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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PILLER, n. Also pillar, puller, -ar (ne.Sc.); and with variant ending pillan, pull- (Kcd.). A small crab which has just cast its shell or is about to do so, and which is therefore useful as bait (Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife 132, pillan; Bnff., Fif. 1921 T.S.D.C. 18, pillan, -er; Ork. 1929 Marw., pillan; Cai., Bnff., Abd., Ags., Fif. 1965). Also attrib. in pillan, -er crab, pillan labster (Fif. 1965). Comb. green spung piller, the spotted crab, Carcinus mœnas (Abd. 1815 J. Arbuthnot Fishes 30).Ags. 1858 People's Jnl. (12 June) 3:
It appears he had been searching fir “pillars” to serve as fishing bait.
Abd. 1932 J. Leatham Fisherfolk N.E. 49:
Sclushachs, peels, pullers, and other names used . . . to designate the soft, shell-less crab during its moulting period.
Abd. 1963 People's Jnl. (1 June) 12:
Mony's the day the twa o's scramelt amon, the rocks gaitherin' saftie and pullars for bait.
ne.Sc. 1992 Sheila Douglas ed. The Sang's the Thing: Voices from Lowland Scotland 256:
'Anither o' the verses speaks aboot gaitherin in the pullars. A pullar is a kin o' peeler - a peeler crab, a crab which is jist beginnin tae moult and, ye know, a crustacean much like a snake shedding its skin, sheds its shell and expands in its soft state. ...'

[Cf. Eng. dial. pill, a variant of peel, to strip or shed skin. The form in -an may represent an orig. ppl.adj. with crab, partan. etc., suppressed.]

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"Piller n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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