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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XII).
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Wyle, Wil(e, n. Also: will, wyll, vyl(l, wyill, wyile, vyile, weyll, vaeill, quhile. [ME and e.m.E. wiless pl. (Orm), wile (Cursor M.), wyle (Manning), while (c1350). Cf. ON vél craft, artifice.]

1. A trick or stratagem involving cunning or deception. b. A device, means or manner of proceeding without, necessarily, any implication of deceit; an idea.Chiefly pl. See also Hen-wyle n. For examples of wrink and wyle, see Wrink n.(a) a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii 590.
For-thi with wilis did he & slycht [etc.]
c1420 Wynt. vi 933 (C).
1490 Irland Mir. I 82/30.
We sall scorne the innemy, his powere and all his wilis
(b) c1400 Troy-bk. ii 1270 (C).
The Troyiens … We our-come with fraud & gyle And Machynacions and wyle
1456 Hay I 189/5.
Thus, throu suteltee and trychery, settis thame to conquest landis … with wylis and falshede
a1500 Henr. Fab. 430.
In his mynd he kest The ieperdies, the wayis, and the wyle [Bann. wile] Be quhat menis he micht this cok begyle
a1500 Seven S. 1052.
The last scho fand a wyle And on ald Ysak birlit the wyne And quhen he was slepand syne The key scho staw
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 295.
As wis woman ay I wrought and not as wod fule, For mar with wylis I wan na wichtnes of handis
1535 Stewart 36773.
Closand the portis … So be no way, be ony wyle or gyn, … mycht no man wyn thairin
1540 Lynd. Sat. 719.
Mary, I sall fynd ane thowsand wylis. We mon turne our claithis, and chainge our stylis; And dissagyis ws
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 5780.
Leif ȝour dissait and crafty wylis, Quhilk syllie simpyll folk begylis
a1568 Scott iii 38.
Be wyis and war, and watt thame ay with wylis; … Maist witt hes hie that moniest owrsylis
1570 Sat. P. xxii 9.
A scuruie schollar of Machiauellus lair, Inuenting wylis anoyntit kingis to thrall
1591-2 Rob Stene 16.
Juggillaris, that all men begylis, Divertis thair eis, with subteill wylis
1596 Dalr. II 170/2.
With wyles he instructed his men of weir, as he was verie subtile, … to entir the castell [etc.]
1597 James VI Dæmonol. (STS) 49/35.
It is knowen so manie of them [sc. Papists] to bee counterfite, which wyle the clergie inuentes for confirming of their rotten religion
1666 Lauderdale P. I 259.
None of these pedanticall wyles hath gained him the least interest with any of these persons
(c) c1400 Troy-bk. ii 32 (D).
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 107/15 (M).
1535 Stewart 49954.
Sen that he wes of small power and micht Neidfull it wes to vse wyllis and slicht
1535 Stewart 60206.
Donald Balloch, full of falsett and wyllis
(d) a1585 Arbuthnot in Maitl. Q. 89/55.
Sho hes no guyle nor subtill vyile Hir pathis ar ay plaine
a1585 Arbuthnot in Maitl. Q. 119/46.
(e) c1615 Chron. Kings 44.
Haweing first incureadgit his men be ane gritt weyll quhilk he wissit in this wyiss. He reportit … that ther wes ane wisioune … the quhilk he had … prepairit … saying gif thay wer walȝeant thay suld be wictouris
b. ?1438 Alex. ii 537.
Pharone is mekill deip and braid And thair is nouther brig nor slaid, That men may pas, foroutin wylis, I hop, with-in thre houndreth mylis
c1420 Wynt. ii 499.
Thai war ansuert … that thai sulde … thare modyre banys ta [etc.] … Thai ferlyid off this hugely. Thus quhill thai studyit his Pyrra The first spekyne begouth to ma For rydely wylis in wemen Sunnere apperys than in men … 'I can be na way trowe That othir modyre have we nowe Than the erde [etc.]'
c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 2.
Bot slepe for craft in erth myght I no more; For quhich as tho coude I no better wyle, Bot toke a boke to rede apon a quhile
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 224.
Than saw I Dangere toward me repair I coud eschew hir presence be no wyle
1560 Rolland Seven S. Prol. 149.
I thocht it best … this lytill buke in verse for to compyle Quhair it befoir into plane prois was ay, Gif I culd fynd ony gude wyle or way to steir it vp into ane better style
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 89/22.
Ydle men deuysing did I see How for to dryue the tyme that did them irk By sindrie pastymes … Then woundred I to see them seik a wyle, So willinglie the precious tyme to tyne
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. 18.
The crafti fetches and wylls wherby they were wont to run upon their enemies, as the cats doe leap upon the backs of the myce
(b) c1475 Wall. ix 1176.
Ȝon folk has fud … at sufficians Wattir fra thaim forsuth can nocht be set; Sum wthyr wyill ws worthis for to get
(c) c1590 J. Stewart 58/64.
Bot gif scho vold Comte Roland ons elect His feruent flame … Of veirray force behuift to tak effect No vayis nor vaeills his panis mycht expel

2. a. Cunning, deception. b. Cleverness, craft.a. c1616 Hume Orthog. 10.
Of i, also, our idiom receaves tuae soundes, as in a man's wil, and the wil of a fox
(b) a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 8.
The vicis of ydilnes Gret foly, quhile, & vantones
b. c1420 Wynt. iv 929.
Artymodor … Brak on this Temystocles Owt off hyr buschement … Thare woman wyle [C. wil, W. will] in wyt off man And manhade turnyd in woman
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 202/41.
Think ȝe not schame, That ȝe have nether witt nor wyll To win ȝourselff ane bettir name?

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"Wyle n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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