Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CURL, v. and n. Also curle.

1. v. To play at curling. Gen. in vbl.n. curling, a game somewhat resembling bowls, played upon the ice: in its earlier form it more closely resembled quoits; also used attrib. Gen.Sc. exc. I.Sc. and Cai. Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 22:
From Ice with Pleasure he can brush the Snow, And run rejoycing with his Curling Throw.
Sc. 1774 T. Pennant Tour in Scot. 1772 81:
Of the sports of these parts, that of curling is a favorite; and one unknown in England: it is an amusement of the winter, and played on the ice, by sliding from one mark to another, great stones of forty to seventy pounds weight, of a hemispherical form, with an iron or wooden handle at top. The object of the player is to lay his stone as near to the mark as possible, to guard that of his partner, which had been laid before, or to strike off that of his antagonist.
Sc. 1890 J. Kerr Hist. of Curling 27:
Curling, when first practised, appears to have been a kind of quoiting on ice. The stones had no handles, but merely a kind of hollow or niche for the finger and thumb of the player, and they were evidently intended to be thrown, for at least part of the course, the rink being shorter than it is now.
Fif. c.1700 Masterton Papers (S.H.S. 1893) 468:
Great frost continowed till 20 martch '64 and others and I curled the same day.
Edb. [1893] W. G. Stevenson Wee Johnnie Paterson, etc. (1914) 62:
“Ye canna gang on Monday,” he said; “that's the nicht o' the curlin' denner, an' I've got the tickets.”
Peb. 1715 A. Pennecuik Descr. of Tweeddale and Sc. Poems 59:
To Curle on the Ice, does greatly please, Being a Manly Scotish Exercise.
Ayr. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VII. 612:
Their chief amusement in winter is curling, or playing stones on smooth ice; they eagerly vie with one another who shall come nearest the mark, and one part of the parish against another, one description of men against another, one trade or occupation against another, — and often one whole parish against another, — earnestly contend for the palm, which is generally all the prize.

Hence curler, one who plays at curling. Sc. 1890 J. Ferrier in J. Kerr Hist. of Curling 40:
The curlers in olden times took the stones as they got them from the bed of the stream or the hillside, and all the workmanship bestowed on them was the fixing of a bent piece of iron into each as a handle. . . . In these days curlers must have been powerful men, for the stones were very heavy and none of the keenest.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Vision i.:
The sun had clos'd the winter-day, The Curlers quat their roaring play.
Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 30:
The laurel'd wreath sae fair to view, The victor's pride, Nae rival curler could it pow, Tho' often try'd.

Combs.: (1) curling-house, a hut near the pond, where the curling-stones, etc. are kept (Ags.17, Lnk.11, Kcb.10, Dmf. (per Fif.13) 1941); (2) curlin(g)-stane, the smooth, rounded stone used in the game of curling. Gen.Sc. (1) Sc. 1890 J. Kerr Hist. of Curling 375:
In the arrangement of the curling-house, which ought to adjoin the pond, the club must chiefly consider the comfort of the stones.
(2) Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 87:
. . . the Curling-stane Slides murm'ring o'er the icy Plain.
w.Dmf. 1908 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo (1912) 223:
Hingin' on the waa' were my auld freen Duke Smith's curlin'-stane handles.

2. n. In curling: the curving motion given to the stone. Sc. 1882 in Gsw. Herald (14 Jan.):
With the richt strength and the richt curl on [we] sailed through the narrowest of ports.
Sc. 1890 J. Kerr Hist. Curling 411:
Paradox though it may appear, a curler who cannot shoot straight cannot put on the proper curl.

Phr.: to be (have) a' the curle, — the very curl, to have played the winning shot. Lnk. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 57:
Then down the port like a king's cutter, Your stane'll slide into the whitter. He's a' the curle! the game is ended.
Sc. 1884 Channel-Stane (ed. J. Macnair), Fourth Series 14:
As the stone neared the hog-score . . . he broke the silence with — “He's the very curl, he has it, he has it, to a hair's breadth.”

[O.Sc. has curling, from 1638, and curler, 1639 (D.O.S.T.). The word is prob. the same as Eng. curl, being descriptive of the motion of the stone.]

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"Curl v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Jan 2022 <>



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