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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GAVEL, n.1 Also gavil(l), ga(i)vle, gaivel; gaevel, -il, gevel (I.Sc.), geevil (Cai.7), -le, †gavell, †gaval, †gavile, †gevil, †gyvel, givyle (Wgt. 1713 Session Bk. Sorbie MS. (7 Aug.); also, esp. in ne.Sc., ga'el, ga'le, gell, gyle, geyl, ¶gehl, †gailt, ¶giyl (w.Dmf. 1899 Country Schoolmaster (Wallace) 348). See P.L.D. § 70.1. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. gable. [Sc. ′gevəl, but Ork. + gjevl, ne. and sn.Sc. + gel, gɛl, Cai. + ′givəl, ‡Fif., Dmf., Gall. + gəil; Rs. ′gəivəl]

1. (1) As in Eng., the triangular upper part of the end-wall of a building; the end-wall itself. Gen.Sc. Freq. used attrib. Also in n.Eng. dial.Abd. 1739 in Caled. Mag. (1788) 500:
And o'er fell he, maist like to greet, Just at the westmost gaill O' th' Kirk that day.
Ork. 1766 P. Fea MS. Diary (29 Oct.):
Loading Clay for the Gavels of the House.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales II. 292:
I saw the deil i' the shape o' the auld laird . . . standin' on the gavel wa' wi' a great burnin' kipple in his hand.
Sc. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy (1873) Intro. lxiii.:
My meikle tae is my gavil post, My nose is my roof-tree.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xi.:
Rubble wark is what they use for gavles.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin vii.:
My mither had agreed wi' him to place the cruzie in the gavel winnock to guide him through the mire. [Ib. xxvii., geyl.]
Ags. 1892 Brechin Advertiser (7 June) 3:
They kent fu' weel that he cud pu' The ga'el out o' their kirk.
Gall. 1901 Trotter Gall. Gossip 346:
Mr Gibson wus preachin at the roadside again a hoose geyl. [Ib. 464, gyle.]
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr Aapril 25:
Da pör man's draain-room is at da gaevel o da hoose.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 35:
An' throu' the wee gell winnock aye Fu' bonnie mornin' broke.
Lnk. 1991 Duncan Glen Selected Poems 66:
I hear shilly wund on gavel-winnock
and thocht beil in my heid.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 29:
An faar's wir fisher toon? Ae lum, ae gaivel
Blinterin throwe blae watter an smore drift.
ne.Sc. 1996 W. Gordon McPherson in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of winning poems and stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 20:
" ... Fin Aa leuk oot at the front fit div Aa see? Hills! Fin Aa leuk oot at the gale, fit?-mair hills; an at the idder gale?--hills again! An fit div ye think Aa see fae the back?

(2) One of the side ropes of a herring net (Ork. 1929 Marw.; ne.Sc., Fif. 1954). Cf. 3. (3) below.Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (11 Dec.):
The wife's sittin' mennin' wi' Mary oor quine, . . . A net that's gey picky an' greedy for twine An' they're nae gettin' nearer the gaivle ava.

(3) One of the ends of a rectangular corn-stack (Uls.4 1954).

2. Fig. uses: (1) the buttocks (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 58, gaivle; Bnff.7 1927); (2) the pudendum (Sc. 18th c. Merry Muses (1911) 55, 94; Ayr. 1786 Burns Ib. 132).

3. Phr. & Combs.: (1) gavel-en(d), (a) the end-wall of a building, the gable-end. Gen.Sc.; (b) = 2. (1) above (Gregor); (2) ¶gavelfork, adv., with a gable; †(3) ga'le-room, a room in the gable of a house; (4) gehl-rope, “the rope that runs along the [side] ends of a herring-net”(Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 61); cf. 1. (2) above; (5) to be like the gavel(-end) o' a hoose, to be of very stout and broad proportions (Abd.27, Kcb.10 1954, -end).(1) (a) Abd. 1766 Abd. Journal (28 July):
On Thursday afternoon, the gavel end of a house in the Gallowgate, adjoining to which a house was building, gave way and fell down.
Edb. 1795 H. Macneill Scotland's Scaith 12:
Up the gavel end thick spreading Crap the clasping ivy green.
Lnk. 1873 J. Hamilton Poems & Ballads 64:
Ae nicht, when stan'in at the door, I saw him comin' roun' The gavel-en'.
Fif. 1893 G. Setoun Barncraig i.:
There was a seat set on logs against the “geevle-en'” of Eben Reid's house.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Margaret Ogilvy ii.:
I cannot picture the place without seeing her, as a little girl, come to the door of a certain house and beat her bass against the gav'le-end.
Abd. 1931 D. Campbell Uncle Andie 36:
Whisht! here comes a fit roun' the gale-en'.
(2) Bnff. 1770 V. Gaffney Lordship Strathavon (S.C.) 25:
The "lairachs" of many sheals in Kirkmichael show them to have been stone-built, "gavelfork", couple and pans of wood being required in the construction of the roof.
(3) Abd. 1868 G. Macdonald R. Falconer x.:
They did not even look into the ga'le-room, not doubting that the dignity of the best bedroom was in no danger of being violated even by Robert.
(5) Abd.27 1920:
What a size that deem's growin'; she's like the gale o' a hoose.

[O.Sc. has gavil(l), gavel(l), geivel, etc., from 1387; O.N. gafl, gable, gable-end. The Eng. form is from O.Fr. gable, which is also from the O.N.]

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



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