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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Wersil(l, Wrassill, Wressell, v. Also: warsill, warsyll, -ell, warsl-, wersle, werssile, werscl-, worsill, worsel, worsle, worsthell, vorcel, virsl-, wrasl-, wrastle, vressill, wresstyl, wrestil, -le. P.t. also werstlit, wyrstyllyde, wraistlet. [ME and e.m.E. wræstle(n (Layamon), wrastle(n (Ancr. R.), werstil (Cursor M.), warstle (c1400, north.), warstel, wrastill (both c1440, north.), wrestle, wrestell (both Caxton), wressell (1588), OE *wrǽstlian, MLG worstelen, wrostelen, MDu. worstelen, werstelen, wrastelen.]

1. intr.To wrestle, fight, struggle (with (agans) an opponent or togidder), also to wrestle as a sport or as training for war. Also fig.Metathesised forms war- etc. are commoner in the 15th and 16th centuries, wr- in the 17th.(1) pres. 1460 Hay Alex. 239.
He was ay iustand warsland and rageand
1533 Boece 625a.
1600-1610 Melvill 17.
We … be our maister war teached … to rin, to loope, to swoom, to warsell, to preve pratteiks, everie ane haiffing his matche and andagonist, bathe in our lessons and play
(b) 1513 Doug. v ii 52 (Sm.).
And eik quha best on fuit can ryn lat see, To preif his pith, to wersill, and beir the gre
(c) 1531 Bell. Boece II 483.
He was weil lernit to fecht with the swerd, to just, to turnay, to worsill, to sing and dance
(d) c1420 Wynt. iv 80.
To dans, pype or syng, Or to wresstyl [C. to wrestil, W. Werstlyng] and mak justyng
(e) 1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Luctor, to wrastle
p.t. ?1438 Alex. ii 9014.
The Bauderane him hynt agane … thay worslit sua, Rushand and rugand to and fra
(b) 1513 Treas. Acc. IV 411.
To Baroun, when he wraistlet xv s. vj d.
fig. 1697 Donaldson Husbandry Ded. Epist.
I wrasled under all thes disadvantages
(2) c1420 Wynt. ii 224.
Wytht hym [sc. Jacob] wyrstyllyde [C. wrestlyt, W. werstlit] the angelle, As in the bybyll wryttyn is
c1515 Asl. MS I 314/7.
1531 Bell. Boece I lii.
He passit the commoun stature of men, and sa wicht, that na man durst contend nor wersle with him
a1538 Abell 90b.
In his final infirmite … he [sc. St. Francis] prosternit him self nakit on the bair erd at sa in his lattir hour quhar in ȝit the auld enemy crawbit aganis him nakit mycht wersill with nakit
1600 Crim. Trials II 298.
His Maiesty, being worsthelling with the Maister, cumis neir ane windo, quhair he cryis outt, ‘Tressoun! The king is slayne!’
fig. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 184/16.
Quha with this warld dois warsill and stryfe And dois his dayis in dolour dryfe
1513 Doug. iv Prol. 248 (Sm.).
With thé [sc. Cytherca] to wersill [Ruddim. wrestil], thow waxis euirmoir wycht
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Prol. Rom. 327/21.
Faynne thow … enforce thou, werssile with thi selff, and do quhat thou wil or cann
1629 Boyd Last B. 401.
Wee shall worsle with God in prayer that your end may bee peace
(b) 1542 Misc. Bann. C. I 17.
Havinge … Hercules strengh … to owerthraw and wressell with the saide cardinall
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xvi 4.
I wrassill with the wind
1602 Colville Paraenese 157.
I vill no more vressill agans the good angell of God
1638 Henderson Serm. 279.
If so be that we will wrestle with God for a blessing, and prevail with him, then … we sall wrestle the enemies out of it also
1640 Rec. Kirk Scotl. 282.
It is not unknown to your lordship with what difficulties this kingdom hath wrastled this time past
a1652 Dickson Psalms I 37.
Victory granted unto faith, after wrastling with darkness
1681 Aberd. Council Lett. VI 284.
Ye have such ane strong partie to wrastle with and so few to help you
1682 Lauder Observes 306.
The hazard wes greater than ye imagine, for the Test as it was rowed up had many plyes and implications in it ane contrary to another, and swa the tyke might have been queikened ere it had been all over, ilk ply as it were rancountering another wresling and fighting in his hass
(3) 1600 Crim. Trials II 183.
He seis his maiestie and Mr. Alexander Ruthvene in vtheris armes, stryveing and worslying togidder, his maiestie haveing Maister Alexanderis heid vnder his arme, and Maister Alexander being almaist on his kneis, had his hand vpoun his maiesteis face and mouth
1600 Crim. Trials II 296.
The king so gripid his throit with his left hand and his sword airme with his right hand … The maister, on the other pairt, griping the king so fast as he could, they baith wraslit togidder a certane space
1626–7 Inverness Rec. II 165.
Haiffing fallin in straickis and buffattis with wther, and being wrasling togither in the gutter

b. tr.To wrestle with (an opponent). 1606 Melrose Reg. Rec. I 23.
Gif it can be sufficientlie provein that he was wersland or gripand the persone allegeit resavear of the bluid that [etc.]

c. To struggle with (a person) physically as in wrestling.(a) 1598 St. A. Kirk S. 857.
For his filthie behaviour … upon the calsay, werscland and kissand of Elspot Watsoun
(b) 1559 St. A. Baxter Bks. 5 n.
The deponar remembyris … that he and his wyfe wes wrasland togiddir, and … that sche bait him in the arme

2. intr.To struggle, writhe, flounder, wriggle. Also fig. a1500 Lanc. 3382.
The ded hors lyith virslying with the men
1513 Doug. xiii iv 82 (Ruddim.).
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 334.
Fra he was laid doun he fumeth at mouth and bothe the nose thirles: and warslit with his handis
1600 Acts IV 206/2.
With his leaft hand about his Maiesteis craig puttis his richt neiff in his Maiesteis mouth sua his Maiestie wersland to be quit of him this deponar puttis his hand out of his Maiesteis mouth and [etc.]
1604-9 Grahame Anat. Hum. 57b.
Like the diseased creature, warsling, and stil turning on a bed of sorrow, burdained with sicknes, and can finde no repose
(b) 1513 Doug. xiii iv 82.
The snaill … Fleand the byrnand heit … A lang tyme gan do wrassill [Ruddim. wersil] and to wreill
fig. a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xlii 9.
Warsill, as it war against ȝour will, Appeiring angrie, thoght ȝe haif no yre

b. To struggle out of a place by wriggling or writhing. 1701 Brand Orkney & Shetl. 104.
He … sank doun to the arm pits, … by stretching out his arms … by the help of … a staff fixed in the ground, got wrestled out

3. To toil, labour. [This may be a misreading of OF fouissant digging.] 1494 Deidis of Armorie 22.
The modewarp is a blind best haffand a gronȝe in form of a porc euer beand vorceland [Lindsay MS worseland] in the erd

4. To move with an effort, to struggle in a laborious manner. Also fig.(a) 1573 Sempill in Sat. P. xxxix 350.
Then wes he worsland our ane wondie swyre
(b) 1645 Rutherford Tryal Faith (1743) 261.
Can the father see the child sweat, wrestle under an over-load while his back be near broken … and his hands not stretched out to help?
1632 Lithgow Trav. Sig. L jb.
Wrestling amongst intricate pathes of rockes: two of our asses fell ouer a banke
fig. a1652 Dickson Psalms I 285.
Yet still must we wrastle on, using still one means after another, mixing prayer with all other means
c1665 Sel. Biog. I 272.
O friends, for Christ's sake, wrestle yourselves in to the royall banquet of His love

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"Wersil v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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