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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CANTLE, Cantel, n. Given in N.E.D., Concise and Weekley = slice, piece cut off. The following uses, however, seem exclusively Sc. [kɑntl]

1. A corner, projection, ledge; “the top or summit of a hill” (n., s.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Known to Abd.22 1938. Obs. in this sense in Eng.Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley (1817) l.:
A naked broadsword, to be borne in the dexter cantle of the shield.
Sc. 1887 Jam.6:
A cantle o' the rock hung owre us.
Sc.(E) 1925 “H. McDiarmid” Sangschaw 30:
There's a big black clood on the cantle o' Wheelrig, And the waesome valley 'S fa'n like a dozened bird.

2. (1) The head of a person or animal; esp. the crown of the head (Lth. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Known to Abd.22 1938.Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel ii.:
My cantle will stand a clour wad bring a stot down.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick ix.:
They wad tak saxty days wi' pleesure juist to gie him ane ower the cantle wi' a palin' stab.
Ayr. publ. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage, etc., and Poems 244:
“Let's in,” quo' they, “ye auld Cadger loon, Or we'll rive your auld cantle bare.”
Rxb. 1914 Kelso Chron. (3 April) 3:
“I wadna hae'm. He's far owre bare i' the cantle for me!” — meaning that the sheep had not enough wool on his scalp for Tam's taste.

†(2) “The thick fleshy part behind the ear in a tup's head; considered as a delicacy, when singed and boiled in the Scottish fashion” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2). Given as obs. in Watson Rxb. W.-B. (1923).

3. The crown or centre of a road; esp. in phr. the cantle (cantel) o(f) the cawsey (causie). Also fig.Sc. 1818 Scott in Poet. Wks. (1821) X. 97:
When he's fou he's stout and saucy, Keeps the cantle of the cawsey.
Per. 1787–1837 D. Webster Donald Gunn in Harp of Perthshire (ed. Ford 1893) 142:
Few wi' Donald can compare To keep the cantel o' the causie.

[O.Sc. cantel, a corner, earliest quot. 1438 (D.O.S.T.); O.Norman Fr. cantel, from Med. Lat. cantellus, dim. of cantus, corner. Cf. Du. kant, edge, brink, and Du. kanteel, a battlement.]

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"Cantle n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Mar 2024 <>



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