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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

GIRNEL, n., v. Also girnal, †girnell, †girnall; girnil (Sh. 1900 E.D.D.; Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xiii.).

I. n. 1. A large chest or barrel for holding meal. Gen.Sc., 1719 Alistair and Henrietta Tayler Jacobites of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in the Rising of 1715 (1934) 111:
...the farmer's wife and servants ... took care to remove her from behind a bed, where she was hid, to the back side of a big girnel where she was forced to lurk the whole night.
Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A. S. I. 65:
Imprimis two sufficient meall Girnels.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 27:
Ye wives! whase leesome hearts are fain To get the poor man's blessin, Your trampit girnels dinna hain.
Ayr. 1830 Galt Lawrie Todd vii. xii.:
His girnels have been heaped, and all his vessels filled to overflowing.
ne.Sc. 1874 Gregor Echo Olden Time 118:
The last act of her installation as “gueedwife” was leading her to the girnal, or mehl-bowie, and pressing her hand into the meal as far as possible.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 248:
May the mouse never come oot o' the meal girnel wi' the tear in its e'e.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Poems 39:
We hae meal in the girnel, and flesh in the barrel.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Back o' Benachie 10:
In the garret generally stood the meal girnal, capable of holding the year's meal. When the meal . . . was put into the girnal it was tramped hard by the feet of the “herd loon”, or one of the boys or girls of the family.
Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 24:
"Deshed nuisance," muttered Godfrey, but, emerging from behind the girnel, he unlocked and unbolted the door, and ambled down to the gate.
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (23 March):
Eight-Piece Parlour Suite; Meal Girnal; Bureau; 2 Battery Wireless Sets.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 134:
At last he was rewarded with the total failure of crops for harvest ... not an ear in the field, and no more than a handful of meal in any girnel.

2. A granary, a storehouse, esp. one belonging to an estate. Also fig. Still found as a farm-name.Sc. 1721 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 280:
The said Davidson was forced to flee the toun and hide himself in a malt girnall.
Sc. 1742 J. Cockburn Letters (S.H.S.) 76:
Let the Ashes that were cut in the Haining be cut for proper Country uses such as I may want for farming business and carried up to the Girnel.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 156:
My byrs are well stocked wi' ky, Of meal i' my girnels is plenty.
Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VI. 385:
Meal last summer sold at Finzean's girnell at 17/- per boll of 9 stone.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley viii.:
Above these dungeon-looking stables were granaries, called girnels, and other offices, to which there was access by outside stairs of heavy masonry.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 108:
There's nane but the like o' us lads, can ken what it is to hae the lumber room, the girnal I may ca't, o' our bairnly recollections ryped and rummaged up.
Sc. 1835 H. Miller Scenes & Leg. (1850) 259:
Each proprietor, too, had [c.1745] his storehouse or girnal . . . which, at the Martinmas of every year, used to be filled from gable to gable with the grain-rents paid him by his tenants, and the produce of his own farm.
ne.Sc. 1980 James Fowler Fraser Doctor Jimmy 2:
I was brought up at the back of Bennachie in the district of the Garioch, a district famous for its growing of oats and so known as the Girnal of Aberdeenshire.

3. Combs.: (1) girnal-heid, the lid of a meal-chest. See Heid, n., 5.; †(2) girnel-hoose, = 2. above (Ork.5 1954, hist.); †(3) girnel-keeper, the keeper of a granary, = (5); (4) girnel-kist, = 1. above; †(5) girnel-man, “a land-steward who had charge of the meal and grain paid as part of the rent” (Cai. 1900 E.D.D.); (6) hingin girnal, a carried lunch (Bnff. 1954).(1) Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 63:
Swippert syne upo' the girnal-heid lap Jean wi' sic'na yell.
(2) Lnl. 1721 Binns Papers (S.R.S.) II. 113:
A girnell-house and other office houses.
Sc. 1861 Stephens and Burn Farm-Buildings 170:
Hen-house, urine-tank, girnal-house, shed, potato-house.
(3) Ork. 1757 Session Papers, Galloway v. Morton (12 Nov.) 28:
He made Choice of one James Mackenzie, who had been the Earl's Girnel-keeper . . . to be his Confident and Assistant.
(4) Sc. 1819 Scott L. Montrose xiii.:
Laid his ears back . . . when he heard the key turn in the girnel-kist.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes xxi.:
That's no the gait to milk the coo, Nor yet to spean the calf; Nor yet to fill the girnel-kist.
(5) Cai. 1891 D. Stephen Gleanings 118:
Johnny Moozie was bellman, kirk-officer, grave-digger, “girnal man,” jailer, etc.

II. v. To store in a granary.Sc. 1703 Acts Parl. Scot. XI. App. 30:
To buy the north countrey victuall and girnell and retaill the same at Leith.

[O.Sc. has gyrnall, girnel(l), etc., a granary, a meal-chest, from 1452, v., from 1525, a variant form of Mid.Eng. gerner, O.Fr. gerner, granary, met. form of greniere, Lat. granarium. Cf. Garnel, Grenil.]

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"Girnel n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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