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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THEEVIL, n. Also theeval, -el, -le, theivil (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.), thevil, thieval; theavil, thaivil (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); thivel, -il, thivle (Peb. 1817 R. Brown Comic Poems 87); reduced forms theel, thiel, theil (esp. Fif.); and dissimilated forms theadle, theedle (Knr. 1825 Jam.; Bnff. c.1890 Gregor MSS.; Cai., Ags., Knr., Fif. 1972; Ayr. 2000s), theidle, ¶wheedle (Clc. 1921 T.S.D.C.). See also Wheegil. [′θi:vəl; Fif., Knr. θi:l, ′θidəl; Dmf. ′θəivəl]

A short tapering stick used to stir food cooking in a pot, a pot-stick, Spurtle (wm.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 88; n.Sc. (thivel), Fif., Ayr. (theivil) 1825 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; n.Sc. (obsol.), em.Sc. (a), w.Lth., Peb., Dmf. 1972). Also in n.Eng. dial.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 151:
The thivel on the pottage pan.
Ags. 1816 G. Beattie Poems (1883) 47:
An' ay's they steer'd them wi' a theevil, They mummelt “crowdy for the deevil.”
Sc. 1829 Mrs Dalgairns Pract. Cookery 358:
A round wooden stick, smaller at the one end than the other, in Scotland called a thevil, is better adapted for stirring sugar or preserves with than a silver spoon.
Fif. 1844 J. Jack St Monance 91:
In her casual appliance of the pot-stirring theel.
Edb. 1863 Border Mag. (Oct.) 234:
The stirring utensil called a “theedle”.
Ags. 1906 Rymour Club Misc. I. 176:
The hireies roond the porridge pot, Lickin' at the theevil.
Per. 1926 D. Grewar Story of Glenisla 3:
Makin' the porridge an' lickin' the theevil.
Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Sc. Sangs 22:
We maunna hain the theevle.
Ags. 1990s:
Theadle: n. local corruption of theevil, widely used on the East Coast for the wooden porridge stirrer also known as a spurtle.

Combs. theevil-bow, a small piece of bent willow or whale bone, used with a plate and a bowl as a means of trapping mice (Fif. c.1850 Peattie MS.); theevil-ill, -shot (Ags.), a pain in the side, a stitch; “from the idea that it is owing to the stomach being overcharged with that food which is prepared by means of the theivil, or . . . because confined to a particular spot, as if one had received a stroke on it by a theivil” (Sc. 1825 Jam.), but this seems very doubtful.

[Mid.Eng. thyvelle, a pot-stick, corresp. in form, though not in meaning, to O.E. þȳfel, a bush, thicket, a dim. form of þūf, a tuft, the pole of a flag or banner. The root meaning is prob. something pointed, a peak. Cf. O.N. þúfa, a mound, Norw. dial. tuvla, a knoll, little haycock.]

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



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