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

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

Towel(l, Towal(l)(e, n. Also: towelle, towl(e, towll, touell, toual(l, toull, touvel(l, tovel(l, towald, twal(l, twell, tual(l, tuel(l, toill(e, tol(l. [ME and e.m.E. tuell (Cursor M.), towel (1378), towale (Chaucer), towell, touel (both 14th c.), twell (1507), towle (1542), towall (1557), touall (16th c.), OF toail(l)e, med. L. toualia, etc.]

1. A towel for use after bathing, etc. Also applied to a cloth used for wiping the fingers at table. (a) His men him keipit euer ilkane. The watter him gaif schir Floridas, And the touell [F. la touaille] schir Perdicas; Alex. ii 452.
Thai warpyt at the wall gret stanys … And … qwhen thai castyne hade, Wyth a towalle a damyselle … Wipyt the wall, that thai mycht se, To gere thaim mare anoyid be; Wynt. viii 4865.
The lorde or the ayr sall haf til his hous the insicht that is to wyt the met burd a bord clath a towall a basing a lawar a principal bede [etc.]; Burgh Laws c. 104 (A).
Tua towalis vj pewder dischis iiij gret pewder chargeouris [etc.]; 1478 Acta Aud. 67/1.
Ȝe sall me the basyng hald And my moder the towall fald With gret honour apon ȝour kne; Seven S. 2586.
iiij elne Holland clath, quhilk wes bocht for the quene and hir almessar … and syne the maister cuke maid towales for the king of it; 1504 Treas. Acc. II 426.
Ane burd claitht witht tovalis and vilecot, ane pair of schetis and nychtcurch; 1522 Dunferm. B. Rec. I 209.
Ane stand of napre claithis towellis and seruiottis; 1539 Ex. Processes (Reg. H.) No. x (Scott v. Scott & McDowall).
Burd clathis, towallys, pottys, pannis, platis, dischis, and vthiris necessarys, conuenient for our hale kichyng, pantre, baikhous, brewhous and cellar; 1551 Reg. Cupar A. II 71.
The inventar of the airschip guddis of … Gilbert Clewch … ane meit almorie estimat to viij markis … ane towall to ij s. [etc.]; 1570 Canongate Ct. Bk. 189.
Gif ony of thame be rebelland aganis him [sc. the master] … he sall tak the towel or boord-claith away that is befoir the mariner, or he put him out of the ship; Balfour Pract. 614.
Sax dussane naiprie pryce of the dussan ¥3 inde ¥18 … six toualls pryce of the peice overheid 12 s. inde ¥3 12 s.; … ane old silver saltfat pryce ¥12; ?1666 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 8.
(b) Ane burdclaythe ane twall ane seruit; 1611 Brechin Test. III 184a.
(c) Sex dussone of dornik servetts … sex tollis; 1651 Buccleuch Mun. II 290.

b. With qualifier indicating the type of towel or the function for which it was used. See Basin n. c, Drinking vbl. n. 2, Drying vbl. n. 2, Hand n. D 16 and Nek n.1 5 for further examples. (1) Efter the stoving and bathing, men suld sytt on faire bynkis … and rubbit his fete and his handis … with a fair lynnyn towale, apon a fair fut schete; Hay II 143/34.
Ane burd claith of braid claith, fowre towellis of braid claith; 1499–1500 Acta Conc. II 406.
Inuentare of all the geyr left … within the bischoippis palice … The pantre … iij ald buyrdclathis … ij ald towellis of lynning … vj smal towellis of lynning haile … ane grit towell holit … ane lang towell riffin at the tane end … vij seruiatis; 1519 Reg. Episc. Aberd. II 176.
Four lang hardin towells; 1563–4 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 138.
Off hardin tueillit towallis; 1598 Black Bk. Taymouth 325.
Tua dussin of serveittis sex burdclaithes and four hardin toilles; 1623 Edinb. Test. LII 21a.
Twa watir cloathes … twa mouth cloathes … ane pearled toill; 1651 Edinb. Test. LXV 203b.
Ane lynd wark towell; 1654 Edinb. Test. LXVIII 40.
5 dornick tuells; 1685 Soc. Ant. LVIII 359.
(2) Ane wesching towell of dornik with basyne and laware of siluir; 1529 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV 230.
Ane lang weschein towale; 1542 Rec. Univ. Aberd. 572.
vii sewit weschin towlys; Will A. Betoun.
Ane basine twell; 1581 Brechin Test. I 48b.
Ane lang drinking towll, tuo lining drinking cloths; 1635 Haddington Corr. 304.
The … inventar of the gear … of Jean Campbell … four dornick servet … tuo hand towells with a lining hand towelle … Ane table cloath of lining of tuo elnes lenght with tuo towells of lining [etc.]; 1704 Sc. Ant. I 129.

c. comb. Towall burd, a table with a table-cloth; towell pyn, a pin or peg on which to hang a towel. (1) Be this was commyn tyme of mete: Braid burdis war wpborn and sete And coveryt syne with clathis dere, Cowpis out brought of gold sa clere, One towalle burdys arayit & drest; Troy-bk. i 375.
Ane curtane of burdis ordanit for ane tovall burd; 1498 Dunferm. B. Rec. I 84.
(2) Ane towell pyn; 1568 Edinb. Test. I 169a.
Ane sewit towell & ane towell pyn; 1583 Edinb. Test. XIII 45b.
Ane tuall pin; 1625 Brechin Test. IV 219b.
Ane wainscott towall pyn … ane wainscott cloak pine; 1639 Edinb. Test. LIX 83a.
Ane towall pin with ane knave of aik; 1646 Edinb. Test. LXII 68b.
Ane toull pine; 1661 Brechin Test. VI 205b.

2. A similar type of cloth worn as a garment, ? as a tunic or some kind of over-garment. [Alex. quot. may be influenced by F. toil(e (linen).] He had thair sa great gadering That weirit palice and tyre And silkin towellis [F. tunicles de toille] that war schire; Alex. ii 8711.
His serwand woman rasauit certan lynyng clais to wesche, and amangis the rest ane lang small towald contenying sex elnis in lentht and sex quartar braid small lynnyng; 1570 Inverness Rec. I 190.
Ane dowblet & ane pair breikis of saitting bowmbersay with twa paisspyellis & touvellis; c1632 Tailor's Acc. Bk. B 29.

3. a. A cloth for covering an altar. b. Also as hand towell, a smaller cloth for use in communion. [Cf. F. tavaiolle.] a., b. Nane suld handyll … nakyn thyng that halowyit ware, Chalyce, towale, or awtare, Bot thai that … ordanyt ware; Wynt. v 1384.
Towall; Wynt. v 1594 (W).
Quatuor mappis sive twalis pro altari; 1432–3 Reg. Episc. Glasg. II 333.
ij tualis pro altari; 1436 Reg. Episc. Aberd. II 147.
vj elne of brade clath for ij tovellis to the kingis alter; 1474 Treas. Acc. I 64.
For the hee altar ane broudyn cod … for the sam fyve toualis of braid claith and tua of lynnyn; a1500 Coll. St. Salvator 157.
xxv elne Bertane clath, to be thre albes and hand towales to altaris; 1504 Treas. Acc. II 293.
Deliverit be the Dene of Glasgew … ane albe amyt, altar towellis, ane pendele to the altar [etc.]; 1512 Treas. Acc. IV 358.
Ane antepend befor the altar … with towellis, frontale, mes buk, corporall and vthir furnissing; 1529 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV 230.
For sewing of x gret corsis on the altare touallis; 1531–2 Treas. Acc. VI 22.
To be the alb, twa towellis, and the amicce, xvj elnis lynnyng; 1532–3 Treas. Acc. VI 93.
Four towallis for the hee bwrd; 1540 Maxwell Mem. I 408.
For four hand towellis to the chapell; 1541 Treas. Acc. VIII 43.
For ij ellis of hardyne to lay vnder the alter towellis; 1544 Edinb. Hammermen 164a.
For the altare … 2 napkins and a rich hand towell; 1559 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I lxxxix.
Ane antipend for the sacrament house with a dornick towle to the same; 1559 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I xc.
It is lesum to the Papistis to adorne thair altaris sa sumptuouslie vith precious stanes, vith sa monie touallis; Burne Disput. in Cath. Tr. 134/28.

c. Under towel, a cloth placed under the altar cloth. Cf. 1544 quot. above. To be ane altar towall, v½ elnis dornik … to be ane under towall, v½ elnis blechit bartane canves; 1536 Treas. Acc. VI 278.

d. A cloth for use at baptism. That the towall and the bassin be sett on the pulpit at the secund bell to sermon; 1589 Sc. Eccles. Soc. I 251.
[Baptism of Prince Henry] The Lord Sempill caried the lavyer with water, the Lord Setoun the basine, the Lord Livingstoun a towell; Calderwood V 344.

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

"Towel(l n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/towell>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse DOST: