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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

EEL, n.1 Sc. usages. Also ell, il (Sh.).

1. In combs.: (1) eel-ark, an eel-trap; see also Ark, n.1, 3; (2) eel-beds, the water crowfoot, Ranunculus aquatilis; “also extended to several species of pond weeds, prob. from a supposition that they harbour eels” (Rxb. 1886 B. & H. 165); also found in Nhb. dial.; †(3) eel-drooner, -drowner, lit. one who can drown an eel, i.e. perform the impossible; hence, an exceedingly clever fellow, used ironically and gen. with neg. (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B.); (4) eel-graip, a small fork used for digging up or spearing sand-eels. Cf. note to Eel-stab; (5) eel pot, the Sandy Ray, Raja circularis (ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna ofDee” 277); (6) eeltow, a line laid inshore for catching eels for bait (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh.10 1949, obs.); (7) eel-ware, Ranunculus fluitans (Bwk. 1853 G. Johnston Botany E. Borders 26); (8) eve-eel, evil-, see Haivel; (9) guffer eel, see Guffer; (10) hairy eel, the hair worm, Gordius auqaticus (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 161); (11) haivel eel, see Haivel; (12) nine-ee'd eel, the lesser lamprey, Petromyzon fluviatilis (Sc. 1808 Jam.; ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna ofDee” 282); (13) ramper eel, see Ramper.(1) Ags.17 1942:
The eel-ark was common in ancient Angus, and still exists. I know of one in Balmadies now.
(3) Rxb. 1825 Jam.2:
Atweel, he's nae eel-drowner mair than me.
Abd. a.1879 W. Forsyth Sel. from Writings (1882) 25:
O wha but you the heuk cu'd bait, An' a' to get mair room to steer - Sen' these eeldrooners o'er the gate To brak the tent comman'ment here?
(4)Wgt. 1877 "Saxon" Gall. Gossip 111:
Putting in the eel-graip, as he thought, behind it, he cut the toe half off.
(12) Sc. 1811 P. Neill in Mem. Wernerian Nat. Hist. Soc. I. 555:
The popular name Nine-eyed-eel arises from the spiracles being taken for eyes. Lesser Lamprey, . . . abundant in the rivers Leith, Almond, and Esk.

2. A stripe, esp. a stripe along the back of a horse (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), eel, ell, il). Also eel-back used attrib. ; hence (1) eel-backit, “a term applied to a horse of a light colour, that has a black line on his back from the mane to the tail” (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (2) eel-stripit, id. (Kcb.10 1943).(1) Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (26 Nov.):
A Dun Galloway, 13 Hands high, Eel-backed, Black-headed.
Hebr. 1811 J. Macdonald Agric. Hebr. 476:
The eel-back horses (those generally of a dun, or more rarely of a light bay colour, with a black line along the middle of the back, from the mane to the tail,) supposed to have come from Norway.

[O.Sc. has ele, eill, etc., an eel, from 1375; ele ark, from 1541; eill bakit, 1593. For sense 2 cf. O.N. áll, Norw. aal, a coloured stripe along the back of a horse, confused with áll, aal, an eel.]

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"Eel n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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