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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MEIL, n. Also meill, meile; miel, meel; meal, mail. [mel] An I.Sc. measure of weight for dry ingredients, as corn and malt, = 6 Lispunds or Settens, q.v. The measure varied from place to place and time to time and according as the bear- or malt-pundlar was used, but was gradually increased in the 18th c. from about 9 to 15 stones avoirdupois. Now only hist.Ork. 1715 in H. Marwick Merchant Lairds (1936) I. 54:
Wee should buy for him two hundred meils of meall and ane hunder meils malt — the pryces he offers is 3 lb 13/- for meall and malt.
Ork. 1730 B. H. Hossack Kirkwall (1900) 408:
The Standart of the Malt-pundar Meil consisting of six of these Setteens, seventy-two libs. and no more.
I.Sc. 1779 J. Swinton Weights, etc. 106–7:
The chalder of Bear, in Orkney, being 24 Meils on the Malt-pundlar, and 36 on the Bear-pundlar. . . . The above Meil on the Malt-pundlar = 195.7836 lb. avoird. [Ork.] . . . = 182.7318 lb. avoird. [Sh.]
Ork. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 V. 412:
The stipend consists of 86 mails malt, (each mail weighing about 12 stones Amsterdam weight).
Ork. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 182:
The “meil”, which is nearly 11¼ stones Dutch, or 14¼ imperial.

Hence combs. 1. meal scoup, meils cop, a land division in Ork. (see quots. and Marwick op. cit.). Hist.; 2. miels-kaesie (see quot.)1. Ork. 1868 D. Gorrie Orkneys 22–3:
Westray is divided into penny and farthing-lands, with the exception of one township which is divided into meal scoups, a corruption of the Norse mæliscop, equal, it is supposed, to one-sixth of a pennyland.
Ork. 1952 H. Marwick Farm-Names 203:
Two other land-valuation units — the “meils cop” and the “uris cop” — are of much more obscure origin, neither being known in Norway, and in Orkney curiously enough their use seems to be on record from one island only — Westray. “Cop” in these terms certainly represents O.N. kaup, purchase or bargain.
2. Ork. 1905 Orcadian Papers (Charleson) 38:
The miels-kaesie derived its name from the fact that it was intended to hold a miel, that is a certain weight of bere.

[Norw. mæle, a measure equivalent to part of a barrel which varied in size according to the locality, O.N. mælir. O.Sc. mele, id., from 1560.]

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"Meil n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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