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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

WILD, adj., n. Also Sc. forms wil' (Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 197), wile (Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables 79; Arg., Wgt. 1974), wyl (Sc. 1819 J. Rennie St Patrick III. iii.), wyle, will-, wiel-, ¶wall-, the reduced forms being esp. freq. in combs. as in willaits, wild oats (Ork. 1903 G. Marwick Old Roman Plough (1936) 5), wullcat, wielduc, wielfowl (Bnff. 1782 Caled. Mercury (14 Aug.)), wilgeese (Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 4), wullguse (Ags. 1894 Arbroath Guide (7 April) 3), wall-wood, wild-wood (Sc. 1800 Fause Foodrage in Child Ballads No. 89 A. xvi. Cf. Child No. 68 A. iii., No. 97 A. vii.), etc. Partly from these and partly by confusion with Will, adj., and its variants have arisen the forms wul(d) (Sc. 1820 A. Sutherland St Kathleen IV. v.; Knr. 1878 J. L. Robertson Poems 82, 183; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 275), wull (Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 232), superl. wullest (Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 45). [wəil(d); Per. + wʌld; in combs. freq. wɪl-, wʌl. See P.L.D. §§ 59., 64.1.]

I. adj. Sc. usages: 1. Combs.: (1) wild bear, in phr. shoeing the wild bear, see quot. Bear may represent Sc. †bair, boar, but the game is also called shoein the auld mare (see Shae, v., 1.(5)), and bear may be a corruption of this; (2) wulbeast, a wild beast; (3) willcat, wul(l)(i)cat, (i) the wild cat. Gen.Sc.; also applied to the polecat (Sc. 1887 Jam.), though this is doubtfully authentic, and transf., as in Eng., of a vicious-tempered, spiteful person (Ib.). Also attrib. fierce, wild, angry, raging, lit. and fig.; (ii) in phr. to tummle or turn the wul(l)cat(s), -wilcat. -wulket, -winket (Arg.), -wil(l)kie(s), -wulkins (w.Lth.), and catachrestically to tummle (burl (Dmb.), dae) one's wulcats, tummle (coup, gae (Fif., Gsw.)) ower one's wulkies, tumble one's wulkies, to tumble heels over head, do a somersault (Sc. 1918 Sawers; Slg., Fif., wm.Sc., Dmf. 1974), to perform “the act of grasping the bough of a tree with the hands, and turning the body through between it and the bough” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 453; Bwk. 1849 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club 359; Uls. 1905 E.D.D.), sometimes of gymnastic feats in gen. Also fig. and as an attrib. phr. = perverse, contrary. See also Tummle, v., 2.; (4) wild coal, inferior poor-quality coal, gen. of a shaley constituency in thin seams (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 73). See also (14); (5) willcorn, the wild oat, Avena fatua (n.Sc., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (6) wild cotton, cotton-grass, Eriophorum (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (7) wil(d)fire, wul(l)fire, (i) sheet- or summer-lightning, lightning without thunder (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 275; Ork., n.Sc., Per. 1974); (ii) fire-damp in coal mines (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 73). Also in Eng. mining usage, obs.; (iii) as the name of plants: the small spearwort, Ranunculus flammula (Mry. 1839 G. Gordon Flora Mry. 18, wilfire; Mry., Kcd. 1886 B. and H. 492); the marsh marigold, Caltha palustris (Kcd. 1825 Jam.); the bay-leaf willow herb, Epilobium angustifolium (Ags. 1974); (8) willgrown, of a plant or tree: wild, natural, self-seeded; (9) wild hyacinth, see Hyacinth; (10) wild-kail, wil-, wul(l)-, the wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum (see Kail, n., 5. (46)); also charlock, Brassica arvensis (Lnk. 1825 Jam.; Ayr. 1912 D. MacNaught Kilmaurs 312, 1923 Wilson Dial. Burns 194; Ayr., Dmf. 1974). Used fig. in phr. to saw one's wil' kail seed, = Eng. 'to sow one's wild oats'; (11) wild liquorice, the rest-harrow, Ononis arvensis (Nai. 1892 Trans. Northern Assoc. I. 67), the roots of which can be sucked like liquorice; also the sweet-milk vetch, Astragalus glycophyllus (Lnk. 1831 W. Patrick Plants 287); (12) wildmeer skate, the thornback skate or ray, Raia clavata (Abd. 1930 Fishery Board Gl.). For meer see Mear; (13) wild mop-mops, toadflax, Linaria vulgaris (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). See Moup, n., 2.; (14) wild parrot, an inferior kind of soft coal (see Parrot, n., 2.) (Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geol. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 78; Fif., em.Sc. (b), wm.Sc. 1974); (15) wild price, see quot. For price ? see Rice; (16) wild rhubarb, -rewbub, common butterbur, Petasites vulgaris (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., -rewbub; Per., em.Sc. (b), wm., sm., s.Sc. 1974); coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara (Rxb. 1915 Jedburgh Gazette (10 Sept.) 2; Per. 1974); (17) wildrife, extremely wild, violent. See -Rife, suff. 3.; (18) wild rocket, the cuckoo-flower, Cardamine pratensis (Ayr. 1912 D. MacNaught Kilmaurs 313); (19) wild salmon, the fully-grown coalfish, Gadus virens (see quot.); ¶(20) wyle-say, wull-, a foolish extravagant story (Sc. 1887 Jam.). This usage is somewhat doubtful; (21) wild snowdrop, the wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa (Dmf. 1891 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 60); (22) wild sookie, see Souk, II. 1.(3)(v); (23) wild steg, a wild goose. See Steg, n.2; (24) wild willie, the ragged-robin, Lychnis floscuculi (Sh. 1974); (25) will wood, as in Eng., natural self-sown trees, in quot. fig. appar. = unbacked paper money, inflated currency. Nonce.(1) Peb. 1825 Jam.:
Shoein' the Wild Bear, a game in which the person sits cross-legged on a beam or pole, each of the extremities of which is placed or swung in the eyes of a rope suspended from the back-tree of an outhouse. The person uses a switch, as if in the act of whipping up a horse; when, being thus unsteadily mounted, he is most apt to lose his balance. If he notwithstanding retains it, he is victor over those who fail in making the attempt.
(2) Knr. 1878 J. L. Robertson Poems 45:
Like a wulbeast nane can hud.
(3) (i) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian x.:
What brings the Laird of Dumbiedykes glowering here like a wull-cat?
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1837) II. 338:
Toss her up to the cluds, an' down again, till she squeek like a worried wulcat.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxxii.:
“Afleck called me a minister body.” . . . “And me a wulcat and an ettercap?”
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 93:
She haunts the house, she haunts the green, And glowers on us a' wi' her wullcat e'en.
Fif. 1882 S. Tytler Sc. Marriages II. 227:
‘Wul'cats' lurking among the stones.
Abd. 1892 G. MacDonald Songs 103:
Whan the word the Maister spak Drave the wull-cat billows back.
Rs. 1943 C. M. Maclean Three for Cordelia ii. v.:
The tough wee tyke had gane f'r him like a wulcat.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xxix.:
She wis a keerious daft wull-cat kin' o' a boddy.
(ii) wm.Sc. 1832 Laird of Logan (1854) 299:
He is out of his reckoning as ever Captain Parry was when he thocht to tumble the wulcat at the North Pole.
Rnf. 1859 Chapbook (Paisley):
The “Tumble-the-wulket” heterodoxy was then unknown in the Kirk.
Cld. 1866 G. Mills Beggar's Benison I. xvii.:
I would have actually turned a somersault, or, as the expression in Scotland is, ‘tummel'd the wul'-cat.'
Abd. 1882 W. Forsyth Writings 23:
Heels o'er head he whussl't roon, An' turn't the wull-cat thro' their nivs.
Slg. 1898 J. M. Slimmon Dead Planet 28:
It's a' sin' the daith o' the auld-wife I've tumble't-the-wilkie well.
Slg. 1935 W. D. Cocker Further Poems 15:
Splash, ower his wilkies, in he went.
wm.Sc. 1940 J. Bridie Leg. Shults i. iii.:
Lord Gutterburn followed through his swing like that last week and coupit over his wilkie.
Edb. 1950 Evening Dispatch (25 April):
Maister Gairdner thinks I pit the Pairty line aa tapsalteery an ower its wulkies aince mair.
Sc. 1965 Bulletin (4 Dec.) 4:
Mister, I can dae my wulkies.
m.Sc. 1979 Ian Bowman in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 41:
I'll gar their wulkies gang tapsalteerie
an' birl them roun' an' roun' like a peerie.
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 27:
Ah c'n tummle ma wulkies twinty times withoot stoapin. I can do twenty forward rolls non-stop.
Gsw. 1990 Alan Spence The Magic Flute (1991) 125:
'It made your mind do a somersault kind of thing. Tumble its wulkies....'
(4) Lnk. 1801 W. Maxwell Co-operation in Scot. (1910) 15:
His discovery was looked on as a myth by the ironmasters of the time, who termed Mushet's black-band “wild coal.”
Ayr. 1932 Econ. Geog. Ayr. Coalfields IV. 72:
The wild coal 2 fms. below the Dalmellington blackband Ironstone. . . . This wild coal is represented by 5 ft. of hard black blaes.
(7) (i) Ayr. 1791 Burns Verses on Drumlanrig Woods v.:
Was't the wil'fire scorch'd their boughs?
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 186:
Wild-fire through the dark clouds gleam'd.
Ayr. 1850 J. D. Brown Ballads 98:
His een glared like wulfire — his wrinkled brow black.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 215:
A streak o' wil'fire whyles wad rift The cluddy star-deserted lift.
Inv. 1911 in Buchan Observer (10 April 1962) 7:
They wis hardly a breeth o' wynd all the nicht an' they wis wull-fire.
Per. 1941 W. Soutar Poems (1961) 68:
He didna mind a wheet; Nor kent . . . the wulfire frae the weet.
(ii) Sc. 1770 Weekly Mag. (10 May) 190:
As one of the men employed at the Govan coal-work was discharging some wild-fire, he was unluckily overtaken by it before he had time to make his escape, and was very sore burnt in several parts of his body.
(8) Wgt. 1896 66th Report Brit. Ass. 615:
A piece of ‘will-grown' rowan tree about ten inches long used to be kept in the byre, . . . with which each calf was rubbed when it fell from the cow.
(10) Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Tales 18:
Oh! never saw thy wil'-kail seed, Near by the poet's houseless head.
Kcb. 1877 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 264:
Gule or wild mustard. In the Stewartry they call it Wul-kail.
(15) Ork. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 132:
A species of willow, which the inhabitants call “wild price.”
(16) Fif. 1894 D. S. Meldrum Margrédel ix.:
The river was babbling between the banks of wild-rhubarb.
(17) Ags. 1879 Forfar Poets (Fenton) 149:
Till he, doited an' dumfoondered, Waukened wi' a wildrife stare.
Ags. 1894 A. Reid Sangs 41:
What sough hae ye o' weird to me, O' wildrif war by rowin' scaur?
(19) Arg. 1811 J. MacDonald Agric. Hebr. 631:
They catch a number of stenlock, commonly called pichtich mòr, i.e. great saithe-fish, off the point of the Rinns of Islay; and they frequently run over with cargoes of them to the opposite coast of Ireland, and sell them under the name of wild salmon, braddan flaich.
(25) Sc. 1773 Dmf. Weekly Mag. (5 Oct.):
Perhaps I may go a little farther, and run a parallel betwixt the making of bank-notes and the coinage of will-wood.

2. Rank, strong-tasted, of food (I.Sc., ne.Sc., Slg. 1974); strong-smelling (Ork. 1974). Also in Eng. dial. Also used subst.Fif. 1863 St Andrews Gaz. (27 June):
Preserved Beef from Monte Video. — It certainly has not a very prepossessing appearance, and it has a little of the ‘wild' taste.

3. Used to characterise the extreme Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. Hence subst. the Wild. Hist.Sc. 1778 D. Loch Tour 49:
The people here are very wild with regard to religious principles, there being no less than three large seceding meeting-houses, and but one small kirk of the established religion.
Sc. 1856 H. Cockburn Memorials 234:
Except Sir Harry Moncrieff, the Wild (as the Evangelical party is called) have never had an established head . . . the Moderate being the majority in every presbytery, college, and burgh, the Wild have never commanded fixed seats in the Assembly.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxiii.:
Mains was not quite so confident that the “wild men” might not even invade Pyketillum.

4. Very great, in size, number, etc., tremendous, “terrific”. Also adv. extremely, very, and in form wild and . . ., id. (Arg., Slg. 1974). Cf. colloq. Eng. good and . . .Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xvii.:
Mr Macrory compleen't wil' ill upon't.
Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 24:
Man, aren't thae birds wild an' tame. Isn't it wild tae be bothered wi' the lake o' thase? It has a wild heavy root. It's wild the apples that's on them.
Arg. 1958:
Isn't this wather wile an afa cowld?
Arg. 1992:
Wile arguments comin home.

II. n. 1. In phrs. like wild, with the utmost energy, as fast, loud, etc. as one can.wm.Sc. 1844 Songs for Nursery 20:
If the wind the winnock shake, he'll Skirl like wild aboon them a'.
Per. 1974:
Noo, rin like wild.

2. See I. 3.

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



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