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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HEEL, n., v. Also dim. heelie. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. The end of a loaf of bread, esp. the first and last slices to be cut off (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Edb., Gall. 1902 E.D.D.); the rind or last portion of a cheese (Gall. 1902 E.D.D.). Also attrib. Gen.Sc. See also kebbock-heel, s.v. Kebbock. Now only dial. in Eng.Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (1925) 31:
After their yokin, I wat weel They'll stoo the kebbuck to the heel.
Abd. 1794 Tam Thrum Look before ye Loup 9:
At last ye leave it like the heel of an auld kebbuck.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley lxiv.:
The heel o' the white loaf that cam frae the Baillie's.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 94:
Ye mith gies a heelie o' cheese, an' some o' Ye 'ull maybe gie't a roast on the quiles.
Fif. 1916 G. Blaik Rustic Rhymes 199:
Hooever, I ha'e yet the heel O' a braw loaf.
Ags. 1951 C. Sellars Open the Westport 108:
His mother sliced off the square heel of the loaf — the middle part that curved up was Curly Kate.
Fif. 1991 John Brewster in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 165:
On heel ens o toast;
Oatcake peppered stovies,
steamed on soup plates.
Uls. 1997 Bernard MacLaverty Grace Notes (1998) 203:
She made a large cheese and tomato sandwich with the two heels of the loaf - on the island they called them outsiders - and wrapped it in tin-foil.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 265:
Next to him Sir Andrew Ramsay slumped, snoring gently and unaware of an old heel of bread which was caught on the back of his wig.

2. A crust turned up on land ploughed after drought (m.Lth.1 1956).Sc. 1807 Farmer's Mag. 93:
Owing to a sudden drought, the ground turned up with a heel as he called it; so a cross ploughing was first given.

3. See quot.Gall. 1896 66th Report Brit. Ass. 623:
The first “rigg” was called the “pint,” i.e. point, and the one that reaped was named the “pintsman.” The last “rigg” of those occupied by a set of reapers was called the “heel,” and the reaper bore the same name.

4. As in Eng., that part of a tool which is nearest the shaft or handle or is shaped like a heel, e.g. that part of an adze into which the handle is fitted (Lnk. 1825 Jam., s.v. Hoozle; I.Sc., Cai., Kcb., Rxb., Uls. 1956); the corresponding part of a scythe (Gall., Dmf. 1956); the piece of wood or metal projecting from the handle of a spade or peat-cutting implement used for driving the tool into the ground with the foot (Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1956); “the fulcrum of a lever, a block of wood put under a pinch to give it purchase” (Ags., Lth., wm.Sc. 1956); that part of the head of a golf club which is nearest to the shaft (Sc. 1857 Chambers's Inform. II. 696). Gen.Sc.; the butt-end of a runner of a tip-cart (Fif., Dmf. 1952).Abd. 1843–5 Trans. Highl. Soc. 269:
The piece of iron rivetted along the back of the [scythe] blade has a bent extremity termed the heel.
Sc. 1867 Cornhill Mag. (April) 496:
If you hit a ball with what is called the heel of the club, a sort of screw is put upon it, which makes it twist away to the right.
Sc. 1887 Golfing (Chambers) 93:
A head is the lowest part of a club, and possesses, among other mysterious characteristics, a sole, a heel, a toe or nose, a neck, and a face!

5. Combs.: (1) heel-bar, a large crowbar, pointed at one end and with a chisel face at the other, used by plate layers (Dmb. 1964); †(2) heel-block, a treat given by a shoemaker to his comrades on entering the service of a new employer; (3) heel-cap, n., a new heel knitted into a sock (Bnff. 1956); v., to patch, mend or reinforce the heels of shoes or stockings (Dmf. 1956); (4) heel-crook, the lower hinge of a gate. See Cruik; (5) heel-cutter, a shoe-maker (Sc. 1902 E.D.D.), so called from the knife used for shaping shoe-heels; (6) heel-hap(pin), found only in proverb. phr. to come to one's heel hap(pin), to come to grief or disaster (Abd. 1914 J. Leatham Daavit 49), “a fate predicted of one who will take no advice or who persists in pursuing a wrong course” (Abd. 1921 W. Walker W.-L.; Bnff. 1956); (7) heel-hole, the hole in the handle of a Tusker or peat spade, which holds the heel. See n. 4.; †(8) heel-pin, one of two pieces of wood driven into the ground to form a frame for the treddles of a loom; the tightening wedge in the ring fastening the scythe-blade to the sned (Fif. 1957); (9) heel-ring, a circular piece of metal fastened to the heel of a boot to reduce wear (Abd., Ags., Knr. 1956); (10) heel-shakin', dancing, a dance (Knr. 1936). Cf. fit-shakin' s.v. Fit, n.1, III.; (11) heel-shod, a piece of iron used to protect the heel of a heavy boot or shoe (Cai. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.; Cai., Fif., wm.Sc., Kcb., Dmf. 1956), a heel-plate. Cf. (9) and Shod; †(12) heel-strop, the finishing touch, the parting kick; (13) heel-wadge, of a scythe: see heel-pin under (8) (Abd. 1930). Also in Eng. dial.; also used contemptuously of a very small or dwarfish person (Id.).(2) Edb. 1788 G. Wilson Masonic Songs 95:
Adieu to Heel-blocks and Saint Mondays, Which made me oft keep watery Sundays.
(3) Abd. 1801 W. Beattie Parings 38:
The Gaudman sits and toasts his nose, Or aukwardly heel-caps his hose.
Ags. 1821 D. Shaw Hum. Songs 15:
Auld Girzie I try'd aye to gain 'er By snodly heel-capin' her hose.
Sc. 1859 J. Brown Rab and his Friends 20:
His heavy shoes . . . heel-capt and toe-capt.
(4) Sc. 1851 H. Stephens Bk. Farm. II. 603:
The upper-crook keeps the gate close to the upper part of the hanging-post, while the heel crook, resting on and working in a hole made in a hard stone, supports the entire weight of the gate.
(5) Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) ii.:
Duncan Imrie, the heelcutter in the Flesh-Market Close.
(6) ne.Sc. 1921 People's Jnl. (15 Oct.):
I hae gotten a lesson — ay, I've come tae my heel-hap, at lang length.
(7) Sh. 1899 Shetland News (1 April):
I pair'd oot o' da heel-hole o' da spaed heft wi' me knife.
(8) Rnf. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 10:
The seat, a stab, the heel-pins rotten.
(9) Abd. 1883 W. Jolly J. Duncan 307:
When a heel-ring or toe-bit was lost.
Ags. 1893 Arbroath Guide (25 Feb.) 3:
I was yont at the ironmonger's for twa pair o' heel rings an' some sprigs an' tackets.
(10) Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 64:
Oor ain humble heel-shakin's in some empty barn.
(11) Ayr. 1883 W. Aitken Lays 118:
Heelshod or taeshod and tacket and pin, Shaemaker, shaemaker, shoo ma shoon.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 49:
Mak aff; gif the Wulf sud owretak ye, nae doot, Ye micht wi' yer new heel-shods daud him aboot.
(12) Sc. 1786 Sc. Presb. Eloquence 135:
I've been letting you see this year and a half the ill of that idolatrous worship of the Church of England, and now I shall give it the heel strop, and show plainly that all that are of that communion are damned, unless they repent.

6. Phrs.: (1) at the heel o' the hunt, in the rear, behind (Edb., Uls. 1956); (2) heels abeen, upside-down (Cai. 1956); fig. of persons: upset (Ib.); (3) heels-owre-body, head over heels. Cf. (5) and (6); (4) heels ower craig, id. (Edb. 1956); (5) heels o(w)er gowdie, -y, -goudie, -gowrie, -gourie (Slg. 1804 G. Galloway Luncarty 57); heelster[-tae-]-, head over heels, topsy-turvy, upside down, lit. and fig. (ne.Sc. heelster-, Ags. -ower gowrie 1956). Also ¶o'er goudie. Also used attrib., in phr. to play heelstergowdie, to tumble head over heels (Abd.1 1929, Abd. 1956), and as a n., a somersault, the game of tummle-the-cat. The expression seems to have been orig. a child's word from gowdie = a head (of golden hair). See Gowdie, n.3, 2. and note; (6) heels o(w)er heid, heelster[-tae-]-, -ir- (ne.Sc.), id., in disorder (I. and ne.Sc., Uls. 1956, heelster-); fig. “without distinction or particular enumeration” (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Hence heilser-heided, harum-scarum, hare-brained. Phrs. to play heels ower heid, to turn a somersault; to turn (a purchase) heels o'er heid, to resell at double the original price (Abd. 1825 Jam.); (7) heels-ower-hurdie(s), id. (Abd., Rxb. 1956); also precipitately; ¶(8) heels oure tourie, id. See Tourie; (9) to be at the heel o' one's hand, to be at one's wits' end (‡Abd. 1956); (10) to be at the heels o', to be on the point of finishing; (11) to coup by the heels, to prostrate, to lay low (Abd., Fif., Edb. 1956); (12) to gie heels to, to cause to hurry, to make to run, to put to flight; in curling: to expedite the progress of (a stone) by sweeping the ice in front of it (Kcb., Dmf. 1956). Cf. (17); (13) to give (a place) the wind of one's heels, to take a hasty departure from (Knr. 1956); (14) to hae the heel o, to have the better of, the advantage over; (15) to make one's heels one's friends, to mak quick heels, to run away (Bnff., Ags. 1956). Cf. phr. to mak one's feet one's friend s.v. Fit; (16) to take (one's) (the) heels, to take to one's heels, to run away (Ork., Cai., Knr., Kcb. 1956). Last found in Eng. in 1690; (17) to want heels, of a stone in curling, to lack momentum or drive. Cf. (12).(1) Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Poems 260:
For if ithers push past ye an' get to the front, You'll fin' yoursel' left at the heel o' the hunt.
(3) Ayr. 1786 Burns Reply Trimming Ep. v.:
Garrin lasses coup the cran, Clean heels owre body.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xviii.:
The cow, that was a noted kicker, spilled me and the milking-pail heels-over-body.
(4) Sc. 1858 Sc. Haggis 122:
Twa or three hours spinnin' aboot a wheen meeserable lang-nebbed bottles, is eneuch to cowp them heels ower craig.
(5) Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1765) 41:
Who did the Dominie ding o'er, Just heels o'er gowdy.
Ayr. 1796 Burns To Col. De Peyster vii.:
Soon, heels o'er gowdie, in he gangs.
Dmf. 1822 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 306:
Tam possessed the power of inflaming the passions of men and women, until they fairly gaed heels owre Gowdie.
Bch. 1832 W. Scott Poems 20:
To the sunshine side of the dykie we flit, An' tum'le o'er goudie fae head to the fit.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 76:
The loon fell an' geed heelster-gowdie doon the brae.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 20:
She aff the pavement slips, an' got a heels-owre-gowdie fa'.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xii.:
Doon I gaed like a rickel o' auld beans, an' Sandy ower the tap o' me, heels-ower-gowrie.
Abd. 1925 A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 100:
The bairnies barfit on the green, At heels-owre-gowdie may be seen.
Bch. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 38:
And his feet cam' up against it wi' sic an afa ding That he tumbled heelster-goudie and broke his apron string.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... But he bummelt an stummelt aroun i the derk, an the affcome o't wis he gaed heelster-gowdie intae a grave that wis newly howkit for a burial the morn's morn. ... '
Abd. 1991 Douglas Kynoch in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 87:
Mount Helicon was heelster -
Gowdie aw dampt aifterneen.
An that's the wye I never
Got my magnum opus deen.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall in Neil R. MacCallum Lallans 51 16:
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" skirled Kirsty, as she stottit tapsalteerie, heelstergowdie, stot, stot, stot, like a dottled yo-yo.
Edb. 2004:
It will aw go heelstergowdie when she gauns on holiday.
(6) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 81:
Now by this time the house is heels o'er head For ae thing some, an' some anither said.
Sc. 1805 Lockhart Scott xiv.:
He finds himself launched with corresponding vehemence heels over head into the pool.
Abd. 1829 A. Cruickshank Poems 52:
Gin ae fit slip, o'er heelster head we gang, An' syne we're laughen at by a' the thrang.
Abd. 1836 J. Grant Tales (1869) 64:
Mains cam' owre the rumple o'm wi' the cou'ter sic a vengeance, as gart him play heels owre head.
Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 100:
“They tell me't he turn't a stirkie 't he bocht a fyou ouks syne heels-o'er-heid i' the last market.” But turning animals heels-o'er-head, technically, by doubling the purchase price, was not always easy.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xiii.:
I was expectin' ilky meenit to see the cabby . . . fling Sandy heels-ower-heid into the cab amon' the bairns.
Ags. 1934 D. L. Duncan Hamespuns 59:
Jock, they say, is no' a' there, Heilser-heided, de'il-ma-care.
Mry. 1952 Bulletin (28 Oct.) 4:
It's not the first time on this farm that the henhouses have been couped, heelster heads.
(7) Sc. 1896 Stevenson Weir of Hermiston v.:
Flinging the deid thing heels-ower-hurdie at the Fa's o' Spango.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xxix.:
Oh, it's a mischancy thing a mairrage, Miss Dyce; maist folk gang intill't heels-ower-hurdies.
Sc. c.1925 R. Thomas Sandie McWhustler's Waddin' 52:
He whummled heels-ower-hurdie ower twa cairt-loads o' sand whilk had been coupit near haun that vera mornin'.
(8) Wgt. 1884 D. McWhirter Musings 118:
At last puir Davie buff'd eneuch Gaed heels owre tourie in the shuch.
(9) Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
He was jist at the heel o' his hand to ken fat to say.
(10) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 409:
He had the whole cog-full lapped into his kyte; when they came up, he was just at the heels o't, after which he gave it to his collie to lick the lagging.
(11) Arg. 1947 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 125:
A stroke, which couped him by the heels so that he had to sit ben-the-house in his big chair.
(12) Lnk. 1806 J. B. Greenshields Lesmahagow (1864) App. 44:
“Soop, gie him heels! soop, gie him heels!” In spite of all this wild uproar, They cannot bring him o'er the score.
Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 399:
“He may bilk us.” “We'll tak care o' that. We'll gie him heels for't, if that's his gemm.”
Ayr. 1891 H. Johnston Kilmallie xix.:
The second and third players were “sooping up,” or “giving heels” to laggard stones.
Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie 58:
Gie him heels, boys, gie him heels, soop, soop, oh soop, it's the besom that wins the geme.
(13) Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption v.:
Forbye ither reasons for being in a hurry we thocht it as weel for me to gi'e Whinnyside the wind o' my heels withoot loss o' time.
(14) Kcb. 1896 A. J. Armstrong Kirkiebrae xxxii.:
Ye had the better o' me yesterday, but I hae the heel o' ye the noo.
(15) Ayr. 1844 Ayrshire Wreath 138:
I thought I wad mak quick heels, but it o'er took me.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
It was mair than time for him to mak' his heels his freends, an' so he boltit up the garret stair.
(16) Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1765) xi.:
This made my lad at length to loup, And take his heels.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Sc. Poems 19:
[He] . . . gart the lymmers tak their heels.
Edb. 1821 W. Liddle Poems 238:
[They] took their heels and left the field.
Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 24:
So o'er the Hills I'll tak' the heels Some Day to Levin pans.
Rnf. 1877 J. M. Neilson Poems 32:
A' the hens Wi' fricht took soople heels awa.
(17) Sc. 1847 J. Taylor Curling (1884) 305:
“Be up amang them here, doctor,” shouts a decent-looking elder to his worthy pastor, “and outwick Jamie Tamson, — tut, tut, ye want heels, whaur's your pith the day, doctor.”

II. v. 1. To run off, take to one's heels.Bch. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 68:
She didna bide to mend it, But heel't that night.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 6:
This broke the charm — then Sawners held [sic] it, Down the moor wi' speed he flew: What spangs he made, how quick he wheeld it.

2. To haul forth by the heels.Fif. 1812 W. Tennant Anster Fair 154:
Heel him forth reluctant to the day.

3. Golf: to strike the ball with the heel of the club (see n. 4), and send the ball to the side. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1857 Chambers's Information II. 695:
When standing too near, the ball is often “heeled.”
Sc. 1880 A. Lang Ballades Blue China 4:
Ye may heel her and send her agee.
Fif. 1956 St Andrews Cit. (22 Sept.) 7:
He heeled his shot so that the ball scuttled off to the left of the fairway.

4. Curling: to accelerate the motion of a stone by sweeping the ice in front of it. Cf. 6. (12) above.Sc. 1833 J. Cairnie Curling 135:
Heel him. — Gi'e him heels, sweep him up.

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"Heel n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 May 2024 <>



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