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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Hals, n. Also: als(e, halse, hal(l)is, hause, hawse, hass(e. Plur.: halsis; hals, halis. [e.m.E. and ME. hals, OE. hals, heals, ON. hals.]

1. The neck.Common in the phr. to hang be the hals, see Hang v., Hing v., and in the verse-tag hede and hals, see Hede n. Also to los the hals, to be put to death, see Los v.1 3 c (5).(a) 1375 Barb. vi. 627.
Ere and cheik doun in the hals He schare, and of the schuldir als
a1400 Leg. S. ii. 271.
Of his hals firste milk out ran
Ib. xxxvi. 838.
Thai … gert a basare cum … to strik in twa his als
c1420 Wynt. vii. 2872.
Wyth rapys and wethyis abowt thare hals
1496 Treas. Acc. I. 322.
Giffin to the goldsmyth that maid the Kingis cace of gold to were about his hals
a1500 Seven S. 1489.
Scho sayd, ‘he … has a fair hals to kis’
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. I. 300.
Coursouris twelf, … raw silk brechamis ouir thair halsis hingis
c1550 Rolland C. Venus I. 141.
Rattilland chenȝeis about his hals so quhite
1589 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 383.
That thai [sc. flescheouris] nather pluk the woll of the hals, or … uther part [of the sheep]
1603 Philotus xxxi.
Ȝour tablet be ȝour hals that hinges
(b) a1400 Leg. S. iv. 196.
Thai a rud rape … can ta And band abowte sancte Iames alse
15.. Clar. v. 1875.
With goidin chainȝe about hir halse so quhyte
1596 Dalr. I. 94/10.
Jewalis about thair neck, broches hinging at thair halse
(c) a1578 Pitsc. I. 174/16.
Ane great chenȝie of gould about his hallis
1581 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 225.
That the said flescheoures … nother pluk the woll of the halis, wambe, nor vther pairt
(d) 1600-1610 Melvill 167.
Giff Mr. James Lawsones head war als grait as a haystak he sould cause it lope from his hause

2. The throat, gullet.(a) a1400 Leg. S. xx. 4.
Fore il of awne or bane That in the hals mony men has tane
c1500 Rowll Cursing 52 (M).
Emerides or the sair als [B. hals], The chowkkis, the spynnage in the hals
1513 Doug. ii. xii. 27.
Speke mycht I not, the voce in my hals swa stak
1533 Boece ix. xi. 313 b.
Be the maladyis of ane rewme and cholkis fallin in his hals he was invadit
1535 Stewart 40624.
The breid … in his hals … stak so fast
1572 Sempill Sat. P. xxxviii. 34.
Thow … begylit vs with baitis in our hals
1590 R. Bruce Serm. 12.
Is it possible that my drouth can be slokened with that drinke that passed never over my halse?
(b) 1647 Durham Univ. J. XXXIV. 64.
She was Johne Giffanes wyfes death … by putting the wirlle wind in her hasse
1682 Lauder Observes 305.
He … willing to have swallowed it down, … bot … it passed not, … one part of it hindering another, fighting in his hasse
a1689 Cleland Poems 22.
He got of beer a full bowl glass Which got bad passage at his hasse

3. transf. A narrow place; a ‘narrow’ or ‘neck’ of land or water; an isthmus, narrow inlet, or defile. c1475 Wall. vii. 808.
Throuch out the moss delyuerly thai ȝeid, Syne tuk the hals, quharoff thai had most dreid
1513 Doug. I. iv. 8.
Ane havyn place with a lang hals or entre Thar is, with ane ile enveronyt on athir part
1531 Bell. Boece I. xxvii.
Nidisdaill … beginis with ane narow and strait hals
Ib. xxxi.
Lorn, quhilk … lyis in maner of ane toung … with ane lang hals
1533 Boece vi. vii. 198.
Entering at the hals of the strenth
Ib. ix. xii. 137 b.
The hals and stratis of Anandale

4. To hald in (also, by) the hals, to have in one's power or at one's mercy. a1400 Leg. S. xxxi. 524.]
[In hyr bed he can hyre our-ta, … & held hyr sa fast in the hals, That [etc.]
a1568 Scott xxiii. 23.
Hir fenȝeit wordis fals … held me in the hals, To lufe vnluvit agane
1584 Sat. P. xlv. 783.
With mony flattering taill and fals He held that bischop in the hals
1580-92 James VI Lusus R. 36.
Faire & false tormentis me thus, & haldis me by the halse
1616 Hart Pref. to Bruce (1620) 14 (J).
Edward had … long time holden them in the hals, upon vain hope of the kingdome

Also absol. 1603 Philotus 683.
O sex vncertane, ... With honie lips to hald in hals

5. Attrib., in sense 1, with armosie taffiteis, band, bedis, cheinze, claith, peirl, ribbane. a1500 Henr. III. 103/28.
Hir hals ribbane of rewth
1550 Treas. Acc. IX. 452.
For hals bedis … and certane uthir gagis
a1568 Bann. MS. 228 b/51.
Hir hals peirlis of pudicitie
1567 Fleming Q. Mary 508.
Of quhyte hals armosie taffiteis vj elnis
a1585 Maitland Maitl. Q. ii. 36.
Thair collaris, carcattis, and hals beiddis
1591 Crim. Trials I. 253.
Ane bairnis aiproune and halsclaith
1594 Treas. Acc. 143 b.
Fyne small holane clayth to be hals claythis
1603 Philotus xxviii.
Of Parreis wark … Ȝour fyne hals-cheinȝeis ȝe sall haue
1679 J. Somerville Mem. II. 323.
A musquet ball, which entered at his halsband, grazed up the foirpart of his scull

6. a. The neck of a vessel. 1543-4 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 115.
That all nychtbures ... haif stowppis of mesour with tawponis in the hals

b. The narrow neck-like part of an axle. c 1630 Montrose Treas. Acc. MS.
For naills to the halls of the extrie [of the wind-mill]

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"Hals n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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