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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SWABBLE, v., n., adj. Also swable. [swɑbl]

I. v. To beat, thrash, switch with a cane, belt or the like (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poet. Gl.; Rxb. 1825 Jam., 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1971.). Hence swabblin, a thrashing, comb. swabblin stick, a stick for beating one, a cudgel (Jam., Watson).Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 80:
Herds exert their muirland lore Wi' swablin' sticks a' sweatin'.
Rxb. c.1811 Vagabond Songs (Ford 1904) 312:
And hie has ta'en the pleugh-staff, And cam' and swabbled mie.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xiii.:
Andra an' me 'ill be oot an' gie them as soon' a swabblin as they've had.

II. n. 1. A beating, thrashing.Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 128:
Ye druken habble While I hae breath, as ye deserve, Ye's get a swable.

2. A long pliant stick (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Rxb. 1971): fig. a tall thin person (Lnk., Slk. 1825 Jam.). Adj. swabbly, of trees, etc.: pliant, supple.Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man II. 243:
Take care o' that lang swabble Charlie.
Sc. 1832 Chambers's Jnl. (Aug.) 219:
Lang swabbles o' chields.

3. An unsteady motion (Rxb. 1971).

III. adj. Loose, shaking, unsteady (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein).

[See note to Swab, v.1 and cf. L.Ger. s(ch)wabbeln, to splash from side to side, like water in a basin, to flap, sway, Eng. dial. swab, to sway.]

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"Swabble v., n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Jun 2023 <>



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