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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.

THIRL, v.1, n.1 Also thirle, thurl (Mry. 1914 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 25), thorl, and met. form thrill; I.Sc. form tirl. [θɪrl, I.Sc. tɪrl]

I. v. 1. To pierce, bore through, make holes in, perforate (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ‡ne.Sc., Ags. 1972). Also in n.Eng. dial.; to wear (clothes) into small holes (Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 468).Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 20:
Mine [shield] wi' mony a thudd is clowr'd, An' thirl'd sair wi' holes.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 93:
Sick yowls an' yells, as wad hae thirl'd a stane.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 115:
“Be gangin' yer gaets,” cried the man in a rage, “Or save's! but yer heart I'll thrill!”
Abd.4 1931:
Mairch win' wud thirl an ox-horn.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 17:
An daur ye dout that thon's the heid
That round wi jaggie thorn wis thirlt?
Or that on thon fair face the Jews
Their maukit slaivers hurlt?

2. Coal-mining: to cut through (a wall of coal), to make a connection between two workings (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 67). Also in n. Eng. mining usage. Hence thirling, a hole cut from one room or working to another (Ib.).m.Lth. 1767 Session Papers, Petition Earl of Abercorn (30 June) 14:
The wideness of the upsets or thirlings thro' the level stoop.
m.Lth. 1770 Session Papers, State of Process, Henry v. Clerk 110:
A stoop ought to be left of five fathom thickness, and thirled only at the distance of twenty-five fathom, or thereby.
Fif. 1777 Session Papers, Memorial Carron Co. (25 April) 14:
The througher or draw-rooms about ten feet wide, and the thirlings about six or eight feet wide.
e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 130:
If a fall had taken place . . . the thurlings on both sides would be closed.

3. Transf. of weather: to pierce with cold, to be bitterly cold, esp. in ppl.adj. thirlin, bitter, freezing (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.).Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings (1873) 28:
Really this night's thirlin', I never maist fan sic a frost.
Abd. 1879 11 Years at Farm Wk. 11:
It was a keen thirling cold.

4. tr. To pierce or affect with emotion; to thrill (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Now liter.Ayr. 1785 Burns 1st Ep. to J. Lapraik iii.:
It thirl'd the heart-strings thro' the breast, A' to the life.
Lth. 1871 T. Logan Green Glens 53:
A lively spring upon his chanter, That thirl'd their hearts.
Abd. 1963 J. C. Milne Poems 132:
What's better than spielin for thirlin the bleed?

5. intr. To vibrate, quiver, lit. and fig., to pass through with a tingling sensation (Sc. 1808 Jam.), to thrill.Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. ii.:
His words they thirle like music thro' my heart.
Abd. c.1770 J. Paul Up Glenesk (1894) 159:
All my blood with very horror thirled.
Mry. 1810 J. Cock Simple Strains 140:
Syne laughter flew wi' loud ha! ha!'s Gaed thirlin' thro' auld Kettie's wa's.
Sc. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy 199:
Four and twenty broad arrows Were thrilling in his heart.
Clc. 1850 J. Crawford Lays 11:
Thirlin' owre the lea, The lintie sang a lichtsome lilt.
Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 27:
Yon roof-tree, which had sae often dirled As Willie's gladsome voice around it thirled.
Sc. 1932 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 270:
Scorn thirled against his mind.

II. n. 1. A hole or aperture, esp. in a wall (Cai. 1905 E.D.D.). Also in Eng. dial. Hence combs.: (1) thirl-hole, the hole into which the coulter of a plough is inserted (Lnk. 1825 Jam.); (2) thirl-pin, the pivot on which a door or gate turns (see quot.).(2) Cai. 1905 E.D.D.:
In the old cottages the doors had no hinges, but at the ‘hanging side' had a bit of hard wood affixed which ‘played' in hollows cut in the stone sill and lintel. The jamb at this side was merely to prevent draught, and at the ‘meeting' side for the same purposes as now. The name comes from the hollow, not from the pin or projection.

2. A button-hole.Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch vi.:
Three of the buttons have sprung the thorls.

3. A shadow or bar of cloud cutting across the moon or sun, like a hole, considered to be a sign of bad weather (Mry. 1911).

4. Coal-mining: a cut or horizontal passage connecting two rooms or workings (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 67). Also in n. Eng. mining usage.

5. A thrill, the vibrating, trembling sensation caused by intense stimulation of the emotions or nerves. Phr. to play thirl, to tingle, throb.Sc. 1870 A. Hislop Proverbs 34:
An elbuck dirl will lang play thirl.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 226:
Yer sang, my frien', gied me a thirl.
Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar xlii.:
With a thirl of gladness in the words.

[O.Sc. thyrll, to pierce, 1375, a hole, 1513, Mid.Eng. thirl, to pierce, a hole, O.E. þyrel, a hole, þyrlian, to bore. Now only dial. in Eng., which has now adopted the met. form thrill, esp. in fig. senses.]

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"Thirl v.1, n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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