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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Stele, Steill, n. Also: steil(l)e, steyl(l)(e, steell, steele, stell(e, still. [ME and e.m.E. stel(e (Layamon), stiel (c1290), steel(l (Chaucer), styl (c1380), stell (1537, Bury Wills), OE stýle, earlier stǽli.]

1. Steel, the metal.Differing from iron particularly in being harder and more elastic, making it suitable esp. for cutting implements, weapons, highly polished artefacts, and the like.(a) c1420 Wynt. i 251.
To wyrk mettalle Irne and stele [E., W. steill] … To yhet or bete or grawe thairin
?14.. Ship Laws c. 2 (B).
Of a barel wyth assis ii d. Of a barel wyth stele [H.1 steile] viii d.
(b) c1420 Ratis R. 251.
?a1450 Florimond 468.
It [sc. a shield] wes of oliphantis bane: Irin, steill nor trey wes in it nane
?14.. Ship Laws c. 2 (H1).
Colis or assis oley or steil saip or ony vthir merchandice
1513 Doug. viii vii 73.
All maner thing … That … may be forgit in irne or steill
1513 Doug. x xiii 67.
Hys targe platyt thrys with steill
1530 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 34.
For ii pikkis laying and steling witht his awine werkmanschip and furnessing of steill vi s.
1535 Stewart 11907.
Flanis heidit with hard steill
1539 Treas. Acc. VII 224.
For steill deliverit to him to temper the samin pikkis and weggis witht xij s.
15.. Sym & Bruder 14.
Twa bewis of the birk Weill stobbit with steill
1549 Compl. 10/33.
Smythis, & forgearis of yrn ande steil
1579, 1617 Despauter (1579).
Chalybs, steill
1586 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 258.
Ane gret schovill of iryne laid with steill in the egge thairof for patteling of the kirk flour
1591 (c1650) Dundee B. Laws 130.
Certain merchandis, tappers of Scottis steill
1630 Skene Mem. 198.
Mynes of iron steill tyne [etc.]
1633 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 366.
Ane padill schank layed with steill for cutting of the weidis
(c) c1420 Wynt. iv 1854.
The armwrys and the wapnys all That to thare nede wes lyk to fall On this wyis thai relevyd welle All thare defawte off yrne and stelle
(d) 1612 Bk. Rates (Halyb.) 330.
Steell: long steill the hundredth weght ix li.; wisp steill the wisp x s.; gad steill the half barrell lxxii li.
(e) 1678 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt.
For laying of 3 picks with iron and still

b. A quantity (of) steel. ?14.. Ship Laws c. 4 (B).
Of a schef of stele [H.1 a scheiff of steil] that is to say xxiiii gaddys
1496 Treas. Acc. I 292.
vij wosp of steil to pykkis and mattokkis
1511–12 Treas. Acc. IV 273.
Ane wisp of Lambart steile, price iiij s.
1513 Treas. Acc. IV 509.
1532 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 102. 1538–9 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 259.
ii wispis steill to the masonis irnis for hewing of the allering
1549–50 Treas. Acc. IX 372.
For tua stane of steill to the quarioures wark lumes
1550 Treas. Acc. IX 416.
To the querrell mellis v li. steill
1554–5 Edinb. Old Acc. I 155.
For foure punds of steill to lay the cleiks of the crepars of the cran
1558 Treas. Acc. X 400.
For ane wispe and ane half of steill … for grathing of certane culveringis
1558 Treas. Acc. X 427.
For viij wispis of steill weyand ij stane vij pund xij unce, price of the wisp ix s.
1558 Treas. Acc. X 438.
For iiij li. wecht of steill to point the said James irnis for graving of the saidis armis
1574–5 Haddington Treas. Acc. 14.
Twa pownd vi owns and ane half of steill to mend the knok
1674 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 7 Feb.
Conforme to aggriement for ane quarter steill to the uncost pykes

c. (Made) of stele, of artefacts, esp. arms and armour, also, once, of a planet.(1) a1400 Leg. S. vi 587.
Bad … brynge platis of irne & stele & in the fyre gert het tham [etc.]
1456 Hay I 64/7.
Ane broche of stele of gude lenth
1585 James VI Ess. 25.
The first [sc. planet] is of lead, of tin the nixt The third of stele
(b) ?1438 Alex. i 263.
My hawbrek and my helm of steill
?1438 Alex. i 1541.
Nane micht thole his sword of steill
a1500 Rauf C. 471.
Bricht braissaris of steill about his arme banis, Blandit with beriallis
c1475 Wall. iii 90.
His glowis of plait in claith war couerit weill, In his doublet a clos coler off steyle
c1475 Wall. ii 51.
1508 Treas. Acc. IV 111.
For j ram of lattoun and tua of steil for the kingis culveryn
1508 Treas. Acc. IV 122.
For tua broggis of steil for batal axes
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xxvi 37.
Bonettis off steill
1513 Doug. x viii 109.
The brangland speir … Persand sa mony platis of irne and steill
1535 Stewart 4672.
Mony berne … In helme and habrick, and hecomont of steill
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus iii 599.
On kneis ȝe gart him kneill, Gang on his handis, with ane bridill of steill In till his teith
1612 Bk. Rates (Halyb.) 309.
Glasses called looking glasses … of steill
(c) a1603 Anc. Prophecies 30.
Thy hiles is so hard set, with halmers of steele
(2) 1375 Barb. xiii 14.
Wapnys stalwart of steill
?1438 Alex. i 121.
Vaponis stith of steill
?1438 Alex. i 2093.
His sword that sharpe was of steill
c1475 Wall. ii 118.
Till him thai socht with hedis scharp of steyle
c1475 Wall. ii 377.
He drew the blaid, … nobill it was of steyll
1513 Doug. ix ii 24.
With fowcy dichis and wapynnys styfe of steill
(3) a1400 Leg. S. l 856.
Hukis … scharpe & rycht wele grondine, Of fynest steile
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 702.
Helmys of hard steill thai hatterit and heuch
c1475 Wall. xi 26.
Wapynnys off fyn steill
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 493.
His speir … With ane sharp heid of grundin steill
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI (1825) 47.
Thair entrit a bullet of steill temperit
1681 Blackness Customs 43b.
Ane looking glas of large steell
(4) a1400 Leg. S. xxix 695.
Thare-for arayt thai thaim wele In armis stith, mad of stele
1561 Cochran-Patrick Coinage I 84.
Chargeing all and sindrie haifand ony puncheonis or irnis maid of steill or irne that thai bring thame befoir the lordis of chekker

d. A variety of steel. ?1438 Alex. i 1328.
His sword … forgit was … Of ane broun, vnbrekand steill

2. Steel in the form of weapons or armour; the weapon or armour itself. Freq. as (armyt, helyt, coverit, etc.) in(to) steill.(1) a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 628.
Thai hewit on hard steil, hartly with hand, Quhil the spalis and the sparkis spedely out sprang
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 926.
On the hight of the hard steill he hyt him in hy; Pertly put with his pith at his pesane And fulyeit of the fyne maill ma than fyfty
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 849. a1500 Lanc. 808.
This fresch king … With al his ost he cummyne our the plan And Gawan send o batell hyme agan In myde the berde, and festinit in the stell The sperithis poynt, that bitith scharp & well
15.. Clar. v 2327.
From both thair helmes the low ȝeid as fyrflaught Throw dintis fers on [the] hard forgit steill
a1585 Maitl. Q. 18/70.
We cum to bar with iak and steill As we wald boist the iudge and fray
(2) 1375 Barb. xiii 56.
Fiff hundreth armyt weill in steill
1375 Barb. xiv 290.
The Scottis all on fut war then, And thai [sc. the Irish] … helyt [all] in irne and steill
c1420 Wynt. i 800.
Wytht a horne, … Armyt thare wytht … als wele As men are in to yrne or stele [C. stell]
c1420 Wynt. viii 6743.
The Franche men … Wyth cowerit hors in irn and steile
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 200.
Weill stuffit in steill, on thair stout stedis
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 612.
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xxvii 81.
Sum thing frome him the Feynd eschewit, … So stern he wes in steill

3. In, chiefly, comparative references to the (perceived) qualities of steel, specif. to: a. Its hardness, rigidity, interpreted variously as fortitude, physical or moral strength, hardness of feelings or recalcitrance.Also fig. in pen of stele, the reference prob. being to the hard and enduring character of the steel, hence of the writing produced by it, rather than to any particular sort of steel pen or stylus as suggested at Pen n. 5.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xvi 408.
With wordis cane rycht wele Our-cum mene hard as stele
?1438 Alex. ii 2558.
For to sustene the branches wele Of lufe and keip thame stith as stele
?1438 Alex. ii 8661.
Cassamus was armit weil And was baith styth and stark as steill
1456 Hay II 58/8.
Fortitude, that is stifnes in hert aganis vice that will nocht falde no mare na rank stele
a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 538.
Quhen Cresseid vnderstude that it was he, Stiffer than steill thair stert ane bitter stound Throwout hir hart
1535 Stewart 33296.
Suppois that thi hart wer hard as ony steill, That it wald brek and all [in] pecis clewe, For to heir tell thair murning
1535 Stewart 34485.
Bernis bald that stalwart wer as steill
1535 Stewart 49068.
In the defence ay of the commoun weill At his purpois far stiffar na the steill
a1568 Bann. MS 217b/39.
Suppois that scho be stif as steill ȝit sall thow win thi lady deir
c1590 J. Stewart II 238 § 154.
My name is Constance, firmer than the steill
(2) a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 194 (Asl.).
Nobillis princis and officeris of iustre In to ȝour hertis with pen of stele inprent Ȝour powar cummis [etc.]

b. Its trustworthiness, hence a figure of loyalty. Freq. trew (trest) as steill. ?1438 Alex. ii 5777.
Caulus answered him … That he suld haue his helme … Thocht it war on with symont set. Thir ar men all made of stele Or of dyamontis [F. (mistranslated) Ce sont gent d'aÿmant]
c1475 Wall. ix 1274.
Till gud Wallace thai war als trew as steill
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xliii 19.
Thay [sc. ladies] … Trest as the steill, Syne nevir a deill Quhen thay cum hame ar mist
1535 Stewart 37271.
Leill and trew till be Without tressone als traist as ony steill, To baith the kinrikis
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xx 44.
All suld not change my hairt Quhilk is als true as steill

c. Its being polished, hence its being perceived as clean. a1568 Scott xxxvi 30.
I salbe clengit clene as steill

4. A steel for sharpening knives, etc. 1522 Wigtown B. Ct. 134a.
For the vrangus haldin fra hyre ii knyffis a pan ane worth dyche a steill
1541 Aberd. B. Rec. I 176.
The steill to scherp the schawing irne

5. Clock hands. 1609 Hilderstoun Silver Mines I 242.
For steillis to ane horologe to knaw the houris … viij s.

6. attrib. a. With arms or armour, also, with a part of a weapon. Cf. Stele bonet, Stelebow, Stele hous, Stele sadill. b. In general use. c. Still coloured, ? the colour of steel.a. (1) c1450-2 Howlat 555 (A).
He bure the sternis of estait in his stele weidis
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 557.
Gaudifeir and Galiot, in glemand steil wedis, As glauis glowand on gleid
c1475 Wall. iii 88.
A habergione vndyr his goune he war A steylle capleyne in his bonet
1507 Treas. Acc. III 396.
Ane steil mais gilt
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 340.
He all stwnyst throu the stound, as of a stele wappin
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xlviii 121.
Syne crownit scho the Egle King of Fowlis, And as steill dertis scherpit scho his pennis
1513 Doug. ii x 117.
The lauboreris … With steil axsis byssely hak and hew A mekil ayk
1535 Stewart 6605.
Thair steill helmes, and bureall basnetis brycht, Like lucent lantrynis caist ane aureat lycht
1535 Stewart 9890.
With steill waponis, als stiff as ony aik
1539 Treas Acc. VII 176 in Whitelaw Sc. Arms Makers 79.
Ane pair of steill brekis and iiij chafferonis for the grete justing hors
1549 Compl. 163/26.
In steil iakkis and in cotis of mailȝe
1632 Lithgow Trav. iii 89.
1643 Acts VI i 45/2.
And men with airmes and furniture fitting for service, viz. with pistollis … steill capes and braid swordes
(2) 1513 Doug. ix xi 79 (Sm.).
So deip the grundin steyll heyd owt of sycht is, Ful hait and warm it festnyt in his lychtis
1513 Doug. ix xii 55.
Down with the dynt duschit the steil blaid keyn
1513 Doug. ix xii 107 (Sm.).
Til invnct a castyng dart, And with vennom to garnys the steil heidis
1513 Doug. xi xiv 26.
Quharto bair we thir steill egis in fyght?
1674 Justiciary Ct. Rec. II 225.
Spears jacks splints steill bounds, white harnish or other munition bellicall
b. 1513 Doug. xi vii 55.
The folk … This grund sawys … With scharp plewis and steill sokkis
1513 Doug. ix iii 104.
Steill [L. aeratae] stammyt bargis
1535 Stewart 11980.
Quhill ruvis raif and steill stapillis out lap
1542 Inv. Wardrobe 63.
Ane steill mirrour set in silver
1558-66 Knox II 380.
Robert Norwell, instead of the bischoppis croce, bair befoir him a steyll hammer
1597 Edinb. Test. XXX 162.
xxvij paper small steill buttounes
1640 Black Bk. Taymouth 348.
Tuo steill targets
1657 Edinb. B. Rec. IX 57.
Ane new steill balk … and a stand of brasse weights … for justing of the touns great weights
1663 Acts VII 466/2.
[The king] doe … ordaine tuentie vpon the hundreth … to be … collected … of all sort of steill neidles imported into this kingdome and … prohibites … the importation of all yron neidles except pak neidles
c. a1700 Bk. Dunvegan I 191.
Cloth, still coloured

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



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