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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHIEL, n., v.1 Also shiell, sheul(l), sheel, sheil(e), schiel, shel(c); shield, sheild, she(e)ld. [ʃil]

I. n. 1. A temporary or roughly-made house or shed, a hut, bothy, freq. of a shelter used by salmon-fishermen (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in n.Eng. dial.Abd. 1718 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VII. 281:
For mending the sheile and dyke of the midshingle for my half net.
Slg. 1762 Session Papers Stirling v. Christie (21 July) 20:
Two little Pieces [of wood ] that would make a Couple to a Sheal.
Sc. 1797 Acts 37 Geo. III. c.48 § 6:
Their several Fishings, Fishing Shields, Boat Stands, Net Greens, Landing Places.
Sc. 1824 R. Chambers Poet. Remains (1883) 18:
There lives an auld wabster, within an auld shiel.
Kcd. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XI. 40:
Hence the expressive Scottish name for a house not very wind or water tight, a cauld sheil.
Bwk. 1862 J. G. Smith Poems 63:
What tho' in cottar's lowly sheil, We revelled on his bread an' meal.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 209:
It's a sma shiel that gies nae shelter.
Sc. 1951 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 429:
A poacher, poet and nature-lover, who had here his shiel.

2. A sheepcot, a rough shelter for sheep or cattle and their herds in a remote place, specif. one used in the summer when sheep and cattle were removed to higher and more distant pastures, a Shieling, q.v. (Sth. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 III. 377; Sc. 1808 Jam.); sometimes applied to a summer or country retreat in the hills occupied by the gentry (see 1851 quot.). Obs. exc. in place-names as Pollockshields (Rnf.), Glassalt Shiel (Abd.), Galashiels (Slk.). Adj. sheally, see Combs.Sc. 1712 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report (Portland MSS.) X. 235:
A sheld or wast herd's cottage several miles distant from any house.
Per. 1727 D. P. Menzies Menzies. Bk. 371:
It being customary for people there to goe to the shealls both in simmar and winter.
Bnff. 1769 V. Gaffney Lordship Strathavon (S.C.) 3:
The people of Laggnavoulan and Delhine eatt up all the grass with thr cattle in the biggining of sumer befor her husband cowld gett up his sheal or bothie.
Ayr. 1792 Burns Country Lass i.:
Blythe Bessie in the milking shiel.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 297:
A shepherd's house, or his summer sheel rising on a burn brae, and covered thick with rushes.
Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frf. 87:
A shieling, or shiel, is a small rude hut or cottage, constructed for the accommodation of shepherds during the summer months they reside among the mountains. It is built of turf or rough stones, and generally thatched with broom or straw. . . . the fire is lighted on the floor, and an opening in the roof, at one end of the dwelling, is deemed quite sufficient for the egress of the smoke.
Abd. 1851 Letters of Queen Victoria (Benson Esher 1907) II. 389:
Shiel of Allt-na-Giuthasack . . . Our little Shiel is very snug and comfortable, and we have got a little piano in it.
s.Sc. 1872 Trans. Highl. Soc. 66:
Termed in the south a “shiel, keb-house”, or sheep-cot, used for the purpose of housing sheep during stormy weather, especially in the lambing season.
Sc. 1967 Folk Life V. 107:
Those sites where he would expect to find shiels in a Scottish glen.
Sc. 1971 Scottish Studies XV. i. 68:
Many of the Scots gentry had their summer retreats, pleasantly informal places, often referred to as their "shiels", sometimes within only a mile or two of their principal residence.

Combs.: (1) sheal bothie, id.; (2) shiel-house, a shepherd's or fisherman's hut; (3) sheally-hut, id.(1) Sc. 1777 J. Lightfoot Flora Scot. I. 257:
The dairy-maid will not forget to drive them to the shealings with a rod of the Roan-tree, which she carefully lays up over the door of the sheal boothy or summer-house.
Rs. 1844 W. Youatt Cattle 98:
“Sheal bothies” erected at different stations, for the temporary accomodation of such an establishment, when it is necessary to move the cows from place to place in order to give them the benefit of the whole grasses in due season.
(2) Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) III. 381:
A broken shelhouse above Auchasaul.
Sc. 1765 Session Papers, M'Donald v. M'Pherson (25 Sept.) 5:
They brought them that night to a shiel-house.
Rxb. 1924 Kelso Chronicle (6 June) 2:
The “shiel-house,” the sacred resting place of privileged fishers.
(3) Sc. 1746 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 345:
His royal highness repaired to a neighbouring sheally hut.
Sc. 1901 H. Wallace Greatest of These xxv.:
The past night, which had been spent in an evil-smelling sheally-hut.

II. v. tr. and absol. To live in a shiel or summer-pasture hut, to herd sheep and cattle at a shiel.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 81:
I see a bought ayont it on a brae; Some body here is shealing wi' their store.
Bnff. 1770 V. Gaffney Lordship Strathavon (S.C.) 21:
When one goes with their family to sheal in any glen they make their butter and cheese and spin as long as their women remain there with their milk cows.
Abd. 1781 Session Papers, Earl of Aboyne v. Earl of Aberdeen (21 July) Proof 1, 7:
He only shealed there for one year. . . . About twenty years since he first shealed in Morven.
Dmf. 1826 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 274:
I'll shiel a' your sheep i' the mornin' sune.

[O.Sc. -schele, in place-names, chiefly = 2., a.1159, scheld, = 1., c.1470, schele, = 2., 1533, scheil hous, 1574, Mid.Eng. shale, schele, a hut. N.E.D. postulates an O. North. form *scēla, cogn. with O.N. skáli, a hut, shed, found in n. Eng. place-name element -scales.]

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"Shiel n., v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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