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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.

WEEL, adv., adj. Also †weall (Sc. 1702 Seafield Corresp. (S.H.S.) 353), weil (Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 34, Dmf. 1820 Hogg Winter Ev. Tales I. 260), weill (Sc. a.1714 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 489), weell (Abd. 1715 Hist. Papers Jacobite Period (S.C.) 44, 1836 J. Grant Tales of the Glens 17) and reduced forms wae, wi', in unstressed speech, esp. in sense I. 3. in Gall. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. well (Sc. 1705 Sutherland Bk. (Fraser 1892) II. 202; Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 127; Ayr. 1773 Burns Handsome Nell v.; Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xli.; Slk. 1828 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1876) xiii.; Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 220; Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxix.; Ags. 1892 Barrie Little Minister x.; Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 388; Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 84; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.Sc. Hence weel-laek, looking well, having a fine appearance (Sh. 1898 J. Burgess Tang ii.). [wil]

Sc. forms:m.Sc. 1979 William J. Rae in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 79:
Weel, he had scarce but lowpit ashore and begun a hop or sae in the wey o the Gudgie Burn puddocks, whaun Eck tuik a byordinaur fit o croakin. The MacPuddock richt near gaed aff the legs, he wis that sair fleggit by it, and efter that gat intae an awfu rage.
Dmf. 1979 Ron Butlin in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 35:
An yince I keeked intae anither's saul
an seen massel, an I kent fine weel
I'd seen the warld wi anither's een:
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 14:
"We did weel to hang on here, Jamie, in the bad years. It's been a good hoose and we've been comfortable enough. I'm richt fond of it wi' the burn runnin' by and the Arran hills to look at."
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 25:
Weill, that's ilka auld name in Blairbeg, save yer ain.
em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... Weill, ilka mornin the factory bummers'd soun aff, aince tae gar the warkers get out o their beds, an aince mair, a wee whilie efter, tae gar them get intil their wark. ... '
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 9:
Weill said I (ablow mi breath)
that cows aa! fin yersel anither
gowk tae faither yer ferlies
for I'll gang my ain gait
i the warld efter this.
Sc. 1994 Pete Fortune in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 156:
Weill, the wee beldy eidiot thocht he'd juist play the pairt o the haurd man.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 18:
Huv ye ever hid a guid hing?
Dae ye ken whit a guid hing is?
Weel, ye fling open yer windae,
Plant her elbows ower the ledge
An hae a guid gowp oot.

Sc. usages: I. adv. 1. As an intensive: very, quite, much. Rare in Eng. exc. with certain adjs., able, aware, worth, and obs. with compars. Phr. ¶weel lo'es me o', blessings on —, good luck to — Only in Fergusson, erroneously for leese me; see Lief, adj., 2. The construction has been adapted from weel's me in II. 1. below.Rxb. 1723 J. J. Vernon Par. Hawick (1900) 170:
There being John Red, a well aged man.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 189, 208:
Weel loes me o' you, souter Jock. Weel lo'es me o' you, Business, now.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 140:
Four good teeth before and well willin gums in the backside.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
Gin ye tak that way, it'll be weill war.
Lnk. 1838 J. Morrison McIlwham Papers 20:
Swallowed wi' weel-wullin' gums.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxi.:
He's vera weel kent to a' here present; an' weel-wordy o' siccan a office.
Per. 1897 R. M. Fergusson Village Poet 149:
My hair a' wi' marled, my cheeks a' wi' clung.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 38:
The ferm stock melted like the weel-wat snaw.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 106:
'But why would he - ' Mitchel began, but Weir stood up and led him towards the door. 'Wheesht, wheesht, James, we'll no rake ower auld ashes when the fire's weill oot. ... '

In combs., where weel is freq. confused with Wale, n.1: (1) the weel warst, the very worst, the worst of the lot (ne.Sc. 1973). Also adv.; (2) well-wight, see Wale, n.1, 4. (i).(1) Sc. 1708 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. App. ci.:
And then the Devil assaults the well worst of the three.
Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 87:
The slighting of the silly bridegroom, The weel warst o' the three.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
He abus'd me the weel warst that could be.
ne.Sc. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 195:
The well-warst vow that ye're to vow.
Sc. 1880 Kemp Owyne in Child Ballads No. 34 Add. 1:
The father weded the weel worst woman This day that lives in Christiendom.
Abd. 1951 Buchan Observer (28 Aug.):
The weel warst wis Ninety-twa.

2. Very much, indeed, really. Weel than, an emphatic affirmative answer to a question, = “didn't I, etc., just!, you bet I did, etc.” (‡Abd. 1973). See also Than, I. 2.Sh. 1898 W. F. Clark Northern Gleams 50:
Dis is weel sae strong, Bartle!
Mry. 1927 E. B. Levack Lossiemouth 9:
“Did you fall, Jane?” “Weel than!”

3. As an inferential or enclitic particle, either by itself or in reduplic. or comb. forms weel-a-weel (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 103; Gen.Sc.), -o'-weel, weelna: very well, all right, so be it, anyhow, then. See Na, adv.3 Common in reduced forms with than, as waethan, wi than.Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1886) II. 56:
A well a well then good day to you.
wm.Sc. 1812 Scotchman 83:
Waethan, whan a trade is left, it's sure to gang on richt.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 30:
“Ken ye whar the auld Kirk o' Dinscore is?” “Ay” returned the other, “wi than”, said the next.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan 131:
Weel-a-weel, and isna a Kangaroo's siller as guide as anither man's?
Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 45:
Weel-a-weel, fan a' this was makin' ready.
Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems 251:
Tam simply wad say, “Weel-a-weel, I'll jist by your counsel be guided.”
Gall. 1888 G. G. B. Sproat Rose o' Dalma Linn 155:
I heard them saying ‘Weel, o' weel, Guide faith he's unco braw.'
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet xxiii.:
Weelna, tell me aboot your faither.
Kcb. 1896 Crocket Raiders xxxv.:
Wi' laddie, this is blithe seein'.
Gall. 1900 R. J. Muir Muncraig iii.:
“I cannot deny that there are some stories about that.” “Wi than?”
Per. 1910 W. Blair Kildermoch 119:
Weel a weel, as I gaed up the banks o' the Minnow Burn.
Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 15:
Scarcely is another bargain concluded and the final “Weel, weel, then!” exchanged.
Edb. 1931 E. Albert Herrin' Jennie 34, 50:
“Better see the boss, well”, said the man. . . . “Ach, come away in, well.” . . .
Edb. 1973:
He didn't do it, well.
Gsw. 1980 Alex Hamilton in Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte Streets of Stone (1985) 42:
'Yi lissnin?' shi goes. 'Right, here whit it says, well.'
Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 76:
well When this turns up at the end of a phrase it is roughtly equivalent to then: 'Ye don't like liver? Don't eat it, well.'
Gsw. 1985 Moira Burgess in Julie Milton Original Prints 13:
"See an' no' miss your shot, well," said the young man.

4. As in Eng. used in combs. with advs. and ppl.adjs. as weel-aff, well-off, well-to-do (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 208; Gen.Sc..), weel-delv't, well-dug (Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 87), weel-gairdit, well-guarded (Abd. 1933), weel-gaun, -gain, smoothly-moving or -running (Ayr. 1786 Burns To the Unco Guid i., Inventory 10; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 208), see Gae, v., weel-hoordet, well-hoarded (Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween vii.), see Huird, weel-kilted, with short skirts (Lnk. 1887 A. Wardrop Midcauther Fair 9), weel-maskit, of tea: well-made (Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 36), weel-pleuch'd, well-ploughed (Sc. 1788 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 558), weel-saipet, well-soaped (Sc. 1874 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. 174), weel-swall'd, well-swollen (Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Haggis iv.), weel-timmered, well-constructed of wood (Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songsfrom Heine 27), etc., etc. For these and others see the second element. Special combs. not or no longer found in Eng., as e.g. where Eng. uses good-, or some other adv., are treated in separate entries.Abd. 1993:
I'm nae weel aff for spunks enoo; ye'll need tae get some for yersel.

II. adj. 1. As in Eng., in idiomatic phrs. (1) it's very weel, it's weel and weel eneuch, = Eng. it's all very well (ne.Sc. 1973, weel and weel eneuch); (2) it's weel my pairt, it is right or proper for me (to do something). See Guid, adj., 7. (32); (3) weel befa, good luck to . . .!, a development of (4); (4) weel's me (on), weel is on, as an expression of pleasure or relief: happy am I (because of), blessings on (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Cf. I. 1.; (5) weel's my hert, id.; (6) weel to be seen, having a good or agreeable appearance, very presentable (Bnff. 1934; Abd. 1973); (7) well to do, elated with drink. Cf. (7); (8) weel to live, in comfortable circumstances, well-off, also fig. tipsy, merry with drink (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Now only in Sc. and U.S. See also Leeve, v., 3. (1); (9) weel to pass (in the warld), well-off, affluent, prosperous (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Obs. in Eng.; (10) weel to see, good-looking, comely. Cf. (5); (11) weel upon 't, = (8) (Abd. 1973), used predic. and attrib.(1) Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie xliv.:
It's vera weel o' you, Miss Mary, to tak the first word o' flyting.
Cai. 1960 Edb. John o' Groat Liter. Soc. 6:
That's weel and weel aneuch.
(2) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxviii.:
Weel is it my part, I trow, to do mine.
(3) Slk. 1817 Hogg Poems (1865) 351:
Weel befa this bonnie May.
(4) Sc. 1725 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) II. 198:
Well's me on your bonny face.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 188:
Weels me o' drink, quo' Cooper Will.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Pop. Ballads I. 115:
‘O weel is me,' says Lady Ellen, ‘It shall be run by me.'
Per. c.1820 Lady Nairne Songs (Rogers 1903) 224:
O, weel's me on my ain gudeman! He'll aye be welcome hame.
Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce III. viii.:
Weil's me on the bonnie Oran water.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 153:
Weels on thee, my ain tartan plaidie.
Ayr. a.1878 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage (1892) 248:
Ay weels on ye, Maggie McGee, lass.
(5) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 15:
Well's my heart that ye are come alist.
(6) Sh. 1933 J. Gray Lowrie 42:
Doo's brocht up a faemily o' eight, aa weel ta be seen.
Bnff. 1953 Banffshire Jnl. (27 Oct.):
Twa dothers were as weel-tae-be-seen as ony in the hale pairish.
Sh. 1960 New Shetlander No. 54. 15:
He hed a gud look at Tammy, an he wis weel ta be seen.
(7) Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sketches 52:
He was pretty well-to-do when he left the shop, for there had been a lot of stuff going.
(8) Dmf. 1826 A. Cunningham Paul Jones I. iv.:
A sedate man, and a steeve — well to live in the world.
Fif. 1884 G. Bruce Reminisc. 225:
Pretty “well to live,” and jolly over their adventure with the “Endeavour.”
(9) Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxxviii.:
Ailie and me we're weel to pass, and we would like the lassies to hae a wee bit mair lair than oursells.
Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Borders III. 73:
Ringan was well to pass in the world; his circumstances throve apace.
Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 139:
Ebenezer had fa'en into a fell fat thing, an' was weel to pass in the warld.
s.Sc. 1898 E. Hamilton Mawkin xvii.:
A neatness that any well-to-pass housewife might have envied.
(10) Kcb. 1902 Crockett Dark o' Moon vii.:
In person she was short, well-to-see, rosy-cheeked.
(11) Abd. 1875 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 161:
A stobthackit hoose, wi' a but an' a ben, though her fader be weel aneuch upon't.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Glendornie ix.:
The like o' me canna affoord t' bring up ma bairns the wye 'at weel upon't fouk can dee.

2. Tipsy, somewhat drunk. Short for weel-to-live s.v. 1. (8).Edb. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (9 Jan.) 4:
A pint of whisky had been drunk at Walker's, and they were all pretty well.

3. As in Eng., in good health. In Sc. and U.S. still used attrib. Hence weelness, good health (Cld. 1825 Jam.). Phr. weel at anesel, in good physical condition, plump, stout (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. Lnk. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1905 E.D.D.).Lnk. 1888 A. G. Murdoch Readings II. 50:
The Bailie assured his interlocutor that he was full of his usual ‘weelness.'
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (4 Dec.):
He's a weel-hoited craeter an' weel at himsel'.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 78:
To win back weelness doctors wad engage.
Sc. 1928 Scots Mag. (July) 272:
The weel men and weemen were juist a mere ruckle o' banes.

Very freq. in comb. no (n.Sc. nae) weel, used predic. and attrib., unwell, ill, sick, in poor health. Gen.Sc. Hence no-weelness, illness.n.Sc. 1698 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 39:
He is not weill of a long sickness he hase hade.
Abd. 1749 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 93:
To George Grubb not well . . . 4s.
Crm. 1838 H. Miller Tales (1869) 206:
A' the early part o' that day she seemed to be no weel.
Gsw. 1878 W. Penman Echoes 45:
Prood was I tae lay it doon in my no-weel sister's han'.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine 19:
Is't the County Counicl that's makin' ye no' weel?
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 18:
I only help him wi' his lessons because he was sae lang no' weel.
m.Sc. 1915 J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps v.:
They ken my kind o' no-weel-ness.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs from Heine 33:
Her lassie's at hame no weel.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 9:
She hes ir ain adaes, wui a no-weel man.
Lnk. 1951 G. Rae Howe o' Braefoot 68:
Naething but no'-weel kye, an' a yammerin' no-weel wife.
Kcd. 1955 Mearns Leader (13 May):
He doses their nae-weel coos.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 11:
Yesterday the sowell wis right No Well,
Fair scourged wi' guilt because, wi richt-good relish
He'd cracked-deid a flea that bit him somethin' hellish!
Gsw. 1986 Moira Burgess in Deirdre Chapman Scottish Short Stories 1986 33:
Mrs Weston was quite distressed. 'Maybe she took no' weel. ...'
Abd. 1993:
Nae weel like.
Sc. 2001 Scotsman (28 Mar) 6:
Children need and deserve constant attention. Breaks are short and you can forget it if a sobbing infant is feeling no weel .
Sc. 2002 Herald (8 Jun) 2:
I call her Big Bird, like in Sesame Street, because she's tall and blonde. So I'm little Bird and she'll call me up to say: "Oh, little Bird, I'm no well.''
Sc. 2003 Edinburgh Evening News (27 Nov) 34:
In fact, rehearsals are well under way: Allan Stewart is busily practising pushing Dame McTrot's motorised zimmer and Andy Gray as the merry monarch is telling anyone who'll listen he's "no weel".

4. Of food: fully cooked, ready to eat (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Rxb. 1805 A. Scott Poems 10:
With hunger smit, may hap they seem to feel, Or cry, perhaps, Oh! is the hodgil weel!
Abd. 1813 W. Beattie Parings (1873) 8:
They're unco weel, I think, if ye wou'd let them queel.
Bwk., Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Is the denner weel?
Arg. 1902 C. Bede Argyll's Highlands 270:
Their phrase for calling the reapers home to dinner was “Come hame fast; the meat is wul [sic].”
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 24:
Daursay that egg ull be weel now; it's been toattlin lang eneuch.

[O.Sc. wele, weill, well, from 1375, from an earlier form wēl, found also in North.Mid.Eng., due to lengthening in a closed mono-syllable. O.Sc. has also weill worst, 1564, wealnesse, 1654.]

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"Weel adv., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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