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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MURL, v., n. Also murle; mirl(e); and dim. forms murlie, -y; murlock, -ick, -ack, -ich (Abd.4 1929). [mʌrl, mɪrl]

I. v. 1. tr. To crumble, to reduce to fragments (n.Sc. 1808, Ayr. 1825 Jam.; n. and em.Sc. 1963). Also in n.Eng. dial. Occas. used fig. Vbl.n. murlin, a crumb, a fragment (Bnff. 1880 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n. and em.Sc. 1963). Also murlockin, id. (Per. 1916 Wilson L. Strathearn 259). Comb. murley-in, a dish of toasted oatcakes crumbled into cold milk (Abd. 1951 Hotch Potch 14; ne.Sc. 1963). Cf. murlie tuck s.v. n., 1. (2).Clc. 1852 G. P. Boyd Misc. Poems 13:
[Winter] comes alang, An' murles doon, in waefu' chirps, Ilk warbler's sang.
Abd. 1875 G. Macdonald Malcolm xv.:
I dinna like the verse 'at ye can murle oot atween yer lips an' yer teeth. I like the verse 'at ye maun open yer mou' weel to lat gang.
Lth. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger's Revenge ii.:
He didna tak' a subjec' an' mirl it a' down to wee crumbs.
Bnff. 1920 Banffshire Jnl. (3 Feb.):
He maybe dis a lot o' gweed, In murlin' clods on rig an' fleed.
Ags. 1960 Forfar Dispatch (21 Jan.):
The puir things [birds] . . . come tae the door seekin the murlins fin the frost nips their taes.

2. intr. To crumble away as from decay, moulder (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Ork., ne. and em.Sc. 1963). Freq. with doon. Also fig. Ppl.adj. murlin, crumbling, mouldering (ne. Sc., Fif., w.Lth. 1963).Sc. 1821 Scots Mag. (April) 352:
Ne'er a throuch-stane marks out whare they're murling wi' their mither clay.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 76:
Frae 'neath the burial-stanes, He disinterr'd their murlin' banes.
Knr. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 45:
They [pyramids] 're either murlin' doun to meal Or fog-enwrappit.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 39:
Where the peat's murlin' licht Aften glints on the tears That aye droon her aul' een.
Per. 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Sc. 21:
Süne, and owre süne, the year is düne And wi' the mools doun murl'd.
Mry. 1947:
The wid wis aa mirlin for want o' paint.
Bnff. 1957 Banffshire Jnl. (23 July):
The fine guff o' that murlin' peat fire.
Sc. 1991 T. S. Law in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 31:
whaur nuintyde murls amang the leafs in the sooch o a saft wuin,
whaur aathing cawed tae the hunkers wi heat funds beild tae byde in
Sc. 1995 David Purves Hert's Bluid 58:
... the touers we bigged yestrein murls doun ti saund,
an synds ti heiliegoleirie in the sea.

3. To nibble away at small fragments of dainty fare, to eat slowly and fastidiously.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116:
She's a murlin', pootchin' bodie. She's eye murlin' at something fin she's comin, oot o' the toon.

II. n. 1. A crumb, a fragment, esp. of oatcakes (ne.Sc., em.Sc.(a) 1963). Also used fig. Freq. in dim. forms (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D.Bnff. 116).Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 65:
The chackit daidle or bit brattie . . . Is smear'd wi' murls o' mony a tattie.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes lxxxv.:
She'll jist fling 't [money] awa' in murlocks upo' sweeties, and plunky, and sic like.
Per. 1896 D. Kippen Crieff 123:
A biscuit easily broken into mirles.
Mry. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 25:
It's but a wee bit, less or mair, A skelvoch here, a murlie there.
Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (8 May) 10:
“A corter o' breid an' a fang o' cheese,” said I, keeking into the boxie; “ye've bit mealicks o' the teen an' murlicks o' the tither.”
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 15:
Nae murlacks dreetlin' fae his pooch or owre his grauvit noo.

Derivs. murlie, -y, murlickie, (1) n., an oatcake crumbled in hot bacon fat (Ags. 1963, murlie); (2) adj., crumbly, friable (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116; ne. and em.Sc. 1963). Comb. murlie tuck, toasted oatcakes crumbled into milk (Abd. 1963); used as a nickname for a freckled woman (Abd. 1919 T.S.D.C.).(2) Bnff. 1917 Banffshire Jnl. (26 June) 3:
A kneevelock o' a murlie kebbuck rossen at the fire.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 13:
Sweet as hinny to the moo The murly morsel [scone] tasted noo.
Abd. 1944 Abd. Press & Jnl. (29 May):
Murly tuck seems to me to be so expressive: “Murly ” from the method of murlin' in the toasted oatcakes into the milk; “tuck ” from the inevitable good tuck in of such a dish.
Abd. 1952 Huntly Express (21 Nov.):
The stibbles are too dry for ploughing. “It's turnin' ower ower murlickie an' hisna gotten frost an' it's nae bidin' th' gither.”
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (24 Aug.):
A kebbuck o' fine aul' fashiont, murly, green cheese.
Abd. 1993:
Are ye for murlie tuck for yer supper?

2. “The act of eating in a quiet slow manner ” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 116).

[O.Sc. murle, to reduce to crumbs, a.1500. Orig. doubtful, phs. a freq. formation from *mur-, not otherwise found, but cogn. with Icel. mor, a small particle, Sw. dial. mor, fragments, refuse of hay. See Murr, n. and cf. Faer. morla, to crush in small pieces.]

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"Murl v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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