Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

ARLES, AIRLES, ERLES, Earles, Yirls, n. [ɑrlz Sc.; erlz, ɛrlz m.Sc., s.Sc., Uls.; ærlz + jrlz s.Sc.]

1. (1) Payment as a token of engagement of services, or as the preliminary to the striking of a bargain. Most common modern meaning. Sc. 1708  Wodrow Analecta (Maitl. 1842) I. 131:
Folk that had received tokens and not communicat, and had given them back, had given back God's earles.
Bnff.(D) 1917  E. S. Rae Private John M'Pherson, etc. (1918) 27:
“. . . Bide ye ahin the ploostilts, the war 'ill manage fine.” An' he shuved the shinin' arles intae the laddie's han'.
Edb. 1822  R. Wilson Poems 43:
Says he, “This day I'se hae a bouse, I've hauf-a-croun o' arles.
Edb. 1825  R. Chambers Trad. of Edin. (1847) 97:
When men made bargains at the Cross, it was customary for them to go up to the Lady's Steps, and there consummate the negotiations by wetting thumbs, or paying arles.
Lnk. 1887  A. Wardrop Midcauther Fair 11:
An' there's your airles — nae airles will I be awn (owing).
Ayr. 1707  Arch. and Hist. Coll. Ayr and Wgt. (1884) IV. 235:
One fourteen shilling peice that the defender gave him of the arles of a gun quich gun the defender had noe right to.
Gall. 1900  R. J. Muir The Mystery of Muncraig 83:
He fand a stout lassie there, and they 'greed about the wage, and he gie'd her the arles.
Rxb.(D) 1917  Kelso Chron. (7 Sept.) 3/2:
“What's yer yirls (arles)?” “Airle money! The Deil's i' the wuman! There's nae airles now-a-days.”
Uls. 1924  Northern Whig and Belfast Post (12 Jan.):
Arles, engagement money at a hiring fair.

(2) Special application to former mining conditions. Hist. Sc. c.1750  J. G. Graham Soc. Life 18th Cent. (1899) II. 266:
A thriftless collier . . . often sold the freedom of his son to the employer, who gave arles or earnest money to the father. . . . From that hour the “arled” child was recognised as bound for life to the pit.
Sc. 1886  J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 6:
Arles, money given in former times to the colliers at the baptism of their children, as a token of the children being attached like their parents to the coal-work.

2. An earnest or foretaste of something more to come. Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
As he had refused the devil's arles (for such was the offer of meat and drink), . . . he hoped . . . Satan could take little advantage.
Abd. 1865  G. Macdonald Alec Forbes (1892) lxxix.:
I'm thinkin' he winna gang far wrang again. He's gotten the arles (earnest) and he winna want the wages.
Ags. 1894  A. Reid Sangs o' the Heatherland 21:
Wee fairies were joinin' their airt wi the sang, An' bringin' Spring's arles wi' laughter alang.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Entail iv.:
A receiving o' the erles of righteousness and peace, which passeth all understanding, and endureth for evermore.

3. One's deserts; in bad sense, a thrashing. Bnff.(D) 1866  Gregor D.Bnff. 215:
A'll gee ye yir arles, my boy, gehn ye dinna haud yir ill tung.

[O.Fr. *erle, *arle; Lat. *arrhula, dim. of arrha (see Sc. arrhae); O.Fr. erres, arres, Mod.Fr. arrhes. The v. and n. are found in O.Sc. in the forms arle, arlis, arles, erles, erlys, etc., with similar meaning. Arl is found as a rare singular in O.Sc. The word is also found in Middle Eng., Mod.Eng. and dial. Cf. Gael. iarrlus.]

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

"Arles n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2019 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: