Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CAPERCAILZIE, Capperkailzie, Caperkylie, Caper coille, Caper keily, Caperkellie, n. The wood-grouse, Tetrao urogallus, the male being sometimes also called the Great Cock of the Woods, or Mountain Cock. “Formerly indigenous in the Scottish Highlands, where, after having become extinct, it has again been introduced from Scandinavia” (N.E.D.), and is still to be seen, though rare. Also simply caper. Entered in Un. and Concise Eng. Dicts. as found in Scot. [′kɑpər′kel(j)i, ′kɑpər′kelzi, ′kɑpər′kəil(j)i, also ′kepər-] Sc. 1760 R. Pococke Tours in Scot. (1887) 110:
In the Mountain towards Fort Augustus they have found the Caper Keily (Cock of the Wood). They are now very rare. I saw the skin of one stuffed, they are about the size of a Turkey, the head like a Grouse or Moor Fowl, entirely black, except that the Belly is spotted with White, and it is white under the Wings.
Sc. 1920 J. Ritchie Animal Life in Scot. VI. iii.:
Bishop Jhone Leslie [in 1578] . . . shows clearly that the range of the Caper was limited.
Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 307:
The caper coille, or wild turkey, was seen in Glenmoriston, and in the neighbouring district of Strathglass, about 40 years ago, and it is not known that this bird has appeared since, or that it now exists in Britain.
Mry. 1775 L. Shaw Hist. Prov. Moray 161:
The harmless Wild Fowls are, the Swan, Caperkylie, (called also the Cock of the wood).
Per. 1746 T. L. K. Oliphant Jacobite Lairds of Gask (1870) 213:
Caperkellies are frequently sold in mercat.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 257:
I could tell you a fearsome story o' the days o' langsyne, the days when the capercailzie had his howff in Eglinton.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales Wars of Montrose II. 3:
Here also the king of game, the great cock-of-the-wood, or capperkailzie, was to be found in every copse.

Used fig. for an empty-headed, stupid person. Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 20:
Man, Ian, ye're a muckle capercailzie wi' a heid fu' o' preenacks.

[O.Sc. capercailȝe, -calȝe, -caley (D.O.S.T.). Prob. a corruption of Gael. capal-coille, the great cock of the wood (MacLennan), from capull, a horse (for horse as used to indicate largeness, cf. horse-radish), and coille, wood; the so-called l mouillé of the second element was reg. represented in older Sc. writing by lz, and the present pronunciation with [z] has arisen from the written word.]

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"Capercailzie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



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