Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CAVIL, KAVL, Kavel, Kavvel, Kavvle, v. and n.

1. v. “To take a fish off the hook by means of a wooden stick with a notch on the lower end” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); 1866 Edm. Gl., cavil, kavvle; 1914 Angus Gl., kavvel).

2. n. “The hindmost space in the boat where the fishing-line is hauled over the roller fixed to the gunwale, and where the fish are taken off the hooks” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), kavl, kavel). Sh.(D) 1877 G. Stewart Sh. Fireside Tales (1892) 31:
Says he ta da boy dat sat ida cavil, says he, “boy, hae da fish-staff clair.”

3. Comb.: kavl-tree, kavel-, kavlin-, “cylindrical piece of wood with a notch on the lower end which, in fishing, is put into the mouth of a fish to extract the hook, esp. when it has been swallowed too far down” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Sh.(D) 1899 J. Spence Sh. Folk-Lore 134:
His sköne, huggie-staff . . . and kavel-tree are at hand.
Sh. 1931 J. Nicolson Shet. Incidents and Tales 54:
The fish . . . were expeditiously unhooked by means of a short, notched stick known as the “kavlin-tree.”

[Norse kavle, cylinder, rolling-pin; Sw. kafle, a short piece of wood (Falk and Torp); O.N. kafli, a piece cut off, kefli, a cylinder of wood (Zoëga). See also etym. note to Cavel, n.1, v., and Kevel, n.1 and v.1]

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"Cavil v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Jul 2020 <>



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