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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CAVEL, Cavil, Caivel, Cavell, Kavel, Kavil, Keavle, Kevil, Kevel, n.1, v. [ke:vl]

1. n.

(1) A lot, esp. in phr. to cast cavels (Cai.7, Mry.1, Abd.9 1939); given as obsol. by Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923).Sc. 1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scot. Bk. ii. Tit. 9. Par. 29:
In this division [of land], after determining by lot or kavil whether to begin by the sun or the shade, i.e. by the east or the west, the Sheriff sets off the two first acres for the heir, and the third for the widow.
Sc. 1904 Gil Brenton in Ballads (ed. Child) No. 5A xlvi.:
We keist the cavils us amang, To see which shoud to the greenwood gang.
Mry. 1914 R. Cairns in Trans. Bnffsh. Field Club 25:
The fish on being landed were divided and lotted by caivel, a term used by the Northumbrian collier.
Abd.(D) 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 52:
[We] The kavils cuist: a feerious thrang Syne gaithered roond aboot.
Bch. 1891 Rev. J. Forrest in Trans. Buchan Field Club (Jan.) 16:
The crew . . . secures absolute impartiality in the distribution of the catch by a custom peculiar to the coast. The fishes are thrown into a number of heaps corresponding to the number of the crew, each of whom selects a stone for himself. These stones are given to a party who does not know to whom they individually belong, who throws them down by the different heaps of fish. This casting of lots they call casting kevels. [See also D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. (1907) 76.]
Edb. 1917 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's o' Solomon xvi. 85:
Ye may cast kevils gin ye like, But the Lord Himsel'll settle the oots-an'-ins o' the hale maitter.

†(2) One's fate, fortune or chance.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 232:
Let every man be content with his own Kevel.
Sc. 1737 Ramsay Proverbs 22:
Happy Man happy Kavel.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 124:
Then Jean reply'd, I sud be right content For the kind cavel that to me was lent.

†(3) “A division or share of property; . . . originally determined by lot” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); “the part of a field which falls to one on a division by lots” (Nai. 1813 W. Leslie Gen. View Agric. Nai. and Mry., Gloss., keavle).Abd. 1805 State, Leslie of Powis, etc. 17 (Jam.):
The Town and Bishop feued out the fishing in shares' six of them called the King's cavil, and the other six the Bishop's cavil.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Gen. View Agric. Perth 62:
The first deviation from run-rig was by dividing the farms into kavels or kenches, by which every field of the same quality was split down into as many lots, as there were tenants in the farm.

†(4) “A ridge of growing corn, especially where the custom of run-rig is retained” (Per. 1825 Jam.2).Ib.:
There's a guid cavel o' corn.

(5) In pl.: “pieces, bits, splinters” (Sc. 1887 Jam.6, Add.). Not known to our correspondents.Ib.:
“Ding to cavels,” drive to pieces, is still used regarding a wooden vessel.

2. v. To draw lots; to divide or assign by lot. Vbl.n. cavelling.Abd. 1805 State, Leslie of Powis, etc. 123 (Jam.):
That the heritors of Don met every fortnight after the cavelling of the water in April, in the house of John Dow, at the bridge.
Lnk. 1692 in W. Motherwell Minstrelsy (1827) 138:
Ordaines the four curators to cavell for keeping of the coffer and peapers.

[O.Sc. cavill, cavell, n., (1) a small piece of wood used in the casting of lots, to cast caflis (1470); (2) division or assignment by lot; (3) a portion of land; v. to divide or assign by lot, 1572 (D.O.S.T.). Found also in Nhb., Dur., Lin. (E.D.D.). The word with above meanings has prob. come to us from Low Ger., e.g. Du. kavel, lot, Mid.Du. cavele, id.; M.L.Ger. kavelen, to portion out by casting lots; kavele, a wooden stick for casting lots, gen. inscribed with runic symbols (see Falk and Torp). The O.N. kafli, a piece cut off, kefli, cylinder (of wood), stick (Zoëga), would give the same forms in Sc., but have no such development in Mod. Scand. as is found in Low Ger., Eng. dial. and Sc. See also etym. note to Cavil and Kevel, n.1 and v.1]

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



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