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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SILE, v., n.1 Also seil, seyl, syte, siel. [səil]

I. v. 1. To allow a liquid, esp. milk, to pass through a sieve, to strain, filter (Lth., sm. and s.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 442; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 155; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 264; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Bwk., wm., sm. and s.Sc. 1970). Also in Eng. dial. Hence s(e)iler, a milk-strainer (Watson); occas. intr. to seep, ooze.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 274:
Our Sowins are ill sowr'd, ill seil'd, ill salted, ill soden, thin and few o' them.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xiv.:
The brown four-year-auld's milk is not seiled yet.
Dmf. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (May) 159:
The bonny winding and gentle Nith . . . they syle its current through the herling nets 'tween Yule and Yule.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 264:
The purest o' water is siel'd through the rock.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 82:
He handed her in the milk-strainer, milsey, or seiler.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 290:
Seyl the joice aff an pit it in a bottle.
Rxb. 1914 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 19:
The thochts that come seipin, seilin throwe an rowl owre an owre amang ma herns.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xi.:
I was seilin' the milk when I heard his voice at the door.

2. Fig. To squirt (water) through the teeth (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

II. n. 1. A sieve, strainer, or filter, esp. one for milk (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 442; Bwk., wm., sm. and s.Sc. 1970).Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 216:
The right name of a Sieve being a Seyl.
Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy xxxviii.:
Bell Fairies actually put the guid coo's milk through a sile afore she could pour it intil the bynes.

2. A drip, a spot or drop of thick liquid, sc. which has oozed out.Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow xv.:
A sile or twa of glaur frae the roads.

[Mid.Eng. syle, to strain, from Scand. Cf. Norw. sil, a strainer, sila, to filter, prob. a deriv. form from the simple root which appears in Sye. ]

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"Sile v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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