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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BALE, Baal, Bail, Beal, Bele, n.1 [bel]

1. A large fire.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Bail. A flame, or blaze of whatever kind, or for what purpose soever.

2. A beacon-fire kindled on a height to give warning of the approach of an enemy.Sc. 1805 Scott Lay of the Last Minstrel iii. xxvii:
For, when they see the blazing bale, Elliots and Armstrongs never fail.

3. Comb.: bale-, baal-, beal-, bele-fire.

(1) A large fire, or funeral pyre.Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Gen. View Agric. of Ayr 154:
A large fire, whether it be in a house or in the fields, in Ayrshire, is still denominated a Bale- or Baal-fire.
Slk. 1813 J. Hogg Queen's Wake (1814) 83:
And they set ane bele-fire him about, To burn him skin and bone.

(2) A beacon fire.Sc. 1805 Scott Lay of the Last Minstrel iv. i.:
Sweet Teviot! on thy silver tide, The glaring bale-fires blaze no more.
Sc. 1831 P. F. Tytler Hist. of Scot. IV. 138:
Watchmen were stationed, whose duty it was to light a bale-fire, or beacon, the moment they received word of the approach of an enemy.
Sc. 1852 D. M. Moir Poet. Works II. 7:
Stir the beal-fire, wave the banner, Bid the thundering cannon sound.
Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 223:
The custom of the “baal-fire” or “Tannel” is still observed on the last of July, St Margaret's Day.

[O.N. bal, O.E. bǣl, great fire, funeral pile, Gr. φαλος, shining bright. O.Sc. bale, bail (prob. from O.N.), bele, beil, beal (prob. from O.E.). Bail occurs first in Barbour's Brus (1375) and bale-fyre in Leg. of the Saints (1375–1400). Bale and bale-fire are mod. revivals of the 19th cent. The spelling baal is due to a fanciful connection with the pagan god, Baal.]

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"Bale n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Jun 2023 <>



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