Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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KEEL, n.2, v.2 Also keil. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. The keel of a ship, in combs.: (1) keel-draught, -dracht, -dright, an iron or wooden covering on the outside of a boat's keel to protect it when the boat is being drawn, a false keel (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Cai. 1907 County of Cai. (Horne) 76; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Bnff. 1941; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Cai. 1959) [ < keel + draught, pull, traction, substituted for Norw. dial., O.N. drag, the iron rim under the keel of a boat]; †(2) keel-root, a taboo word for the left hand in rowing (Ork. 1929 Marw.). The orig. of the expression is obscure. The corresp. term for the right-hand oar was given as horse-leg-been (see Horse, I. 2. (28)), and the two terms are explained by S. Solheim in Maal og Minne (1947) 1 ff. as Sc. translations of Norw. Folefot (foal-foot), a headland near Sognefjord in Norway, and Kjølrota (keel-root), a reef some miles westward. The assumption is that the two place-names were transferred to navigational expressions for left and right among those who sailed these waters in liking times, and thence came to Orkney. The apparent coincidence is curious but the explanation is far-fetched and very problematical. Dim. form keeldie, a boat with a keel (Fif. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 251).

2. The back, the small or middle of the back (‡Cai.7 1941; I.Sc. 1959); the hollow of a horse's back; a stripe, gen. black, along a horse's back (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Cai. 1959). Sh. 1836  Gentleman's Mag. II. 591:
I laandit him rycht apo da keel o' hiz bak i da vennal.
Ork. 1880  Dennison Sketch-Bk. 15:
He meed a spret in under the officer's swird, an' . . . threw him on the keel o' his riggan'.
Ork. 1929  Marw.:
Common in speaking of wrestling — “to lay on the keel o' his back.”
Sh. 1950  New Shetlander No. 20. 13:
Full on the keel of his back lay Maansie, drunk and happy.

3. A slang term for the bottom, the backside (Sc. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 67; Abd. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1959). Abd. 1746  W. Forbes Dominie Deposed 41:
To view the pint or cutty stoup, And sometimes lasses overcoup Upo' their keels.
Rxb. 1808  A. Scott Poems 64:
He'd been mair wise, Nor turn'd perhaps up Maggy's keel In sic a guise.
Kcb. 1814  W. Nicholson Tales 81:
[Of a peacock] jink aroun' wi' airy wheel, To hide the bareness o' your keel.

4. In comb. keel-up, a heavy fall on one's back (I.Sc., Abd., Ags. 1959). See v. Ork. 1941 1 :
He sled on the brig-stanes an' got a keel-up on his riggin.

II. v. To overturn, upset, throw on one's back. With up (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh. 1959). Vbl.n. keelin, a “turn-up”, a knock-down blow. Edb. 1821  W. Liddle Poems 67:
Frae chiels that whiles wad wish ye keel'd, For pleadin' as your country's shield.
Kcd. 1890  J. Kerr Reminisc. I. 97:
But wi' a boulder on my croon He ga'e me sic a keelin', O.
Sh. 1898  Shetland News (10 Sept.):
Shü wisna lang till shü keeled him i' da hay.
Kcb. 1905  Crockett Cherry Ribband xxviii.:
I aye keeled him wi' a stane about a dyke.
Abd. 1959  People's Journal (12 Dec.) 13:
Av've fair keil't masel 'is time.

[Fig. extensions of keel (of a boat).]

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"Keel n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 May 2019 <>



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