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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.

STELL, v.1, n.1 Also †still, stile; stele; erron. stall (Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc. 1 XIII. 406). Sc. usages. [stɛl]

I. v. 1. To place in position. to set up, fix, plant. prop, mount (Lnk., sm.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1745 S.C. Misc. (1841) 362:
The rebels marched out of town . . . pitched at the Bridge of Don, stiled their cannon.
Sc. 1791 Lads of Wamphray in Child Ballads No. 184. vii.:
They stelld the broked cow and branded bull.
Sc. 1803 Scott Minstrelsy III. 222:
They stell'd their cannons on the height.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
To stell a gun, to point it, to take aim.
Kcb. 1850 Royal Caled. Curling Club Annual 209:
Firm in the North the wun' is stell't, The lift is calm and blue.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 28:
[They] stell't it up with props.
Kcb. 1905 Crockett Cherry Ribband ix.:
I can stell you all up in a row against the dyke, and make an end in two volleys of musketry.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde & Tweed 92:
But still we stan'! And stelled upon the hills We rest the hairt.
sm.Sc. 1923 R. W. Mackenna Bracken and Thistledown iii.:
Willie Shed was sleeping, stelled up against a pillar.
Rs.1 1929:
Stile the stooks on twelve o'clock.

Deriv. stellum, a bar of wood set athwart a sailing boat immediately in front of the mast with a notch into which the mast is clipped for support (Fif. 1951). The form is prob. orig vbl.n. stellin altered after helm.Fif. 1884 G. Bruce Reminiscences 233:
He was sitting on the lee bow, with his feet under the “ stellum. ”

2. Specif. used absol., refl. or with foot, feet: to brace or stay oneself by planting the feet firmly against some immovable object (wm., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1971).Sc. c.1796 Merry Muses (1911) 50:
He stelled his foot against a stane.
Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 354:
When a horse “stells” on the road.
Abd. 1900 Weekly Free Press (18 Aug.):
I stell't mysel' back in the gig.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters i.:
The horses were forced to stell themselves back against the heavy propulsion of the carts behind.
Kcb. 1911 Crockett Smugglers ii.:
He set his feet and “stelled” back.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A got my feet stelled.

3. To keep (the eyes) rigid, to set (them) in a fixed stare, to fix (the eyes) (Lth. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; wm., sm., s.Sc. 1971).Slk. 1817 Hogg Tales (1874) 150:
His een war stelled in his head.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 31:
His een's stilled in his head.
Lnk. 1887 A. Wardrop Mid-Cauther Fair 201:
Noo dinna stell yer een sae.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 186:
On her our Troker stell'd his e'e.
Lth. 1917 A. Dodds Lothian Land 69:
Wi' his een stelled tae the gumlie lift.
wm.Sc. 1925 D. Mackenzie Macmorro's Luck 33:
That fearsome image an' his wide stell't een.

4. To halt, to bring to a standstill, make immobile (wm., sm.Sc. 1971).Kcb. 1896 Crockett Cleg Kelly xxix.:
The hale traffic . . . was stelled for a quarter of an hour.
s.Sc. 1935 Border Mag. (Feb.) 21:
The sheuchs waur stellin' the cairt wheels waesomely.
s.Sc. 1962 Southern Annual 18:
Stell that back door and dinna hae it keep bang-bang-bangin'.

5. To load (a ship) evenly, to trim the cargo in (a ship). Hence stelling, †stelline, ballast.Mry. 1708 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 56:
To 300 dales for bugdaline, stelline, and bulkes-head.
Ags. 1756 Session Papers, Rynd v. Kempt (13 Dec.) 7:
He saw several Quantities of the said Barley taken out of the Ship's Hold, and put in Bags, and which Quantities were taken out, in order to get the Ship stelled; and the Deponent helped to stell the Ship accordingly, and he put in the Barley again, into the said Ship.
Sc. 1760 Session Papers, Fraser v. Meason (12 June) 26:
Unless Mr Fisher would give him Stelling of new wherewith to stell his Ship.

6. To place a stell-net across (a river) to catch salmon. See II. 1.Dmf. 1812 J. Singer Agric. Dmf. 605:
Stelling the water, by placing nets across it to prevent the free run of the fish up the river.

7. To put (sheep) in a stell or open stone-walled enclosure (see II. 2.); also fig. to corner, shut in, coop up, specif. in chess or draughts: to checkmate, to hem (one's opponent) in, to block (Ayr. 1928).Dmf. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 415:
The shepherds therefore stelled their sheep.
Ayr. 1925 Ayr Advertiser (29 Oct.):
Stelled a' yer charms frae aff life's hill.
s.Sc. 1937 Border Mag. (March) 48:
Sweer-shift Roddy, thouchtfu' body, Moves oot a croonheid man To try an' box Kinneldoddie An' stell 'im if he can.

8. intr. (1) To come to a standstill, to stop (Dmf. 1865 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. 56; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Kcb. 1971).

(2) of the eyes: to become fixed in a stare of astonishment, horror, etc., to pop, stand out (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Lnk., Kcb., Dmf., Rxb. 1971).Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xi.:
John's eyes stelled in his head.
Ags. 1897 Bards Ags. (Reid) 134:
His very een wi' horror stelled.

II. n. 1. A place in a river over which nets are drawn to catch salmon (Sc. 1808 Jam.); rarely, an enclosure of salmon nets in a river (see 1793 quot.). Combs. ebb-stell, flood-stell, stell-fishery, -fishing, -net (see quots.).Sc. 1707 Fountainhall Decisions (1759) II. 363:
Five stell salmond fishings in the river of Findhorn.
Sc. 1707 Morison Decisions Suppl. IV. 660:
The said stells, which are deep ponds, pools, and ditches in the river, where the salmon haunting are taken in nets spread beneath them.
Mry. 1758 Session Papers, Petition Sir W. Dunbar (24 Feb.) 2, 4:
The Nature of these Stell Fishings is by a Coble and Net, not exceeding 25 Fathoms, wrought by two Persons, one upon the Shore holding one End of the Net, and the other in the Coble holding the other End of the Net. These Fishings can only be used till about half Flood, which is called the Flood Stell, and from half Flood till about low Water, which is called the Ebb Stell. . . . That Species of Salmon Fishing, called a Stell Fishing, by five Stells, or Seats, in said River.
Abd. 1775 Abd. Journal (4 Sept.):
One of the Stell-nets belonging to the Raik of Dee.
Sc. 1793 Morison Decisions 12827:
At one place there was an opening left in the nets, by which the salmon were allowed to get into a stell, i.e. a complete enclosure of stakes and close nets, from which the salmon could escape only at the place of their entry.
Nai. 1798 Grant & Leslie Survey Mry. 188:
Mr. Brodie of Brodie has also a still-fishery on the east side of the river.
Bwk. 1800 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 24:
There are four different modes of catching salmon usually employed at present, viz. the sweep, the stell, the bobb, and the hanging nets.
sm.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
Stell-net, Still-net. A net stretched out by stakes into. and sometimes qnite across, the channel of a river. This net is much used in Solway Firth. The fishes are catched in it by the neck.
Inv. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (7 June) 3:
These Fishings, and the Stells will be Let at expiry of this season.
Per. 1898 Glasgow Herald (19 May) 6:
The action was dismissed as regards stell nets.

2. (1) Also stale. An open enclosure made of dry-stone walling and variously shaped but gen. circular with an opening at one side to admit sheep for shelter on a hill-side (s.Sc. 1808 Farmer's Mag. (Dec.) 473: Sc. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 726: wm., sm. and s.Sc. 1971).  Comb. stell-dike, the wall of a stell. Adv. Stellwards, towards a stell.Rxb. 1747 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club XI. 110:
Making a stell or shelter for sheep.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 194:
Stells (that is, circular spaces of area, proportioned to the size of the flock, enclosed by a five or six feet wall of stone or sod, without any roof) were the primeval shelters invented by our forefathers.
Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck xvii.:
Providence had just been like a stell dike to the goodman.
s.Sc. 1825 Jam.:
This enclosure is meant for sheep especially during the nights of winter, generally of a circular form, smaller in size but with higher walls than a fold. They now begin to cover them for greater warmth. Sometimes the composite word shelter-stell is used. A sorting-stell is one into which sheep are driven for being separated from each other. It is generally constructed so as to contain some interior divisions.
Bwk. 1842 Proc. Bwk. Nat. Club (1849) 66:
A stele (pr. stale) is described as a place where cattle can be put for shelter and security during the evening, so that they will not wander. It differs from a fauld in not being enclosed.
Lnk. 1880 W. Grossart Shotts 234:
The circular enclosure used by shepherds at certain seasons was called a “stell”.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 199:
Flocks were dri'en to stell or fauld.
Dmf. 1903 J. L. Waugh Thornhill 123:
Half-“skloyin,” half-walking, as was his wont, he again moves stellwards.
Rxb. 1917 Kelso Chronicle (9 March) 4:
Every cut of sheep should have a rick of hay to themselves on their own ground, at or near a stell.
Bwk. 1947 B.B.C. Broadcast (5 Oct.):
In stormy weather each heft has a stell to itself to shelter in — a circular enclosure about 15 yards across and 6 feet high of dry stone.
s.Sc. 1963 Abd. Press and Jnl. (29 Aug.):
An improved circular “stell” of sheet steel — designed from the old dry-stone dyke round stells.
Arg. 1992:
Stale: a circular shelter for sheep, used for twinning lambs.
Sc. 1994 Scotsman 26 Mar 8:
Lambing is worse than the bad fire. As it approaches you will find hill shepherds cowering in the stells, their coats drawn over their heads and their nails gnawed to the first joint.

(2) A clump or plantation of trees used as a shelter for sheep (Gall. c.1780 Walker MSS.). Comb. fir-stell.Slk. 1794 T. Johnston Agric. Slk. 18:
Stells, or clumps of fir, for shelter to the sheep in storms.
Rxb. 1901 W. Laidlaw Poetry 2:
The cuckoo in the old fir-stell.

3. (1) A prop, brace or support, a wooden stay used in mining for underpinning a roof (Fif., Lth., Lnk., Ayr. 1971). Comb. Stell-shot, “a shot taken by one who rests his gun on some object for greater accuracy of aim ” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Kcb. 1971).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 438:
The stell o' the stack, the stick which props the stack.
Wgt. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 29:
Draw the stells and it'll come down soon enough.
Lnk. 1942:
A coal cutting machine draws itself forward on the same principle; a cable from its winch is made fast to a piece of wood or iron jammed between roof and floor and this is known as the “machine stell.”

(2) In Curling: the notches in the ice in which the feet were placed to prevent the player slipping when delivering the stone (Dmf. 1825 Jam.; Sc. 1911 B. Smith “ShillingCurler 11); later the Crampet or iron foot-rest which replaced these (Kcb. 1956).

4. A halt, hold-up, stoppage, period of waiting. Cf. I. 4.m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 49:
The lang stell that wechts the soul And tooms the bluid.

[O.Sc. stelle, fishing-place in a river, c.1200, stell, to place, post, 1475, O.E. stellen, to lay down, establish.]

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"Stell v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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