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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).

Mervaill, -vell, Marvaill, -vell, n. Also: -vaille, -vail(e, -waill(e, -veill, -weil, -vale, -vall, -wal(e, -wall(e, -waal, -veal, -vel(e, -wel(l. [ME. and e.m.E. mervel(l (Cursor M.), -veyle (1303), -vaile (c 1330), -vayle, etc., marveill(e (14th c.), -vell(e (c 1400), F. merveille.]The appearance of mer- or mar- as the spelling of the first syllable depends largely on more or less arbitrary decisions by the editors of the various texts as to their expansion of the MS. abbreviation.Forms with stress on either the first or the second syllable appear to be indicated among the verse occurrences.Freq. const. without article in the sing.

1. A marvellous act executed by divine or other supernatural means or agency; a wondrous act, a miracle. = Miracle n.Very common in Leg. S. a1400 Leg. S. iii. 1036.
The maste merwale that God mad
Ib. xiv. 43.
Fra he becwthe to wirk merwale To the laste end of his trawale
Ib. xv. 216.
God fore it sic merwale kyde That [etc.]
Ib. xvii. 253.
In taknynge Of that marvale
Ib. iv. 384.
Ib. xxxiii. 853.
Ib. xl. 1447.
c1400 Troy-bk. i. 473.
All thyre merwalis … Scho will do
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 153/13.
Merwallis that Crist wrocht in Jowry
1551 Hamilton Cat. 209.
Of all the mervalis that God hes wrocht, he hes maid ane to be ane remembrance of all the laif
1562-3 Winȝet I. 15/9.
Quhair ar ȝour meruellis wrocht be the haly spirit?
1567 G. Ball. 43. a1605 Montg. Son. ii. 13.
1600-1610 Melvill 13.
Thy merveals and thoughts toward us can nocht ordourlie be recompted before Thie
1622-6 Bisset II. 357/5.
Preiching His mervellis and misteries uttered in this warld

b. Applied, more or less hyperbolically, to achievement seemingly beyond normal human power; in plur., ‘miracles’, ‘wonders’. c1475 Wall. iii. 29.
Bot he be cest he sail do gret merwaill [: awaill]
a1500 Lanc. 892.
For thei supposit, throw marwellis that he vroght, He had hyme-self to his confusioune broght
a 1510 Aberd. Univ. Review XXXVI. i. 51.
Woman dois mervellis in certane

2. a. Any event of natural or supernatural origin occasioning wonder or astonishment; a miraculous event, a wonder. a1400 Leg. S. xv. 85.
Sik merwal neuir befel As we here ȝow of tel
Ib. 880.
Of hyme … A merwale fel in his days
Ib. xxxvi. 755. 1456 Hay I. 64/35.
[After his ox spoke,] the labourare … passit to the citee and tald this mervaill, quhilk na man coud devis
1490 Irland Mir. I. 159/2.
The sone drew away the licht, the stanis raf, and mony vthire gret merwalis ware schawande
a1500 Seven S. 2611. 1531 Bell. Boece I. iv.
1533 Boece ix. i. 286.
The pepill … comptit this mervell amang vthir prodigios thingis
a1540 Freiris Berw. 391. 15.. Lord Fergus' Gaist 2.
Listis, lordis, I sall ȝow tell Off ane verry grit marvell
a1578 Pitsc. II. 43/32. Ib. I. 145/14, 233/1; etc.
Thair never was sic ane marvell sene, so few … to defait so money men bot slaughter in thair syde

b. Any thing occasioning wonder or admiration, a wonder. c1515 Asl. MS. I. 165/12.
Bot it war to lang to tell … the merwalis of thire iles
1513 Doug. xiii. iv. 108 (R).
And of the wounderus meruellis in that place Quhilk semyt nothing lytyl for to be
c 1641–54 J. Gordon in Macfarlane's Geog. Coll. II. 534.
The ruynes and monumentis of a fair kyrk … the marveills of the graves therof ar known

3. Predicatively: (It is) (grete, na, na grete, nocht, etc.) mervel, (grete, na, quhat) mervel(is), = (it is) (a great, no) wonder, what wonder.Variously const.(1) 1456 Hay I. 47/30. Ib. 49/31.
And was sa mony bataillis betuix thame that it was grete mervaill
a1538 Abell 571 b.
Sche bure this rycht hewy as na merwell wes
a1568 Bann. MS. 272 a/253. 1571 Sat. P. xxix. 4.
Than fand I it no grett mervall
(2) ?a1500 Dewoit Exerc. 231.
Ȝe begouth to worth richt … waik. Allace, sueit Lord, na marwall
a1538 Abell 572 a.
Quhat sorow cummys of adultre and na merwell for adultre is aganis all law
1562-3 Winȝet II. 66/9.
And na meruel, says he, for [etc.]
1572 Sat. P. xxxiii. 276.
My torment sair constrynis me this to speik, Na merweil quhy, for I am wondrous seik
(3) 1456 Hay I. 44/15.
This king … gert mak at Rome the foussis grete and large that mervaill was to see
Ib. 54/11.
It war mervaile to here and our lang to declare
1460 Hay I. 61/30. Alex. (Taym.) 1879.
Quhen the bataillis had sa lang lestit that it was grete mervaill till endure
15.. Clar. v. 2013.
It war mervell for to be rehearsit
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1791. 1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 23.
How fynelie scho playit hir part (as scho thocht) it is merwell to tell
plur. 1456 Hay I. 7/2.
It suld nocht be grete mervaillis to se grete weris and bataillis in this warid here
(4) 1456 Hay I. 77/29.
That is grete mervaille how the barnis that ȝit was unborne suld mak a bataill
Ib. 107/29.
It is na mervail that the King of Fraunce be nocht subject to the Empire
Ib. 78/36, 79/4. c1475 Wall. ii. 156.
Gret merwaille was lang tyme gif he mycht leyff
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1783.
Thir twa to fecht began Sa cruellie that it was greit meruaill Quhilk of the twa … suld preuaill
?c1675 J. Gordon Hist. II. 42.
Nor is it any mervaille that … they did … declare against … the highe comissione
(b) a1500 Henr. Fab. 50 (Makc.).
No merwell is a man be lik a best, Quhilk [etc.]
1490 Irland Mir. I. 24/10. 1492 Myll Spect. 287/27.
The quhilk gyf a man fal tharein it is mervell except the grace of God & he part h[ym] thairfra
a1500 Seven S. 535. c1568 Lauder Minor P. i. 549.
Grit meruell is, of yow that gettis this muk [sc. riches], Bot ye suld haue aboundance with gude luk
1563 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 209.
For it is no mervall, bot ane man sall beleve that thing rather quhilk [etc.]
? c 1570 Sat. P. xiv. 9.
Na merwell albeit my hart claif
1573 Crim. Trials I. i. 513.
For its not mervell that I have bein wickit for [etc.]
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xl. 193.
This is merwell … How he suld fend from furie and thair fead
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 717 (T).
Na mervell that ill wyn ill wairit be
c1590 Fowler II. 56/32. 1629 Justiciary Cases I. 104.
And na mervell it is that thais effectis brek out in her face
(5) 1456 Hay I. 298/29.
And now quhat mervaill is that [etc.]
Ib. II. 17/23.
Sen thare is na sculis of chevalrye, quhat marvaill is thouche thare be mony knychtis unwytty
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 106 (M).
Quhat marvele is thocht thow reiose to flyte
1562-3 Winȝet I. 5/35. Ib. 9/7.
Quhate maruell is it that materis of les pryce … to be at this tyme corruptit
a1570-86 Arbuthnot Maitl. F. xxix. 14.
Quhat mervell is thocht I murne and lament
1596 Dalr. I. 143/24.
Quhat meruel is it that quha ar of sindrie tounes … be of sindrie maneris?
1571 Sat. P. xxix. 14.
Quhat mervell than thochte chaist Forett [etc.]
a1605 Montg. Son. xi. 7. 1615 Crim. Trials III. 351.
What maruaile that [etc.]
1613 Calderwood VII. 184.
And for the omission of my subscription, what mervaile, seing I wrott not the bodie?

4. Astonishment, amazement, wonder, admiration.Chiefly to have, think (grete) mervel (of something, that, how etc.), = Mervaill v.(1) 1456 Hay II. 7/17.
The ȝong squyer had … grete marvaill how he was hapnyt thare and of the grete marvailous maner of the worthy man
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 52.
Sa com the dragoun … Of quhilk sic mervell haid the lordis all
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2805 (Bann.). Id. Test. Cress. 362.
He hes merwell sa lang on grouf ȝe ly
a1500 Rauf C. 514. 1525 Douglas Corr. 98.
I haif gottyne na word fra ȝow, of the quhilk I haif gret mervell
a1540 Freiris Berw. 446.
Thairof haif ȝe no mervell, quod the freir
1560 Rolland Seven S. 444. Ib. 2917. 1577 Laing MSS. I. 27.
I haif greit mervaill in respect thair is na place left [etc.]
(2) 1511 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 108.
Gif ȝour lordschipe thinkis mervaile that I send na ansuer
a1538 Abell 14 b.
The senaturis thocht marwell of the petitioun
(3) 1490 Irland Mir. I. 5/10.
And of this js na marwell
a1500 Seven S. 925.
In the caldron fand he than Ane hedles body … Of that thocht he a merwale huge
a1578 Pitsc. I. 107/24.
To no les schame and mervell of his adwersaris than great laude … of this our natiue countrie
(4) 1513 Doug. ii. xi. 4.
A feirful takyn … of gret marvell
1531 Vaus 2.
Ane interiectione … of marweil
c1590 Fowler II. 20/12.
Not samekil the occasioun of lauchter … then … the mater of meruel

b. Followed by an interrogative, passes into: Curiosity accompanied by surprise or amazement. To haif or think mervell, to feel curiosity accompanied by surprise or amazement, to wonder (who, what, why etc.). a1500 Henr. III. 91/27.
Bot I haif mervell incertane Quhat makis thé this wanrufe
c1475 Wall. v. 573.
Merwell he thocht quha durst his peple sla
a1500 Lanc. 1392.
I have merwell qwhy Thow askith consail and wil in non affy

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"Mervaill n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jul 2022 <>



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