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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

EEL, E(e)il, n.3 n.Sc. forms of Yule, the Christmas festival (Abd. a.1880 W. Robbie Yonderton (1929) 160, eeil; Bnff. and Abd. correspondents 1942). See also yeel, s.v. Yule.Mry. after 1750 Pluscarden MS:
Uphellie night wis the heartiest night in a' the eel.
Cai. 1921 J. Mowat in Old-Lore Misc. IX. i. 21:
Eel (Yule) and Ne'er's day were the beginning of festivities which continued more or less until Candlemas.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' the Doric 32:
'Twis Mairtimiss the deem cam' hame, An' ere the back o' Eil There wisna een aboot the toon But swore she wis the deil.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 41:
At mirk an' at mornin', fae Beltane to Eel.

Phr. and combs.: 1. Aul Eel, Christmas Day, Old Style (6 Jan.), see also Auld, 5; 2. Eel e(v)en, Christmas Eve, Old Style; 3. eel mairt, the ox killed during the Christmas festivities, see also Mairt; 4. Eelshard, a person who has received no Christmas gifts (Abd. 1880, Abd.4 1932); see Yeel's Jaud, s.v. Yule; 5. eel-shot, see quot., where Christmas and New Year have become confused;6. hale Eel, the Christmas season, which formerly extended from 25th December to Twelfth Night, in phr. to haud hale Eel, to make merry, to celebrate with abandon. For Eel-bore, see Bore, n.1, 1. (6). 1. Bnff. 1924 Burnie's Jeannie in Swatches 22:
A'm dootin the aul-fashint barn dance, splores at Aul Eel, burnin wutches at Hallow-een, an' brose an' bannock carrants are a' bye wi't noo-a-days.
2. Cai. 1916 J. Mowat Cai. Proverbs 5:
“As bare as a birk at Eel e'en” is also used to express scarcity.
Abd. 1926 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (March) 113:
It began on 'eel even in thirty aucht an' for three days an' three nichts it never devall't.
3. Abd. 1924 Trans. Bch. Field Club XIII. i. 24:
In the long evenings about New Year time tea parties and dinner parties were much in vogue. The fish wife supplied the substantialities in the shape of yellow haddocks for the former, and the “Eel Mairt” did the same service for the latter.
5.Bnff. 1965 P. F. Anson Fisher Folk-Lore 79:
The skipper's son was allowed what was known as the 'eel-shot', i.e. the first fish caught and gutted on New Year's Day.
6. Bnff. and Abd. c.1925 (per Abd.5):
“That's a gey carrant the bairns is at the nicht, umman.” “Ay; man, they've been haadin hale eel for ae nicht.”
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains and Hilly 60:
Aw saw the seagoos haudin' haill Eel amo' the craiturs an' gobblin' them up like a' that.

[For change of vowel to ee, see P.L.D. § 128, and for dropping of initial [j] cf. 'E, pron.2, you, and 'Ear, year.]

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"Eel n.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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