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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HOLE, n., v. Also holl, hol (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), hoal, dims. holie (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 43; Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 124), holey. Cf. Whull, n.1

Sc. usages. [Sc. ho:l, Sh., ne.Sc. + hɔl]

I. n. 1. In Golf: the small circular cavity in the green into which a ball is to be played; hence, the distance between the tee and the hole, one of the divisions into which a golf-course is divided; the point scored by the player who takes the fewest strokes to reach the hole. Now St.Eng.Sc. 1743 T. Mathison The Goff 14:
Thrice round the green they urge the whizzing ball, And thrice three holes to great Castalio fall.
Sc. 1754 R. Browning Hist. Golf (1955) 180:
The player who shall appear to have won the greatest number of holes shall be declared the winner.
Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Golf:
Golf . . . A common game in Scotland, in which clubs are used, for striking balls . . . from one hole to another.
Sc. 1880 Chambers's Encycl. IV. 823:
The match is usually decided by the greatest number of holes gained in one or more rounds.
Fif. 1897 R. Forgan Golfer's Manual 75:
Hole. — 1st, The four-inch hole lined with iron; 2nd, The whole space between any two of these.

2. In pl. or dim.: a game of marbles in which the marbles were aimed at others in holes in the ground (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. Add. 226, holes; n. and em.Sc., Kcb. 1957, holie). Also called hole and taw (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.), holey birnie (Fif.16 1947), holie for nags (Slg. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; Uls.3 1930), holie dumps (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 175). Cf. Dump, n.2Rnf. 1877 J. Neilson Poems 92:
“Holie” is his favourite game, Hoo he birls them in.
Ags. 1934 G. M. Martin Dundee Worthies 177:
The “Holie” as its name implies was an effort to place your “Plunker” (the bool played from the hand) in a hole made between the pavement and any wall or sometimes a hole made in spaces between the causeway stones.
Bnff. 1955 Banffshire Adv. (31 March):
I can min' winnin' nearly a' Willum's bools playing “holie” near the cave door here.

3. A small bay. Freq. in place-names (n. and em.Sc., Arg. 1957). Also in U.S.Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 396:
A small bay, called the holl of Gollachie.
m.Lth. 1882 Mod. Sc. Poets (Edwards) IV. 322:
When as the wind cam' swoopin' owre the wol', The boat was anchored safe in Lucky's hole.

4. A shallow pool, a puddle (Sh., Cai., Bwk., Kcb. 1957).Sh. 1886 J. Burgess Sk. & Poems 114:
Dey wir some snaw 'at wis been kerried in wi' wir feet melted, an' med a peerie holl o' watter i' da coarner.

5. A lazy, idle gathering, a collection of loafers. Cf. v. 5.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 80:
A meeting in a lazy, mean manner; as, “They keep an unco holl in that chop.”

6. A bed fitted into a recess in a wall and shut off from the room by doors or curtains, a box-bed s.v. Box, n.1, 2. (1). Hence in or ¶o' the hole, on the point of childbirth (Bnff., Abd. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; Abd., Fif. 1957).Sc. 1704 Atholl MSS. (6 April):
I thought to have found her Grace Lying in the hole or at least very near it but she is still goeing about . . . their is no getting away till she is brought to bed.
Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 36:
Eppie Hedrington came to the door in great haste with the intelligence that Mattie Binklets was in “the hole”.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iii.:
Fat like wid ye hae been gin ye'd haen tae be like me, o' the hole 'e tey day an' i' the washin tub 'e neist.

7. Phrs. & Combs.: (1) a hole in one's coat, a fault, flaw, e.g. in character, conduct. Found in Eng. 1553–1648; (2) hail hole, adv., in such phrs. as to come, pour, etc., hail hole, to the fullest or utmost extent indicated by the context, with might and main, at top speed, in torrents, etc. (Ags. 1890; Mearns.3 c.1920; Abd. 1957); (3) hert hol o' da fire, the centre or heart of the fire; (4) hole ahin!, an exclamation of derision. ? Cf. (1): (5) hole-i(n) or †o(f)-the-wa, (a) a small house or apartment, freq. in a recess between two larger buildings and entered directly from the street, usually used as a shop or public-house (Abd., m.Lth., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf. 1957); (b) a box-bed, a recessed bed (Abd., m. and s.Sc. 1957). Cf. 6.; (6) in the hole, in Sh. folk-dancing, see quot.; (7) to take hole, to take cover.(1) Ayr. 1789 Burns Grose's Peregrinations i.:
If there's a hole in a' your coats, I rede you tent it: A chield's amang you takin notes, And faith he'll prent it.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 102:
Dod! it was like butter in the black dog's hass for Jenny to get haud of a hole in my coat like this.
(3) Sh. 1949 J. Gray Lowrie 30:
Doo'll no hinder da packie ta laand i' da hert hol' o' da fire.
(4) Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 178:
Her tittas clap'd their hips an' hooted, “Ah hole ahin!”
(5) (a) Dmf. 1789 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (27 Jan.):
That House called the Hole of the Wall, well situated for a Public House, and which has been long used as such.
Edb. 1882 J. Grant Old and New Edb. III. 77:
In Dean Street there long stood a little cottage known as the Hole i' the Wa', a great resort of school-boys for apples, pears, and gooseberries retailed there.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quinn Borderland 78:
O, a canty bit hoose is the Hole-i'-the-Wa'.
Edb. 1928 A. D. Mackie Poems 18:
Shairly the kind auld kirk will let me be In this auld hole-in-the-wa', my tozy nest.
(6) Sh. 1964 J. & T. Flett Trad. Dancing 206:
The two top couples in this Whalsay Reel were always known on the island as "the fore-oars", while the bottom couple were said to be "in the hole". In general the more expert dancers tended to dance as "the fore-oars", while the less able dancers took the easier bottom positions "in the hole". The terms "fore-oars" and "hole" are derived from the old Shetland six-oared fishing boats, the sixearns, which fell into disuse during the period from about 1880 to 1920. A typical boat of this type was divided into seven compartments by the thwartship benches, and the "hole", or "shott-hole", was the compartment furthest aft-. . . The crew of a sixearn usually consisted of four men and two "fee'd boys". . . . When the crew had to row, the four experienced men took the forward oars, the "fore-oars", and the apprentices took the two oars nearest the "hole"-precisely the same distribution of ability as was usual in the Whalsay Reel.
(7) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 67:
They landit at Balmernie; And there he took hole like a rabbit.

II. v. 1. tr. & intr. To dig, to excavate (Sc. 1808 Jam., holl; Abd. 1825 Jam., holl; ne.Sc., Ags., Ayr. 1957), to dig up, loosen from the ground (Sc. 1825 Jam.), now used esp. of potatoes (ne.Sc., Ags. 1957), or turf Uls. 1953 Traynor).Abd. 1699 R. Dinnie Birse (1865) 140:
William Ker [delated], for holling bees bykes.
Mry. 1768 Abd. Journal (9 May):
No person who has not a right, will presume for the future to cast peats or turf, pull heather, or hole fir.
Per. 1817 A. Buchanan Rural Poetry 19:
Thus spend your days in clearin' bogs An' cuttin' wood an' holin' clogs.
Abd. 1825 Jam.:
“I'll gar your niz hole knapparts,” I'll knock you down on your nose.
Ags. 1879 J. Guthrie Poems 23:
Neist comes the tattie hairst — a busy time; To get them hol'd and stored in pits to keep.
Lnk. 1885 J. Hamilton Poems 225:
Whaur bodies, like mowdies, by hunners an' scores Are houkin', an' holin', an' blastin' the rocks.
Kcd. 1900 W. Macgillivray Glengoyne I. ix.:
It [broom] used to be holed an' cut in oor young days.
Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 136:
Robbie Saunderson appeared with a basket of “new-holed tawties” in his hand.
Bnff. 1954 Banffshire Jnl. (12 Jan.):
Are ye ready, 'uman? I'm awa tae hole a twa three dreel.

Hence phr. to hole out, to dig, root out, bring to the surface (Ags., Rnf. 1957). Also used fig.Slg. 1735 Slg. Burgh Rec. (1889) 234:
Considering that the Back brae is mostly grown over with thorns and briers, and that the pasturage therein is become of very little value, they do therefore appoint the masters furthwith to cause hole out the same.
Sc. 1782 Caled. Mercury (7 Jan.):
The Wood to be holled out, so as to prevent growing.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan 160:
I'll try to hole out for ye, amang my friends, as muckle as will mak fifteen shillings in the pound.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption xxix:
I'll hole out McCorkle before I be mony days aulder.

2. In Golf: to play (the ball) into the hole, to play (a particular hole or †course). Gen.Sc. Hence, to hole out, to complete the playing of a hole by striking the ball into the hole. Also attrib.Sc. 1744 B. Darwin Hist. Golf. in Brit. (1952) 27:
No man at holing his ball is to be allowed to mark his way to the Hole with his club or anything else.
Sc. 1775 J. Kerr Golf-Bk. E.Lth. (1896) 52:
At Holing, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole and not play on your adversary's Ball not lying in your way to the Hole.
Fif. 1828 Edb. Ev. Courant (8 Nov.):
It was found, that Robert Pattullo, Esq. younger, was the successful competitor, he having holed the Links, as it is called, at one hundred and five strokes.
Sc. 1857 Chambers's Inform. II. 693:
The putter . . . is usually considered the best club for holing out the ball.
Sc. 1880 Chambers's Encycl. IV. 823:
The player . . . whose ball is holed in the fewest strokes has gained that hole; and the match . . . sometimes . . . is made to depend on the aggregate number of strokes taken to “hole” one or more rounds.
Sc. 1901 Scotsman (11 Sept.) 10:
A nicely-played mashie stroke took his ball within holing distance.

3. intr. Fig.: to feel as if hollow, esp. in phr. to be hol(e)ing wi' hunger, to be ravenous (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 274).Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan III. xii.:
Though they were holeing with hunger.

4. To take cover, disappear from view. Also in n.Eng. dial. Cf. n., 7. (7).s.Sc. 1824 J. Telfer Border Ballads 43:
The rysing moon like safrone grewe, And holit ahint a cloude.

5. To linger, esp. to linger too long in one place or at one task, to loaf about, to be contented with mean work (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 80, holl; Abd. 1957); freq. with on or about (Gregor; Abd. 1957).Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 20:
He held me hollin' on at hame.
Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Flights 259:
To shame the hincum-sneevie louns wha aye holed on at hame.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 80:
He's hollt the hail simmer castin' peets i' the moss.

Hence phr. to howk and holl, “to satisfy one's self with any occupation, however mean or dishonourable” (Abd. 1825 Jam.).

6. To wear into holes; ppl.adj. holed, worn into holes (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Rare and obs. in Eng.Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 23:
An' when a shoe begins to hole, Be't upper-leather, or the sole.

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



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