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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.

SPURTLE, n., v. Also spurtel, spurtil(l), spirtle, spartle; reduced forms spirl, spurl (Ork.); met. form spruttle; erron. spintle; and spurkle (n. and m.Sc.). [Gen.Sc. spʌrtl; n. and m.Sc. + spʌrkl]

I. n. 1. A wooden or metal implement with a long handle and a flat blade used in baking for turning oatcakes, scones, etc. on a hot plate (Sc. 1734 J. Spotiswood Hope's Practicks 541, 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. Gl., 1808 Jam.; Rs. 1928, spruttle; Ork. 1929 Marw., spirl, Ork. 1958, spurl; Ags., Per. 1971). Also in n.Eng. dial.; “a ladle” (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 40).Dmf. 1757 Dmf. Testaments MS. XIV. 392:
A pair of tongs, an iron spurkle.
Sc. 1827 G. R. Kinloch Ballads 151:
Her girdle and spartle (the baking implements, which she had taken with her in her hurry).
e.Lth. 1848 A. Somerville Autobiog. 15:
Fairy, fairy, come bake me a scone; And I'll give thee a spurtle to turn it off and on.
Dmf. 1891 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 77:
“Yere cake's burnin'.” “Make us a spurtle tae turn it wi', then.”
Ags. 1950 People's Journal (18 March):
Spirtle or spurtle. Here it is a long-handled iron article at the mouth like a heart, to lift bannocks or scones off the girdle.
Knr. 1955 Edb. Ev. Dispatch (12 May):
That is a spirtle. It was used for turning oatcakes.

2. A short, round stick used for stirring porridge, soup, etc., a pot-stick (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Gen.Sc., rare in Ags. where Theevil is the usage. Hence porridge spurtle, spurtle stick. Also used of an instrument for stirring any boiling or molten mass.Mry. 1756 Session Papers, Cramond v. Allan (17 Dec.) 8–9:
Her father would have her make the pottage for supper. . . . She saw her father strike her mother at another time with the spurtle.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 19:
Swords made o' timmer spurtles.
Slg. 1828 Falkirk New Monthly Mag. 154:
She began to stir the kail with a spurtle.
Rnf. 1830 A. Picken Dominie's Legacy III. 195:
He gart the swurd flee out o' my han', as if it had been a parritch spurtle.
Dmf. 1837 Chambers's Jnl. (March) 62:
In these furnaces it is kept in a state of constant agitation for an hour and a quarter; two men attend each, and ply their iron spurtles so assiduously to prevent what a cottage cook would call “knots”.
Sc. 1846 W. Tennant Muckomachy 41:
The spurtle-stick, Wi' meal a' thick.
Lnk. 1864 J. Greenshields Lesmahagow 34:
In remote parts of Scotland where the custom of hand-grinding still exists, the grain is not set fire to, but roasted like coffee beans, by being put into a pot, and constantly stirred with a wooden spatula or “spurtle”.
Abd. 1890 Bon-Accord (4 Jan.) 7:
Ghillie-Callum wis neist danced by Maister Mackenzie across twa spintles [sic] 'cause swoords cudna be gotten in the haill burgh for love nor money.
Sc. 1897 L. Keith My Bonny Lady viii.:
She had the spurtel out of His hand and was drifting the meal between her own white fingers.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xxvi.:
That's the bonny spirtle! . . . to stir the porridge!
em.Sc. 1926 H. Hendry Poems 109:
Yon was the spurkle steered saut in oor parritch.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song ii.:
She thought maybe some strange dog was among them and caught up a spurtle and ran out to the close.
Ork. 1938 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 377:
A'll tak' me spurkle across the side o' thee lug.
Abd. 1969 Buchan Observer (7 Jan.) 4:
I needna tak' a spurtle; the spurtle's oot o' date It's cracklin' things in packeties that fill the fairmer's plate.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 4:
Three of her children, Hugh, Will and Maggie, had been drawn in from the yard by the smell of cooking and the familiar sound of spirtle stirring broth.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 36:
Or she used dripping and a little sausage meat instead, and the tatties were turned into stovies. The simple wooden chapper and spurtle were the tools that worked the magic, and the results were served up on the faded azure background of willow-patterned bowls and plates and dishes ...
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 10:
firmly insert the spurtle an gie hit a guid shauchlin

Used transf. in combs. and phr.: (1) in spurtles, in smithereens; (2) spurtle-hough, a thin leg like a porridge stick; (3) spurtle leg, = (2), hence ppl.adj. spurtle-legged, having thin legs like porridge sticks (ne., m.Sc. 1971); (4) spurtle shank, = (2) (Ayr. 1971).(1) Bnff. 1827 Aberdeen Star (20 July) 313:
The lave o' the kart a' in spurtles here an there.
(2) Abd. 1817 Garland of Bon-Accord (1886) 5:
That spider-leggit loun, your frien', . . . His spurtle-houghs an' a' that.
(3) Abd. 1882 T. Mair John o' Arnha's Latter-Day Exploits 10:
Nae spurtle-legged flimsy flail.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 101:
I'se no come guid for the consequence Tae 'er spurtle-legs.
Gsw. 1910 H. Maclaine My Frien' 36:
The youngest laddie, wi' his wee bit spurtle legs, is dressed in kilts.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're A' Coortin 42:
Spurkle-leggit, pimple-neckit Jean Clipe.
Abd. 1967 Buchan Observer (7 Feb.) 7:
Wi' his spurtle legs an' queets.
(4) Slg. 1804 “Transforthamus” Poems 80:
Giff his spurtle shanks convey this way His staring banes.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 10:
But this bloomin' hoast is killin', an' my spurtle shanks are sair.

3. A flat-bladed instrument, sometimes forked, for pushing thatching straw into position on a roof, a thatching fork (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 267). Comb. thacking spurkle, theeking-, id. (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 445).Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 114:
Divots or sods, into which oat straw was fixed with an instrument called a theeking spurtle.
Ayr. 1831 McKellar MS. Acct. Bk. (26 Oct.):
To a Thatching Spurtle handle . . . 6d.
Uls. 1951 E. E. Evans Mourne Country 185:
The upper layers of thatch are pushed in with and repairs (“darning”) made with a thatching fork or spurtle.

4. A flat stick or bat for scutching flax (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 424).

5. Transf. usages: (1) a (broad) sword, used jocularly or in disparagement. Comb. spurtle-blade, id. Liter.Ayr. 1793 Burns Capt. Grose v.:
It's tauld he was a sodger bred, . . . But now he's quat the spurtle-blade.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie lxxvi.:
“The spurtle,” as he peevishly called the sword.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 30:
There was a loonie ca'd Tam Teuch Wha gat a spurtle-blade.

(2) in combs. (i) spurtle-grup, glossed as “a pain in the left-side after walking or running, and said to be due to the sudden contraction of its capsule on an enlarged spleen” (Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables Gl. 247). Only in Service, but the phr. to tak the spurtle grup of the knee is recorded without any explanation (Ayr. 1921 T.S.D.C. IV.). Appar. the gen. meaning is a sudden gripping pain or stitch; (ii) spurtle-shot, id. The semantic development is not traced.(i) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 121:
The ither ane had ta'en the spurtle-grup.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 196:
When ane o' the kye had ta'en the spurtle-grup.
(ii) Abd. c.1890 Gregor MSS.:
A child should receive the kidneys of a hare the first kind of flesh to eat. This prevents the child from taking “the spurtle shot,” the sharp pain that strikes one in the side when running or walking fast.

II. v. To stir round; with throwe: to mix in.Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 68:
Ye'll teem oot that brew o' suspeecion ye've spurtled roon this whilie back.
Rxb. 1961 W. Landles Penny Numbers 7:
Grated, or diced and spurtled throwe.

[O.Sc. spurtell, = I. 1., 1528. Cogn. forms are Eng. dial. †spartle, a stirrer, Mid.Eng. spattle, a spatula used in medicine and pharmacy, dial., a wooden spoon or shovel used in baking, Du., Ger., Dan., Swed. spatel, in sim. meanings, all going back by devious routes, and specif. through apothecaries' usage, to Lat. spatula and ultim. to Gr. σπαθη, a flat blade of wood or metal, a sword. The history and distribution of the word in Sc. and n.Eng. suggests immediate orig. in Scand. Cf. for the forms Dan. spartle, Norw. dial. sparkle, to fill holes in plaster, etc., with a spatulate tool.]

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"Spurtle n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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