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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.

SKEKEL, n., v. Also skekle, skekkel; ska(c)(k)le, skjackle. [skɛkl]

I. n. A mummer or masquerader, a Guiser, esp. one who went around in a straw dress at Halloween (Sh. 1825 Jam., skacle, 1897 Jakobsen Sh. Dial. 52). See II. Hist.

II. v. To go on a masquerade. Hence skekler, a Halloween mummer or masquerader, skakling, “the day on which the winter half-year begins”, All Saints' Day, 1st November (Sh. 1893 Manson's Almanac). Hist.Sh. 1870 P.S.A.S. VIII. 471:
The straw suits are still, in some parts of the Shetland Islands, worn by the peasantry in order to disguise themselves when going from house to house at Hallowmas or Martinmas, and at Christmas. Those disguised are sometimes termed, as in Scotland, “gyzarts”, and also in some localities “skeklers”.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (11 Feb.):
Da boys gae skjacklin i' wir place.
Sh. 1948 C. E. Mitchell Up-Helly-Aa 79:
The old-time Skudler, Grulik or Skekler crowned with his intricately plaited, tall, straw head-dress, at first glance somewhat resembling a bishop's mitre, and attired in a straw cape and petticoat. . . . The straw hat rose high above the head in twisted ropes which ended in rings and spirals tied together with coloured ribbons. . . . The cape over the shoulders had arm-holes through which the arms were thrust, and its lower edge covered the waist-band of the petticoat which extended to below the knees.

[Orig. uncertain.]

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



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