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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SOUPLE, adj., adv., v., n. Also soople, soupple (Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 284). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. supple. [supl]

I. adj. 1.

Sc. forms: Ayr.1790Robert BurnsPoems and Songs (1969) 447:
To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
m.Sc.1996John MurrayAspen 3:
an yer souple wuid's unriven
bi the stoun o lang nails driven
bi the dunt o the sodger's mells.

Sc. usages

Combs.: (1) supple cakes, see quots.; (2) soople-neckit, fawning, obsequious; (3) soople Robbie, in pl., the small beetles that run on the surface of water (Abd.21 1930); (4) souple Sandie, the reflection of light from a hand-mirror cast on a wall and made to dance about for amusement (Per. 1971); (5) souple scones, thin pliable scones, gen. of barley meal. Cf. (1); (6) souple Tam, a jointed wooden toy figure, which is manipulated by pulling a string, so that it seems to dance (Sc. 1825 Jam.).(1) Rs. 1810 G. S. Mackenzie Agric. Rs. 166:
Supple cakes, which are made by mixing fine meal with warm water, and a little milk, and toasting the thin cakes gently.
Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I. 500:
Supple cakes are made from barley-flour, mixed up with boiling water or milk, and fired on the girdle. These are made very thin, and generally eaten warm with butter as a species of tea-bread.
(2) Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 263:
Soople-neckit Sandy Raised himsel' by booin'.
(5) Ayr. 1786 Burns Scotch Drink iv.:
On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, In souple scones, the wale o' food!
Bwk. 1862 J. G. Smith Poems 83:
There were crumpy farles o' cake an' souple scones to spare.
e.Lth. 1885 S. Mucklebackit Rhymes 149:
Tea and white bread have usurped the places, and almost driven “parritch and milk” and “souple barley scones” from the cottage board.
(6) Sc. 1829 M. Scott Tom Cringle xii.:
The captain and the first lieutenant were bobbing in the stern-sheets of their respective gigs like a couple of souple Tams.
Sc. 1842 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 46:
Ye'll get a whippie and a supple Tam.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 198:
Ye've been in his han's like a bairn's Souple Tam.

Phrs.: (1) to make soople legs, to hurry. Cf. to make clever legs, id. See Clever, adj., 1.; (2) to play soople-backs, to act obsequiously, to toady. Cf. (2) above.(1) Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 39:
The Dominie, my fegs! Straucht homewards he made soople legs.
(2) Gall. a.1900 “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 10:
To the weel aff folk, they aft soople-backs play.

2. Ingenious, wily, cunning, astute, devious, “slippery” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Cai. 1920; Uls. 1931 Northern Whig (11 Dec.) 13; I. and n.Sc., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb. 1971).Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. I. 198:
But, shame light on his souple snout, He wanted Willy's wanton fling.
Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 16:
He surely was a souple lown.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxvi.:
'Twas a soople trick o' your majesty to delve a' out of me.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xviii.:
Odd, Mr. M'Cheatrie, ye're weel named; ye're a souple ane, or I'm mista'en.
Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Inglismill 31:
Deil tak' her blinkin' een an' soople snout, For wilin' men to drink waur than a brute.
Dmf. 1914 J. L. Waugh Cracks wi' R. Doo 58:
I considered that a by-ordinar soople bit o' wark.
Ags. 1918 J. Inglis The Laird 20:
Weel, Pitcarmit raxed his soople heid for a week, an' when Sabbath cam' he had his story o' the Ark a' cut an' dry.

3. Specif. of speech: fluent, ready, tripping, prattling, loquacious. Comb. soople-tongued, ready of speech, tongue-wagging (Sh., Per. 1971).Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 71, 87:
In gude black print I saw thee Wi' souple gab. . . . Her tongue was never louder than her breath; But now its turn'd sae souple and sae bauld.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 190:
Haud your auld souple untackit tongue.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ii.:
“They're a' tarred wi' ae stick,” yelpit oot a soople-tongued snippy.
Ags. 1881 Arbroath Guide (29 Jan.) 4:
Aye the same auld souple tongue.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 20:
I canna gie her words the soople turn.

4. Limp, helpless (with laughter, drink, etc.) (Sh., Abd., Lnk., s.Sc. 1971).Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 86:
Erty rowin' aboot ipo da taft, an' maistly ower soople ta sit.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 283:
Readin' to her ae nicht aboot Solomon and his hundred concubines, she fell soople in her cheyre.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 3:
They were baith o' them geyan fou. How soople and thoweless, yet nanetheless happy was the ither.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith 'Mang Howes 11:
Hei leuch till ei was fair soople.

II. adv. Nimbly, agilely (Ork., ne.Sc., Per. 1971).Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 15:
Right souple cou'd he spang.
Sc. 1812 Popular Opinions 87:
Baith kye and horses now mair souple rin.
Uls. 1900 T. Given Poems 150:
How soople we did run.

III. v. 1. tr. and absol. To soften by soaking, to steep, soak, drench; to wash (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 174).s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 366:
It s'all be a sooplin teem o' rain.
Abd., Per. 1904 E.D.D.:
I'm heatin' this drappie water to souple the pot. Jess sung the soup yesterday.

2. Fig. with wi: to be compliant or submissive to.Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden (1922) 10:
He'll no soople wi' you when he's in ane o' his tantrums.

IV. n. A soaking, a washing.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 174:
Gang t' the burn, and gee that sheet a gueede soople.

[O.Sc. sowpill, pliant, 1420, Fr. souple.]

Souple adj., adv., v., n.

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



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