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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PEWL, v., n. Also pewil (Rxb. 1825 Jam.), pewel (Bnff. 1921 T.S.D.C. 17), puel, peul, pyoul, pyowl, peowl; peurl, pewrl, pioorl, pjorl, p(j)u(i)rl. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. pule. [′pju(ə)l; ne.Sc. + pjʌul; Sh. pjurl]

I. v. 1. To whine, complain; to cry in a shrill, piercing tone, to caterwaul (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 172, 1866 Edm. Gl., pioorl, pewrl, puirl, 1908 Jak. (1928), pjurl, pjorl, 1914 Angus Gl., pjüirl; Abd.19 1930; Sh., Abd., Ags., Per. 1965). Now arch. and rare in Eng. Ppl.adj. peulin, pyowlin, whining, complaining.Lnk. 1827 J. Watt Poems 98:
Foxy frae 'mang the whins steals peulin', Syne sic a hooin', sic a yeulin'.
Gall. 1903 E.D.D.:
A silly, peulin' wean.
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o'Hamespun 82–3:
Sae I up an' I kickit The last pyowlin vratch te the lift's hee wickit . . . That quaitent his pyowlin brawly.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 18:
He tent the oochin' o' the win' Aneath the sea-maws' peulin din.
Abd. 1961 Buchan Observer (28 Feb.):
It's a' owin' tae that han'less ull-gaited vratch sittin' peowlin' an' greetin' there on the deece.

2. Gen. of animals: to be in a feeble debilitated state, to pine, mope. Phr. to pewl amang (at, ower) one's food, to eat listlessly and without appetite, to pick at one's food (Abd.6 1913). Also fig. of people: to be only half-alive, to “exist”, to pick up a bare living, live “from hand to mouth” (Ags., Per. 1965). Ppl.adjs. pyoulin, ailing, weakly, feeble (Gregor), puled, id.m.Lth. 1706 J. Watson Choice Coll. i. 44:
[He] bad her [a mare] pass to Listoun Shields, And peul amang the Heather.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 109:
They'll use their means to your's control while they can pewl.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 389:
The way of a sick animal; it leaves its comrades, and gaes peuling about alone.
Sc. 1831 S. E. Ferrier Destiny III. xxix.:
Altogether, she had got what Mrs Johnnie, in her dialect, called “a puled look”.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 136:
A think the coo's some better; she's keepit a pyoulan o' a pucklie hey a' day.
Edb. 1884 R. F. Hardy Jock Halliday xii.:
Pewlin' owre ill-cookit meat the stamack canna thole.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Pulin' at yin's porritch.
Bch. 1929:
A pyowlin' craitur bit aye hale at maet time.

3. Of snow, rain, etc.: to fall thinly and feebly, to drift down in small amounts and with frequent intermissions, to drizzle, spit (Rxb. 1825 Jam., pew(i)l, ‡1923 Watson W.-B.). Vbl.n. pewlin, a light covering or blanket of snow (Watson). Cf. peughle, id., s.v. Peuch, v.Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 175:
Snaws join the squal, wi' pu'lin', pirlin'.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
It's pewlin' an' rainin'. It's pewlin' on.

4. Of smoke: to puff out, rise gently (wm.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. Pew, v., 2.

II. n. 1. A wailing cry, a shriek; a moan, complaint (Abd.4 1929; Per. 1965).Per.4 1950:
Ye can get naethin but a pyoul oot o' her.

2. A querulous, disgruntled person, a grumbler, “grouser” (Per. 1965).Bch. 1929:
A person of an ailing complaining nature was nick-named a pewl.

3. “The act of eating slowly and little” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 136).

4. A sea-gull (Bnff. 1921 T.S.D.C. 17; ne.Sc. 1965), specif. the herring gull, Larus argentatus (Bnff. 1847 Zoologist V. 1909, pew-il), from its wailing cry. Also dim. forms peulie, pewlie, pyoolie, id., and in comb. pewly-Willie, id. (Abd.10 1920). Sometimes applied as a nickname to the inhabitants of some of the remote Buchan fishing villages perched on or overhung by cliffs, e.g., Gamrie or Pennan (Bnff., Abd. 1952).Abd. 1925 A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 112:
Twa puels argued sair — “Is that a man or 'oman?”
Bnff. 1926 Banffshire Jnl. (18 May):
Nae yalla-fittit peulie splashed.
Abd. 1936:
“The Pennan pyools” is a phrase jocularly applied to the people of Pennan as living practically on the cliffs.
Abd. 1940 C. Gavin Hostile Shore vi.:
I believe ye care nae mair for the fishers than the pewlies cryin' on the cliffs.

5. A thin curl or wisp of smoke or vapour (Cld., Gall. 1825 Jam., pule). Cf. Pew, III. 2.Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 17:
A pewl o reek fuffelt abuin the gleed, an swurlt an yilleet away in a pirlin braith o wund.

6. A small morsel of food, a bite, nibble, Pick, esp. of grass for an animal.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 389:
Peuls, small bites which sick oxen eat. For these bites nowt seek mosses in the spring, where peuls of green grass first appear.
Kcb.4 1900:
I have noticed in the spring old ewes picking up the small peuls o' grass from under the biel' o' the heather.

[Freq. form of Pew.]

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"Pewl v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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