dr. Duguid 283:
Readin' to her ae nicht aboot Solomon and his hundred concubines, she fell soople in her cheyre.
Ayr. 1913  J. Service Memorables 3:
They were baith o' them geyan fou. How soople and thoweless, yet nanetheless happy was the ither.
Rxb. 1925  E. C. Smith 'Mang Howes 11:
Hei leuch till ei was fair soople.

II. adv. Nimbly, agilely (Ork., ne.Sc., Per. 1971). Abd. 1748  R. Forbes Ajax 15:
Right souple cou'd he spang.
Sc. 1812  Popular Opinions 87:
Baith kye and horses now mair souple rin.
Uls. 1900  T. Given Poems 150:
How soople we did run.

III. v. 1. tr. and absol. To soften by soaking, to steep, soak, drench; to wash (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 174). s.Sc. 1793  T. Scott Poems 366:
It s'all be a sooplin teem o' rain.
Abd. 1904 ,
I'm heatin' this drappie water to souple the pot. Jess sung the soup yesterday.

2. Fig. with wi: to be compliant or submissive to. Ags. 1894  J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden (1922) 10:
He'll no soople wi' you when he's in ane o' his tantrums.

IV. n. A soaking, a washing. Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 174:
Gang t' the burn, and gee that sheet a gueede soople.

[O.Sc. sowpill, pliant, 1420, Fr. souple.]

Souple adj., adv., v., n.

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"Souple adj., adv., v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Oct 2018 <>



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