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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

RAIVEL, v., n. Also ravel; revel; reavil, -le, raevel, rayvle (Arg. 1882 Argyllshire Herald (3 June)), reyvle; reevel; raffel, -le, raeffle, rill-; and contracted forms rael (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 396), reyle, rile (Dmf. 1925 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 36), ryle (Gall. 1904 E.D.D.); reill; rew(e)l (Rxb. 1825 Jam. ‡1923 Watson W.-B.), reul (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 396; Dmf. 1894 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 154); rowl (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 264). [′revel; s.Sc. ‡rəil; Per. rʌul]

I. v. 1. (1) tr. and intr. To get into a confusion or tangle, to entangle, disorder, muddle, snarl, in gen., specif. of thread, yarn, or the like (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork. 1929 Marw., raffle; Ayr. 1951; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Deriv. ravelment, a confusion, tangle. Vbl.n. pl., raelings, rowlins, ravellings, waste ends of a web of cloth (Gall. 1904 E.D.D.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 264).Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 164:
Ye're now ane o' my hopefu'st bairns; Tho' ance ye ravell'd sair my pirns.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xl.:
Mr Mordaunt, an ye put your concerns into my hands, ye maun just let me tak my ain gait, or I'll only ravel them by my meddling.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Proverbs 22:
Fools ravel, and wise men redd.
Ayr. 1833 Galt Howdie, etc. (1923) 238:
Nor can it be said that we had a great ravelment on that occasion.
Sc. 1837 Carlyle French Rev. III. ii. ii.:
Mischievous deceitful persons cut the rope, and our Queue becomes a ravelment.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 34:
The gudewife reavilt a' her yarn She tint the thread-end o' her pirn.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 25:
Smiles o joy and taers o sorrow, Raefflin i da caesliss strife.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Sentimental Tommy xxix.:
Make a clerk of him and he would only ravel the figures.
Inv. 1911 in Buchan Observer (10 April 1962) 7:
Seckie wis at the halyards, an' got reeveled wi the sail aboot his heed, trying tae heist it.
Knr. 1925 H. Haliburton Horace 247:
An' swuir at lairge, an' dang'd and deyvled, That awfu' oor the tongues were reyvled!

Hence ppl.adj. ra(i)vel(l)ed, -t, revel'd, raeffled, raffelled, rilet, tangled, confused, muddled, in difficulties (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Ayr., Dmf. 1950, rilet). Gen.Sc.; esp. in fig. phrs.; a raivelled hesp, -pirn, -roast (Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxv.), -skein, a knotty problem, an involved situation (Ork., Kcd., Per., Fif., Lnk. 1967). See Hesp and Pirn.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 375:
You have got a revel'd Hesp in Hand. That is, you have engag'd in an intricate Business.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. i. i.:
Ye . . . have sae kind Redd up my ravel'd doubts, and clear'd my mind.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 301:
The ravelled hesps he makes them clear, And reds them out.
Mry. 1806 J. Cock Simple Strains 99:
De'il gin her neck were in a girn! She's left me wi' a ravel'd pirn.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
God's sake speak her fair and canny, or we will have a ravelled hasp on the yarn-windles!
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of Lairds xxxv.:
The cause o' our national decay, and agricultural distress, broken merchants, ravelled manufacturers, and brittle bankers, come a' thegither frae another well-ee.
Rnf. 1862 A. McGilvray Poems 283:
Your speeches . . . Are but silly, and ravell'd wi' cant.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 23:
The threads I threw seem'd raivell'd like the tassels o' the brume.
Sc. 1883 A. S. Swan Aldersyde ii. x.:
A higher hand holds the ravelled skein of life.
Sh. 1891 J. Burgess Rasmie's Büddie 38:
T'o i dis raeffled mortal life I kno it's hard ta see.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xxiii.:
I shall have a fine ravelled pirn to unwind, and may end by disgracing both the lassie and myself.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 85:
For Joshua had lost his direschun in oor ravell't toon.
Lnk. 1910 C. Fraser Glengonnar 96:
The student . . . likit to redd oot the ravell'd hanks o' ither folk's yarn.
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 36:
Shyvin' oot their hame-made linies, Aften raivel't, seldom clear.
Ork. 1995 Orcadian 28 Sep 16:
None of ours was lost, but some of the larger farms had drowned fields of tangled oats, so raffled that no binder could handle it, and it had to be left until the rest of the crop had been secured.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 9:
the keeper
chaas his chewnie
draps the ba on the flair
an wi a glower o pure smeddum
blooters hit richt
back intil
the thrawn, raivelt, maikless gemm.

(2) intr. Of a wall, etc.: to become twisted or off the straight, to warp, sag or bulge, esp. in pa.p. and vbl.n. (Rnf. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) R.16). Rnf. 1741 Ib.:
The haill barn consisting of fyve bays entirelie raggit and reill't baith in timber and walls.

2. Of hair: to displace, dishevel, ppl.adj. raivelt, dishevelled, unkempt (ne., e. and sm.Sc. 1967).Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 114:
A' the pouther an' lead o' the place Wadna ravel a hair o' his croun.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Doric 13:
He ca'd the yird oot o' his een, an' clawed his raivelt heid.

3. (1) intr. Of thread or yarn; to unwind itself from a reel. Now dial. in Eng. Hence raveller-aff, the boy who strips the bobbins in weaving (Ayr. 1951); ra(v)el-string, the upper part of a fishing-line wound on the reel, the backing (Bwk., Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 255, XI. 149).Ags. 1794 W. Anderson Piper of Peebles 6:
Upo' their spindles, near the tap, They biggit ay a bulgy knap O' thread, cross-brath'd firm to defend The rest frae reav'ling o'er the end.
Lnk. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 13:
The threed in Tammie's shuttle Gaed raivelling aff the pirn.

(2) tr. and fig. To tell (a story, etc.) volubly, to pour out in words.Ork. 1929 Marw.:
He sat there just reevlan it oot o' him.

4. intr. To speak in a wandering, incoherent manner, to ramble, maunder, be delirious (Uls.2 1929; ne., em.Sc.(a), Lnk. 1967). Also in n.Eng. dial. Vbl.n. ravellin, raving, delirium (Id.).Ags. 1895 Caledonia I. 482:
Like the ravellin' o' the lass that died at dawn.

5. tr. To confuse, render incapable of coherent thought, perplex (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Ppl.adj. ra(i)vel(l)ed, rowled, confused in mind, muddled; rambling, incoherent, delirious. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 139:
A'm raivelt i' the hehd; an' a dinna ken ae word it y're sayin.
Gsw. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 16:
Aye her raivell'd words Were babblin' o' the streams an' flowers.
Per. 1897 C. M. Stuart Sandy Scott's Bible Class 12:
I might kind o' half understan' it gin it had been in the heat o' the minute, and he had gotten raivelled wi' seeing his bairn.
Abd. 1918 J. Mitchell Bydand 9:
Losh guides! I'm surely ravelt noo, an' haverin' lots o styte.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 16:
He raivel't the bairns wi' their coonts an' sums.
m.Sc. 1932 O. Douglas Priorsford xvii.:
Ye couldna call her a good speaker, she's far ower long an' ravelled.
Bwk. 1947 W. L. Ferguson Makar's Medley 51:
Werena my legs and wuts that raivell't, I micht wun on to the Ploo.
Per.4 1966:
He's fair rowled, A cannae mak head or tail o him.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 164:
'You could never be so stupid as I am, could you, my darlin' wee jugal? You would never get your mind so ravelled.'
ne.Sc. 1991 Ken Morrice in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 61:
I jist canna
mind the noo. I'm ravelled - a bit fey
wi aa yon different peels.

6. To wander about in a purposeless manner (Fif. 1967). Also in n.Eng.Eng. dial.Fif. 1933 J. Ressich Thir Braw Days 55:
Anither fand that the back door o' his mither's hen-cavie had been in some way left agee an' them awa' oot raivelin' aboot an' near a' lost.

7. To nonplus, bamboozle, outwit (I.Sc., Mry. 1967).Ork. 1931 J. Leask Peculiar People 135:
Trath, boy, sheu waas a coorse waapan, bit haith, sheu deud fine, sheu raffled dem.

II. n. 1. A muddle, tangle, confusion (Ork. 1929 Marw., raffle). Gen.Sc. Also with up. Adj. raffelly, unkempt, slovenly (Ork. 1967).Ags. 1891 Barrie Little Minister iii.:
Urquhart was in sic a ravel after it.
Lnk. 1895 G. Roy Generalship 34:
This yarn she had . . . left in the cats' way, who . . . left it in one mass of unreddable raivels.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (23 Dec.):
Ta redd oot a raevl 'at wis fa'n in her wirsit.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. v. 175:
A' her claes were lying aboot i' a raffle.
Abd. 1913 G. Greig Mains Again 44:
There his been a ravel some wye or ither.
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 50:
I'm thinkin' that ye'd best come aff yer deece An' try tae redd the raivel up an' quaiten their din.

2. A broken or frayed thread, a loose end (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags., Uls. 1967). Also fig. Cf. I. 1. Adj. rilly, frayed, thrummy.Gsw. 1779 Session Papers, Petition A. M'Creadie (11 Dec.) Proof 4:
He found part of it [thread] deficient in yarn, knotty and bad; and also parts of it deficient in colour, rilly and not bleached.
Sc. 1832 Carlyle Life (Froude 1882) II. 307:
Great is self-denial . . . Life goes all to ravels and tatters, where that enters not.

[O.Sc. ravel, to become entangled, from a.1585, Du. ravelen, rafelen, to tangle, fray out. Still standard in Eng. in sense of to unravel, to disentangle.]

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"Raivel v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jun 2024 <>



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