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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Spindil(l, Spin(n)el(l, n. Also: spindle, -all, -ell, spyndil(l, -yll, -all, -ell, spyndl, spyendl, spendell, -ill, spin(n)il(l, spyn(n)ill, -el(l, -yll, spynyle, spynle, speynle, -ill, spennel, spanill, spainȝiell. [ME and e.m.E. spinle (a1100), spindle (c1150), spindel (c1325), spindil (1335-6), spyndel (1345-6), spendel (1458), spyndyl (1470-85), spyndill (1507-8), spindell (1597), OE spinel f. the stem of spinnan Spin v., MDu. spindel. Cf. Sw. spindel, MSw. spinnil a spider.]

1. A spindle, the instrument used in spinning to twist fibres into thread. Also attrib. as spindle-tree, applied to a tree of the genus Euonymus the wood of which was widely used for spindles. Also comb. as quheill spynnill, see Quhel(e n. 3.(a) c1420 Wynt. iii 724.
His oys wes mare wytht rok to spyne Than landys to the crowne to wyne, And kunandnes fer mar he had How mony here the spyndyll made
1513 Doug. vii xiii 59.
Camylla … ane worthy weriour was sche: Hir womanly handis nothir rok of tre Ne spyndill vsit
1513 Doug. viii vii 100.
Forto wirk the lyne, To snoif the spyndill, and lang thredis twyne
1563–4 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 138.
Ane hevi ax, ane quhite spindill of irne
a1568 Jok & Jynny 54.
Ane spindill wantand ane nok
a1570-86 Maitland in Maitl. F. 302/41.
Thai [sc. the thieves of Liddisdale] leif not spindle spwne nor speit Bed boustar blancat sark nor scheit
1600 Hamilton Facile Tr. 50.
Nidils, spindils, kairds, roks, and vther domestik affaires
1643 Orkney Witch Trial in Misc. Abbotsf. C. 178.
1689 Haigs of Bemersyde 479.
Ane lint quheill, half ane stane of heckis, rokis, spindillis
(b) 1586 St. A. Test. II 69.
Ane reill thre spinnils
1624 Edinb. B. Rec. VI 259.
Nyne small quheilles with the spynnelles and haiks thairof
1624 Edinb. Test. LII 199.
Tua dosone of spinnillis pryce thairof iiij s.
1699 Black Bk. Kincardineshire 125.
1707 New Mills Manuf. 231.
To send 500 spinnels, and £20 worth of the wood the spinnells are made of
(c) 1646 Edinb. Test. LXI 381.
Four speynill of irne
attrib. 1684 Sibbald Scot. Illustr. ii 22.
Euonymus vulgaris … the spindletree

b. A representation of a spindle used as a heraldic bearing. 1494 Loutfut MS 139a.
Als thair is fesses fussele that is spendellis and thai mon be blassound as thai ar set for thai cum in mony diuers maneris & sa dois losans

2. The quantity of yarn, etc. that can be spun on a spindle at one time, varying in amount according to the material, chiefly used as a measure in which yarn, etc. was sold. Const. of and without const.Also in the later dial., see SND Spinle n. 4.sing. 1586 Perth B. Ct. 10 May.
Half ane spyndill and tua heir of lynnyng ȝearne and half ane spyndill of hardin ȝearne to be voft to hir wobbis
1618 Edinb. Test. L 151.
Sex spyndill lynning hairdin at threttie tua schillingis the spyndill
(b) 1572 Canongate Ct. Bk. 375.
Ane spynell and ane half of hardin yarne
1576 Edinb. Test. IV 302b.
Ane spynill of lynneng ȝarne price x s.
1590 Edinb. Test. XXII 268b.
Tua spynnill and ane half of ȝairne at xvj s. the spynnill
1606 Edinb. Test. XLI 291b.
Aucht spynnel ȝairne at xxxiii s. iiij d. the spynel
1610 Wedderb. Compt Bk. 79. 1622 Edinb. Test. LI 220b.
Tua spynnell and sex heir of hardin ȝairne at tuentie tua schillinges the spynle
1646 Aberd. Council Lett. III 40.
Fyve spynnells small lynt yairne worth xxiii sh. ilk spynell
1694 Argaty Baron Ct. 7 Dec. 1694 Cramond Fordoun Ann. 55.
Ane spynnell of lining yarne
1697 Household Bk. Gr. Baillie 168.
1698 Lanark B. Rec. 263.(c) 1644 Edinb. Test. LXI 38.
Ane speynle of ȝearne
pl. 1597 Paisley B. Rec. 203.
Aucht spyndells drawing yarne, quhilk being worpit extendit to xx eillis claith
1612 Dunblane Test. III 188b.
Thrie spyndils … of hardine ȝearne
(b) 1610 Dunblane Test. III 117b.
Ȝairne extending to the number of four scoir four spynnillis ilk scoir at xxviij li.
1623 Edinb. Test. LII 32.
In his mairchand buith fyftein scoir spynles ȝairne
1646 Aberd. Council Lett. III 40 (see (b) above).(c) 1677 R. Brown Paisley I 293.
Ane Table of Gate Custom … Ilk polk of yairn that exceeds not 4 spennels, to pay 4 d.
uninfl. pl. 1618 Edinb. Test. L 151 (see sing. (a) above).
Sex spyndill lynning hairdin at threttie tua schillingis the spyndill
1620 Edinb. Test. L 271.
1687 Weaver's Acc. Bk.
2 spyndl and half at 22 s. … 2 spyendl yearn at 22 s.
(b) 1582 Edinb. Test. XI 311.
Thrie spynill of tueling ȝarne estimat to xviij elnis of tueling claith price of the eln xxx d.
1590 Edinb. Test. XXII 268b (see sing. (b) above). 1606 Edinb. Test. XLI 291b (see sing. (b) above). 1611 Dunferm. B. Rec. II 88.
Fyve spynill yarne
1622 Edinb. Test. LI 220b (see sing. (b) above). 1623 Hawick Ann. 296.
Thomas Donaldsoune … accusit for steiling … two pewder plaittis four spynnell of linning yarne [etc.]
16… Sc. Ant. I 178.
For 3 spinell yarn sping 1 lib. 16 s.
c1686 Depred. Clan Campbell 96.
4 spynel ȝarne
1693 Household Bk. Gr. Baillie 165.
For 4 spinell yerin, £4 4 s.
(c) 1678 Corshill Baron Ct. 146.
For … ane spanill of linine washen yarne and three heir of hardine yarne knitt about it
1678 Glasgow Test. XL 136.
Tuentie spainȝiell of ȝearn estimat worth xx lib.

3. A rod, made of metal or wood, used as an axis by means of which something revolves: a. In any kind of mill or workshop. b. In a weather-vane. c. In a clock.a. 1478 Binns P. 6.
The away taking of a myln rynde, a myln spindil and a myln stane … out of the said myln
1532 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 101.
The expens maid upon the hors myln for the armoraris to the completing of the samen … for ane grete squair pece akin tymmer for the spyndill to the said myln price xxii s.
1532 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 102.
To William Hyll smyth, for xx stane and vi pund and ane half of maid irne werk in four grete spyndillis tua grete and tua small … with divers small grath … in completing of the harnes myln
1546 Treas. Acc. VIII 473.
The pays and spyndill of the man mylne
1563 Dumfries B. Ct. fol. 236b. 1573–4 Day-bk. J. Kyle in E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. VII 78.
[For 10 lb. iron and 6 oz.] to lay the spendill of the kirk myln
1598 Reg. Privy C. V 495.
The spyndill, rynd, and trymmill brodis of the said miln
1612 Reg. Privy C. IX 454.
[They] perforce reft and awaytook with thame the nether mylne stone thairof [sc. the corn-mill], with the spindell of the same and haill the remanent ornamentis appertening to the said mylne
1617 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 73.
For sex lather quhengis to the rind spindell vi s.
1623 Prot. Bk. J. Scott MS Loose Leaf (Reg. H.).
1650 Brechin Presb. 41.
Both depones that the spindle of the mill took fyr
1680 Dumfries Mun. Accs. Box No. 51.
Mylnryne and spindle
(b) 1496–7 Prestwick B. Rec. 34.
John Smyth … accusit in court Will Cochrane of ix d. for nalis … ij d. for a myl spynyle laying
1557–8 Edinb. Old Acc. I 260.
For v stane ix pund Spanȝe irn to be spynnills … xliiij s. vj d.
1574–5 Day-bk. J. Cokburn in E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. VIII 21.
1574–5 Day-bk. J. Cokburn in E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. VIII 24.
To the spynnill ane pownd of steill and ane owns pryce iii s. iii d.
1685 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds II 211.
[The said Edmund furnishing all necessary materials for upholding the said milne except] irne naills cog rung spinnels and tallaw
b. 1535–6 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 186.
To the said William Hyll in spindillis to thanis
1537–8 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 217.
For ane stane maid irne werk in ane spindill to ane thane … viii s.
c. 1599 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 6 April.
The thesaurer to … pay to Cuthbert Stoddart twentie punds money for the panis tan be him in mending the knok, making of ane new extre nutt & spindall thairto
(b) 1586 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 262.
Ane contra pes to the hand [of the clock] with ij nuttis & nallis thairto that the spinnel passis in
1586 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 263.

d. specif. A rod, made of clay or wood, upon which the core of a gun is moulded. 1541 Treas. Acc. VIII 125.
To v men wirkand witht Peris upoune the wirking of the clay, making and drying of the mulde and spindill [etc.]
1542 Treas. Acc. VIII 126.
To viij men wirkand witht Peris upoune the brekin of the mettell, clengeing of the furnes, mending of the faltis thairof, and upoune the drying and setting of the mulde and spindill
1542 Treas. Acc. VIII 126.
At the quhilk melting the pece failȝeit, becaus of the rysing of the spindill efter the mettell wes all run
1542 Treas. Acc. VIII 127.
For v wosp of steill to temper the fylis, hammeris and chesellis of the spindill [of a cannon] witht
1558 Treas. Acc. X 437.
For l laidis of peitis for drying of the muldis and spindillis to the said gros culvering
1574 Edinb. Test. III 209.
Fiftie spynnillis of clay & tymmer that muildis is maid on

4. attrib. Thin, slender. a1570-86 Maitl. F. 245/31.
To the rude scho maid ane vow For I sall hit thy spindill schyn

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"Spindil n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Nov 2022 <>



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