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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SKELF, n.1 Also skyelf (Abd. 1914 G. Greig Folk Song cxxxvi. 1); skelv.-; skilf; ¶scalf. Pl. skelfs. Dim. skelfie. [skɛlf]

1. A shelf in gen. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork., ne.Sc., Ags. 1970); a framework or set of shelves; a ledge of stone, rock, etc. (Cai. 1904 E.D.D., Cai. 1970). Also in n.Eng. dial. Adj. skelvy, shelving, forming a shelf or ledge, of a rocky river-bank or the like (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1970).Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. iii. ii.:
The Green-Horn Spoons, beech-Luggies mingle On Skelfs foregainst the Door.
Sh. 1773 Hjaltland Misc. (1937) III. 141:
For a Double Deal to the scalf.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 210:
On auld worm-eaten skelf, in cellar dunk.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Petit. Bruar Water iv.:
Foaming down the skelvy rocks.
Slg. 1788 R. Galloway Poems 160:
For want o' sap, baith hard and dry; Shall thou on stoury skelfs ly by.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 41:
The skelf, or frame, containing shelves, with cross bars in front, to prevent the utensils set upon its shelves from tumbling off.
Sc. 1803 in Scott Minstrelsy III. 358:
Ilk rib sae bare, a skelvy skair.
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize III. xxii.:
It's the head and the hand beside it that has but twa fingers left, on the Kirkgate end o' the skelf.
Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 94:
Ye'll get yer shavin' leems o' the skelfie ahin' the saut backit.
Cai. 1909 D. Houston 'E Silkie Man 7:
'Ey sees a skelf far 'ey can lan?
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 15:
A'm haaf-jaloosin ye did the best pairt o' the coortin yersel or ye-da been on the skelf yet.
Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 37:
Dis een it da end o' da skelf is foo o' fleein' mochs.

2. A shelf above a box-bed, freq. used as a sleeping bunk by young children (Ork., em.Sc. 1970); a ship's bunk.Rs. 1727 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) 133:
2 small beddes for children and skelfs round about.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 249:
To lay it o' the sleeping skelf.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xv.:
I canna say I saw ony blue-devils glowerin' at me frae the bed skelf.
Ags. 1872 J. Kennedy Jock Craufurt 115:
To gang below amang the rest, An' lie doon in his little skelf.
Ork. 1949 “Lex” But-end Ballans 8:
I . . . teuk a cloot fae de skelf o' de bed.

[O.Sc. skelf, shelf, c.1480, North. Mid.Eng. skelfe, id., with sk- due to Scandinavian influence. Cf. O.N. -skjalf, bench, seat. There may have been influence also from the cogn. Du. schelf, a hay-loft or -rack.]

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"Skelf n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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