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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Mel(l, n. Also: maill(e, mayll, meill, meall, meald, meell, mill(e. [North. ME. (Cursor M.) and e.m.E. mell, corresp. to ME. (midl. and south.) malle (14th c.), male, mealle (13th c.), maul, F. mail, with vocalism as in Kell n.1(Cf. also Mail(le n., Maillet n. and Malȝet n.)]

1. A heavy hammer or mace, as a weapon of war.Also ledin mell, see Ledin a. ?1438 Alex. ii. 1342.
With clubis, mellis and axes of steill
c1420 Wynt. viii. 6791.
Out tak he that wyth the mell [supra apon a staff Ane hammyre heid] Was slayne
c1500 Rowll Cursing iii.
Sum with clubbis and mellis of leid
1494 Loutfut MS. 32 b.
With mellis of yrn

2. A heavy hammer, mallet or beetle, generally; also, the head of such a mallet as distinguished from the shaft. Also attrib. with schaft, and fig.Used e.g. for driving in stakes or tent-pegs, for pounding leather or ‘knocking’ barley, for driving a chisel or a wedge, for splitting timber.Also with defining terms as gating-, kevel- and quarrell-mell, see these words, and also, for further examples, Knoking vbl. n. (4), Knoking-stane n.(1) 1431–2 Newbattle MSS. (Reg. H.).
With fredom of the bark stok with the mell
1499 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II. 430.
The stanis … sal be corsit with mell and chesaile
1513 Dunferm. B. Rec. 191.
Tva pikkis, ane mell, twa weggis
1513 Treas. Acc. IV. 527.
In pikkis, cavillokis, grete mellis, hammeris
c1500-50 Pleugh-Song in 1562-92 Wode's Psalter 241.
The pleugh-shoone, The mell and the stilt
1537–8 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I. 222.
For … ane gret copper mell for dryving of the gret standartis of the listis
1543 Ayr Common Good Acc.
For cordis to the pauilȝeoun treis and tua mellis xiij s. x d.
1555–6 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 324.
Ane steill mell in wod of xvj s.
1555–6 Edinb. Old Acc. I. 96. 1557–8 Ib. 248.
Gevin for iiij mells with thair schaftis till sad the said but
1562-3 Winȝet II. 6/5. 1570-3 Bann. Trans. 309.
The wyfe beand also als busie as the man with a mell to fell thair geastis sleaping in there beddis
1573 Reg. Privy C. II. 232. 1587 Carmichael Etym. 8.
Tudes, a mel
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 382.
To take a mell and knock out his [own] harnes
1599 Murray Lyon Hist. Lodge Edinb. 40. 1608 Crim. Trials II. 541. 1609 Hilderstoun Silver Mines I. 243 b.
Tua mellis with four virolis of irne to bray the clay
1634 Dumbarton B. Rec. 43.
The quhilk William … caist a lyttill mell at hym
1635 Cochran-Patrick Coinage II. 47.
In the forging hous … foure mellis, three hammers
1638–9 Aberd. B. Acc. in Misc. Spald. C. V. 153.
For … trees to be sconses and for making a timber mell
1651 Stirling B. Rec. II. 305.
For thrie great mellis for ramming faill
1664 Rec. Old Aberd. II. 60. 1681 Fawside Coal Compt. 88.attrib. 1616 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II. 12.
For tua mell schaftis
1651 Stirling B. Rec. II. 305.
For four schafts of poleaxes to be maid mell schaftis
(b) 1556 Crail B. Ct. 14 Dec.
Ane yrne mayll of xix li. veyht … wyth ane vyge
1665 Lauder Jrnl. 68.
A fellow … with a maille to cleave wood
1677 Fawside Coal Compt. 14.
For the maill roweing 00, 03, 0
(c) 1589–90 Ayr Common Good Acc.
Ane irne meill and schaft thairto
1681 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt. July 30.
For a meell to the redsmen to break stone
(d) 1640 Bk. Carlaverock II. 502.
i ould catell and i piks and a meald
1659 Craven Ch. in Orkney II. 198.
A great meall
(e) 1678 Fawside Coal Compt 31.
To John Waite for picks & mille roweing
1684 Ib. 127.(2) fig. 1553–4 Knox III. 386.
Unles the mell of inward anguische did beat them doun
1562-3 Winȝet II. 55/3.
Be sa strang mellis and hemmeris quha suld nocht be betit doun?
1605-6 Welsh Forty-eight Serm. 106.
Sin is likened to an iron-mill that [etc.]

b. A mallet or ‘mall’ used for the game of ‘mall’ or ‘pall-mall’. c 1647 Reg. Panmure I. xli.
For ane mell for his Majestie to play with, with lace and plush in the hand thereof, 15s. … Item, for tuo other mellis, being plain, £1

c. As in later south Sc. and north. Eng. dial., as a prize awarded to the last in a race. 1683 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 14 June.
And that the foremost horse gets the cup, and the last horse the mell

3. ? transf. A heavy blow, as given by a large hammer. 1658 R. Moray Lett. 23 Apr.
Talk to Will … that you may be the better in wind when we meet, else you may expect a good bouncing mell

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"Mel n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



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