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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 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 2 Oct 2023 <>



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