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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

WALL, n., v. Also waal, wal (Sc. 1870 R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 105; Sh. 1906 T. P. Ollason Spindrift 42, 1947 New Shetlander 1. 10), wa'l (Sc. 1928 T. Alexander Psalms 12), waul (Kcb. 1913 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 82; Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (4 March)), woll (s.Sc. 1935 Border Mag. 130), wul-, and in dim. form wallie. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. well. [Gen.Sc. wɑ:l, wǫ:l]

I. n. 1. A natural spring of water which forms a pool or stream (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 274). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc., now only arch. or dial. in Eng. Freq. in proverbial phrs. as in 1786 and Sh. 1914 quots.Peb. 1775 J. Armstrong Tweedale 107:
There is a remarkable fine spring, called Geddes's wall, near the top.
ne.Sc. 1786 Edb. Ev. Courant (12 Dec.):
The can that gangs aft to the wall Will crack at last.
Sc. a.1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 61:
Tak me to yon wall fair; You'll wash my bluidy wounds o'er and o'er.
w.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 II. 66:
A noted well or fountain of water which went by the name of the Roman well, pronounced Scotticé wall.
Ags. 1866 R. Leighton Poems (1869) 326:
Sit by the wallie and dip in your feet.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 336:
A fine spring wallie.
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 61:
They gaed ap aboot the waal o' Stennarian.
Sh. 1914 Angus Gl. 170:
Ye kanna tak clean watter ut av a dirty wal.
Fif. 1914 Rymour Club Misc. II. 137:
They're at the waal washin', and they canna come in.
Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's v. 15:
Frae the waters in-by yer ain waal.
Ags. 1932 A. Gray Arrows 62:
Fornent the East Port Wallie.
Abd. 1962 H. Diack Boy in Village 67:
What we called “wallies”, little stone-encircled pools of water fed by a trickle of water from a pipe sticking out of the bank at the foot of which the “wallie” was sunk. A few of them were “bubblin' wallies” in which the water bubbled up from below.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 32:
Reengin the roads wi geets an a tyke at her heel,
Gabbin laich-in tull hersel an wadgin her nieve
At her ain face glowerin up throwe Strypie's waal.

2. Specif., a miraculous or mineral spring, freq. in place-names assigned to a particular saint. Deriv. †waller, one who frequents a medicinal well or spa.Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb i.:
Johnny Gibb was preparing to set out on his annual journey to “the walls at Macduff.”
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 20:
As muckle's slock the gizzened mou' O' ae damned “Waller.”
Kcb. 1913 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin' 82:
Travellin' aboot abroad for the purpose o' dookin' themsel's i' an' boozlin' awa at drumlie wauls.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 147:
It was called the “Kinker steen Wall”; and children who had whooping-cough were sent by their parents to take a drink from this well.

3. A drinking-fountain (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne., em.Sc. (a), wm. and sm.Sc., Rxb. 1973); a water stand-pump (Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc. 1973); a cold-water tap at a sink (ne.Sc., em.Sc. (a), Lth., wm.Sc. 1973).Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. iv.:
She was mobbet, and the wells pumped upon her by the enraged multitude.
Sc. 1876 S. R. Whitehead Daft Davie 229:
I washed my face at a pump waal in the yard.
Abd. 1928 A. Black Three Sc. Sketches 24:
Did ye notice I hid a wall in my bedroom?
Ags. 1945 S. A. Duncan Chronicles Mary Ann 35:
The wallie at my stair-heid sink had bustit.
Abd. 1960 Stat. Acc.3 397:
Nae oot-gaun on an ill day t' th' wall for water.
Ags. 1970:
She washed it in het water, but she jist took water frae the well tae syne it up.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 114:
Ilka day she howders wi a sey tae the wal
In the yaird ootbye.
Rnf. 1993 History on your Doorstep, The Reminiscences of the Ferguslie Elderly Forum 3:
I can always remember children telling me: "Do you know, we've got 8 wells!" and I said "How's that?" "Four in the kitchen and 4 in the bathroom". We just had one well which only ran cold water.

4. A tide-race in the sea, a Roust, q.v. (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1973 ).Ork. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork. 141–2:
In the Firth are several places remarkable for their danger, as the Wells of Swinna. — They are like unto the whirle-pooles, turning about with such a violence, that if any boat come nigh unto them, they will suck or draw it in, and then turneth it about, until it be swallowed up: but these wells are only dangerous in a calm, and sea-men or fishers, to prevent their danger thereby, use when they come near them to cast in an oar, barrel or such like thing, on which the wells closing, they safely pass over.
Ork. 1750 M. MacKenzie Orcades 5:
Happening, in a Boat, to pass within twenty yards of one of their Whirlpools or Wells.
Ork. 1821 Scott Pirate xxxviii.:
The wells of Tuftiloe can wheel the stoutest vessel round and round, in despite of either sail or steerage.

5. Gen. in dim. form wallie, a discharge of urine. Phr. to pee a wallie, to urinate, freq. used in imper. to coax a child to make water (n.Sc. 1973).

6. Combs.: (1) wall-clearer, a water-spider (see Clearer) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (2) wall-ee, well-e(y)e, walee, wulee, a water-logged place in a bog from which a spring rises (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcb., Uls. 1929; Per. 1950); in gen., a spring, a well (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 29; Cai., Abd., em. and wm.Sc., Wgt., Slk. 1973); fig. a source. See Ee, n., 2. (2) (d). Pl. wallees, -een ; (3) wall-girse, -grass, water-cress, Nasturtium officinale (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Abd. 1973) but ? in 1784 quot. Combs. horse-well-grass, = (7) below and see Horse, n., 2. (53), wall-girse kail, walghers-, water-cress (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 206; Abd. 1973). The form girse is phs. orig. a corruption of kerse (see (7) below); (4) wall-heid, a spring which feeds a boggy piece of ground (Lnk. 1825 Jam.; Bwk. 1849 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club 352); (5) well-houker, one who digs wells, used fig. in quot. of Calvin whose doctrines are the source of Scottish Presbyterian theology. Cf. Burns Twa Herds v.; (6) wallink, brooklime, Veronica beccabunga (Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants 46; Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. XI. 54; Slg., Dmf., Uls. 1886 B. and H.; Gall. 1905 E.D.D.; Ayr. 1912 D. McNaught Kilmaurs 312; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Dmf. 1973). Also in n.Eng. and Ir. dial. The second element represents Mid.Eng. lemeke, O.E. hleomoc, Eng. -lime, the name of the plant; (7) wall-kerse, -cress, = (3) (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Obs. in Eng. exc. n. dial. See Kerse; (8) wall-raik, erron. -raib, weeds which grow round a spring, chiefly sphagnum (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.) or algae (Abd. 1973). Also in forms -rae (Abd. 1905 E.D.D., which also defines it as “green growth on damp walls,” by confusion with Wa, n.), -rail (Abd. 1917). The second element is somewhat doubtful, poss. of various origins, cf. Wrack, n., O.E. raȝu, lichen; (9) wall-ream, the first draught of water taken from a well on New-Year's morning. See 7. (2) below and Ream, n., 2. (7), Cream, n., (2); (10) well-shanker, a digger of wells, a well-sinker (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam., s.v. Shanker. See Shank, v., 5.; (11) wall-shot, the spot from which a spring issues; (12) well-strand, a streamlet from a spring (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.). See Strand, n.2; (13) well-stripe, id. See Stripe, n.2; (14) wall-water, as in Eng., water taken from a well. Cf. water-water s.v. Water. Comb. and phr. wall-water-waik (Cai. 1966), as weyk as wall water (Abd. 1973), very weak; (15) wall-wesher, = (1) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; sm.Sc., Dmf. 1973).(2) Abd. 1754 R. Forbes Journal 25:
A stirkie that had staver'd into a well-eye.
Rxb. 1762 Session Papers, Waugh v. Carre (28 Oct.) 21:
He never saw or heard of a water-spring there or wallee.
Gall. c.1780 J. Walker MSS. (Edb. Univ. Lib.):
[A] well eye, where a spring issues, but instead of running off, spreads thro' the soil and heaves up the turff to a considerable extent.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 194:
To learn him mair sense than to gang intill an open well-ee.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxxv.:
The cause o' our national decay, and agricultural distress, come a'thegither frae another well-ee.
Ags. 1848 W. Gardiner Flora Frf. 72:
The boggy sources of alpine springs and rivulets. Such a spot is termed a “well-ee,” and is generally filled with mosses and flowering plants peculiar to marshes.
Abd. 1865 G. MacDonald Alec Forbes xxix.:
The pits o' water an' the waleen on ilka han'.
Dmb. 1868 J. Salmon Gowodean 77:
I found you, Tam, and that's nae yester tale . . . Stuck in a wulee like a stock o' kail.
Sc. 1871 P.H. Waddell Psalms xxvi. 9:
For wi' thee is the wa'l-ee o' life.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xxiii.:
The oily bubbles rising oot o' the black glossy glaur o' the wall-e'e.
Arg. 1934:
Whan I got the laan furst it was naethin but a wallee.
Sc. 1951 R. J. Drummond Lest We forget 87:
Dr Mair with a countryman's instinct located a “waal ee” for a thirsty crowd on the side of Ben Cleuch.
Abd. 1990 Stanley Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 119:
It wis a very deep and dangerous bog. It wis a great muckle walee and it wis aa fenced aff in case sheep and cettle wid sink intae it and droon; and there wis aye a gray mist louping ower it, and a strange spicy savour lingered roon aboot it.
(3) Sc. 1784 A. Wight State of Husbandry III. 636:
A plant he calls well-grass, a dwarfish kind of sprat.
Bnff. 1929 Banffshire Jnl. (17 Sept.) 2:
I hiv hed on a gweed walghers kail poultice.
(4) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xv.:
The charger on which he was mounted plunged up to the saddle-girths in a ‘well-head', as the springs are called which supply the marshes.
Sc. 1884 T. Speedy Sport in Highlands 299:
Extensive unfrozen marshes, abounding in ‘well-heads'.
(5) Ayr. 1824 A. Crawford Tales Grandmother 230:
The doctrine o' that German well-houker, Johnny Calvin.
(6) Arg. a.1850 in Colville (1909) 115:
Bring hickery-pickery — bring wallink, Droshachs, to sooth my pain!
Wgt. 1878 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 44:
They rammed it [a child] full of tormentil and well-ink, and all sorts of herbs.
(7) Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (July) 403:
Wall-cresses and water-purpie, gathered from the neighbouring ditches and sold as a spring sallad.
(11) wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 501:
I had nae doubt but her nest was about the wall-shot up there.
(12) s.Sc. c.1800 Braes o Yarrow in Child Ballads No. 214 L. xvi.:
She washed his wounds in yon well-strand.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 16:
The designation of the smallest rill of water is a syke, or a well-strand, if from a spring-well.
Sc. 1870 Lord Randal in Child Ballads No. 12 M. iv.:
“Where got she the four-footed fish?” “She got it down in yon well strand.”
(13) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 139:
About the middle of May the wives set their kirns, milk-spans, and raemikles in the well-stripe to steep.

7. Phrs.: (1) the floor o' the wall, the ream — see Flour, n., 2. (3), Ream, n., 2. (7) and 6. (9) above; (2) wearie's well, wells o' weary, see Weary, n.

II. v. A. Forms: Pr.t. as above, also wale; wa(u)ld; pa.t. wall'd; pa.p. walded, -it, waald, wa(u)ld, wel'd (see etym. note).

B. Usages: 1. To well up as a spring of water (Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; ne.Sc. 1973); to boil up (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also in Eng. dial.

2. tr. (1) To weld, to join metals by means of heat (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Dmf. 1920; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork., n.Sc., Slg., Fif., em.Sc. (b), wm., sm.Sc. 1973). Also in Eng. dial.Sc. 1726 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 156:
Strike iron while it's het, if ye'd have it to wald.
Edb. 1781 Session Papers, Petition J. Johnston (19 Jan.) 17:
The iron bars were not only cut and walded, but were wrought over after being heated.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 109:
We've smiths, to wale you at one heat.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (26 June) 539:
The rest o' the broken links i' the lang rusty cheen o' title coudna be quite sae easily wal'd.
Cai. 1891 D. Stephen Gleanings 136:
The tongue's wauld in the bell.
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS. iii.:
The smiths had a hantle mair o't tae wauld thegidder.

Vbl.n. wallin, waldin in combs. wallin-heat, the degree of heat necessary for welding metals (Cld. 1825 Jam., waldin-; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., waalin-, waldin-; I., n.Sc., Slg., Fif., Lth., Wgt. 1973). Hence fig. of emotion, fever pitch, the heights of passion; waalin-hot, excessively hot (Cai. 1946).Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 196:
Sae here 'twas like a waalin heat, Exchangin words wi' kisses sweet.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 278:
Blacksmiths . . . will not allow them [people suspected of having the evil eye] to stand in their forges when joining or wielding pieces of iron together, as they are sure of loosing the wauling-heat, if such be present.
Cld. 1825 Jam.:
He's in a braw waldin heat for courting.
Knr. 1832 L. Barclay Poems 124:
Love's bellows ne'er puffed up The blazes o' thought To a right wallin' heat.
Abd. 1868 W. Shelley Wayside Flowers 118:
I've blawn the bellows mony a day . . . And when the waldin'-heats cam' out, We ne'er gaed widdershins about.
Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (29 May) 3:
Understanding came on my first attempt to follow the course of a “waalin' heat”.

(2) fig., to join, to unite, to put together; specif., to join in matrimony, to marry.Sh. 1898 Shetland News (10 Dec.):
Doo's wirt Sibbie an' wir Betty baed waald tagedder.
e.Lth. 1902 J. Lumsden Toorle 127:
Waldit and clinkit for life.

3. intr. (1) To become joined, to fuse into one mass, to cake (Sc. 1808 Jam., of coal). Also fig.Per. 1878 R. Ford Hame-Spun Lays 93:
Twa lowin' hearts were wel'd in ane.
Sc. 1915 G. Sinclair Poems 63:
May . . . love an' friendship freely wald Around her ingle.

(2) fig. with to: to comply with, consent to (Fif. 1825 Jam.); with wi: to marry.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 104:
Fy, mother, mind that now ye're auld, And if ye with a younker wald.
Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 103:
Nor shall ye e'er hae cause to rue Ye wall'd wi' me.

[O.Sc. wall, 1367 in place-names, 1500, wol, 1533, a well, lit. and fig., well-ey, 1530, walcarss, 1597, well-grass, 1673, well, to weld, 1513, wall, to unite, 1598. For the a forms cf. North. Mid.Eng. walle,, O.E. (Anglian) wælle, a well, wællan, to boil, bubble up. The vbl. forms in -d as in Eng. weld, derive from pa.p. form of well, wall. The orig. notion of the word is that of boiling, bubbling.]

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"Wall n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2022 <>



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