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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 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 6 Dec 2022 <>



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