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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.

GRILSE, n. Also grailse, †grilsh, †grilch, †grulse  (wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan 458).

1. The name given to a young salmon on its first return from the sea to fresh water; erroneously regarded by some as a distinct species. Coll. pl. grilse, †pl. grilses. Orig. Sc. and n.Eng. dial. now adopted as Eng. Cf. Gilse and Grawl.Sc. 1739 Caled. Mercury (8 May):
There is no Price put upon the Salmon fishing, which pays 20 l. Scots of Money, 10 Salmon and 10 Grilses.
Sc. 1753 W. Maitland Hist. Edb. 508:
The Harbour of this Place, till within these few Years, abounded with a Variety of Fish, viz. Grilches, Trouts, Whitings.
Rxb. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. 14:
A distinct species [of salmon], called here grilse, and of sea-trouts, here called whitlings.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter iv.:
One or two salmon, or grilses, as the smaller sort are termed.
Sc. 1835 T. T. Stoddart Art Angling 143:
We have caught . . . sea-trout and small grilses in the neighbourhood of Cramond.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 7:
The lichtsome loup o grailse, bairn's croon o curlin hair
Flaught'rin afore the win', jinkin its ilka jawp.
Sc. 1999 Herald 28 Aug 15:
The river, he said, was down to its bones, and the only fish moving were grilse under cover of darkness.

2. Fig. “An unwieldy little child” (Sc. 1818 Sawers, grilsh). Cf. Grulsh.

[O.Sc. has grils(e), grels, etc., from 1398; late Mid.Eng. grills, 1417: of unknown origin.]

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"Grilse n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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