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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WHURL, n., v. Also whurle; whirl-. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. whorl. Dim. whurlie. whorly. [ʍʌrl]

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a perforated stone or lead disc placed on a spindle as a makeweight to sustain the tension of the yarn while it is being spun, hence whorly-stane, a naturally-perforated stone, which was thought to have magic properties.Wgt. 1878 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 233:
She was just to lay the whorly-stane in the place where she used to keep the butter, cheese, or whatever she wantit, and it wud come frae her son's afore the mornin'.

2. A wheel, pulley or the like in machinery, e.g. on a child's toy-cart (Sc. 1808 Jam.), in the winding gear at a pithead (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 73).Sc. 1829 New Sc. Haggis 371:
The callant and me hae been making up the mill accounts. The whurlies hae only run about a tow-mont, and she has fairly cleared a' the outlay.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell Psalms lxxxiii. 13:
Mak' thame as ane whurle, as the stibble afore the wund.
Lnk. 1948 J. G. Johnston Come fish with me 115:
It wis a gey sair warstle tae get up an' doon. I could hae dune wi' the whorlies and a cage.

3. In various transf. usages of anything resembhng the above: (1) in comb. whorle-bane, the condyle or knob of the hip-bone (Fif. 1825 Jam.); a vertebra. Cf. Eng.†whirl-bone, id.; (2) appar. a rounded lumpy piece of oatcake; (3) a variety of apple, a pippin (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); (4) a convoluted pattern made for ornamentation with pipeclay on a flagstone floor. Adj. whorley.(1) Dmf. 1816 Scots Mag. (May) 349:
Jointed wi' the whirl-banes o' a watersnake.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin v.:
My whorlebane got sic an ill-faur'd dirl that it stounded withoot devald for the next sax weeks.
(2) Ags. 1822 A. Balfour Farmers' Three Daughters I. 194:
“We'll get the whorlies eaten brawly.” Saying this, Jack snatched up a cake, and went out.
(4) sm.Sc. 1923 R. W. Mackenna Bracken and Thistledown (1929) 143:
She made him “tak' off his dirty feet” before walking across the virginal whiteness of her “whorley” floor when he came in from his work.
sm.Sc. 1928 R. W. Mackenna Rowan Tree (1933) 313:
The flagged floor, all ornate with white whorlies.

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"Whurl n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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