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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DALE, DAIL(L), DEAL, n.1 and v. Also dael, deil, deel, deall, dell, deyl, dall. [de:l Sc., but Cai. + deil, ne.Sc. + dɛl, Ags. deɪl]

I. n.

1. A share or portion of anything which is to be divided out (Ags.17 c.1870; Fif., Lth. 1926 D.S.C.S. 237, dail). Specifically: †(1) A portion or piece of land; a field (Fif. 1825 Jam.2, dail); “formerly in general use to denote the portions into which the common arable lands were periodically subdivided. By the end of the 18th cent., such sub-division had mostly fallen into disuse and the word had become obs. or else had come to be used loosely” (Abd.16); still occas. used for any division of land or the dyke marking it (Abd. 1975).Slg. 1709 Balgair Court Min. (S.R.S.) 7:
The said Duncan sall pay them for hirding of each sheep that he putts before there hird either in mure or in deall.
Ayr. 1730 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (1834) 89:
Q[uhai]r any out dall [sic] is to be labored . . . the wholl frie men shall be obliged to big a dyk wher it is neidfull.

(2) A share or division of profits by herring fishermen. Hence dealsman, half-dealsman, -dales man, terms applied to herring fishermen according to the share of the profits received (Fif. 1904 St Andrews Cit. (30 April); Bwk. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.).Sc. 1733 P. Lindsay Interest Scot. 203:
When the Fishing is over, they make up their Accounts, the Money depurst for their Expence and Provisions is taken off . . . and what remains is divided by eight or nine Shares, called Deals. The Proprietor of the Boat draws one Deal, every Man half a Deal, and every Net half a Deal; and if there happens to be a Landman or two in the Boat, who never were at the Fishing before, these . . . draw but the Quarter of a Deal for their first Year.
Sc. 1909 Colville 33:
Our herring fishers . . . go as dealsmen and half-dealsmen.
Fif. c.1800 P. F. Anson Fishing Boats (1930) 91:
Out of this crew some three would be part-owners, the other two what were called “half-dealsmen,” i.e. furnishing their own nets.
Lth. 1924 Edb. Evening News (10 April) 4/4:
Some were well provided with gear — nets and lines. The “haflins”, without shares, without nets or lines, started out in life as “half dales men.”

Comb.: deal day, a day on which charity money was distributed to the poor. Also attrib.Abd. 1762 Philorth Baron Court Book MS IV 146:
Each Fewer shall exact themselves from destributeing any of there Charity to such Vagrants Sturdy Beggars or others either att there houses, in the streets or one the Dealdays.

Phr.: to hire a boat on deal (deil), “to agree to give a certain fraction of the catch as the price of the hire” (Cai. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.; Cai.7 1940, — deil).

2. Portion or lot in life, fate, fortune.Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads I. 129:
I wish they ne'er drink ale; For if I be the same woman, My ain sell drees the dail.

3. A portion of work assigned.Ags.17 c.1870:
“That's your dale,” the land-worker would be told when a task (such as farmland to be weeded or potatoes to be earthed up) was allotted.

4. “A measure by which coals were formerly sold in the east of Scotland” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 22).Sc. 1701 Acc. Bk. Sir J. Foulis (S.H.S. 1894):
Jany. 27: to david wilson yt he paid for 7 daill of coalls from Murhous harbour . . . 25. 4. 0.
Edb. 1788 Scots Mag. 620:
The Magistrates passed an act of council, December 17, allowing the importation of coals to Leith free of shore-dues, if sold at the rate of 10s. 9d. per dale or under.

5. A distribution or dealing out, e.g. of land (as in 1).Ayr. 1730 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (1834) 89:
The quilk day the bailles, consell, and comwnitie being conveined in the tolboth, have mad ther dail of the four quarters of the town.

6. A quantity, amount, number, etc. Usu. in phr. a great (guid) dale (dael, dail), also abbr. colloq. (as in Eng.) to a dale (dell). Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.17 and Kcb. correspondents 1939. Also ilka dale, every bit, in every particular.Sc. 1802 in Nairne Peerage Evidence (1873–74) 165:
Being obliged to remain so long at Paris . . . cost me a great dale of money.
Sh. 1930 T. P. Ollason in Sh. Almanac 193:
A'm no geen ta sayin' very muckle as a rule, toe I tink a guid dael sometimes.
Bnff.2 1940:
Aye, there's a dell o' thristles in yon haugh parkie.
Abd. 1925 Greig and Keith Last Leaves 103:
The first stroke that Macdonal gave, He wounded him a dell.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 96:
Says Ralph; "Well, neiper, I hae heard your tale, An' even fairly at it ilka dale."
Fif.10 1939:
He left a dale o' siller.
Gsw. 1700 Charters City of Gsw. (ed. J. D. Marwick and R. Renwick 1906) II. 283:
Weighage, tunnage . . . payable to the burgh of Dumbartoun by all strangers ships unloading within the said river of Clide, hath created . . . a great dale of trouble and vexation.
Kcb. 1895 S. R. Crockett Bog-Myrtle ii. i.:
I'm a dale aulder than you, Saunders.
Rxb. 1915 Kelso Chron. (10 Dec.) 4/5:
Aa've seen a guid dail in ma time, bit this is yin o' the things aa didna sei.

Hence phr. nae great dale, of no great worth, of poor quality (Cai.7 1939, — deyl: Abd. 1825 Jam.2).Abd.27 1947:
That claith's nae great dale.

II. v.

1. To deal (with), to trade (Cai.7 (deyl), Fif.10, Kcb.9 1939; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein). Vbl.n. dalin', a deal, a business transaction.Sc. 1748 Records Conv. Burghs (1915) 269:
Altho he neithr lives in their town nor daills in any sort of foreign trade.
Lth. 1920 A. Dodds Songs of the Fields 27:
A man that wad dale honest, and on a Bargain 'gree.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chron. (25 Nov.) 2/7:
Aa dale wi' Sandy for groceries an' meal.
Uls. c.1920 J. Wier in J. Logan Ulster in the X-Rays (2nd ed.) xiv.:
Or the sup wud be spilled in the market or fair, Afore an' at end o' a bit o' a dalin'.

2. To contend (with).Sc. a.1714 in Earls of Crm. (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 489:
Hearing that four men were dailling at once with his sone; “Weill,” said [he], “if he be my sone, ther is no hazard for that.”

3 “To divide or distribute” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 22); esp. of food (gen. with about): to serve.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 90:
Deal small and serve all. [Dale smaa an' sairoo aa (Cai.9 1946).]
Abd.(D) c.1750 R. Forbes Jnl. from London (1755) 9:
By this time, it wis time to mak the meel-an-bree, an' deel about the castocks.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Holy Fair xxiii.:
An' cheese an' bread, frae women's laps, Was dealt about in lunches, An' dawds that day.

Comb.: daleing spoon, a serving spoon. Inv. 1741 Trans. Inv. Scientific Soc. I. 233:
Ane dozen table spoons, and a large daleing spoon, silver.

[O.Sc. has dale, dail(l), dal(l), etc., from c.1420, with all meanings of the n. above, except in meaning 2, for which cf. Eng. dole; also dele, deil, deyll, dell(e), deele, etc., with meanings 1. and 6. above, from 1375, and the v. with similar meanings to above, from 1375; also dail(lis) man, a sharer or partner, from 1602 (D.O.S.T.). O.E. has two forms dāl, dǣl (with v. dǣlan). The former has given Northern Mid.Eng. dale, Southern Mid.Eng. and Mod.Eng. dole, the latter Mid.Eng. dele, Mod.Eng. deal. The distinction in spelling preserved in O.Sc. has not survived in Mod.Sc.]

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"Dale n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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