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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

GURLIE, adj. Also gurl(e)y, †gowrlie (Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 108). [Sc. ′gʌrle, Arg. ′gur-]

1. Of the weather: stormy, threatening, blustery, bleak, bitter (Uls. 1929; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., m.Lth., Bwk., Ayr., Gall., s.Sc. 1955). Also of the sea. Also fig.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 53:
Bare Fields and gurly Skies Make rural Scenes ungrateful to the Eyes.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 29:
When floating clouds obscure the glaring sun, And o'er the stream diffuse a gurly cast.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 50:
On Britain blew a gurly blast, Whilk gied for fears occasion.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 301:
While lowly plants, that grow upo' the vale, Bide the rebuffs o' the maist gurly gale.
Sc. a.1803 Sir P. Spens in Child Ballads (1857) III. 154:
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud, And gurly grew the sea.
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 16:
Like gurly north in winter weather.
Lnk. 1870 J. Nicholson Idylls 70:
The March winds nae langer blaw gurly an' dour.
Abd. 1882 G. Macdonald Castle Warlock xx.:
It's a gurly nicht; no a pinch o' licht, an' the win' blawin' like deevils.
Hdg. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes & Sk. 33:
Trowth! drear an' gurly was the simmer!
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls 90:
They were forlorn, these lands, because we did not beach upon them, tossed on the gurly wave in silly cobles.
Ags. 1920 A. Gray Songs 44:
Wi' jet-black sails my bonny boat Scuds ower the gurlie sea.
Gsw. 1936 F. Niven Old Soldier xx.:
Nova Scotia . . . was a far cry — with all the gurly Atlantic between.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 21:
It sweyed an showded on the wire, grippit bi migration fever, till o a suddenty it lowsed its clooks an soared up tae the lift inno a gurly September storm-cloud, on the first daud o its journey aff tae the saft wins o the Sooth.
w.Lth. 2000 Davie Kerr A Puckle Poems 57:
The gurly sea, rock-spatter't, sprays
brave sowls wha promenade her bays.

2. (1) Of persons: surly, crabbed, bad-tempered (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Uls.2 1929; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., m.Lth., w. and sm.Sc. 1955). Also of dogs: growling, snarling, bad-tempered (Sc. 1900 E.D.D.; ne.Sc. 1955).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 191:
Breathing Mischief, the God look'd gurly, . . . He made a horrid hurly burly.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 77:
There gurly James, and his baronis braw War out to hunt the deere.
Gall. 1824 “Cincinnatus Caledonius” Lights & Shadows 153:
The gudeman, being a stout, gurly man, tore up a cow-stake and broke the leg of the lawless Elspeth!
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 169:
Dour were their threats and their grimaces, Gurlie and crabbit-like their faces.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 108:
Thy deep-mouth'd, gurly, loud bow-wow Creation startles.
Kcd. 1871 Stonehaven Jnl. (1 June) 3:
The miller stood musin', richt gurlie an' glum.
Slg. 1885 W. Towers Poems 65:
Dinna gape for dauds o' praise Frae gurly Andrew Fairway.
Sc. 1896 Stevenson Weir of Hermiston viii.:
Ye'll have to look in the gurly face o'm.
Ayr. 1901 “G. Douglas” Green Shutters iii.:
'Deed I don't wonder that gurly Gourlay, as they ca' him, has an ill temper.
em.Sc. 1913 J. Black Gloamin' Glints 142:
I'll hae a lock o' some kin, on the henhoose door, an' this nicht I'll tether my gurly collie braw near.
Tyr. 1931 North. Whig (17 Dec.) 10:
Wilson is a bit gurly, but he has a farntickled, sonsy daughter.
Rxb. 1933 Kelso Chron. (3 Nov.) 5:
A ramstam loon wis Geordie ere the hefty limmer cam', A red-wud deil for ploys an fechts, an' gurly wi' a dram.
Abd. 1949 Abd. Press & Jnl. (20 April):
The minister met and reproved one of his parishioners who was much the worse of liquor. The man was “gurly.” He wanted to fight.

(2) Fig. extended to things; of a tree, gnarled. Of undergrowth, tangled, overgrown.s.Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 46:
A thick gurly aik smashed to shivers.
Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie iv.:
The strong [castle] wall Embedded and braided With many a gurly gun.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 139:
The fauld that happit weel Frae gurly cares.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 71:
Ae waesome day a gurly bell Toll'd doom ower Fotheringay.
Sc. 1991 William Wolfe in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 65:
A routh o greenyerie taks ower the hill
An derns the growthe an gurly wark o thorns
But still an on, goddesses are bluidan.

3. (1) Of water: gurgling, purling (m.Lth. 1955); (2) of infants: crowing, gurgling (Abd. 1900 E.D.D.).(1) Dmf. 1823 J. Kennedy Poems 90:
The mischief-making spirit did seem To dance alang the gurly stream.
Edb. 1871 J. Ballantine Lilias Lee 237:
Wee gurly burn, wee gurly burn — Fu' mony kittle jouk and turn Ye tak' as on your way ye journ.
Sc. 1900 E.D.D.:
Gurlie describes the noise of water running through a narrow pipe when it is nearly run out and air rushes in also.

[From Gurl, v.1, adj., n., q.v.]

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"Gurlie adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Sep 2023 <>



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