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

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First published 1990 (DOST Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Riddil(l, n.2 Also: rid-, ryd(d)-, red(d)-, reid(d)- and -yl(l, -el(l, -ile, -le. [ME and e.m.E. ridelle (c1340), rydil (Wyclif), riddle (1601), OE hriddel, earlier hridder.]

1. A coarse-meshed sieve; a riddle. Also attrib. Also proverb. and fig.(1) 1453 Misc. Spald. C. V 49.
For barrowis, tubbis, schullis, rydyllis
1456–7 Liber Scon 192.
Cum cribro et tiratantro vulgariter loquendo syff and ridyl
1511–12 Reg. Soltre 165.
Et vno le riddill
1514 Mylne Master Masons 27.
Paid for two ryddillis for cleaning the lime for cement to the hewn stones
1516 Rentale Dunkeld. (S.H.S.) 301.
1539 Treas. Acc. VII 215.
Ane riddill and twa schulis to wirk the samin [sc. lime and sand]
1571 Misc. Spald. C. II 79.
xxxvi riddillis, price of the pece iiij d.
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 117.
Thei begouth the ȝoling of the voult of St. Geillis Kirke, which they made lyk a ridle for to schoute whome thai pleised within the kirke
1617 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 34.
For a riddill and a sive to the lyme and sand
1628 Glasgow Trades House 130.
For ane riddill to the almoushous
1662 Donaldson Cramondiana 37.
To tuo ridles and ane ringe at 6 s. the peice
c1675 Sc. Ant. I 178.
1685 Soc. Ant. LVIII 368.
2 way ridles
(b) 1534 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 144.
Ane reddill
(c) 1644 Edinb. Test. LX 377.
Thrie seives and reidles
(2) 1535–6 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 153.
For vi small ryddillis and vi gret ridillis to the faldis
1597 Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 17b.
For viii lang redellis
1707 Moncreiffs 381.
A wide ridle
proverb. a1500 Prestis of Peblis 476.
I am to ȝow als sib as seif is to ane riddil
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (O.U.P.) 116/55.
We weir als sib as seve and riddill
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS No. 1166.
Ryse up in the morning & piss in the riddle, warme water beines loomes
fig. 1638 Sel. Biog. II 22.
God takes up the ridle, and seif, and fyne of his promise and commandments
attrib. a1500 Colk. Sow i 60.
A … riddill revar

b. With preceding noun, in attrib. use, to specify the particular function of a riddle.For further instances of lime riddill see Lime n. 5. 1502 Acta Conc. MS XII 84.
Ane bere riddill … iiij d., ane ait riddill … iiij d.
1529–30 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 5, etc.
For ane small lyme ryddill, x d.
c1555 Reg. Acts & Decr. in Lynd. (S.T.S.) IV 276.
Ane ait riddill, ane quhit riddill, ane wyde seif, ane small seif
1569–70 Haddington Treas. Acc.
A lym reddell
1634 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. II 499.
For ane aitt reiddell
1685 Soc. Ant. LVIII 367.
In the peis barne … 2 corne riddles, a wyde corne ridle, … a beir ridle

c. ? Put for, or ? erron. for, riddill-makar. 1522 Aberd. B. Rec. I 104.
William Gray, riddell

2. a. Referring to the belief that witches might go to sea in a riddle, or sieve. 1590–1 Newes from Scotland in Crim. Trials I ii 218.
These witches, sayling in their riddles or cives
1591 Ib. 254.
Thay tuik the sea, Robert Greirsoun being youre admerall and maister-manne, … in riddillis
1622 Elgin Rec. II 172.
Hir mother was a witche and rowit in a riddell
Grissallis mother saillit in a riddell
1657 Cramond Ch. Rathven 23.

b. As used, with shears, for the purpose of divination. Freq., to turn the riddill, also the charm of the riddill.Appar. the riddle, or sieve, was impaled on the point of the shears, and then balanced by the charmer, sometimes with the assistance of another. ‘The performer … kept repeating an incantation till the sieve oscillated to one side or the other, the significance of a turn in either direction being previously arranged’ Charles D. Bentinck Dornoch Cathedral and Parish (1926) 460. See also Joseph McKenzie McPherson Primitive Beliefs in the Northeast of Scotland (1929) 269–71. Cf. north. e.m.E. to tourne the riddle (1570). 1589 Perth Kirk S. in J. P. Lawson The Book of Perth 191.
Violet Brown … was accused for turning of the riddle with sheers, ane point … of witchcraft
1597 James VI Dæmonol. (S.T.S.) 8/16.
Suche … charmes as … dafte wiues vses … by turning of the riddle
1602 Shetland Sheriff Ct. (ed.) 29.
For the turning of ane siff and riddill for ane pair scheiris quhilk wes taine fra hir guidman
1603 Dundonald Par. Rec. 34.
Bessie Dickie … to haif turnit ane riddill for tryall of ane peice of gold stolin fra hir
1619 Perth Kirk S. MS 14 Sept.
That it wes nocht the dewtie of the pastour to charge his pepill with wischcr[f]ft sorcerie, turneing of the riddill
1623 Kelso Presb. Rec. in Berw. Nat. C. V 332. 1626 Peebles Presb. Rec. 6 July. 1643 Argyll Synod I 84.
Referres John Ban McCowan that used the charme of the ridle to the civill judge
1649 Kingarth Par. Rec. 12.
Denyed that she vsed the charme of the ridle as lykwise that she knew not if it was turned in her house
Ib. 13.
He … did vse the charme of the ridle … for getting of silver that was stolne from him
Ib. 18.
Alester … did confesse … that he held vp the ridle with Lachlane
1650 Dunkeld Presb. I 101.
A meeting for turning of the riddle for some money she wanted and a silver spoon
1653 S. Leith Rec. 95/2.
He had caused turne the riddill upon hir to try if she had laid seekness upon his wyfe
Publick confessione … of that hynous and deabollicall sin in turning the riddill
1654 Dumfries Kirk S. 5 July.
Margaret callit the supplicant a turner of ridles, a rigwiddy witch
a1658 Durham Commandments (1675) 108.
These devilish lots … such as … the finding of things lost by … turning the riddle
?a1700 Salmon Borrowstounness 119.
Using magicall arte in turning [pr. burning] of a corn riddle to find out some money she wanted
1709 Bk. Arran II 298.
Janet Hunter … used a charm for the discovery of theft by turning the riddle. … Florence M'Donald … was holding the side of the shears with her. … Being farther interrogate if she knew who it was that turned the riddle, she answered that she did not know

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"Riddil n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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