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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.

TANGLE, n., adj, v. Also tang(e)l (Sh.); taingle, and in sense I. 4. tankle. [tɑŋl, s.Sc. + teŋl; Per. tɑŋkl]

I. n. 1. Seaweed, esp. the larger varieties of Fucus, specif. Laminaria digitata or Laminaria saccharina, which are edible (Sc. 1799 Trans. Highl. Soc. I. 11.; Ork. 1845 T. Edmonston Flora Sh. 54; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 269; Uls. 1953 Traynor Gl.). Gen.Sc.; the long stalk and strap-like fronds of this (Ags. 1813 J. Headrick Agric. Ags. App. B. 35; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.). Gen.Sc.Sc. 1721 A Man and his Mare 14:
With Dilse and Tangles, which in Store grew, In South Sea, tho' no Man the Shore knew.
Per. 1737 Ochtertyre Ho. Bk. (S.H.S.) 25:
For dulce and tangle . . . 1d.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 224–5:
His hoary head with water-lilies crown'd, His manly leg with garter-tangle bound.
Ork. 1806 P. Neill Tour 41:
Drying and burning the great tangle or red-ware during winter.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 199:
I soum'd to a black rock, an threw a tangle owre my head, keeping my body unner water, — sae they searcht for me in vain.
Ork. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 65:
Its long stalk, or “tangle”, is the most valuable part of the plant for the manufacture of kelp.
Edb. 1881 J. Smith Jenny Blair 56:
“Dulse an' tangle”, “Wulks an' buckies”.
Sh. 1900 Shetland News (6 Oct.):
Whin da run gengs oot try an' get haud o' da tangle.
wm.Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (May) 89:
Lobsters never leave the shore the whole year round, only some of the time they are in the tangle.
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 23:
Buchaners, on the warpath, swingin' tangles roon their heids.
Ork. 1989 Scotsman (3 Jun) 21:
Though rhythmic, the work is slow and painstaking. A fit man might gather 500 tangles in an hour from a well-stocked shore, especially if the sea has klokked them for him.
Ork. 1990 Herald (30 Jun):
Back in North Ronaldsay the tangles, as the drying seaweed bundles are known, lie along the low wall awaiting collection by Alginate Industries;...
Sh. 1999 Laughton Johnston in Myra Sanderson Heritage Scotland Vol. 16 No. 2 20:
... the breathtaking stillness and twilight midnight of midsummer is reflected in Unst's rugged coastal cliffs and sandy beaches, winter seaduck and summering tirricks (terns), winter tangles (seaweed) and summer flowers and in the very character of the Shetland people themselves.

Combs.: (1) ca(i)rn-tangle, = (2), of which it is appar. a corruption (Abd., Kcd. 1825 Jam.); (2) carl-tangle, = 1., esp. Laminaria digitata (Kcd. 1825 Jam.; Bnf. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 22). See Carle, n.1, 4.; (3) sea-tangle, = 1. Also attrib. = covered with tangle; (4) tangle-bree, the juice or sap of sea-weed. See Bree, n.1; (5) tangle-fish, the pipe-fish, Syngnathus acus (Sc. 1859 W. Yarrell Fishes II. 400), from its being freq. found under tangle; (6) tanle-weed, = 1.; (7) tangle-wreck, id.(3) Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss Hags lii.:
Certain ill-set persons were carrying away sea-tangle from his foreshore.
Sc. 1937 E. Muir Journeys & Places 11:
The black sea-tangle heaches.
(4) Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 66:
The cry o' whaup at the watter-mou', An' the smell o' tangle-bree.
(6) m.Lth. 1870 J. Lauder Warblings 37:
Whaur the stanes are green wi' moss, And the tangle weeds are plenty.
(7) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 165:
Plenisht with nought but Shells and Tangle-Wreck.

2. Fig.: a tall, lanky person (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., n.Sc. 1972).Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 22:
She's but a tangle, tho' shot out she be.
Ags. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston xxix.:
I mind him a lang tangle o' a prentice callan.
m.Lth. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller iii.:
The misses are useless tangles.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 11:
That lang, dirty, hungry, scrawpit-lookin' tangle o' a chap.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxiii.:
Een o' them wis a thin tangle o' a chiel.

3. A golf club with a long slender shaft.Sc. 1891 J. G. M'Pherson Golf & Golfers 52:
Longer and suppler clubs, though not “tangles.”

4. An icicle (w.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 5: Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Bwk. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 311, Per. 1928, tankle; ne.Sc., Ags., Knr., Fif. 1972). See also Ice, 2. (7).Sc. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife (1803) 322:
An iron-stone, which in its concave produceth much vitriol, this dropping falls down like tangles and impregnates the water.
Sc. 1775 Weekly Mag. (26 Jan.) 208:
The tangles lang hang frae the roof.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 77:
Frae ilka buss, the tangles gay Hang skinklin' in the mornin' ray.
Per. 1888 R. Ford Glentoddy 36:
His taes were as cauld as tankles.
Ags. 1945 S. A. Duncan Chronicles Mary Ann 41:
It wiz a nicht o' bitter black frost; ootside the tangles hung a yaird lang.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iii.:
Naething noo bit tangles abeen yer heid an, slidder aneth yer feet.

II. adj. Long and limp, lank and loose-jointed (Fif., Slk. 1825 Jam.), applied to one whose body is relaxed due to extreme fatigue (Slk. 1825 Jam.).Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) I. 291:
She was perfectly weak and tangle, her limbs being scarcely able to bear her weight.

Derivs.: (1) tangle-backit, having a long, lank, flexible back. Cf. tankard-backet s.v. Tanker; (2) tanglelike, lanky, gangling (Fif. c.1850 Peattie MS.); (3) tangleness, flaccidity of opinion, indecision, wavering; (4) tanglewise, long and slender (Lnk. 1825 Jam.); (5) tanglie, -y, id.(1) Sc. 1896 L. Keith Indian Uncle x.:
Ye were aye yin o' the tangle-backit kind.
(3) Slk. 1819 Hogg Jacob. Relics I. 102:
Donald's the callan that brooks nae tangleness.
(5) Edb. 1812 P. Forbes Poems 57:
An' tho' our tribes deficient far, For tanglie taperin' tails.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 141:
A tangly tappin for a rod He in his nervous right hand claspit.

III. v. In vbl. n. tangling, Gathering of seaweed from seashore.Sc. 1989 Scotsman (3 Jun) 21:
One of the attractions of tangling is that it is environmentally friendly. The tangle is a self-renewing resource and during the seeding, growing and delivery process needs no help from man.

[O.Sc. see-tangle, = 1., 1536, Norw. dial. tångel, tongul, O.N. þngull, the stalk of tangl. Deriv. of Tang, n.1 It is somewhat uncertain whether I. 4. is the same word though the semantic development from similarity of appearance is fairly plausible. O.Sc. tangle, icicle, 1634. The form tankle shows Gael. phonetic influence. In II. there has phs. been influence also from Eng. tangle, a complicated interlacing, anything loose and dangling.]

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"Tangle n., adj., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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