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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FLAIL, n., v. Also flaal (Ork.). Sc. form and usages of Eng. flail.

1. A tall, gawky person (Cai., ne.Sc. 1951).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 47:
Sometimes used in a good sense, and sometimes in a bad; as, “He's nae an ill flail o' a cheel aifter a'.”
Bnff. 1952:
“Ach, ye muckle flail!” said to someone falling over his own feet.

2. Combs.: †(1) flail-cappins, the loop or hinge of leather on the flail-souple. Also in n.Eng. dial.; (2) flail-huid, -heud (Ork.), -heed (Cai.), one of the pieces of hide joining the two arms of a flail (Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 151; Ork., Cai. 1951); †(3) flailing-staff, the handle part of a flail (Sc. 1733 Orpheus Caledonius II. 99); †(4) flail-legged, having long, lanky legs; †(5) flailman, one who threshes corn with a flail; ‡(6) flail-souple, the part of the flail which beats out the grain (Sh., Ork., Abd. 1951).(1) Dmf. 1831 Carlyle in Froude Early Life (1882) II. 219:
He was all braced with straps, moving on crutches, and hung together loosely, you would have said, as by flail-cappins.
(4) Dmf. 1832 Carlyle Letters (ed. Norton) II. 59:
She is flail-legged, skittish a little, and does not seem to thrive here.
(5) Sc. 1823 W. G. Stewart Pop. Superstitions 236:
The flailman still chaps in the barn, desirous of providing the necessary store of fodder for the Christmas.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 145:
In winter it was the barnman's, i.e. the professional flailman's business every day and all day long to ply “the thresher's weary flinging tree.”
(6) Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 198:
Happy was he who, when some sturdy male fairy took a bout at thrashing in his barn floor of an early winter morning, could creep quietly up behind, and getting hold of the flail souple, “catch the speed.”
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. ii. 62:
Dere waas saetrees, an' flaal-sooples an' han'staffs.

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"Flail n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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