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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.

REEL, n.1, v.1 Also real, reil(l) (Abd. 1706 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VII. 22); wreil, rill-. Dim. reelie (Sc. 1825 Jam.).

I. n. 1. As in Eng., a revolving frame around which yarn is wound after spinning. Freq. in collocation rock and reel. See Rock, n. Sc. usages in comb. and phr.: (1) aff (o') the reel, (i) over and done with, finished, completed, “off the stretch”, at leisure, settled down; (ii) off at a tangent, off course, astray; ‡(2) reel aboot, a kind of cloth with horizontal stripes woven in alternate colours (Sh. 1968); (3) reel-tree, a reel (Ork. 1968).(1) (i) Lnk. 1873 A. G. Murdoch Doric Lyre 74:
A man's brain's never aff the reel.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (29 July):
Geordie o' Newgird an' Eppie o' da Punds, 'ill shurely buckle tagedder dis year. . . . We a' lippen'd dem to be aff o' da reel last winter.
(ii) Lnk. 1895 W. C. Fraser Whaups o' Durley vii.:
He was running fair off the reel wi' pride.
(2) Sh. 1933 J. Gray Lowrie 92:
Wan ell o' shekkered wincy. Fower yairds o' reel aboot.

2. Extended usages, from the whirling motion involved in 1., specif.: (1) a lively traditional Scottish dance in which the basic movements are a setting step followed by a travelling figure, usu. a figure of eight, danced by units of three or four dancers; in more modern usage, a dance performed to a traditional reel tune by a set of four couples with similar movements. Freq. in combs. threesome-, foursome-, sixsome-, eightsome-, sixteensome reel, indicating the number of dancers in the set, and in phrs. Reel o Barn or Barm, Reel o Six, Reel o Tulloch, Auld Reel, Sixpenny Reel, etc., etc., as the names of particular dances. Combs. bull-reel, ram-reel, a reel danced by men only. See Ram, n.1, 1. (5); reel-dance, a reel, fig., a to-do, a commotion, stir; reiliebogie [ < reel o' Bogie], id., a tumult, disorder (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. phrs. (iii) below and (3).Sc. 1702 R. Currie in Coll. Dying Testimonies (1806) 61:
He is upon His journey coming, and there will be a reel-dance ere long.
Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis s.v. Rele:
A threesome Reel, where three dance together.
Sc. 1745 Lyon in Mourning (S.H.S.) I. 208:
Highland reels (the first reel the Prince called for was, “This is not mine ain house”).
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 67:
In many a reel they [fairies] scamper'd here and there.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 117:
Hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels.
Sc. 1805 F. Peacock Art of Dancing 86, 89:
A Reel danced by a herd boy and two young girls. Those who . . . are acquainted with Reel and Strathspey tunes, cannot but know that they are divided into two parts, each consisting of four bars, which severally contain four crotchets, or eight quavers.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xii.:
The Scottish jigs, and reels, and “twasome dances”, with a strathspey or hornpipe for interlude.
Abd. 1861 J. Grant Legends 85:
Inspired, excited, in a frenzy, the fiddler who officiated, then improvised the “Reel o' Tullich”.
Dmf. 1898 J. Paton Castlebraes 64:
The Lads and Lassies were now fidging fain for their expected Reels.
Slg. 1901 R. Buchanan Poems 162:
A regular bull reel it was and nae mistak'; . . . a hearty thump wi' a hunner tackety boots, a' at once.
Ork. 1905 W. T. Dennison Ork. Weddings 36:
We must now return to the barn, where preparations were being made for the great and final dance. This, in one part of the country was called “the Reel o' Barn”, and in other parts was called “Bobadebouster”.
Sc. 1956 Abd. Univ. Review (Autumn) 34:
The usage, adopted by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and the B.B.C., by which any dance performed to a reel tune is called a reel, whether it be a Foursome Reel or a longways Country Dance, is very modern. All older writers use “reel” to mean a Foursome or Threesome Reel or one of the later developments of these dances.
Bwk. 1964 J. F. and T. M. Flett Trad. Dancing 175:
This dance was known variously as the Reel of Six, the Sixsome Reel, and the Six Reel, and within living memory seems to have been performed only in and around the town of Lauder and the village of Oxton.

Also lit. and fig. in phrs.: (i) in gweed reel, in step, in good order, tidy (ne.Sc. 1968); (ii) out o' (the) reel, out of step or tune, astray. in(to) disorder, disarranged (ne.Sc. 1968); out of sorts, in health or temper (Id.); (iii) to dance the miller's reel, — the reel o' Bogie, reel o the bogie, — o' stumpie, euphemistically: to have sexual intercourse (Sc. 18th c. Merry Muses (1911) 51, -stumpie); (iv) to rin in a reel, to thrive collectively, to prosper in a body; (v) to rin the reel, to perform the figure of eight in a reel (Ork. 1968); to romp, run about in fun.(i)Abd. 2004:
I'm in rale gweed reel aifter ma holiday.
(ii) Abd. 1895 W. Allan Sprays II. 107:
But what in a' the warld we'd dee when a thing's oot o' reel.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 184:
Puir Johnnie, he'll gyang oot o' the reel wi' baith feet fan A'm awa'.
Abd. 1922 Weekly Press (11 Feb.) 2:
Th' roads are gyaun farrer oot o' reel, an' they'll be th' waur t' dee an' cost th' mair.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxiii.:
Jist a stappit nib an' a bittie oot o' reel.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (18 Feb.):
This jist pit a' oor plans oot o' reel.
(iii) Sc. 1710 S. Centlivre The Wonder v.:
Will ye ge yer Maidenheed to poor Gibby? Will ye dance the Reel of Bogye with me?
Sc. a.1796 Merry Muses (1911) 84:
Then she fell o'er, an' sae did I, An' danced the miller's reel, O.
Uls. a.1908 Traynor (1953):
I'll make her dance the reel of Bogie.
Dundee 1996 Matthew Fitt Pure Radge 4:
ah'll hooch yir grannie
an daunce lyk a run-deil
the reel o the bogie.
(iv) Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 171:
May a' your hens rin in a reel . . . And every ane twal at her heel.
(v) Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 68:
Some loons an' I, we ran the reel Wi' twa-three kimmers.
Sh. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 199:
Shetland has the same terminology as Orkney for the different parts of a Reel, i.e. the dancers are said to be “dancing” when they set to each other, and to be “running the reel”, or, more simply, to be “reeling”, when they perform the travelling figure.

(2) The music to which a reel is danced. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1748 W. Walsh Caled. Country Dances I. Titles:
The border reel. The reel of Glames.
Sc. 1818 B. Dun Nine Quadrilles pref.:
There are two kinds of music to which the Scotch reel is danced, viz. the reel properly so called, and the strathspey.
Rnf. 1865 J. Young Hamely Pictures 14:
Few bows wi' my ain guidman Could play strathspey or reel.
Sc. 1954 H. A. Thurston Scotland's Dances 26:
Most of the older reels were originally bagpipe tunes.

(3) A hubbub, commotion, to-do, clamour, phr. to make a reel, to cause a stir or pother; specif. of bees: the buzzing confused thronging in a hive as a symptom of swarming.Sc. 1705 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report XII. App. viii. 63:
If it be true that thers a peace on agitation, ther will soon be a reel.
m.Lth. 1706 J. Watson Choice Coll. I. 55:
If they had had any Feel That I had made them such a Reel.
Sc. 1711 J. Kirkwood Hist. 27 Gods Lnl. 5:
If therefore this Particular of turning out of School-masters at Pleasure, be tolerated, . . . it will make a pretty Reel amongst them thro' the Kingdom.
Sc. 1747 R. Maxwell Bee-Master 35:
Your Hive will be making a Reel, as we call it, once every Day.

(4) A noise, din, a peal (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh., Slg. 1968).Sc. 1724 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) III. 82:
To rare with rackles Reil.
Ayr. 1803 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 8:
Mak' na sic an awesome reel.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems II. 135:
He pu'd at the bell, an it gae sic a reel.
Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xxix. 7:
Atween bleezes o' licht comes a reel o' thunner.
Per. 1904 E.D.D.:
Save's, siccan a reel.

(5) A scolding, a telling-off.Lth. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 257:
“I gae her a gude reel”, I scolded her well.

II. v. 1. tr. To wind yarn on a reel, to fill (a spool) with thread. Gen.Sc., obsol. Phr. to reel a pirn, see Pirn, n.1, 1. (26).Ags. 1774 C. Keith Farmers Ha' (1801) vii.:
The auld gudewife the pirney reels Wi' tenty hand.

2. tr. and intr. To turn with a circular motion, to whirl or spin round (Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 175, wreil). Rare in Eng.Sc. 1715 Robin Red-breast and the Wren 10:
Mounting with Ribbons with Coats rilling, It is a Wonder to see such Speeling.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 501:
The upper han' at last he has gat, And reel'd thee on thy hench fu' flat.
Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 56:
Reel roun' his throne, Mr. Awmrose[Mr. A. wheels Mrs. North in the Patent Chair.]
Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rambling Rhymes 109:
Briskly to the wastlin' breeze Reels round yon bonny mill.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 30:
It . . . sen's the bleed reelin' throw the hairt.

3. Of the eyes: to roll or revolve with excitement, cupidity, etc. (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; ne.Sc., Ags. 1968); to squint.Abd. 1714 R. Smith Poems (1853) 38:
If thy sight were as good's thy smell, Thy reeling eyen had surely seen.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 84:
Ye never saw green cheese but your e'en reel'd.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 68:
His reeling eyn upon a raip he cast.
Per. 1804 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 121:
Sights that would make all his een reel again.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. iii.:
Reel-e'ed, else I'm gleyed mysel.

4. Of the head or senses: to be in a whirl, to be(come) giddy. Now in St. Eng. Comb. reel-heidit, dizzy, confused (Abd. 1968).Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 130:
Your glancing eyn will mak their heads to reel.
Sc. 1784 Burns O leave Novels 6:
Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons, They make your youthful fancies reel.
Sc. 1810 Scott Lady of Lake v. xvi.:
For, while the dagger gleam'd on high, Reel'd soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye.
Abd. 1957 People's Jnl. (23 March):
Ah've wrackit ma brains till Ah'm near reel-heidit.

5. As in Eng.: to walk with a rolling or staggering motion. Sc. comb. reel-fit, a foot so deformed or turned inwards that it causes this sort of walking, a club-foot; reel-fitted, having the feet thus deformed (Cld. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne.Sc., Per., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1968).Sc. 1867 H. Scott Fasti Eccl. Scot. I. 586:
A reel foot marred his personal appearance.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 155:
James being reel-fitted, and very anxious to have the sinnons cut.
Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People & Lang. 46:
Have you ever heard of a man being “reel-footed”? It means that he has twisted feet or a foot calculated to make him stagger.
Per. 1933 J. Meikle Alyth Par. Church 216:
Once, indeed, the price [of shoes] was thirty-six shillings, but one suspects a reel-foot in that case.

6. To rush about in a furious or headlong manner, to bustle on quickly and energetically.Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 71:
When he came hame his Wife did reel, And rampage in her Choler.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies Pref.:
We began at the point next us, an reel'd on till we came to the far end.

7. intr. and tr. with it: to dance a reel; specif. to dance the figure of eight movement. Gen.Sc. Also fig. Deriv. reeler, one engaged in dancing a reel. Combs. reel-about, a lively romping person (Cld. 1825 Jam.); reel-yeukin, itching to dance a reel (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). See Yeuk.Sc. 1734 Musical Miscellany vi. 76:
Round with a sodger reel, O.
Abd. p.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 181:
She begins to sing, to dance and reel.
Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 146–7:
The dancers quick and quicker flew; They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit.
Sc. 1813 Scott Bridal of Trierm. iii. xxi.:
Zarah's sands in pillars reeling Join the measure that we tread.
Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Border IV. 34:
The reelers gave place to the country-dancers.
Gall. 1843 J. Nicholson Trad. Tales 241:
Loud laugh'd auld Nick, and danc'd and reel'd.
Ags. 1857 A. Douglas Ferryden 88:
I'll get room to reel noo.
Rnf. 1861 M. Barr Poems 219:
Come, here goes toe and heel; Noo richt and left, noo set, noo set, Reel noo.
Abd. 1873 J. Ogg Willie Waty 29:
Hooch! reel, ye kitties, keep yer ribbons reelin'.
Ayr. 1892 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 257:
The nights we reel'd it in the ha'.
Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Poems 93:
To reel an' swing . . . While dancin' in the barn.
Sh., Ork. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 187:
“Running the reel”, or, more simply, “reeling”, when they perform the travelling figure.

8. To make a great noise, outcry, clamour or clatter, to hammer on a door or the like to attract attention; to crash, peal, of thunder; to barrack, of a mob. Hence reilin(g), vbl.n., a loud clattering noise (Sc. 1808 Jam.); of bees: the buzzing and bustling preliminary to swarming (see I. 2. (3)); ppl.adj., noisy, crashing, full of din or uproar (Cld. 1880 Jam.).Ayr. 1725 Stat. Acc.2 V. 263:
They were digging portatos att Corsbie, and were heard realing and making a noise in the hall.
Sc. 1747 R. Maxwell Bee-Master 35:
This reeling is occasioned, by a great many of the Bees flying, and making a confused Motion and Noise in the Fore-part of the Hive.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 151:
Sunket then at the door did reel.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 282:
The hamely cottage, an' the canny wife, Young healthfou bairns ga'en reeling in it rife.
Bwk. 1823 A. Hewit Poems 132:
At last he arriv'd at the house, Whar loudly he reel'd for his deary.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Waugh v.:
I reeled and screamed till she heard me.
Ayr. 1847 J. Paterson Ballads II. 55:
Through the windows stanes did reel.
Fif. 1869 St. Andrews Gazette (20 March):
He saw Mr. Thomas at the station surrounded by a mob. They were spitting and reeling at him.
Rnf. 1877 J. Neilson Poems 42:
A rant o' thun'er reelin!
Cld. 1880 Jam.:
The change-house was jist reilin wi' the kintra servants.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xix.:
An'ra Wabster's wife . . . wha cam reelin on the door in a dreidfu' state o' mind.

9. Fig. To be in a state of confusion or discord, be unsettled or volatile in one's views. Sc. 1713 T. Boston Memoirs (1853) 250:
Feeding the reeling, separating humour among the people.

[All the forms and meanings of reel have been taken together on the assumption that they are all derived ultimately from O.E. hrēol, a yarn-winder, but the arrangement of the senses above is tentative and the semantic development is not entirely clear. O.Sc. has reill, a whirl, 1572, a tumult, 1533, a dance, a.1585, a dance-tune, 1591, to rush about, 1375, to roll, of the eyes, to cause to roll. 1513, to dance reels, a.1500.]

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"Reel n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



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