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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.

GIRSLE, n., v. Also girsel, gersel, ¶gircle, †girstle. Sc. met. forms and usages of Eng. gristle. Also †gris(s)le, which form was in use also in Eng. up to 18th c. [′gɪrsəl, ′gɛrs-]

I. n. 1. As in Eng. (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems, Gl.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 230). Gen.Sc.Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 57:
And four black trotters cled wi' girsle, Bedown his throat had learn'd to hirsle.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie I. v.:
Yon's a horned stot, in comparison to us, wha hae but banes o' grisle.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 72:
They may thump Johnnie's banes till they're dwabble as girsle.
Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Doric 17:
They tempit it wi' dyowie worms, wi' waumlin' heids an' tails . . . Wi' shuet, fat, an' girsels, an' wi' neuks o' birselt cheese.

Hence girslie, -eygirssly, adj., full of gristle, cartilaginous. Gen.Sc.Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 155:
His girslie nose was crashin Wi' thumps that night!
Kcb. 1848 J. Hughan Poems 20:
Their young girsley limbs.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 9:
Ower the midden an roon the tractor foun ran the chuckens on their girssly shanks ...

2. Sc. extensions: things made of gristle or like gristle. †(1) A quill pen, esp. the shaft or stump of the same.Ayr. 1786 Burns Ep. J. Lapraik xxii.:
But to conclude my lang epistle, As my auld pen's worn to the grissle.
Kcb. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 164:
I soon got a' the writing graith, To hinder you I wad be laith Wi' this auld gristle.
Rnf. 1846 W. Finlay Poems 151:
Stumps o' auld pens, worn to the gristle, An auld ink-stan'. †(2) The throat, gullet.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 70:
He's pinch't to get his girsle wat At push about the jorum.
wm.Sc. 1854 Laird of Logan 166:
“Mony a girsle, Bauldy”, quo' I, “hae ye [hang-man] twisted, maybe a wee farrer up the riggin'.” †(3) The nose, nostril.
Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 209:
An' whyles a glass to heet my gab, An' snuff to smart my girsle.

(4) One of the thin hard caked pieces that come off the sides of a pot in which sowens, porridge, etc. have been prepared, anything scorched or charred (Lnk. 1822 G. R. Kinloch MS. W.-L.; Ayr.4 1928, gersel; Abd.27 1949).Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 26:
She lets her airns stan' till they bircle Afore the fire syne tae a gircle She burns us [shirts] up.

II. v. To become crisp or hard with frost.Rxb. 1801 Leyden Complaynt Scot. 368:
The ground is said to girsle, when it is crisped with hoar frost.

Hence 1. girslin(g), vbl.n., hoar frost (Id.; Sc. 1825 Jam., girslin): †2. grissly, adj., crisped with hoar frost (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

[O.Sc. has girsill, -sel(l), gristle. from 1574.]

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"Girsle n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 5 Mar 2024 <>



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