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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.

THOLE, v., n. Also thoule, thowl (Uls. 1924 Northern Whig (18 Jan.)), †tholl; ¶thaul (Fif. 1814 W. Tennant Trottin' Nanny xxx.). [θo:l]

I. v. 1. tr. To suffer, undergo (pain, grief, vexation, etc.), to be subjected to or afflicted with, to have to bear or endure. Gen.Sc., but considered to be a borrowing in I.Sc. Also in n.Eng. dial. Vbl.n. tholin. Also fig. to undergo a trial period, e.g. in a job.Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 79:
He shook her, and sware muckle Dool Ye's thole for this, ye Scaul.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 23:
Dree out the inch when ye have thol'd the span.
Ayr. 1785 Burns To a Mouse vi.:
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble, To thole the Winter's sleety dribble.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. 60:
We hae tholed a foray the night already.
Mry. 1830 Lintie o' Moray (Cumming 1851) 19:
Each year this penance he did thole.
Fif. 1841 C. Gray Lays 146:
Few stayed — save ae devoted band — To thole the sweep o' Highland brand.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xiii.:
My craig 'll have to thole a raxing.
Kcb. 1897 J. Morrison Miss McGraw 28:
It wad hae been easier to hae tholt mony troubles than just to be alane like i' the warld.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 18:
He had the prospeck o' a guid repast To en' the tholin' o' a pinchin' fast.
m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 27:
D'ye think the folk that rant and brag Wad thole yon trial?
Lth. 1924 A. Dodds Poppies in Corn 14:
Hae ye ever tholed a back that bends?
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 86:
For a time the country had tholed John Baliol, who had danced like a puppet to English Edward's string-pulling, before William Wallace took on the task of rallying Scots to fight for their independence.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 25:
Blythe nou wha tholed the wintertide
its crannreuch cauld an lang.
Green, green the shaws on braw Kenside
an sweet the laverock's sang.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 92:
an' hear at the winnock the sclammer o birds
in the simmer o their life, or thole sair weather
and say nocht, yet fear nocht, in love ayont words.
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 41:
Nae use to hide yoursel frae her fell dingin
That, as gin it tae wes wingan,
Raxes ye and kaas doun aa defences:
Bumbazed I thole near rivit o my senses.
Gsw. 1992 Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing! (1993) 165:
Aye, nor could you walk through a blizzard and not get your jacket soaked. I stuck it on, tholing the arctic hug of the thing as one might endure the ghostly embrace of a departed loved one.

Hence phrs.: (1) to thole an (one's) assize, Sc. Law: to stand trial. Also fig. to undergo a trial period, e.g. in a job. (2) to thole fire and water, of grain: to undergo processing at a mill, to be dried and ground in a mill, a translation of the feudal charter phr. grana quae aquam et ignem patiuntur. In 1821 quot. used jocularly = to be cooked.(1) Sc. 1800 Scots Mag. (May) 362:
He therefore contended that the pannels had not tholed an assize, and craved the Court to discharge the Jury without receiving their verdict.
Sc. 1811 J. Burnett Crim. Law 369:
Two objections were stated: one founded on the act 1701; and the other on the Common Law, — that no one is to thole an assize twice for the same crime.
Sc. 1827 Scott Journal (1891) 355:
The Advocate says she shall be tried anew, since she has not tholed an assize.
Sc. 1870 Justiciary Reports (1868–70) 394:
The suspender had been called on to plead, and evidence had been led. He had thereby tholed an assize.
Sc. 1954 Scotsman (17 Nov.) 7:
Once a jury was empanelled the accused was regarded as having tholed his assize.
 Sc. 1994 Herald (20 Aug) 5:
Mr Foulkes immediately resigned as a defence spokesman and returned to the back benches. Now his friends in the party believe he has tholed his assize, and it is time for him to return to a more prominent position.
Sc. 2000 Herald (20 May) 20:
He poses no threat to women or anyone other than his opponent. He has tholed his assize; is his punishment now to be extended extra-legally, Sir, at your behest?
(2) Sc. 1707 Fountainhall Decisions (1761) II. 352:
These words of tholing fire and water are ordinarily interpreted of steeping and kilning, and not of baking and brewing.
Abd. 1712 Powis Papers (S.C.) 206:
Such corns, oats or malt as they coft from the country and tholed fire and water in and about Old Aberdeen.
Sc. 1753 Session Papers, Petition J. Kelties (2 March) 2:
All Grain inbrought, and tholing Fire and Water within the Thirl of the said Mill.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate v.:
Call it drammock, or crowdie, or just what ye list, my vivers must thole fire and water.

2. tr. with direct obj., noun clause, inf. or gerund: to endure with patience or fortitude, to put up with, tolerate, stand, suffer in silence (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen.Sc. Obs. exc. dial. in Eng. Hence lang-tholin, long-suffering (Abd. 1972).Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 42:
By laughing Dogs and Apes abus'd, Wha is't can thole to be sae us'd!
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 87:
But now, it's [her tongue] turn'd sae souple and sae bauld, That Job himsell cou'd scarcely thole the scauld.
Sc. 1776 Clerk Saunders in Child Ballads No. 69. A. xx.:
O Sanders, I'le do for your sake What other ladies would na thoule.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Twa Dogs 12–3:
Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash, How they maun thole a factor's snash.
Sc. 1825 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 25:
They canna thole being looked at, when they come screeching out frae their het eggs.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 229:
Muckle maun a gude heart thole.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 129:
I'll thole my paiks.
Dmb. 1894 D. MacLeod Past Worthies 203:
He would advise the patient to gang hame an' thole't as weel's he could.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 91:
A' cudna thole that ye sud think me a lawbreaker.
Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xxx.:
I hope we have nane o' thae aboaminable English amang us. I canna thole them!
Kcb. 1911 G. M. Gordon Auld Clay Biggin 31:
A cauldrife wooer she cudna thole.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ i. xxiv.:
A lang-tholin man isna slaw tae ax paurdon o' ithers.
Ags. 1921 V. Jacob Bonnie Joann 28:
He couldna thole to see a wean Wheepin' his pearie on the green.
Sc. 1952 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 375:
Their own minister whose preaching they might have to enjoy or to thole for the rest of their days.
Sc. 1969 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 118:
The man in the velvet jaicket — R.L.S. Wha couldna thole respectable Heriot Row.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 65:
Try to thole the worst
since even this will seem, mebbe, ae day,
only the sweer traffic o the cloods
ower the sea, teasin into toomness.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 31:
Bryce tholed nothing less than near perfection from either of his brothers.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 4:
Aboot the sairvant, I neither care nor ken
But Tartuffe his maister is a Man Among Men
His truth's sairness and shairness is mair than you can thole,
Yet his yin thocht is your immortal soul.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 49:
My faither's wearied, a window life
scunners him wha cuid never thole
hauf-deid fowk wi kirkyaird sowls.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (15 May) 10:
The suggestion that Scotland was being asked to thole a nulcear station in order to supply English electricity was one which the SSEB resisted from the day it chose the site in 1973.
em.Sc.(a) 1991 Kate Armstrong in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 115:
Thae Romans tholed a teerant ill.
Sc. 1991 Scotsman (14 Dec) 6:
The Reader will say "I can't thole novels set in Glasgow" or "I can never resist the old Raj", ...
Abd. 1993:
I wisna able tae thole e dirdin o e car ower e cassie steens.
m.Sc. 1994 Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay Forever Yours, Marie-Lou 54:
... Aw she said wis, "When he starts touchin ye, jist shut yir een an lie thair stiff! Ye jist hiv tae thole it, fur it's yir duty as a wife!"
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 157:
'I dinna ken,' she told him. 'It isna easy, James. Ma brither Nicol's wife has taen ower the stall these last days, but she canna afford the time and I canna afford tae pey her for it. Forby, Nicol has troubles o his ain tae thole. ... '
Sc. 2000 Herald (1 Mar) 16:
The Royal Bank and the Bank of Scotland are honourable exceptions but the decision by the rest to apply a charge to customers of other banks and building societies who use their cash machines is regrettable. It could, and should, be tholed if the charge were no more than the cost to them of the transaction.
Sc. 2000 Herald (6 Mar) 13:
A society [America] ravaged by drugs as people search for an escape from a reality they cannot thole.
Sc. 2000 Herald (14 Aug) 17:
A much more attractive prospect, surely, than having to thole that nasty feeling of the pin-prick for most of the day.

Derivs. and comb.: tholeable, bearable, tolerable (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Lnk. 1895 A. G. Murdoch Readings II. 96; Gen. (exc. I.) Sc.), †thole-muiddy, -moody, patient, long-suffering (n.Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), gloomily thoughtful, pensive (Watson), tholer, a person who perseveres and puts up with difficulties, †tholesum, tolerable (Fif. 1825 Jam.).Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xv.:
As diverse as possible frae bein' delightsome or even tholeable.
Dmf. 1997 Nell Thomson Spit the First Sook 7:
My father was what they called a bad tholer; he made such a fuss, with "Ohs" and "Ahs" when being tended to. Terabin Balsam was the disinfectant most used, for both man and beast - a sure cure.
Uls. 2002 Belfast News Letter (23 Mar) 20:
Tholer one who endures pain (Ye'r a very bad tholer).

3. (1) To be capable of, to be able to admit, endure, etc., to bear, allow for, have space, time or strength (for), to manage (n.Sc., Ags., wm.Sc. 1972). Also with advs. aff, on, to, and suppression of the verb modified: to admit of something being added or taken away, or shut, in regard to a door, etc. (Abd. 1825 Jam.). See Aff, On, Tae.Sc. 1791 Lochmaben Harper in Child Ballads No. 192. A. ii.:
Wi' a' the speed that he coud thole.
Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 164:
Mony a thump it would thole afore the bark even was chipped through o' the gnarled aik.
m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 92:
We'll see how far taxation's screw Will thole a thraw yet.
Fif. 1862 St Andrews Gazette (8 Aug., 10 Oct.):
I didna think the maister wuld pit the laddie up dux unless he tholed to be there. . . . He couldna thole time to send you his usual bit scribly.
s.Sc. 1871 N. & Q. (Ser. 4) VIII. 156:
It'll thole a drap mair watter; it will bear to be farther diluted.
Lnk. 1885 R. Naismith Stonehouse 185:
There wadna tholed to hae been mony [folk], for I needed the hale road tae mysel'.
ne.Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 53:
But kennin' weel we'd win the day, We could hae thol't the double o't.
Uls. 1953 Traynor:
It would thole a patch.
Abd., Ags., Fif. 1972:
“It's a better day, Jock.” “Ay, it could thole tae be [i.e. it could afford to be, it's time it was].”

Phr. to thole amends, to admit of improvement, to be capable of being bettered, freq. in regard to health (Dmf. 1972). Used quasi-adv. in comb. thole-amens, with room for improvement.Sc. 1770 in J. P. Muirhead Life James Watt (1859) 198:
Health and spirits . . . would still thole amends.
Sc. 1808 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) 22:
The style would also, in our Scotch phrase, thole amends, i.e. admit of improvement.
Lnk. 1927:
“Hoo's the Missus the day?” “Raither better but tholeamens yet.”
Peb. 1942:
“Hoo are ye?” “Och, no' sae bad, thole amens,” i.e. “I'm nearly all right.”

(2) to require, cause a need, give occasion (for).Fif. 1862 St Andrews Gazette (25 July):
What's the use o' readin' havers or lang-nebbit words that tholes you aye to be speerin' the meanin' or turnin' up Johnson's dictionar, to let you ken the plain Scotch or English o'?

4. tr. To allow, permit, suffer. Obs. in Eng.Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 184:
'Tis a Scandal and black-burning Shame, To thole young Callands thus to grow sae snack.
s.Sc. 1857 H. S. Riddell St Matthew iii. 15:
Jesus answirin' said untill him, Thole it til be sae now.

5. tr. To part with willingly, to do without in order to give to another. Rare in Sc. and freq. in n.Eng. dial.Dmf. 1892 Carlyle Letters (Norton 1888) I. 205:
We thought the weather too stormy. You must thole her a little.

6. intr. To be patient, wait patiently (n.Sc., Ags., Per. 1972), obs. in Eng.; to last out, endure. Combs. and phr.: thole-weel, n., patience, in proverbial expressions; to thole on, to suffer or wait patiently (Cai. 1905 E.D.D.); to thole through, to pull through (an illness) (Ags., Lnl. 1972); to thole wi, to put up with, tolerate. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 104:
Thole ye, says Peg, that pawky slut.
Per. 1766 A. Nicol Poems 58:
I do bid them thole a while Till ance the spring come in again.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 37:
His patience could nae langer thole.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Steam-Boat xvi.:
Mr Jamphler, ye maun thole wi' me.
Sc. 1873 A. Hislop Proverbs 305:
Thole weel is gude for burning.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Keckleton 47:
Mary declared she “cud thole nae langer”.
Ags. 1896 Barrie Margaret Ogilvy 35:
She is ‘on the mend', she may ‘thole thro', if they take great care of her.
Uls. 1904 Victoria Coll. Mag. 11–12:
“Thole weel's a fine cowlt” means that patience and endurance go far. . . . The parent in his confusion, while scratching his head, said: “Thole a wee, sir”.
Gsw. 1909 J. J. Bell Oh! Christina! 103:
Jist you thole till ye get on the boat, an' then ye'll soon be warm.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 83:
Thole weel, wi' faith an' patience wait.
Lnk. 1926 W. Queen We're a' Coortin' 25:
Ye maun juist dae yer best an' thole wi' thim.
m.Sc. 1991 Donald Goodbrand Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 136:
He's written her a letter:
'My hairt, O come til me,
Withoot ye, I canna thole ....'
She laucht till the tear blint her ee.

II. n. Patience, endurance, ability to suffer or endure (Gall. 1972). Rare and obs. in Eng. Now chiefly Uls.Gall. 1902 A. E. Maxwell Lilts frae the Border 9:
Altho' she had Nae thole o' thae big beards.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 144:
I have a tarrible bad thole when there's whiskey about.
Uls. 1953 Traynor:
He hasn't thole in him.
Gsw. 1985 Anna Blair Tea at Miss Cranston's 195:
Alongside all these public preparations and precautions against bombing and invasion these were the pinpricks and vexations of daily wartime life...remembering to carry gas-masks, coping with ration books, running with potato-peelings and left-overs to the neighbourhood swill bin, sticking unsightly anti-splinter netting on window panes for fear of air-raids. But that was all small thole while young men and women were facing the waste of real war.

[O.Sc. thoill, to suffer, from 1375, tholmod, patient, 1400, thole an assise, 1425, to tolerate, 1393, to permit, 1400, Mid.Eng. thole, O.E. þolian, O.N. þola, to endure.]

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"Thole v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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