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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WALE, n.1, adj., v. Also wail (Slg. 1744 Burgh Rec. Slg. (1889) 361; Edb. 1827 M. & M. Corbett Busy-Bodies I. xi.; Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 46), waill, waile ; wael (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), ¶wael, ¶well; wall (Ayr. 1886 J. Meikle Lintie 57; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), ¶wal(le) (n.Sc. 1805 Water o Gamrie in Child Ballads No. 215 D. ii.), waal (Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 15), waul; ¶weil (Edb. 1866 J. Inglis Poems 73); †weal (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 133); wyle (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Per., Fif. 1915–26 Wilson; ne.Sc., em.Sc. (a) 1973), wile, see P.L.D. § 126.2. [Sc. wel, Cai. weɪl; ne., em.Sc. (a) wəil; Bte., Ayr., Kcb. + wɑl]

I. n. 1. Choice, the act of choosing, scope for choice (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcb. 1900; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne. and m.Sc. 1973); a selection; abundance, plenty to choose from (Cai. 1966, a weal o fish). Phr. will and wale, free choice, also adv. in abundance.Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 72:
Of Daintiths they had Routh and Wale.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 9:
Lat him than now tak will an' wile.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 310:
Gif that ane soud tak the dorts, They'll get their wale o' twenty.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 105:
I hae bought a house wad please ye, Caps an' luggies, rowth an' wale.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 129:
And flocks o' brownies, will and wale, Some chain'd, some loose.
Dmf. 1824 Dumfries Courier (21 July):
Ane has time to look about them and tak' a gude wale.
Peb. 1836 J. Affleck Poet. Wks. 81:
I've sheets and blankets, will and wale.
Sc. 1836 Michael Scott The Cruise of the Midge Vol. I (1894) 316:
Nae wale o' wigs here.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Arch. Soc. (1923) 24:
What use is licht, or the gleggest o' sicht, When there's neither pick nor wale.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 210:
There's sic a wale o' stuff that the man canna get what ye want.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 28:
Some one offered him his waul o' a penny and a saxpence.
Ags. 1960 Forfar Dispatch (17 Nov.):
There wiz a wile a twa roads and fa kens whilk ane a bus'll tak it intae its heid tae traivel?

2. The pick, the choice, that which is selected as the best (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–1926 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Slg., Lth., sm.Sc. 1973). Cf. Outwale, n., the rejects, refuse.Sc. 1720 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 150:
The Wale of well-set Ruby Juice.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 109:
Auld Reikie, wale o' ilka Town That Scotland kens beneath the Moon.
Ayr. 1789 Burns To J. Tennant 32:
The ace an' wale of honest men.
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 78:
But I hae flocks the vera wyle.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lv.:
The Bertrams were aye the wale o' the country side.
Sc. 1828 Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret in Child Ballads No. 260 B. xvi.:
He pat it till his rosy lips, And then the well o wine gaed in.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 283:
She talks nought but the wale o' grand words.
Per. 1842 R. Nicoll Poems 48:
Memie's the queen amang the flowers The wale of womankind.
w.Lth. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 223:
Thou wast a coat, o' coats the wale.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 71:
My laddie was match for the wale o' the lan'.
Ork. 1927 Peace's Almanac 137:
Lads is droll tings teu; aye, even Peter 'ats da waal o' dem.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 88:
But Maillie is the wale o' beasts.

3. In phr. and comb.: (1) the wale o (someone), a person's equal; (2) wile warst, the worst of the lot, the very worst (Abd., Kcd. 1973), prob. adapted from weel warst s.v. Weel, adv.(1) Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
Ye'll have heard tell of Prophet Peden. There was never the wale of him sinsyne.
(2) Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xx.:
'E wile warst [weather] 'at we've seen for mony a day.

II. adj. Choice, select, excellent. Rare and liter. Obs. in Eng. since 16th c.Ayr. 1789 J. Fisher Poems 102:
Ae simmer e'en baith wale an' trig, About the mirkning, doun the rig A lad cam' to the Fitman-brig.

III. v. 1. tr. (1) To choose, select (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 95, 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Cai. 1934; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes Dial. S. Kintyre 15, waal; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne., m., s.Sc. 1973). Also in n.Eng. dial.Gall. 1703 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) I. 104:
If John M'Caul had been wailing a dog he might have wailed one of a good kind and not a Highland whelp.
Sc. 1713 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (B.R.S.) 507:
To expenses with the wrights when wailling the timber for the Hie Kirk.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. viii.:
To lowse his pack an' wale a sang, A ballad o' the best.
Per. a.1824 Lady Nairne Songs (Rogers 1905) 211:
Her waddin' goun was wyl'd and won, It ne'er was on, it ne'er was on.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 170:
Wale yer sweetest, best-gaun reed. Yer loodest chanter.
Bte. 1853 W. Bannatyne Poems 157:
Resolved a guid ane for to waul.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 4:
So I maun only wyle a fyou, An' maybe no' the best.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 396:
Eppie McFetrick had tae wale anither lad tae hersel.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Jooly 6):
Whaar der bit ean ta tak, ye hae crimp room for waelin.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xiii.:
A broken man that is unlocking his heart and cannot wale his words.
Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 79:
He hed naeting tae deu bit geong 'is waas tae da kirkyaird an' waal a screw nail oot o' a coffin 'at hed been anunder da meuld wi' a corp in id for seevan year.
Sc. 1952 Scots Mag. (March) 459:
Nae walin' blithely the brawest bloom, It was Murray's Meg or — the tree o' doom!
Abd. 1993:
Ye aye wyle e biggest een, divn't ye?
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 3:
Bunty Strachan fa cud hae wyled her pick o the loons fur miles aroon, hid she nae bin sae sweir tae pick a lad.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 164:
The But n Ben's location had been carefully waled. The dachas on the Gorms belanged the ubercless, each ane hoosin a paragon o Port douceness an respectability.

Also with advs. and in phr. (i) to wale by, to choose and put the selected objects to one side; (ii) to wale out, to pick out after selection (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1973); (iii) to wale one's feet, road, steps, way, to pick one's way, step forward with caution (Sh., Ags. 1973). Also in n.Eng. dial.(i) Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 56:
Bannocks and kebbocks knit intil a claith She had wiled by, and row'd up in her waith.
(ii) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
Wale out the whitest o' my bobbit Bands.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 72:
I ken them sae, that I cud hae nae doubt, Frae mony a thousand men to weal them out.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xix.:
He was a most creditable man that we had waled out for a Captain.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 114:
The Lord Himsel' in former days. Waled out the proper tünes for praise.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (16 Dec.):
Da boys is wael'd a' da anes wi' güde readin' oot afore doo got dem.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 16:
A cood wale oot Rule Waeter's coorse feine, — merkeet wui raws on raws o treis.
Gall. 1932 A. McCormick Galloway 152:
He had to climb the last twenty feet up a slithery face after “wauling” out grips for feet and hands.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
A' the best eens'll be wilet oot.
Edb. 1965 J. K. Annand Sing it Aince 26:
He waled oot ane o' middle size.
(iii) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 59:
A' road to her was bad an' gueed alike; Nane o't she wyl'd, but forret still did streak.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Let. xii.:
Nae time to be picking and waling your steps.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 259:
Walin' his feet like a flae on a mangy dog rubbet wi' brumstane.
Gall. 1932 A. McCormick Galloway 43:
I had to “waul” my way down that rough cobble-path.

(2) Specif. To arrange according to kind, size or quality, to separate into lots, to sort, freq. of farm animals or produce, esp. potatoes (Kcb. 1900; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Wgt. 1939 Galloway News (25 Feb.), well; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne., m.Sc., s.Sc. 1973).Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxii.:
He fell to sorting out the potatoes, throwing the bad ones on a heap aside — “tattie-walin”, as they call it in the north.

(3) To rummage, to search about in, to grope through.Cai. 1869 M. McLennan Peasant Life 73:
I could wale the country for a husband.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 246:
I instantly begood to waul my pooches for a lance.

2. absol. To make one's choice or selection, to pick and choose. Gen.Sc.Per. 1805 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 177:
Airth's marriage, which is the wisest thing he can do, if he shall wale well.
Ayr. 1848 J. Ramsay Woodnotes 104:
Even, when the hero took the beuk, He waled wi' earnest anxious leuk.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 100:
The seller aye fennie, the buyers gey smairt, An' a' waulin' wi' care.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 77:
How the Muse has wyled an' winnowed.
Per. 1903 H. Dryerre Blairgowrie 329:
With so much to “wyle amang.”
m.Sc. 1920 O. Douglas Penny Plain xxiii.:
He's waited lang, but he's waled weel in the end.

3. intr. with various preps. and advs.: (1) to wale amang, amo(n), to choose between (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags. 1973); (2) to wale awa, to pick out and take away, but in quot. prob. confused with Eng. wile, to lure away; (3) to wale for, to choose with care, to look out for (Sh., Abd., Ags. 1973); (4) to wale through, to hunt through, to investigate; (5) to wall upo, — apae, to seize eagerly, to pounce on.(1) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxi.:
There ocht to be ane or twa owre an' abeen, to wale amon'.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 149:
A person haes ta wale among dem, ye kno.
Abd. 1960 Stat. Acc.3 223:
“She wylt amo' the floors an' gaed awa wi' a docken” (a flirt often marries the worst of her admirers).
(2) Mry. 1887 W. H. L. Tester Poems 166:
An' then the rogues wal'd me awa, To spen' a nicht in Craigen's Kiln.
(3) Ayr. 1785 Burns Halloween iv.:
They steek their een, an' grape an' wale For muckle anes, an' straught anes.
Rnf. 1815 W. Finlayson Rhymes 50:
I'll leuk about me weil, an' for a guid ane wale.
Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 26:
Wale for da saftest hedder For yon peerie feet o dine.
Sc. 1931 H. McDiarmid First Hymn to Lenin 20:
If I'd to wale for ancestors, I'd ha'e Auld Ringan Oliver and the Caird o' Barullion.
(4) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 12:
I have wauled three several times through the Scots Almanack.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 124:
I dinna ken what the folk'll say to thir notandums ava, or gin they'll ever be fashed to waul them through.
(5) Ork. 1929 Marw.:
As sune as he saw the bundle he walld apae hid.

4. In derivs.: (1) ppl.adj. waled (out), walit, carefully chosen, select, choice. Gen.Sc. Used ¶as a n., the chosen one(s), the elect. Combs. ill-waled, hand- (see Hand, n., 9. (42)), weel- (Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 80, -wail'd, 1825 Jam., freq. ‘applied to persuasive language'). Gen.Sc.Abd. 1723 W. Meston Knight 20:
And with some well weil'd Interjections Could stirr them up to Insurrections.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 6:
These guid auld saws, that shine with wail'd sense.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 119:
My ill-wal'd words, master, excuse.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 74:
Picked and waled were a' his words.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xviii.:
Gude and waled Christians they were too, . . . some o' them wad greet mair for a bit drowned calf or stirk, than for a' the defections and oppressions of the day.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 355:
Weel wault is mony a hazle stick, Enough to tak' a life.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah liv. 12:
Yer gavels, o' weel-wale'd pleasant stane.
Gall. a.1900 “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 5:
May the Sun o' Reform yer genius sae warm, Till waled scun in a jiffey gets egress.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 149:
Some forty waled men.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. lv.:
Grace or divine luve is the proper gift o the walit.
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 29:
They [Samaritans] were no coontit kin wi' the waled-oot race.

Freq. in ballad usage in phr. waled wight men, also wale-, wa(ll)-, ¶well-, the best and bravest men, elite troops.Sc. a.1780 Child Ballads (1956) IV. 164:
Nine well-wight men lay waiting him, Upon the braes of Yarrow.
Sc. 1803 Scott Minstrelsy III. 12:
If fifteen hundred waled wight men You'll grant to ride wi' me.
Sc. 1828 Earl Brand in Child Ballads No. 7 G. xiii.:
If you'll get me fyfteen wale wight men, Sae fast as I'll fetch her back again.
Sc. 1828 Willie o Winsbury in Child Ballads No. 100 G. ix.:
O where are all my wall-wight men, That I pay meat and fee.
Abd. 1925 Greig & Keith Last Leaves 100:
He has hangit the proud Shirra, An' some mair o his wall-wight men.

(2) Vbl.n. walin, (i) the act or process of choosing, choice, selection (ne.Sc., Ags. 1973); (ii) the pick, the best (Abd., Ags., Ayr., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1973); (iii) the leavings, refuse (Slg., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1973).(i) Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 15:
There is a great “wilin'” among the silvery heap but at length plates are full.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 9:
Wylins fae my wallet (Title).
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 197:
Wha stum'le aff in a path o' their ain walin.
(ii) Dmf. 1874 R. W. Reid Moorland Rhymes 9:
Like their faithers afore them, the walins o' men.
Kcb. 1930:
The taties dinna look tae hae mony chuns, but ye can set the walins o them.
Abd. c.1930 C. Murray Last Poems (1969) 14:
A lass like you 's had lads or noo, The wylins o' the glen.
(iii) Uls. 1953 Traynor:
One of a certain congregation complained that the bishop sent them the walins of all preachers.

(3) Agent n. wailer, a surface-worker at a coalmine who picks out stones and other rubbish from the coal, a picker. Also in n.Eng. mining usage.e.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 435:
Men above, such as engineers, staithmen, wailers, trimmers, etc.

[O.Sc. waile, choice, 1450, will and wale, 1456, the best, 1513, to choose, 1420, of choice quality, 1515, North. Mid.Eng. wale, choice, O.N. val, choice, selection.]

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"Wale n.1, adj., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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