Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SHELL, n.1, v. Also †shele; shall (Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 92, 1916 G. Abel Wylins 89), shal, shaal, shaul (Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 368); ¶shill.

Sc. usages. [ʃɛl; I. and n.Sc. ʃɑl]

I. n. 1. As in Eng. Adj. shelly, shally, covered with shells (Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb v.). Combs. (of n. and adj.): (1) sha(a)lmil(l)ins, -ens, -ons, shell-mellins, fragments, smithereens, atoms, in gen., orig. of an egg-shell (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw., shell-mellins; Sh., Cai. 1970); (2) shal-mou'd, having a shell-shaped mouth, with a protruding under-lip, in quot. of a horse; (3) shell-sickness, a disease of sheep (see quots.) (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1970); (4) shell-wherry a small boat used in fishing for cockles and mussels (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 42); (5) shell-wife, a female oyster-seller (Gall. 1904 E.D.D.); (6) shelly coat, shellicote, (i) a coat covered with shells, adj. shelly-coated, in allusion to the belief in a mischievous water-sprite, so called from being clad in such a coat, who frequented seas, rivers, etc. (see quots.). Phr. like shellicote, with elf-like speed, like magic. Cf. Spottie; (ii) transf. a sheriff-officer, bailiff, from the buttons and badges of office on his coat; (7) shelly-cow, = (6) (i). See Cow, n.4 (1) Sh. 1886 Chambers's Jnl. (23 Oct.):
If he misses the Air, he'll go in shallmillens upon the baas of Flübersgerdie.
Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 19. 25:
Aa it I cood hear wis da gless gjaan athin shaalmillens.
(2) Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie 30:
Shal-mou'd frae foalin' time wis I.
(3) Sh. 1795 J. Sinclair Agric. N. Counties (App.) 31:
The water, or shell sickness, is a disease peculiar to those sheep who feed on the hilly pastures, at a distance from the sea shores. It is occasioned by a quantity of water, lodged between the skin and the rim of the belly, which, when allowed to remain without application, occasions a great degree of heat, forming a crust over the tallow.
Sh. 1809 A. Edmonston Zetland II. 223:
The Shell sickness has been improperly confounded with dropsy. It consists in a thickening and concreting of the omentum and larger intestines into small white lumps resembling shells, from which it receives its name. It is common to sheep that feed on wet mossy pastures.
(5) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 53:
Sawny came swaggering through a' the shell-wives.
(6) (i) m.Lth. 1700 Cramond Sess. Rec. MS. (15 March):
James Walker called him a shellie coat, and he answered him, not to liken him to ane ill spirit.
Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 65:
No Shellicoat Goblin, or Elf on the Green.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. i.:
She fled as frae a Shelly-coated Kow.
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. lxxxiv.:
Shellycoat, a spirit who resides in the waters, and has given his name to many a rock and stone upon the Scottish coast, belongs also to the class ofbogles. When he appeared he seemed to be decked with marine productions; and, in particular, with shells, whose clattering announced his approach.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 166:
Or heartless trail their shelly coat To other herds i' yon town.
Ags. 1823 Scots Mag. (June) 679:
Then came Shelly-coat, a mysterious being. If I recollect rightly, this monster was represented as a human being under a spell, by which he was transformed into a ferocious demon, whose cruelty was insatiable, and his power irresistible.
Dmf. 1848 J. Kennedy Poems 49:
The next was the shelly-coats — scaly auld men, Whase hame were the lakes, or the fens, or the wells.
Per. 1881 D. MacAra Crieff 164:
I mind o' Maister Strongbow, worthy man, ance speerin' that very question [from the Catechism] at me, an' I gaed ower it that time like shellicote.
Edb. 1882 J. Grant Old and New Edb. III. 282:
A large rock, which lay on the site of these new docks [Leith], and not far from the citadel, which was supposed to be the seat, or abode, of a demon called Shellycoat, a kind of spirit of the waters.
Fif. 1912 Scotsman (9 Jan.) 10:
I remember the same old body giving me strict instructions not to go near the peas or destroy the garden, “as there is a shellycoat there ”.
(ii) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 125:
I dinna care a single jot, Tho' summon'd by a shelly-coat.
(7) Sc. 1822 A. Sutherland Cospatrick I. viii.:
It may be a mere sweyne or a shelly-cow an' nae gude ever cam o' meddling wi' them.

2. In pl.: fragments, sherds (Sh. 1970). Also used as a v., to smash to atoms (Id.) Per. 1774 T. L. K. Oliphant Lairds of Gask (1870) 380:
On her death bed she said, where the Pig breaks, let the sheles lye.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (7 Oct.):
Dere's da lamp gless in shalls apo' da floor.
Sh. 1930 Manson's Almanac 194:
Foo da man wisna dung in shills is a fairly.

3. Freq. in dim. forms shallie, †shalloch: any small shallow saucer-shaped dish, “a small shallow tin vessel” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 153); specif. (1) one of the pans of a pair of scales or balance (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 46:
He . . . ca's for the Scales; . . . He puts ilk haff in either Shell.
Mry. 1757 Session Papers, Cramond v. Allan (11 Jan.) 6:
A large weighting brass Shell.
Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray 249:
Gie me gweed weicht, an' dinna be strinnent intae the shall that wye.

(2) The bowl or pan in which the oil of a Cruisie lamp is contained (Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xiv.). Also attrib. ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 21:
This lamp was formed of two parts, called shalls. Both parts were alike in shape and somewhat resembled certain species of bivalve shells, as the cow-shell, and both had a long spout.
ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 30:
If the “byke o' the crook” or “the shalls” are turned towards the door when a new female servant makes her arrival, she will in no long time leave the service.
Bnff. 1887 G. Hutcheson Days of Yore 31:
By the murky flame of the “shally” oil lamp or equally defective candle.

(3) a saucer (Bnff., Abd. 1970). Hence shallifu, a saucerful. Abd. 1898 J. R. Imray Sandy Todd vi.:
I'se bide a feow meenits an' drink a shallifu' o' yer brew.
Abd. 1957 Buchan Observer (11 Dec.):
Surely ye'll bide for a shallie o' tay.

4. The patella or knee-cap (Sh. 1970). Sh. 1899 Shetland News (1 April):
Loard be fir me as I tink me knee shalls is frost bitten.

5. In pl.: the lumps of burnt limestone before it is slaked, unground quicklime (Bnff., Abd., Ags., Ayr. 1970). See also Lime, n., Combs. 5. Sth. 1731 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 271:
The revenues from “the ston quarries and lime shells”.
Sc. 1752 Caled. Mercury (6 April):
Lime in Shells, is to be sold at Cousland for 9d per Boll. A Boll of Lime shells will yield two and a half bags of clach'd Lime.
Ags. 1769 Glamis Estate Papers MSS.:
To 6 Bolls of Lyme in Shells at 3/- per Boll. To 2 Bolls of Slaked lyme at 12d per Boll.
Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XI. 609 note:
From this early practice of using calcined shells for mortar, the burnt lime-stone is still called shells.
Sc. 1845 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 666:
When lime is obtained direct from the kiln, or from shipboard, it is in lumps, called shells, and light in weight.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 195:
Jist lowse only as lang's ye cairry up the lades, an' get in yer puckle shalls.

6. A hard frost supervening on a partial thaw (Cai. 1970).

II. v. 1. As in Eng., in place of the usual Sheel, v., 1.: to take the husks off the grains of corn in the process of milling; to strip a seed of its husk, pod, etc. Hence shelling, oats after being husked, shelling hill, a knoll on which husked corn was winnowed (Uls. 1953 Traynor), shelling-seeds, shellen-, bran (Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 68; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Sth. 1739 C. D. Bentinck Dornoch (1926) 448:
She would cause his house Decay like shelling seeds before the wind.
Rs. 1782 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) 173:
It is shelling sidds and corn I give my horses at night.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 283:
Down came the words wi' me, with a gush like a mill shelling.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. i.:
A half hour on the shellin hill.
Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales 243:
The producer of the grain regularly sent his wife and daughters to the mill to sift the shelling.
Abd. 1879 G. MacDonald Sir Gibbie xlviii.:
It wad be an ill thing for the seed to be shal't ower sune.
Sc. 1956 W. M. Findlay Oats 178:
The oats were dried on the farm, after which they were taken to the mill to be shelled, i.e. to have the kernel separated from the husk. After shelling they were taken up to the Shillinghill on a windy day.

2. Transf. of a child: to lose its first teeth. Mry. 1930:
Her little quinie's shallin her teeth.

3. Of sheep or their wool: to become caked or encased in a crust of driven snow (Bwk. 1796 Annals Agric. XXVII. 189). Peb. 1843 Trans. Highl. Soc. 65:
Wool in this state is extremely liable to “shell” during a storm, that is, to adhere to large pieces of frozen snow, and also to be frozen to the ground.
s.Sc. 1857–9 Trans. Highl. Soc. 180:
It prevents their being “shelled” (as it is called) by the snow being driven into their wool, until they assume the appearance of being cased in a shell of snow.

4. With out, ¶down, as in colloq. Eng.: to pay out (money), to “fork out”. Gen.Sc. Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf vii.:
The gold is shelled down when ye command.
Sh. 1919 T. Manson Peat Comm. 26:
I'm shalled oot more money in twa days here.

[O.Sc. schell, of a balance, 1573, a sherd, a.1600, of lime, 1639.]

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"Shell n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 May 2021 <>



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