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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.

STALE, n.1, v.1 Also stail(l), †steal; ¶stell (by confusion with Stell, n.1). [stel]

I. n. 1. A foundation in gen.; specif. in comb. land-stale, the foundation of a pier of a bridge. See also Land, I. 1. Combs. (34).Sc. 1723 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 313:
The weather bridge of Ardoch which consists of four land stales of stone covered with planks of oak and flags of stone.
Sc. 1725 W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 102:
A strong timber bridge with stone land steats [sic].

2. The foundation of a corn or hay-stack, a layer of stones, brushwood or the like on which the sheaves are built (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Lth., Ayr. 1923–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Per., Slg., em.Sc. (b), Lnk., Rxb. 1971). Comb. stale-sheaf, one of the sheaves of corn laid on the foundation of the stack (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Rnf. 1763 Session Papers, Porterfield v. Neilson (3 Aug.) 8:
The Ends of the Stale or Bottom Sheaves of the said two Stacks were likeways rotten.
Sc. c.1800 The Elfin Knight in Child Ballads (1882) I. 19:
Ye maun stack it in the sea, And bring the stale hame dry to me.
Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I. 391:
A sheaf is first placed upright on its butt end, as nearly as possible in the centre of the stell.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 91:
They came to the stail, or bottom of the stack.
w.Lth. 1868 H. Shanks Poems 129:
Get your bossens a' ready, your stales a' prepared.

3. The original hive in a colony of bees from which swarms have come off (Sc. 1808 Jam., staill). Cf. E.M.E. stall, id., and see etym. note.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 94:
A bee-man lang the chiel had been, Keep'd mony a winter stale.

II. v. To build (a stack) on a foundation.m.Lth. 1795 G. Robertson Agric. M. Lth. 94:
The stacks are generally staled on a layer of furze, thorns, old straw, stone.

[Mid.Du. stael, M.L.Ger. stale, Fris. stael, the base of a dike or embankment, Du. dial. staal, id., the foundation of a hay- or corn- stack, prob. orig. cogn. with Stale, v.2 Cf. Stathel. I. 3. may be a different word. Cf. Du. bijenstal, a stock of bees. O.Sc. has stale in this sense, 1505, in sense 2., 1579, landstale, 1529.]

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"Stale n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 May 2024 <>



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