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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BEAL, BEEL, Bail, Bale, Beill, Bael, v., n.1 [bil Sc., Ant.; bèl Mry., U.Bnff., Deeside, e.Per., Fif., I.Sc.; be1l Ags.]

1. v.

(1) intr. To fester; fig. to be filled with pain or remorse. Gen.Sc. and Uls.Sc. (W. H. Patterson Gl.ȳ Ant.ȳ and Dwn. 1880, also Uls.2 1929).Sc. 1705 Wodrow Analecta (Maitland Club) (1842) I. 69:
Weel, Sir, if you be guilty . . . God will, it may be, make your hidden sin beel out at your breast.
Ork. 1929 J. T. S. Leask in Old-Lore Misc., Ork. Sh., etc. IX. ii. 78:
Hid baled lang, an' hid waas amis apin 'im teu for bean sae feulie.
Mry.1 1925:
Bail, to fester; to suppurate.
Bnff.7 1928:
The doctor says ma mither's thoom's gyan ta beel.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 64:
Her heart for Lindy, now began to beal, An' was in hover great, to think him leal.
Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 168:
I'll ne'er forget yon luckless day I drave the graip doun thro' my tae, Oh, hoo it festered, rosed, an' beal'd.

(2) tr. To make sore.Lnk. 1825 Jam.2:
I'll no beill my head about it.

(3)  To be very painful.Gsw. 1962 Bill McGhee Cut and Run 45:
'Ah've heard a hunn'er times the nigh [sic] how it a' startit, an' how it a' finished,' she argued sounding really angry. 'Ma ears are beelin' listenin' tae it.'
Edb. 1991:
Ma heid's beelin.
ne.Sc. 2004 Press and Journal 26 Jul 12:
He wid o been aboot 12 or 13 fan he got es afa beelin in's thoom and the sarest thing he ivver pit up wi.

2. n. A festering sore.Abd.7 1925:
Beel, a festering sore. [The vbl.n. bealin' is more common.]

3. ppl.adjs. (1) bealt, beeled, festered; (2) (i)beelan, beelin', baelin, bealin, festering; (of taste) disgusting (Edb. 2000s). Gen.Sc. and Uls. (ii)  Also bealin. Very angry; in a highly agitated state. (1) Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie I. iii.:
The lass is laid up wi' a bealt thoom.
Uls. 1898 M. B.-S. in E.D.D.:
A beeled finger.
(2) (i) Sc. 1893 W. T. Dennison in Scot. Antiq. VII. 174:
The youngest lass had to stay at home, for she had a beelan (suppurating) foot.
Sc. 1920 D. Rorie The Auld Doctor 16:
He'd stuff for healin' beelin' lugs.
Sh.(D) 1916 Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr Jone 19:
Ye canna sleep soond wi a baelin toom [thumb] tiftin [throbbing].
Ags.9 1926:
A baelin' finger.
Arg.1 1929:
What's the matter with your sister? She hez a bealin thoomb.
Uls.2 1929; Uls. 1931 “Portglenone” in North. Whig and Belfast Post (5 Dec.) 13/2.Sc. 1994 Daily Record 22 Dec 18:
If THEY don't eat the damned things [BR biscuits], how are BR bosses ever going to discover just how beelin' they taste?
(2)(ii) Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 44:
Let the glaikit follow
thir gainterin gowks,
bokin frae brunstane
bealin wi douts.
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 10:
beelin Absolutely furious: 'Mind the aul man dizny get ye - he's beelin the night.' Also used to describe a spot, boil, etc., that is full of pus
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 19:
Ah'm fair beelin'
At no bein' able to say whit Ah'm feelin'.
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 51:
Ma mither wis beelin when the auld man came hame paralitic. My mother was very angry when my father came home drunk.
Gsw. 1988 Scotsman 28 Feb 12:
"Ats right hen, so it is, nae wunner the Embra foaks is aw beelin"
Edb. 1989:
Ah wis beelin!
Gsw. 1990 John and Willy Maley From the Calton to Catalonia 16:
Oh aye, he's away ower there beatin his breist lik naebody's business. You Tarzan, me beelin.
Arg. 1992:
A'm bealin A missed it.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 32:
Then ye go beserk an start lashin oot...Disnae maitter who's in the road, you take yir spite oot oan thum...The world's against ye an you're bealin...Somedy's goat tae be the punchball, innocent or no...
wm.Sc. 1995 Alan Warner Morvern Callar 148:
I mean are you still beeling about Him or what is it this time? I mean I thought you were into all this. Used to be you were the life of the party, none of us could keep up with you. Why don't you just get tore into having a good time rather than this daft brooding?
Sc. 1997 Herald 22 Aug :
This came as something of a blow to the arts programme staff who had worked long and hard and had assembled performers and audiences for the live show. Not the least beelin' of the Edinburgh Nights people was presenter Janice Forsyth, sister of football commentator Roddy. We hear harsh inter-sibling words are on the agenda.
Edb. 1998 Gordon Legge Near Neighbours (1999) 26:
Rancey was beeling. 'They did what? You wanting me to go get it back?'
Gsw. 1999 Paul Foy in Moira Burgess and Donny O'Rourke New Writing Scotland 17: Friends and Kangaroos 50:
It would have been better for you if you had taken the crucifix from the peasants, an it's that thit does it fur me, A'm beelin an A gets the wid in both hauns wi the pointy bit stickin oot an A jumps up an sticks it right through that Count's hert.
Sc. 2004 Sunday Mail 23 May 67:
Now if I can't see a horse run I won't bet it so I listened to the commentary and was beelin' when Milton Bradley's sprinter stormed home at 9-1.

4. vbl.n. bealin', beelin, bealdin (see Gall. and Uls. quots.). Gen.Sc.Abd. 1918 W. Mutch Ay, Ay, hev ye a Spunk 27:
He said there was a bealin' in't, but sure eneuch he got Anither number nine.
Mearns 1929 J. B. Philip Weelum o' the Manse 11:
A hae seen beelins without and within, and whan they were sitten wi' a'thing else, a poultice o' yalla neeps did the wark.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 58:
Beelins. Suppurations; bilious tumours in the flesh.
Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.:
Bealdin, bealin, matter from a sore; also a suppurating sore.

5. Comb.: whitly-beal. (See quot.)Ags.2 1933:
I am familiar with whitly-beal = whitlow.

[O.Sc. bele, beil, beal(l), v., swell with moisture, suppurate (of a sore), swell with rage. Dunbar in the Twa mar. wemen, 164, says “a byle that is lang beilit, Brekis at the last.” Byle comes from O.E. bȳl, a boil, cogn. with Du. buil and Ger. beule, a boil, O.N. beyla, a hump, Goth. uf-bauljan, to blow up, all with the underlying idea of swelling. The Sc. beal with its alternative bael cannot come from the O.E. bȳl. Caxton's beelis is prob. the regular Kentish form of O.E. byl (cf. O.Fris. bele), as Kentish dial. changed W.Saxon y to ē (see Sweet H.E.S. § 487). The cognate of Goth.-bauljan in O.E. would be *bīelan (from *bēaljan), O.North. *bēlan, the latter of which would give rise to Sc. beal. Bȳled brēost (? = īe = mutated form of ēa) occurs in O.E. = puff-breasted, of a bird. In all cases the meaning is swelling, suppuration, which is rather against the derivation (given in E.D.D.) from O.N. bǣla, to burn, O.E. bǣl, fierce fire, although fiery heat is an accompaniment of a bealing.]

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"Beal v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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