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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SKELB, n., v. [skɛlb]

I. n. 1. A thin flake, slice or splinter, of wood, stone or metal (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif. 1899 J. Colville Sc. Vernacular 18; Uls. 1910 C. C. Russell People and Lang. Uls. 35; ne., em.Sc.(a) 1970), now esp. one lodged in the skin. Adj. skelby, thin, flake-like, laminated; full of or tending to form splinters (wm.Sc. 1880 Jam.).Per. 1839 G. Cumming Views Dunkeld 25:
The stone represented does not rock at present, but this arises from the interjection of skelbs (of stone) between the mass and its supporters.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xviii.:
Bits o' skelbs o' stickies.
Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 63:
The skelby blade o' a jockteleg.
Mry. 1932 E. Gilbert Spindrift 32:
A skelb o' flint tae keep his knife In good trim aye for fittlin'.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (27 Oct.):
A bleezin' skelb o' a rossetty stick or reet tae lat the lave o' them see tae tak' their sippers.
Fif. 1985 Christopher Rush A Twelvemonth and a Day 244:
They believed that certain boats were unlucky because they contained an unlucky 'spehl' or 'skelb', which was a small splinter of wood.

2. A thin slice in gen. (ne.Sc. 1970), as of a turf, etc., a furrow slice; the moon in one of its quarters.Bnff. 1895 N. Roy Horseman's Word iv.:
Yonder's a fine thin skelb. . . . The crap'll no be muckle the better for that kind of plewmanship.
Abd. 1958 Bon-Accord (16 Jan.) 11:
Lichtit on oor wye by a skelb o' a meen.

II. v. To cut or slice into flakes or splinters, to form splinters, to flake (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 157; Ags., Fif. 1970).Ags. 1825 J. Ross Sermon 16:
It's singit now, an' a' to scunt, An' skelfin' down in mony a dander.

[O.Sc. skelbe, splinter, a.1578, Gael. sgealb, Ir. scealb, a splinter, flake. See also Skelf, Skelp, n.2]

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



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