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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STEEL, n.1 Sc. usages:

1. As in Eng. Dim. steelie, a boy's marble made of steel, gen. a ball-bearing put to this purpose. Gen.Sc. Combs.: (1) steelie-flint [ < steel-and-flint], a form of hide-and-seek played on dark nights in which the pursued struck a flint with a steel to emit sparks and indicate their approximate whereabouts (Fif. 1900); ¶(2) steelrife, hard, relentless, inflexible. See -Rife; (3) the Steelmen, a sporting journalists' nickname for Motherwell Football Club, Motherwell being the centre of the steel industry in Scotland (Sc. 1964 J. T. R. Ritchie Singing Street 120).Mry. 1957 People's Jnl. (6 July):
If you get me his autograph I'll gie you six ‘steelies'!
Abd. 1958 Press and Jnl. (22 Sept.):
Monkey-chippers and glessers and, aristocrat of them all, steelies.
Edb. 1993 Irvine Welsh Trainspotting (1994) 28:
It's one ay these days when ma hormones are shooting aroond ma body like a steelie in a pinball machine, and all these mental lights and sounds are flashing in ma heid.
Sc. 1996 Kendric Ross Classic Children's Games from Scotland 109:
a metal ball-bearing of any size that could be used in bools.
(2) Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck x.:
The rackle hand o' steelrife power.

2. A needle. Only dial. in Eng.Edb. 1839 W. McDowall Poems 87:
'Twere better she had steek'd her gab Wi' steel an' thread.

3. A steel-yard, weighing bar (Sc. 1904 E.D.D.; Per., Kcb. 1971). Also in Nhb. dial.

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"Steel n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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