Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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MURL, v., n. Also murle; mirl(e); and dim. forms murlie, -y; murlock, -ick, -ack, -ich (Abd.4 1929). [mʌrl, mɪrl]

I. v. 1. tr. To crumble, to reduce to fragments (n.Sc. 1808, Ayr. 1825 Jam.; n. and em.Sc. 1963). Also in n.Eng. dial. Occas. used fig. Vbl.n. murlin, a crumb, a fragment (Bnff. 1880 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n. and em.Sc. 1963). Also murlockin, id. (Per. 1916 Wilson L. Strathearn 259). Comb. murley-in, a dish of toasted oatcakes crumbled into cold milk (Abd. 1951 Hotch Potch 14; ne.Sc. 1963). Cf. murlie tuck s.v. n., 1. (2). Clc. 1852 G. P. Boyd Misc. Poems 13:
[Winter] comes alang, An' murles doon, in waefu' chirps, Ilk warbler's sang.
Abd. 1875 G. Macdonald Malcolm xv.:
I dinna like the verse 'at ye can murle oot atween yer lips an' yer teeth. I like the verse 'at ye maun open yer mou' weel to lat gang.
Lth. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger's Revenge ii.:
He didna tak' a subjec' an' mirl it a' down to wee crumbs.
Bnff. 1920 Banffshire Jnl. (3 Feb.):
He maybe dis a lot o' gweed, In murlin' clods on rig an' fleed.
Ags. 1960 Forfar Dispatch (21 Jan.):
The puir things [birds] . . . come tae the door seekin the murlins fin the frost nips their taes.

2. intr. To crumble away as from decay, moulder (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Ork., ne. and em.Sc. 1963). Freq. with doon. Also fig. Ppl.adj. murlin, crumbling, mouldering (ne. Sc., Fif., w.Lth. 1963). Sc. 1821 Scots Mag. (April) 352:
Ne'er a throuch-stane marks out whare they're murling wi' their mither clay.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 76:
Frae 'neath the burial-stanes, He disinterr'd their murlin' banes.
Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 45:
They [pyramids] 're either murlin' doun to meal Or fog-enwrappit.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 39:
Where the peat's murlin' licht Aften glints on the tears That aye droon her aul' een.
Per. 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Sc. 21:
Süne, and owre süne, the year is düne And wi' the mools doun murl'd.
Mry. 1947:
The wid wis aa mirlin for want o' paint.
Bnff. 1957 Banffshire Jnl. (23 July):
The fine guff o' that murlin' peat fire.

3. To nibble away at small fragments of dainty fare, to eat slowly and fastidiously. Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116:
She's a murlin', pootchin' bodie. She's eye murlin' at something fin she's comin, oot o' the toon.

II. n. 1. A crumb, a fragment, esp. of oatcakes (ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a) 1963). Also used fig. Freq. in dim. forms (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 116). Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 65:
The chackit daidle or bit brattie . . . Is smear'd wi' murls o' mony a tattie.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes lxxxv.:
She'll jist fling 't [money] awa' in murlocks upo' sweeties, and plunky, and sic like.
Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 123:
A biscuit easily broken into mirles.
Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 25:
It's but a wee bit, less or mair, A skelvoch here, a murlie there.
Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (8 May) 10:
“A corter o' breid an' a fang o' cheese,” said I, keeking into the boxie; “ye've bit mealicks o' the teen an' murlicks o' the tither.”
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 15:
Nae murlacks dreetlin' fae his pooch or owre his grauvit noo.

Derivs. murlie, -y, murlickie, (1) n., an oatcake crumbled in hot bacon fat (Ags. 1963, murlie); (2) adj., crumbly, friable (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116; ne. and em.Sc. 1963). Comb. murlie tuck, toasted oatcakes crumbled into milk (Abd. 1963); used as a nickname for a freckled woman (Abd. 1919 T.S.D.C.). (2) Bnff. 1917 Banffshire Jnl. (26 June) 3:
A kneevelock o' a murlie kebbuck rossen at the fire.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 13:
Sweet as hinny to the moo The murly morsel [scone] tasted noo.
Abd. 1944 Abd. Press & Jnl. (29 May):
Murly tuck seems to me to be so expressive: “Murly ” from the method of murlin' in the toasted oatcakes into the milk; “tuck ” from the inevitable good tuck in of such a dish.
Abd. 1952 Huntly Express (21 Nov.):
The stibbles are too dry for ploughing. “It's turnin' ower ower murlickie an' hisna gotten frost an' it's nae bidin' th' gither.”
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (24 Aug.):
A kebbuck o' fine aul' fashiont, murly, green cheese.

2. “The act of eating in a quiet slow manner ” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116).

[O.Sc. murle, to reduce to crumbs, a.1500. Orig. doubtful, phs. a freq. formation from *mur-, not otherwise found, but cogn. with Icel. mor, a small particle, Sw. dial. mor, fragments, refuse of hay. See Murr, n. and cf. Faer. morla, to crush in small pieces.]

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"Murl v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2021 <>



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