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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

PILTOCK, n. Also pill-, -tack, -tak(e), -tag, -tek, -ti(c)k, peltag (Cai.), pelltack; erron. pillock (Sh. 1733 T. Gifford Hist. Descr. (1879) 12), pullock (Sh. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 I. 407). 1. The coalfish, Gadus virens, at an early stage in its development, gen. about the second year (Ork. a.1795 G. Low Fauna Orcad. (1813) 193; Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 175; ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna “Dee” 238; Sh. 1935 Fishery Board Gl., I.Sc., Cai. 1965). A Mey piltock is one between the Sillock and the full piltock stage (Sh. 1965). Hence piltock band, a cord of piltocks strung together by the heads (Sh. 1965); piltock eela, rod-fishing for piltocks, the fishing ground where this is carried on. See Eela; piltock flee, the fly used in piltock fishing; piltock fleet, a long line with up to a dozen hooks dragged under water as a bait for piltocks (Sh. 1965); piltock tom, a piltock line (Id.); piltock waand, the rod used in fishing for piltock (I.Sc., Cai. 1965). See Wand; to go to the piltocks, to go fishing for piltocks.Sh. a.1711 R. Sibbald Descr. (1845) 23:
Young Sheaths, called by the Inhabitants Pelltacks, which in fair Weather come so near the Shore, that Men, yea Children, from the Rocks with fishing Rods, caught them in abundance.
Sh. 1750 J. Campbell White-Herring Fishery 23:
A Piltag, a grey Fish, and somewhat bigger than a Herring.
Sh. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVII. 499:
The principal part of their subsistence arises from the small fishing of pilltock and sillock.
Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 590:
A pere o' piltak waands itt he stul oot anonder da boat.
Cai. 1887 Harvie-Brown and Buckley Fauna Cai. 275:
The first year's fish are called “Sillocks”, corrupted into “Sillags”; from one to two years, “Piltocks”, “Piltags”; two to four years, “Cuddies”, and after that “Saithe”.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 257:
I meets Sizzie hersel', ae nicht whin I wis gaein' t' da pilticks . . . I gets haud o' da limb o' a piltock waand.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 238:
I wis only saxteen, an' never been farder dan da lempit ebb an' da piltick eela.
Sh. 1901 Shetland News (29 June):
I set me afore da butt window ta busk a new piltik flee.
Ork. 1913 Old-Lore Misc. VI. iv. 183:
A plate o' bere male an' a soor piltic.
Cai. 1928 Glasgow Herald (8 Oct.) 11:
Blockies, peltags, and cuddings are usually to be had.
Cai. 1950 Neil M. Gunn The White Hour (1990) 219:
Boys together, bare-legged, racing the braes through endlessly sunny days; fishing for "peltags"; ...
Sh. 1958 Abd. Press & Jnl. (25 July):
Take “sookit piltocks”, for instance. They are dried fish and we had a few hanging from a piece of string over the fireplace.

2. Gen. in comb. Whalsa piltock, a jocular name for an inhabitant of Whalsay, Shetland (Sh. 1903 G. F. Black County Folk-Lore III. 268, Sh. 1965).

[Dim. form of O.N. pilt, a young lad, boy, with extended meaning. O.Sc. pelltack, = 1., 1633.]

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"Piltock n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Oct 2022 <>



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