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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Kell, n.1 Also: kelle. [North. and north midl. ME. kell(e (a 1400), corresp. to ME. (midl. and south.) calle (a 1327) caul, F. cale (1474), calle (16th c.).The explanation of the difference of vowel is not clear, but OED. compares north. and Sc. mell (Mell n.) and ME. malle, male a maul.]

1. A caul; a kind of ornamental hair-net or close-fitting netted cap, chiefly worn by women. When worn alone, recognised as a distinctive head-dress of young unmarried women.Also used as a rendering of Latin vitta, lit. a head-band or fillet. 1332 Exch. R. I. 431.
Compotum Willelmi de Fordon, clerici gardrobe domine regine, … in kellis, xj s. iij d.
14.. Acts I. 305/2.
Of the custome of cannes [? canues], kellis [L. retium], threde [etc.] … Of a hundreth karkes of kellis at the entryng twa peniis and at the furth passyng twa peniis, of a hundreth pund of threde to mak kellis a half peny, of a hundreth pund of lynyn threde a half peny
a1447 Bower Chron. II. 374.
Quihus mala mulier comparatur … . For thi crisp kell, and fair hair, all bellit sal thon be
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 87 b.
Hir hare vas fare brovne lokerand but a kell
a1500 Seven S. 208.
Madynnis with courche and with kell
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 60.
Ane hundreth ladyes … In kirtillis grene, withoutyn kell or bandis Thair brycht hairis hang gleting on the strandis In tressis clere
1513 Doug. iv. Prol. 195.
Eschame, ȝyng virgynys, and fair damycellis, Furth of wedlok forto disteyn ȝour kellys
Ib. vii. xiii. 82.
The hair was of this damoysell Knyt with a button in a goldyn kell [L. auro, Servius Comm. reticulo aureo]
15.. Clar. III. 955.
Had I silk and gold, I sould make … Pursis, beltis, with cullourit quaife and kell
1566-70 Buch Comm. on Virgil Æn. ii. 156.
Vittaeque: operimentum capitis, ane kelle
Id. Ib. Æn. vii. 352. 1575 Edinb. Test. III. 363.
Tua kellis of blak silk
1576 Ib. IV. 136 b.
Ane kell of gold and siluer … , thrie kellis of geit
1589 St. A. Kirk S. ii. 638.
The great sklander [of] Jaine Monipenny … passing publikle … with hir bair hair coverit only with ane kell as ane madin, seing sche hes horn ane barn … in fornicatioun
1602 Treas. Acc. MS. 117 b.
To the Princes ane kell wrocht with goldsmith work xxx li.
1603 Ib. 235.
Ane busk to hir heid xl s., … ane kell wrocht with gold to put thairon xvj li.
1603 Phil. xxii.
Than may ȝe haue baith quaiffis and kellis … Maid in ȝour hous at hame
c1610 Melville Mem. 123.
Sche delyted to schaw her golden coloured hair, wairing a kell and bonet as they do in Italy
1612 Bk. Rates (Halyb.) 317.
Kellis of linning for wemen the dozen xxx s., of silk the dozen iiij li., of gold or siluer the dozen xvi li.
1612 Edinb. Test. XLVII. 126 b.
Thrie vpricht kellis of gould & siluir

b. In the poetic phrases, clere, lusty under kell(is.Cf., in ME. verse, Un-comely under calle (a 1327), That comely under kelle (Emaré).(1) a1508 Kynd Kittok 4 (B).
Scho wes lyk a caldrone cruk cleir vnder kell [: fell, dwell, well; Ch. & M. kellis]
a1568 Bann. MS. 141 a/5.
I met a cleir vndir kell, A weilfaird may
(2) 15.. Dunb. To London 47.
Riche be thy merchauntis, … Fair be their wives, … Clere be thy virgyns, lusty under kellis;?

2. A night-cap (for a man). 1549 Treas. Acc. IX. 351.
Ane quartar unce silk to sew thir trasis upoun thir kellis [supra round muches of his graces] … , item, vj elnis … robane sylk to bynde on the saidis muchis on the nycht

3. ? A net. 1559–60 Edinb. Old Acc. I. 317.
For ane kell to gadder scheillis viij d.

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"Kell n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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