Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
SNELL, adj., adv., v. Also snelle (Sc. 1842 D. Vedder Poems 311), snill (Jak.). [snɛl]
I. adj. †1. Quick, nimble, active, agile, keen in body or mind, clever, sharp, smart (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in Eng. dial. Deriv. snellness, promptness, quickness, agility. Comb. snell-nebbit, sharp-nosed, astute.
Sc. 1720 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 151:
That in ilk action, wise and snell, You may shaw manly fire. Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 16:
Fu' o' good nature, sharp an' snell with a', An' kibble grown at shaking of a fa'. Peb. 1817 R. Brown Comic Poems 91:
The Smith, black, bardy, wee, and snell, Served round the nappy ale. Edb. 1842 Whistle-Binkie IV. 15:
E'en the snell-nebbit priest ne'er could win bye the lowe, But he'd step in to pree wi' auld Wat o' the Howe. Lth. 1885 J. Strathesk More Bits 114:
The snellness with which “constable” Anderson separated the combatants. Kcb. 1911 Crockett Smugglers x.:
Anthony Crossthwaite was a Cumberland man, and spoke with something of the snell vigour of his countrymen.
2. Of persons (or animals), or their words or actions; severe in manner or speech, harsh, snappish, tart, sarcastic (Sc. 1808 Jam., a snell body; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 430; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags. 1971); supercilious, impudent (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Adv. snelly, harshly, with severity. Combs.: snell-gabbit, -tongued, having a sharp tongue, caustic in speech.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 13:
[Diomede] wi' snell words him sair did snib. Abd. 1787 A. Shirrefs Jamie & Bess i. i.:
Ye chear my heart — how was the billy pleas'd; Nae well, I wad, to be so snelly us'd? Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxi.:
He's snell and dure eneugh in casting up their nonsense to them. Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize I. xxiii.:
Ye need na be sae snell wi' your taunts. Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 145:
For my mither was thrifty an' snell, An' wadna alloo me to jauk or rebel. Gall. 1881 J. K. Scott Gall. Gleanings 88:
I last saw the snell gabbit body Wi' face like a wadge. Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 207:
He would say the snellest sharpest things. Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lochinvar xxxv.:
The heartsome, snell-tongued, tender woman turned away. Kcb. 1898 T. Murray Frae the Heather 56:
Master and mistress be sure to obey, Be ready, be faithful, tho' they should be snell. Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 174:
A mongrel messin was he, An' only snell and saucy Wi' wild stravaigin' men!
3. Of things: (1) hard, severe; of a blow (Sc. 1808 Jam., a snell straik; wm.Sc. 1971); fig., of fortune, etc.: harsh, unfeeling, rigorous, grievous (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 430; Abd. 1971). Also in deriv. form snelly.
Sc. c.1713 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 151:
In a Clock cord baith tough and snell Some others think he hangd himsell. Sc. 1755 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 273:
[They] gave the scarlet whore a box Mair snell than all the pelts of Knox. Rnf. 1791 A. Wilson Poems 225:
This is the last, the snellest lick That I'll e'er get frae fortune's stick. Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 116:
Sae wi' my stick I gae'r a rout, She fan right snell. Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xi.:
That was a snell law, I grant ye. Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 161:
You'll find it's snell, To bear misfortune's iron mell. Abd. 1867 A. Allardyce Goodwife xxi.:
[The rumaticks] 've been richt snell wi' me. Lnk. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 191:
Snelly misfortunes blaw thick i' the wind. Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 288:
Terrible snell snabs that tak's the wind mair frae a beast than a lang steady pu'. w.Lth. 1896 Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 141:
Yet dark and snell's the bach'lors lot. Abd. 1923 B. R. M'Intosh Scent o' Broom 19:
But the gate it is snell As I traivel mysel'.
(2) sharp to the taste, pungent, bitter.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 172:
Gay snell mustard he is whiles. w.Lth. 1896 Poets Lnl. (Bisset) 187:
Snell was the kebbuck o' auld Nellie Braid.
(3) sharp to the smell, acrid (Bnff. 1971).
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 110:
Antrin fock may ken how snell Auld Reikie will at morning smell. Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lads' Love xxi:
The snell scent of the “Back-end” of the year was rising from the ground.
(4) sharp to the ear, clear-sounding, shrill, high-pitched (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Obs. in Eng.
Rxb. 1815 J. Ruickbie Poems 44:
Scauldin' wives, wi' music snell, Tune up their everlasting bell. Ags. 1818 G. Beattie Poems (1882) 199:
Douff like drum, and snell like cymbal.
4. Of weather: biting, keen, piercing, bitter, severe (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 107; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 430; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1929; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc., rare in Sh. Deriv. snelly, id., chilly. Adv. snelly, bitterly, piercingly (Sc. 1808 Jam.).
Sc. 1740 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 462:
The air sae snell, and drift sae cauld. Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 109:
Boreas, that sae snelly blows. Ayr. 1785 Burns To a Mouse iv.:
Bleak December's winds ensuin, Baith snell an' keen! Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 72:
In winter's snell advance, we see The brown leaves whirling frae the tree. Per. 1835 R. Nicoll Poems 90:
The warm simmer gale may blaw snelly an' keen. Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 131:
Till my rib-furrow'd hide is soaked by thae snell-degs o' show'rs. Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xviii.:
Awat it was a snell mornin': Benachie as fite's a washen fleece. Lnk. 1889 A. Murdoch Readings iii. 16:
There's a snelly nicht for ye ootside doors. Slg. 1901 R. Buchanan Works 153:
Kingly winter, stere and snell. Sc. 1925 H. M'Diarmid Sangschaw 18:
It was a wild black nicht, But o' the snell air we Kept juist eneuch to hinder the heat Meltin' us utterly. Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 369:
Whan snell wunds are girnin', an' runkled leaves are sere.
II. adv. 1. Quickly, keenly, eagerly (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)).
Abd. 1739 Caled. Mag. (1788) 498:
[They] drank till the niest day's dawing, Sae snell, that some tint baith their e'en. Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xlii.:
Going straight and snell for my Lord Earl's house of Cassillis.
2. Harshly, unfeelingly, with acerbity.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 73:
An' our ain lads, albuist I say't my sell, But guided them right cankardly an' snell. Edb. 1801 J. Thomson Poems 73:
They'll look at him baith sour an' snell. Gall. 1825 J. Denniston Leg. of Gall. 70:
That gart me speak sae snell to them. Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 47:
“What care I?” quo' Jock, gey snell, “I'm auld aneuch to mind mysel'.” Gall. 1888 G. G. B. Sproat Rose o' Dalma Linn 118:
It used the Hielan' nowte gay snell, Yet spared their horns. Kcd. 1934 L. G. Gibbon Grey Granite 200:
Baillie Brown rapped out his sentences snell and smart.
3. Of sounds, shrilly: clearly.
Lnk. 1904 I. F. Darling Songs 116:
Then stop thae bagpipes, blawin' snell.
4. Of winds: keenly, piercingly, with a nip, chilly. Gen.Sc.
Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 20:
But ae rough Night the blat'ring Winds blew snell. Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 62:
Fin soochin win's blew snell.
5. As an intensive in combs.: snell-dry, bone-dry (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); snell-white, pure white (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1971).
Sh. 1893 Sinclair MS. 5:
Tack dis snell quite cloot i dy pocket.
¶III. v. Nonce usage in pr.p., blowing fiercely.
Ags. 1848 Feast of Literary Crumbs (1891) 43:
Wild was the e'enin', the wind it was howlin', And souffin' and snellin' the drift it did blaw.
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"Snell adj., adv., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Nov 2020 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/snell_adj_adv_v>
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