Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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DRABBLE, v. and n. Also draib(b)le, †drable, and deriv. drab(b)lich, -och. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. drabble. [′drɑbəl Sc., but Fif., Edb. + ′drebəl]

I. v.

1. tr.

(1) To dirty, to besmear (Fif.13 1940, draible; Arg.1 1929). Ppl.adj. drabbl(e)d, dirty, bespattered (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis s.v. draglit; Abd.4 1930); vbl.n. drabblin. Sc. 1808  Jam.:
One is said to drable his claise who slabbers his clothes when eating.
Bnff. 1940 2 :
Grandad's gettin shakky in the han', an' drabbles his wasket [waist-coat] at ilka diet.
Bch. 1804  W. Tarras Poems 69:
Wae wags ye, chiel, whare hae ye been, Ye've gotten sic a drabblin?
Edb. 1894  P. H. Hunter J. Inwick v.:
An' see ye keep oot o' the dibs an' no' draible your buits.
Lnk. a.1832  W. Watt Poems (1860) 248:
And did the breast o' Bauldy Scott Wi' ugsome splairges draible.
Kcb. 1896  S. R. Crockett Grey Man ii.:
Such drabbled stuff is not for the drinking of a lady.
Dmf. 1810  R. H. Cromek Remains 283:
She drabbled them owre wi' a black tade's blude, An' baked a bannock, — an' ca'd it gude.

(2) To mop; to soak. Bnff. 1860  Bnffsh. Jnl. (24 April 3:
In a waugh droukit plaid to be drabbl'd a' day.
Lnk. 1922  T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 21:
And your wife'll gang and draible Your face wi' an auld cloot.

2. tr. and intr. To spill (Mry.1 1925; Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1940). Bnff. a.1829  J. Sellar Poems (1844) 44:
The maiden lasses tak' the speen. . . Some drabble sups — some unca clean Gang on ding dang.
Dmb. a.1853  in D. Macleod Poet. Lennox (1889) 273:
And tentlessly the crowdie sweet They draibble on the clean hearth stane.

3. intr. To drizzle (Abd.15, Ags. per Abd.27) 1949). Abd. 1928  Abd. Press and Jnl. (15 Nov.) 6/3:
We didna get a verra gweed day, for it drabblet a' day aff an' on.

Hence drabbly, drabblichy, of the weather: showery, drizzly (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Abd.9 1940). Bnff. 1924  “Knoweheid” in Swatches 11:
The oongratefu' wretch, leavin's in a habble in the heid hurry o' the hey, efter siccan a drabbly simmer.
Abd. 1928 15 :
An unco drabblichy day.

II. n.

1. Usu. in pl.: spots of dirt, esp. drops of liquid food spilt while eating (Sc. 1825 Jam.2, dra(i)bles; Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10, Arg.1 1940; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 182). Sc. 1825  Jam.2:
“O fie! your frock's a' draibles,” or, “a' covered wi' draibles.”

Hence †draibly, (1) adj. spotted with draibles (Ib.); (2) n. a child's bib or feeder (Fif., Lth. Ib.).

2. “A small quantity of any liquid or semi-liquid substance; particularly food of an inferior kind” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff 40; Abd.9, Fif.10 1940). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 41:
We jist got a drabblich o' soor milk-broth t' wir dainner.
Bnff. 1940 2 :
He got nithing bit a drabble o' soor milk till his parridge.

3. Refuse, trash, such as riddlings or anything too small for use (Sc. 1825 Jam.2; Ags. 1949 (per Abd.27); c.Per. 1909 “Scotus” in Scotsman (10 May), -ich). Fif. 1825  Jam.2:
The smallest kind of potatoes, not fully grown, are called mere drabloch. . . . The same term is applied to bad butcher-meat.

4. Fig “A person of dirty habits” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 41; Gall. 1900 E.D.D.).

[Drab + -le, freq. or dim. suff.; cf. L.Ger. drabbeln, to splash, bespatter. For v., 3, cf. Sh. drabb, a drizzle (Jak.). Sense 4 of the n. is prob. influenced by Eng. drab, a slattern.]

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"Drabble v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Apr 2019 <>



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