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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

FISSLE, v., n. Also fissel, -il, fis(t)le, feestle; †fesil (Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 271); fussle, fus(t)le.

I. v. 1. To make a rustling, scuffling noise, as a mouse, or the wind among leaves or through a keyhole (Ayr. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Ayr., Gall., Dmf., Rxb., Uls. 1951), to stir (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems Gl.). Also in Eng. dial. Vbl.n. fisslin(g), fusslin, a rustling, scuffling. Redupl. form fissle-fisslin'.Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 151:
Or icicle drop frae the bended twig, Wi' fisling din, amang the leafless bri'rs.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
He thought that he heard the curtains o' his bed fissil.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xxv.:
On the door dunting to again, it being soople in the hinges, they both plainly heard a fistling within.
Gall. 1881 J. K. Scott Gleanings 102:
Wheesht! I thocht I heard a rus'lin, Wheesht! I'm sure there is a fus'lin.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 260:
The rain made a fissle fisslin' amang the busses, as it were whisperin' hairsely to him.
n.Sc. 1911 T. W. Ogilvie Poems 85:
The nicht win' in the lum-heads girned And through the keyhole feestled.
Uls. 1924 North. Whig (8 Jan.):
There are many words which convey different ideas of sound, such as “fusslin” or “trup” for footsteps.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 7:
The fisslin leafs trimmelt an bevvert i the simmer breeze.

2. To cause to rustle (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); to rummage, stir with a rustling noise (Uls.4 1952).Sc. 1824 Scots Mag. (May) 536:
He begins to fissle amang the straw o' his bed, and turns up mony a guid pocket-buik.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 95:
An' than the fisslin' for the text.
Uls. 1900 E.D.D.:
To fistle a piece of paper [to crumple it up so that it rustles].
Edb. 1916 J. Fergus The Sodger 12:
[He] sat an' fissled owre the leaves wi' mony a guilty look, When the text was wal'd frae Ezra, Haggai or Habakkuk.

3. To fidget, bustle; to make a great fuss or to-do. Ppl.adj. fuslin, bustling; trifling (Fif. 1825 Jam.).Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Lapraik xxii.:
My auld pen's worn to the grissle; Twa lines frae you wad gar me fissle.
Hdg. 1790 J. Mylne Poems 38:
And whare was I? — Just in my bed! The dream ay fistling in my head.
ne.Sc. 1802 Edb. Mag. (July) 57:
He'd gar our faes (I'll gie my aith!) Baith fidge an' fistle.
Sc. 1832 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 343:
His wife fistling about in eager preparation of supper.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 89:
V've kent him when ye raired an' rustl'd . . . Yoke twa horse-beasts, an' never fissl'd Tae tak' the road.
Sc. 1900 E.D.D. s.v. Fustle:
Ye're a fusslin' bit lassock, ye're aye steerin'.

II. n. 1. A rustling sound (Sc. 1818 Sawers; Ayr., Gall., Dmf., Rxb., Uls. 1951); a stir (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems Gl.); a scuffling or shuffling of feet (Rxb. 1921 Jedburgh Gaz. (14 Jan.)).Ayr. 1913 “Kissock” Sc. and Eng. Poems 37:
A' wi' fear, for weel I kent the fustle O' the broonie, an' I said the creed.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
Dinna make a fissle, be quiet! not a sound!
Tyr. 1929 “M. Mulcaghey” Ballymulcaghey 20:
I thought I heard a fissel at the dure.

2. A bustle, commotion, fuss, state of excitement.Sc. 1719 in Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 121:
O sic a Fyke, and sic a Fistle I had about it!
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 6:
The oddest fike an' fisle, that e're was seen, Was by the mither an' twa grandys ta'en.
Lnk. 1808 W. Watson Poems (1877) 53:
I maist gaed glaiket for a-wee, In sic a merry fissel.
Slg. 1829 G. Wyse Orig. Poems 51:
Sae, Willie lad, this lang epistle, May 'mong you breed a little fistle.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 145:
As for auld Scotia's hardy Thristle, Vow but it pits me in a fisle Tae see her wave her bonnet too.

3. A tickling sensation. Cf. n.Eng. dial. fissly, tickling.Hdg. a.1801 R. Gall Poems (1819) 99:
Nay, may their wizens ne'er find whauky's fissle, But turn as geyzend as a bawbee whistle.

[Fiss, onomat. + freq. suff.-le.]

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"Fissle v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Dec 2023 <>



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