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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WURBLE, v. Also warble; wirble. [wʌrbl]

I. v. 1. To move forward in a twisting, sinuous manner like a worm, to wriggle, crawl (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis s.v. wrabil, 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); to walk with a knock-kneed gait. Also transf. Vbl.n. wurbler, ¶a worm.Edb. 1792 “Juvenis Scoticus” Melpomene 52:
Thir drunken blades, on fast-day noon, Seiz'd wi' the loon-ill, wurble doun Like swarms o' vermin.
Ayr. 1817 D. McKillop Poems 127:
It [a fly] warbled, warbled on its wame, An' syne upon its back.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
‘To wurble oneself out,' to get out of confinement of any kind by a continuation of twisting motions.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 12:
Giein' him a guid creeshin' wi' a stick, tae gaur his bluid wurble.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah xli. 14:
Be-na fley'd, ye puir wurbler o' Jakob.

2. To work hard, esp. on some finicky tedious job, to strive, struggle, contend with difficulties (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1706 Sc. Antiquary XII. 101–3:
To us peer things, who are fain to warble and wark late and air for a bit of Bread tee our Mouths. . . . Fain to Wirble kniting a pair of Shanks phan we could Card and Spin na litle Wool tee be Fingrens and other Cleath.

3. (1) To join two threads by twisting and rubbing the ends together (Rnf. 1825 Jam., c.1840 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) W.49, “used by sewsters, weavers, tailors, packers”). Vbl.n. wurbling, used fig. in quot. of patching up a quarrel.Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 316:
A' the warpings, an' wurblings, an' queer pawkie trade, That slides on the way o' a man wi' a maid.

(2) tr. To entwine, twist (one thing into another).Ayr 1879 W. Orr Jubilee Rev. W. Orr (1880) 41:
Every man had a white clay pipe wurbled into the band of his hat.

4. Transf. To knock about, treat roughly, thrash. Phs. a different word.Dmf. 1863 R. Quinn Heather Lintie 144:
There's Zoilus ready wi' a with, And by my sang he'll warble ye.

II. n. A struggle, a wrestling with difficulty or hardship.Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Life is a sair wurble in thae times.

[O.Sc. worble, to wriggle, writhe, wallow, a.1596, and met. variant wrabble, to wriggle, 1513, of uncertain origin, but prob. cogn. with Du. wervelen, to turn round, Ger. wirbel, a spinning-top.]

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"Wurble v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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