Show Search Results Show Browse

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

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Nail, Nale, n. Also: naile, naill(e, nayl(e, naell, naiel; nal(l; nel(l, nelle; neil(l; neal(l, nealle; nile, niel; and Naul(e. [ME. and e.m.E. nayl(e, nail(e, naill(e, etc., early ME neil(e, OE. næᵹel, næᵹl.]

1. A person's finger- or toe-nail.Lyse and lang nailis, see Lous n. b(2).With tuthe and nail, see Tuthe n.(a) c1420 Wynt. i. 668.
To lyownys lyk ar thare body, And naylys scharpe hawys certanly
Ib. vii. 1272. a1500 Henr. III. 97/27. 1492 Myll Spect. 290/18.
Be caus in paryng hir naill hir fyngar bled a lytill
1590 Crim. Trials I. ii. 201.
Quha … plait the naillis of his fingeris and tais
1590–1 Ib. 222.
Under everie nayle there was thrust in two needels
1591 Ib. 246. 1597 Ib. II. 25.
[She] tuke out a lytill polk … quhairin was … hairis and naillis of mennis fingeris
1634 Wedderburn Gramm. 13.
Unguis, the nayle
1662 Crim. Trials III. 603. Ib. 607.
We … spang them from of the naillis of our thowmbes
(b) c1475 Wall. ix. 1924.
His handis … with nales gret & cler
1494 Loutfut MS. 30 a. 1513 Doug. iv. xii. 57.
With nalys ryvand reuthfully hir face
1578 Inverness Rec. I. 265.
Thai … hes rewin his face … wyth thair nales

b. Applied to the claws of beasts or birds. a1500 Henr. Fab. 92 (Makc.).
I [the Cock] had leuer go schraip heir with my naillis Amang this moll
Ib. 1749, 1853, 2409. a1500 Colk. Sow i. 128. a1500 Seven S. 547.
c1500 Rowll Cursing 212.
Dragoun heidis and warwoulf nalis
1513 Doug. viii. ix. 26.
A dun lyonys skyn with nalys of gold

c. Over the nail, ? without more ado, at once, forthwith.Cf. e.m.E. upon, on the naile (1596), id., and F. sur l'ongle, Du. op den nagel, ‘precisely, exactly’. 1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 223.
The King welcomed him … and over the nail told him that he was providing a match for his lordship

2. A metal, esp. an iron, nail, as used by joiners etc.; also, a wooden peg or pin (see tre-, trein-nail and timber-nail).With numerous defining terms, designating various types and uses, as aik-nale (Ake n. 3), balk-nale (Balk n. 4), bispik-nale, Blind nale, bombart-nale, boyspikar-nale, Caddone nail, Carvell naill, dowbill-nail, Dure-naill, fluring-nail, Garrounnail, lath-nail, Lathbrod-nale, Lede-naill, Ledin-nale, Lin-nail(l, planchour-, pump-, sclate-, spelking-, spiking-, stob-, sylour-, thak-, tournay-, vice-, window-, wrakling-nail: for these see the separate entries. In these compounds often without inflection in the plur.sing. c1420 Wynt. iii. 106.
The nayl … scho … strake on throuch his hewyde
c1420 Bute MS. fol. 119.
The nail off the tong [of a weighing balk] sal be set als ner the balk as it may be set gudly
a1568 Jok & Jynny 31.
Ane caird wantand ane naill
1557 Inverness Rec. I. 8.
Quhat ever tha be that makis fyr in the Ellon salbe punist with ane nale in his luge
1591 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 436.
Ane knock to the stepill dure with … ane naill to chap on
1596 Dalr. II. 328/12.
In this battel Chappel is strukne on the left syd with a brasen nale
1601 Crim. Trials II. 350.
He stuid up … besyde the said gibbet, and cald ane naill thairin
1637 Rutherford Lett. (1891) No. 104.
Intrust Him so as to hing your vessels, great and small, and pin your burdens, upon the nail fastened in David's house
plur. (a) 1488 Lanark B. Rec. 2.
For mendyn of Besse Ker dur … ij bandis and a cruk and nailis
1511–12 Treas. Acc. IV. 276. Ib. 297. c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1371. 1564–5 Edinb. Old Acc. I. 486. 1582 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 121.
iiij naillis scharp at bayth the endis to naill tua knaipis to [etc.]
1615 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I. 369.
For ane pund of tyne for tynning the naillis … of the grit kist
1661 Acts VII. 253.
Naills of all sorts ilk tuentie thousand [to pay] tuo ounces [of bullion]
1671 Lamont Diary 279.
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xlv. 154.
Thane commandyt he to perse hir flesch With scharpe nalys
1494 Treas. Acc. I. 252.
jc nalys
1494–5 Ib. 228. 1496 Ib. 310. 1502 Halyb. xxi. 1503 Treas. Acc. II. 226.
For ijc xij blak nales … for frenȝeis of sadilles
Ib. 369.
To gilt xx nales for the Kingis harnesing
1513 Doug. xi. xv. 9. 1537 Ayr Common Good Acc.
For ij sauchyn treis to be nalis ij s.
1547 Treas. Acc. IX. 98. 1552–3 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 338. 1557–8 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. VII. 53.
For greit and small nalis to the lathyn
1563 Dumfries B. Ct. 236 b.
Ane hundreth lang nales
(c) 1498 Halyb. 172.
Pakyn, nallis and pynor fe
1553–4 Edinb. Old Acc. I. 110.
The cutting and inlaik of … tymmer, with the nallis and warkmanschip of vj wrychts twa dayis thairto
1554–5 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 355. 1559 Rentale Dunkeld. 357. 1582 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 148.
For nallis to naill the pilleris
1678 Cullen Kirk S. 18 Aug.
2s. for nals
(d) 1553–4 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 346.
For … quhit nellis to the buke almoreis of the queir
1590 Wedderb. Compt Bk. 63. 1641-8 Skipper's Acc. (Smettone) 7.
For nelles to the smeth, 300 singell nells at 36 s. [etc.]
1681 Fawside Coal Compt 79.(e) 1611 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I. 325.
For neillis and cleikis x s.
1680 Fawside Coal Compt 62.(f) 1640 Aberd. Council Lett. II. 163.
For nealles
1644 Tulliallan Coal Wks. 33 (see Lap-nell n.). 1663 Galloway P. 2 July.
For eury hors shoing and making the shone and neals
(g) 1641-8 Skipper's Acc. (Smettone) 3.
For balk nells & windowe niels 3° g.
Ib. 13 b.
For ane hunder ridell niles 2 li. 4° s.

b. plur. The nails of Christ's Passion. 1375 Barb. iii. 459.
The naylis
a1450 Fifteen Ois 98. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 123/26.
With horribile pennis of jrne that ar nalis throu His handis & feit
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 759.
With irne nalis … Throw the handis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxii. 107. Arundel MS. 243/154. c1552 Lynd. Mon. 3908. 1580 Cath. Tr. (S.T.S.) 58/4. 1590–1 Crim. Trials I. ii. 237.
And rycht sa be the naillis sa That naillit Jesus and na ma

c. Allusively, in fig. contexts.(1) To hit, strike, tuich the nail on, upon, in the head, ‘to hit the nail on the head’, speak to the point, speak the truth. (2) To call the naill to the head, ‘to drive the nail home’, push the matter to a conclusion. (3) To fesan (= fasten) that naill, to clinch or settle the matter.(1) a1500 Sir Eger 663.
I strake the nail upon the head
a1598 Ferg. Prov. (1641) No. 434.
Of persons speaking pertinently, He hes hit [Carmichael Thow hes tuoched] the nail on [Carmichael in] the head
(2) 1664 Edinb. B. Rec. IX. 358.
And nixt seeing there is a protest entered in writt, and the naill calld to the head, there needs no more answer but that it must be decydit be writt
(3) 1627 Misc. Hist. Soc. I. 101.
Becaus I haif fesant that naill be his acquittance vpon the ressait of Wamphras im merkis

d. Attrib. and comb. in nail-borell, -hammer, -tule, -wood and nailsmith, nail-wyffe.(1) 1569 Prot. Bk. T. Johnsoun (S.R.S.) 162.
1 axe, 1 womyll, 1 swingletree borell, 1 nail borell
1636 Edinb. Test. LVII. 256.
In the bink ane cruik studie with twa naill hammeris
1569 Inverness Rec. I. 178.
The smyddye lwmes following, viz., ane studie … and the naill tuyll
1578 Inv. Wardrobe 259.
Ane greit naill tuyll for cannoun quheillis
1623 Orkney & Shetl. Test. I. 99.
Tua pair of tangis four hameris ane nailtull
1670 Berw. Old Doc. Fol. . No. 5.
For nailwood to the couples of Patrick Abernethies stable
(2) 1674 Mylne Master Masons 195.
To Isobell Fermour, nail wyffe … for nails … delyvered in by her to James Bruce, storemaister
1683–90 Soc. Ant. LIV. 237.
To Alexander Tulliss, nailsmith

3. a. A Flemish unit of weight of wool, appar. equal to 6 pounds or one thirtieth of a ‘waw’ (Waw n.). = MDu. nagel.In Halyburton's Ledger used chiefly or only in reference to Bruges and Middleburgh, weights in Antwerp and other parts being expressed in stones (Stane n.). c1420 Bute MS. fol. 175; etc.
Of wecht in Flandrys and reknyns be the price of the mone. … And the waw is [? 30] nayle and the nayle haldis v [sic] lib. … Quhen the waw is worth xiiij mark & a ferdpart than the waw is worth iii lib. iii s. & ix d. sterlyngys & iii d. of the payment the nayle is worth ii s. & ii d. & i obolus sterlyngys iii d. of the payment les of the waw
c 1400 Scots Merchandise (N.L.S.) 5.
vj lib. of woll mak the nayle and xxx nayle mak the walle & ij walle makis the sek
Ib. 63.
It is to wyt that fore how mony marcis at the woll is boght at, alsmony twa ynglis & twa lefingis the nayle is at
1489 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 416.
Thomas Mar sal deliver … ane surplat of woll in the Feir contening alsmony wauis and nalys of wecht as [etc.]
1497–8 Halyb. 134.
Sald 5° sekis of woyll for 28½ merk with nall to bat, an weand 6c 19 nallis, 2xx. 6c 17 nallis, 3° 6c 26 nallis, 4° 6c 12 nallis, 5° 6c and 28 nallis
1499 Ib. 225.
Sald the ij [serplaiths of wool] that wes in Bruges for xvj mark the sek, with ij naill to bait, ane weyand vj wall xxv naill, and the tother vj wal xv naill
1494 Ib. 49, 1496 Ib. 8; etc.

b. A measure of length of cloth, the sixteenth of an ell.Cf. e.m.E. (1465) and mod. Eng. nayle, nail(le, = 2¼ inches, the sixteenth of a yard, as a measure of cloth. 1503 Treas. Acc. II. 206.
For ane quartar and ane nail of purpur wellus
Ib. 220. 1508 Ib. IV. 64.
j elne half quartar and ane naill of ȝallo taffetj
1512 Ib. 420. 1531 Ib. 416.
Half ane eln and ane nale black veluous
1561 Ib. XI. 60; etc. 1583 Edinb. Test. XII. 280 b. 1584 Ib. XIV. 130 b.
vj quarteris, ane naill les, of taffetie coist vij s. vjd.
1601 Tailor's Acc. Bk. (A) 10 b.
For ane naill of stufe to eik ȝour breikis with
1611 Edinb. Test. XLVI. 253 b.
And thrie naillis of taffatie
1615–6 Glasg. Univ. Mun. III. 567.
Ane quarter and a half a nail of rid satein
1618 Acts IV. 588/1.
And the halfe and quarter elnes and halfe quarters and nails … bee made in proportion conforme thereto
1621 Wedderb. Compt Bk. 186.
A half nel
1624 Huntar Weights & Measures 5.
3 foote and an inch, or 37 inches makes the ell of Edinburgh. Which ell is parted in 4 quarters, and everie quarter in 4 nailes
1653 Bk. Dunvegan I. 186.
Fyve ell half ell lacking ane naile
1660 Ib. 187, 188. 1689 Foulis Acc. Bk. 115. 1699 Meikle Old Session Bk. 156.
In neid of 3 ells of velvet clothe and half at half ell and naill broad

c. A measure of length of land. — 1556 Glasgow Prot. V. 3.
To haif of the foir front and land nyne quartaris and ane naill

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Nail n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse DOST: