Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GRILSE, n. Also †grilsh, †grilch, †grulse (wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 458).

1. The name given to a young salmon on its first return from the sea to fresh water; erroneously regarded by some as a distinct species. Coll. pl. grilse, †pl. grilses. Orig. Sc. and n.Eng. dial. now adopted as Eng. Cf. Gilse and Grawl. Sc. 1739 Caled. Mercury (8 May):
There is no Price put upon the Salmon fishing, which pays 20 l. Scots of Money, 10 Salmon and 10 Grilses.
Sc. 1753 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. 508:
The Harbour of this Place, till within these few Years, abounded with a Variety of Fish, viz. Grilches, Trouts, Whitings.
Rxb. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 14:
A distinct species [of salmon], called here grilse, and of sea-trouts, here called whitlings.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter iv.:
One or two salmon, or grilses, as the smaller sort are termed.
Sc. 1835 T. T. Stoddart Art Angling 143:
We have caught . . . sea-trout and small grilses in the neighbourhood of Cramond.

2. Fig. “An unwieldy little child” (Sc. 1818 Sawers, grilsh). Cf. Grulsh.

[O.Sc. has grils(e), grels, etc., from 1398; late Mid.Eng. grills, 1417: of unknown origin.]

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"Grilse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 May 2021 <>



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