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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

DWAIBLE, Dwabble, Dweeble, adj., n., v. Also dwable, dweb(b)le, dwib(b)le, dwobble, dwyble, †dwabill, †dwybal, †dwebell, †dwebil. [′dwebəl Sc.; ′dwi:b- Abd., Ags., Fif., Lth.; ′dwɑ:b- ne.Sc., Gall.; ′dwɔb- Slg., Lth., Lnk.; ′dwəib- ne.Sc., Ayr., Uls.; dwɛb-, ′dwib- ne.Sc.]

1. adj.

(1) Pliant, flexible (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags., Fif.10 1941), flabby. Also dwaiblie (Bnff., Ayr. 2000s).Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 16:
The jumpin' made their stamacks toom, And dwebil as a clout.
Abd. 1943:
A dwibble knife, one with a very flexible, springy blade.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 15:
I tramp athort fields for a look,
gowk on hirsty soil, hear the hungert craw
hoast owre a dwaiblie stook.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 72:
They may thump Johnnie's banes till they're dwabble as girsle.

(2) Weak, feeble, shaky, infirm, esp. with regard to the legs (Sc. 1808 Jam., dwable; Bnff.2, Abd.9, Fif.10 1941; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot., dweeble); “destitute of nervous strength” (Fif. 1825 Jam.2, dwable s.v. dwaffil); also fig. = 1884 D. Grant Lays (1908) 111:
Legs aneath 'im turned as dwaible As an autumn salmon's tail.
Bnff. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 131:
It gar her guts sae dwybal grow.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 52:
Now bit an' bit the sickness wears awa', But she's as dweble as a windlestra'. [dwebell, p. 19.]
Abd. 1788 J. Skinner Christmass Bawing ix. in Caled. Mag. 500:
But wi' a yark Gib made his queet As dwabill as a flail.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Doric 12:
His dwebble legs boo't like a rash, ower on his wime he fell.
Abd. 1923 R. L. Cassie Heid or Hert x.:
He seemed tae be tryin' sair tae haud in some feelin' that he thocht shame o'. Wi' a tyauve he managed tae fling aff the dweeble leuk, an' said, wi' a laich, slow word, “Oh, A'm weel aneuch, fader.”
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 20:
The quine focht tae haud him aff bit the chiel wis ower strange. His lust wis stench an kinnelt quick inno a bleezin lowe; the quine wis dweeble in his airms as ony twig furled doon the burn in the spring thaas.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 94:
His dweeble shanks kept him oot o' ill pranks.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxv.:
But noo I am douce, dowie, dweeble an' skair.
Lnk. 1882 Songs and Ballads of Cld. (ed. A. Nimmo 1882) 204:
Lang Jock's been often ill, but never was seen worse, He was so doiled and dwabble, that he couldna' clean his horse.

Hence dwaibly, dwybly, dwobbly, id. (Abd.9, Ags.17, Slg.3 (dwobbly), Fif.17, Gsw., Ayr. 1950; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn., dwybly).Sc. 1896 R. L. Stevenson Weir of Hermiston vii.:
There's no a hair on ayther o' the Weirs that hasna mair spunk and dirdum to it than what he has in his hale dwaibly body!
m.Sc. 1922 J. Buchan Huntingtower xii.:
I doubt I would just be a hindrance with my dwaibly legs.
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 37:
Your firmest Faith is but a dwaiblie notion,
A raft adrift upon a meisureless ocean
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 29:
" ... Endless an haill in time an space?
Hou then can a dwaiblie guilt like mine
Mak wastrie o God's luve an grace? ... "
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 1:
He was lying in a tiny, damp cell that smelt of salt and urine. Daylight inched its dwaiblie way in and gave up.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 66:
The gudeman is dwaibly, The gudeman is auld.
Lth. 1925 C. P. Slater Marget Pow 39:
Miss Jean has been lookin' kind-o' dwobbly the last twa-three days.

2. n. Cf. Dwab.

(1) A weak, helpless person; especially one who is over-tall (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 223, dwyble).Cld. 1880 Jam.5:
“He's just a dwable o' a bairn”, i.e. he is a weak, helpless child.
Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 25:
Some folk said he wus a kin o' drucken dwabble, but A'm no sayin't, for A didna ken him.

(2) “Anything long and flexible, with the notion of weakness” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 223).

3. v. To totter, to walk with a feeble step, as if weak in the legs (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 223, dwyble, dwable; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn., dwyble); to sway about, move unsteadily.Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 189:
When lairds on naigs was wont to dwabble Wi' pads to gar their hurdies hobble.
Ant. 1892 Ballymena Obs. (E.D.D.):
A'm hardly able tae dwible on my feet.

[O.Sc. has dwabbling, feeble, halting, 1600, which may be the same word. Appar. a late formation, based on the root meaning of stupefaction, giddiness, unsteadiness, in such words as Dwally, Dwam, q.v., + -ble suffix.]

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"Dwaible adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 8 Aug 2022 <>



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