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

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First published 1990 (DOST Vol. VII).

Rabil(l, Rabble, n. Also: -yll; rable. [e.m.E. and late ME rabul a rigmarole (Wyclif), rabel string or pack of animals (14th c.), e.m.E. also rabble. Perh. connected with late ME and e.m.E. rable utter, or speak, in a rapid confused manner; cf. Du. rabbelen speak indistinctly, LG rabbeln talk hurriedly.]

1. In Doug.: A (noisy) string or train of persons or birds; a straggling line or succession.The connotation of noise may be merely contextual. 1513 Doug. xi iv 11.
And euery wyght in handis hynt … Ane hait fyre broynd efter the ald ryte In lang ordour and rabill [L. ordine flammarum]
Ib. ix 29.
The rawk vocit swannys in a rabill [Sm. rabyll], Sondand and swouchand … Endlang the bemand stankis … Of Padusa
Ib. xiii iv 63.
In [Ruddim. In ane] lang rabill the wemen … fled … From the bald flammys

2. Applied pejoratively to a class of persons or communities regarded as having no valid principle of organisation or unity; a ‘pack’. c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 67.
All the rabill of tha sophistis and clerks
1581 Burne Disput. in 1573-1600 Cath. Tr. 170/13.
From ane veil ordorit religione … to ane … confused rabil of vitles bishopis inarmit vith tua handit suordis
1665–7 Lauder Jrnl. 9.
That rable of religious orders within the … Church of Rome

3. A pejorative term for the common people, or a group seen as representing them; ‘the mob’. 1650 Fugitive Poetry II xxiv 4.
Goe with your renting rascall rable
16.. Herries Mem. 38.
The commone rable
1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 272.
Such whimseis were now put in the rables heads
1693 Sage Fundam. Chart. Presb. Pref. m 7.
The expulsion of the clergy by the rabble
1700 Foulis Acc. Bk. 279.

b. A mixed, confused or disorderly crowd; a mob. 1691 Sc. N. & Q. 1 Ser. XII 89.
A great confluence of the baser sort of the people, consisting of tradsmen, students of the universitys, and a rable of other persons

c. To make ane rable, ? to form a riotous band for the specific purpose of threatening Episcopalian clergy: see Rabill v. note. — 1691 Sc. N. & Q. 1 Ser. XII 90.
Principall Paiterson did call severall off the trads … and offred them money to drink, with other comerads to assist them to make ane rable, and was wery instrumentall in bringing a number to the church yeard to stop there entrie to the church

4. A lengthy string of words, names, figures, etc., put together with little or no sense of appropriateness or coherence. 1581 Burne Disput. 148b.
Ane buke contening ane rabil of imagis
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 75/8.
That ȝe eschew to insert in ȝour verse a lang rable of mennis names [etc.]
1606 Rollock's Thess. 61.
A rable of vyle traditions
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. 436.
A rabble and number of idle long-tayl'd big and huge titles

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"Rabil n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Aug 2022 <>



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