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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GIRDLE, n. A met. form of Eng. griddle, a circular iron plate with hooped handle, suspended or placed over the fire and used for baking scones, oat-cakes, etc. Gen.Sc. Common also in n.Eng., Som. & Dev. dial. Also girdel, †girdill (Ayr. 1744 Sc. Journal (1848) I. 334) and reduced form girl(e) (Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems II., Gl. 174; ‡Cai.7 1954). Also used attrib. Hence girdleful, as much as a girdle will hold.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 367:
Your Bread's baked, you may lay by the Girdle.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars 13–14:
Wi' jumping an' thumping The vera girdle rang.
Rnf. 1791 A. Wilson Poems 234:
. . . her skirle Sets my twa lugs a ringing like a gir'le.
s.Sc. c.1830 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club XXIII. 80:
At the present day, the sound produced by the ringing of the girle or girdle is the signal for the women to assemble to punish those men who strike their wives by ducking them in the village well.
Sc. 1882 Stevenson Memories and Portraits (1894) 96:
He glories in his hard-fisted forefathers, of the iron girdle and the handful of oatmeal, who rode so swiftly and lived so sparely on their raids.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 70:
Bee-swarms were made to settle by beating on a girdle with a stick or tongs.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 67:
Many is the girdleful of crumpy cakes that she will bake for him.
Fif. 1897 “S. Tytler” Lady Jean's Son viii.:
As a necessary ceremony preparatory to laying it [oatcake] on the girdle, she was indenting it round the edge . . . with her thumb nail.
Edb. 1928 D. Robertson & M. Wood Castle & Town 263:
Not all of the town houses had their own ovens, so that baking must have been limited to oatcakes and such food as could be baked on a girdle. These they did possess, one woman being the owner of a five-footed girdle, well-adapted for use on a flat hearth.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 7:
new-baked scones and pancakes straucht frae the girdle.

Phrs.: 1. like a hen on a het girdle, indicating a quick, uneven movement from one foot to the other, now used to describe a general state of restlessness due to anxiety or impatience. Gen.Sc.; 2. spaeing by the girdle, “a mode of divination, still occasionally practised in Angus, and perhaps in other counties, especially for discovering who has stolen any thing that is missing”: a red-hot girdle was placed in a dark place and each person present was asked to go separately to fetch it, the devil being supposed to carry off the guilty person when he made the attempt. The fear and reluctance of the real criminal would then give him away (Jam.2).1. Ayr. 1787 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 112:
She [a mare] tipper-taipers when she taks the gate, . . . like a . . . hen on a het girdle.
Sc. 1814 Scott Waverley lxxi.:
The Bailie . . . had all this while shifted from one foot to another with great impatience, “like a hen”, as he afterwards said, “upon a het girdle.”
Sc. 1816 Scott B. Dwarf iii.:
She hirples like a hen on a het girdle.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) viii.:
I began to be a thought uneasy, and fidgeted on the board like a hen on a hot girdle.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xii.:
Lowpin' here an' there like a hen on a het girdle.
Gsw. 1951 H. W. Pryde M. McFlannel's Romance 19:
“Whit the bleezes is up wi' Maisie the night?” he demanded. “She's like a hen on a het girdle.”
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 11:
Davie pickit it up an pooched it. Inside his pooch, it daunced up an doon in a fine fizz, like a hen on a hett girdle, near caain a hole in the claith.
Ayr. 1998:
Like a hen on a het girdle.

Combs.: †1. girdle bread, oatcakes; 2. girdle clips, an adjustable iron handle, used for hanging the girdle over the fire, see Clep, n.1, 3. (1); †3. girdle-maker, -smith, a maker of girdles; 4. girdlemaking, the making of girdles; 5. girdle scone, a scone baked on a girdle; 6. girdle soled, of curling-stones: see quot.1. Ayr. 1744 Sc. Journal (1848) I. 334:
One Bow of Meill in Girdill Bread.
2. Lnk. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VI. 587:
On the day following the marriage, the friends of the young couple being assembled, a creel was bound with cords to the back of the bridegroom, who immediately set off at full speed, followed by those assembled, all striving to overwhelm him by pitching stones into the creel. The sport continued until the bridegroom had freed himself by speed of foot, or the bride had succeeded in cutting the cords with a pair of scissors. The joke was, to insert the “girdle clips” amongst the cords.
3. Sc. 1715 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 146:
The girdlemakers in Valleyfield have, contrare to the gift and priviledges of the said incorporation ratified in parliament, presumed to make girdles and taken the greatest part of that trade out of their hands.
Sc. 1725 Morison Decisions 1924:
The [Incorporation of] girdle-smiths of Culross [claimed] the sole and exclusive privilege of making girdles in Culross for the service of all Scotland.
Sc. 1949 Sc. Daily Mail (27 Dec.):
Culross Guild of Girdlemakers was once the most honourable craft society in Scotland. The industry's fame is perpetuated in the once common and still occasionally heard threat: “I'll mak' your lug ring like a Culross girdle.” The industry has long died out.
4. Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 139:
The loss or decay of several branches of manufacture formerly carried on there [Culross], particularly girdlemaking and shoemaking; the former is now supplanted by the Carron-work.
5. Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 32:
A girdle scone an' cheese — Ye're freely welcome to them.
Sc. 1909 Cookery Bk. Lady Clark of Tillypronie (Frere) 54:
Girdle Scones. Shaped like muffins.
6. Dmf. 1830 R. Broun Mem. Curl. Mab. 48:
Girdle-soled stones, that is, stones convex in the bottom, and made to run on a very narrow centre, are used by some; but are only fit for trials of strength.

[O.Sc. has girdill, -ell, girdle, etc., from early 15th c., variant of Mid.Eng. grydel.]

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"Girdle n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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