Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

CANNLE, Cannel, Can'le, Cawnle, Caunle, n. Sc. forms of Eng. candle. Also used in various Eng. combs., e.g. cannle-licht, -maker, can'lestick, and in phrases, e.g. to haud a cannel tae, to licht the can'le at baith ends. The form candle is illustrated here only in Sc. usages and the spelling is deceptive. The Gen.Sc. pronunciation is [kɑ(:)nl] except in I.Sc. The examples with d are due mostly to literary, school or church influences. [kɑ(:)nl n.Sc., m.Sc., s.Sc., Ant., but n.Ayr., Lth., Edb. + k:nl and e.Per. kənl; kɑ:ndl Sh.]

1. A candle. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 12–13:
But the mystery o' life canna gang out like the pluff o' a cawnle.
ne.Sc. a.1835 J. Grant Tales of the Glens (1836) 94:
M'Nab [said] to his wife; “ha'e ye sic a thing's a can'le, my thrifty hen?”
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 50:
In cauld back-ends I've studden there, Beside the cannel's flickerin' flare.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 28:
His faither keepit a bit shop, and sell't . . . caunles, spunks, and siclike.

2. Sing. form used instead of pl. or as a collective. Known to Abd.9 1938. Sc. [1779] J. Beattie Scoticisms (1787) 23:
A bunch of candle.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary (1818) xxvi.:
In a grand chamber, a' hung wi' black, and lighted wi' wax cannle.
Hdg. 1876 J. Teenan Song and Satire 23:
They voted seeven pund o' caun'le For the wundows o' the puir.

3. “A corpse light” (Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2 1938). Mry. 1852 A. Christie Mountain Strains 95:
About a hundred years ago, When fairies wander't to an' fro, An' forgoes aft were seen an' heard, An' candles gaed to yon kirk-yard In blue lows blinkin'.

4. Combs.: (1) can'le-doup, candle-dowp, a candle-end; see Doup, n.1, 3 (2). Gen.Sc.; (2) candle-fir, “fir that has been buried in a morass, moss-fallen fir, split and used instead of candles” (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.2); known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Abd.9 1938; (3) can'le-futtle, -gullie, “a large knife for splitting up bogfir to make candles” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 22), see Futtle and Gullie; not known to our correspondents; (4) cannle-stick, “a boy who stands on the centre of a plank in see-saw, to control the alternate sway” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (5) candle-whittle = (3) (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); see Whittle. (1) Sc. 1893 R. L. Stevenson Catriona xii.:
The goodman brought . . . a candle-dowp to eat it by, about eleeven.
Fif. 1896 “G. Setoun” R. Urquhart iii.:
Mony a can'le-doup I've kent gutter an' gang out leavin' me to crawl into bed i' the dark.
(2) Sc. 1760 Decisions Court of Session in Fife v. Farquharson:
Another destructive practice . . . was cutting out the hearts of the finest [fir] trees to serve for candle-fir.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. vi.:
Thin “splits” of fir taken off logs that had been dug up in mosses and twisted into a sort of rope . . . were “sold ready made under the name of fir tethers”; and . . . “when no longer fit to be used as a tether, they are employed as candle fir.”
(3) ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Echo of Olden Time 17:
There was a niche or bole in the wall on each side of the hearth — the one containing a tobacco-pipe or two, a tobacco box, a can'le-gullie, and perhaps a few books.

Proverb: Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 367:
You will neither dance, nor hold the Candle — That is, you will neither do, nor let do.

[O.Sc. has canell, as well as various forms with d (D.O.S.T.).]

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

"Cannle n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Dec 2021 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: