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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.

RIVLIN, n. Also rivel(l)in(g), rivle(e)n, riv(e)lan, rivillin, revelan, -in; rilling, -an, -een (Cai.); rullion, rullian (Uls.), raullion (Gall., Uls.), rallion, roulion. [′rɪvlɪn; Cai. ′rɪlin; ′rʌljen]

1. A laced shoe made out of the untanned hide of an animal, with the hair outermost and moulded when still pliant to the shape of the foot (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Douglas Aeneis; w.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 18; Sc. 1808 Jam., rullion, I.Sc. 1825 Ib., 1866 Edm. Gl., Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., ‡Ork., Cai. 1968). Freq. in comb. rouch rullion, id. Also attrib. Ppl.adj. rivlined, shod with rivlins.Sc. 1722 W. Hamilton Wallace i. iii.:
Rough Roulion Shoes, or any common trash.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 145:
With a pair of rough rullions to scuff thro' the dew.
Sh. 1807 J. Hall Travels II. 527:
Both sexes, instead of shoes, for the most part wear a sort of sandals on their feet, called rivelins. These are formed of part of an ox's hide, cut out immediately after the beast is slaughtered, and fastened to the foot by means of a thong.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xxix.:
He had deer-skin rullions or sandals.
Ags. 1875 W. Marshall Hist. Scenes 172:
As far back as the sixteenth century, the staple trade of Forfar was shoemaking, the shoes made being that peculiar kind called brogues and rullions, the difference between these being that, while both were made of horse leather, the hair was taken off for the brogues and kept on for the rullions.
Ork. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evid. II. 1485:
A labouring man formerly had no such thing as a leather boot or shoe, only rivellings, and they walked through wet and dry with these.
Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 25:
Füle Jeemie bent forward a bit to tie his rivlin-tow.
Sh. 1898 J. Burgess Tang 141:
The shuffling of a pair of “rivlined” feet.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (15 Sept.):
I min get dis rivlins reddy ta pit apo' my feet, if he's gaen ta be ony mair rivlin wadder.
Ork. 1912 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 10:
Rivlins or turned pumps made of sheepskin were common footgear.
Cai. 1916 John o' Groat Jnl. (7 April):
“Points” were also the name given to the leather laces that tied together the “pie-holes” of the crofters' “rillans”, or home-made boots.
Sh. 1956 U. Venables Life in Shet. ii.:
Folk say such roads only served to wear out their rivlins.

2. By extension: a piece of thick, coarse cloth (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 146); a coarse thick garment (Ib.).

3. Gen. in pl.: rags, tatters, flimsy worthless stuff (Cai. 1968).Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 89:
We're aft oblig'd to stap a lozen; An' carefully collect some rullions, Like hose, or breeks, or auld carpillions.
Cai.4 1900:
'E bairn tore her frock till rillins.
Uls.3 1930:
“Not a raullion on him”, i.e. naked.
Cai. 1961 “Castlegreen” Tatties an Herreen' 41:
Yur neebor up by bocht 'e curteens an' things, . . . Bit, faith, they were notheen' bit rilleens!

4. Transf., of persons or animals: a coarse rough or uncouth specimen in regard to appearance or manners, an unkempt or ungainly creature (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929), playfully applied to a naughty child; a large masculine-looking woman (Fif. 1808 Jam.). Also attrib.Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 71:
Out oure them a' he cast his ee, His rullion-hand he spread.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 94, 191:
A grim disjasket rullion He was that day. . . . E'en Rigling Rallions.
Fif., Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Rallion. A ragged fellow. A rouch rullion, used to denote a man who speaks his mind freely and roughly, Fif. A scabbit rullion, a person overrun with the itch, Rxb.
Abd. 1882 W. Forsyth Writings 24:
Ye rapplach rullion, black wi' sin, Thocht ye to change yer' beastly form.
Fif. 1894 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xvii.:
The captain had mony likeable points aboot him, though but a rough-rullion in the main.
Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 210:
Ee, ye little rullion, I'll gie your lug a reeshle.

[O.Sc. reveling, c.1420, (ruch) rilling, 1508, rullion, 1644, a shoe of rawhide, late O.E. rifeling, from O.N. hriflingr id. For forms without v cf. P.L.D. § 70.1.]

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"Rivlin n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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