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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PICKLE, n.2, adv., v.3 Also †picle; puckle, pukkle, -el; peckle. Dims. pucklie, pukley, puchlie. [pɪkl; Sh., Abd. pʌkl]

I. n. 1. A grain of oats, barley, wheat (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., puckle; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Kcb.4 1900; Mry.1 1930). Gen.Sc., obsol. Combs. babie-pickle, the tiny growing seed at the top of a stalk of oats; barley-pickle, corn-pickle, a grain of barley, corn; end-pickle, tap-pickle, the topmost grain of a stalk, gen. considered to be of the best quality, hence fig., the crowning achievement; of a young woman in phrs. the pickle next the wind, the next girl due for marriage among the daughters of a family (see 1901 quot.); to hae lost the tap-pickle, to have lost virginity, from the folk-lore practice of divining a girl's chastity as described in Burns quot.Sc. 1700 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S.) 88:
He most take one pickle of the corn and take away the shortest beard or aun from it.
Wgt. 1719 Session Bk. Glasserton MS. (27 Oct.):
She prayed in harvest thereafter that there might be as many judgements upon him as his beasts had eaten of picles of corn.
Sc. c.1770 Herd's MSS. (Hecht 1904) 98:
O, if my love was a pickle of wheat . . . Away with that pickle I wad flie.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Hallowe'en vi. and note:
Her tap-pickle maist was lost, When kiutlan in the Fause-house Wi' him that night. They [the lassies] go to the barn-yard, and pull each, at three several times, a stalk of Oats. If the third stalk wants the top-pickle, that is the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question will want the Maidenhead.
s.Sc. 1800 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (27 Aug.) 280:
Seldom have we seen a year . . . which brought forth a longer ear, plumper pickle, or more strongly clustered pod.
Per. 1821 T. Atkinson Three Nights 34:
They . . . were busy in going through the ceremony of “cutting the last pickle” or “maiden”, which was a few stalks of oats they had purposely left standing.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel v.:
It's a wasterife course in your trade, Andrew — they that do not mind corn pickles never come to forpits.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 43:
Fin corn's frostit ye see the threadie conneckin' the puckle wi the stalk withert an fushionless.
Gall. 1875 Trans. Highl. Soc. 23:
Talavera, a large open pickle, and the best spring wheat we have.
Lnk. 1887 A. Wardrop Mid-Cauther Fair 220:
No a barley peckle to be seen.
Wgt. 1897 66th Report Brit. Assoc. 457:
Some members of the family took a sheaf of grain and put a “pickle” of it on each bed any time after 12 o'clock on the morning of New Year's Day.
Uls. 1901:
It was a common practice in many parts of Ireland in early times for a farmer to marry his daughters, not as now, on the principle of natural selection. They were married according to their age, the oldest first, and so on in succession. When one or two were married in this way the next (in age) unmarried one was called “the pickle next the wind,” meaning she was to be taken next.
Sc. 1924 J. Innes Till a' the Seas xii.:
A [college] fellowship at the end of it to put the tap-pickle on his toil.
Sh. 1937 J. Nicholson Yarns 27:
“It's as good as what I got,” she remarked, “for it's been ground fae da ‘tap pukkels'.”
Sh. 1962 New Shetlander No. 63. 13:
Barrels o corn, cool trickle o puckles trow your fingers.

2. By extension: a small particle of any kind, a grain, granule, speck, pellet (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1965). For omission of o(f), see 4.s.Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders X. 252:
There's no a pickle meal i' the barrel.
Slk. 1892 W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 15:
Laddies wi' no a pickle hair on their faces.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (26 Feb.):
Da first 'at rattled apo' da fluer introw da lum, wis da dry hail pickle.
Gall. 1898 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 54:
Annie Ferguson had a peculiar gift of being able to lick motes out of people's eyes, and chaff “pickles” out of cattle's.
Uls. 1903 E.D.D.:
Pickle. Used also of single grains of anything but particularly of sugar, of which a crystallised kind in “pickles” is commonly used instead of lump sugar in Belfast.
Uls. 1929:
Only two or three pickles had hit the second rabbit, that I found just kickin' at the mouth of its hole.
Lth. 1934 A. P. Wilson Till 'Bus Comes 20:
She came tae me and borrowed . . . half-a-dozen pickles o' tea.
Sh. 1964 New Shetlander No. 71. 32:
I love ta hear da haillie puckles Hammerin at da window peen.

3. Fig., by association with the “head” of a stalk of oats: a lock of hair.Kcb. 1806 J. Train Poet. Reveries 26:
His lyart locks in pickles sleek Wav'd on his ghaistly faded cheek.

4. An indefinite amount of any substance or collection, gen. consisting of discrete components, a number of persons or things, a little, a few, some, reg. with omission of o (cf. O, 1. (5) (i)) (Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems Gl.; Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Also in pl., = quite a number, several, many, lots. Phr. to hae a pickle in, to have taken “a little drop” (of drink), to be tipsy (Rxb. 1956).Sc. 1718 Sc. Presb. Eloquence (1786) 133:
Not satisfied with a simple gold ring, you must have a pickle hair.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 9:
Now, wooer, quo' he, I ha'e nae meikle, But sic's I ha'e ye's get a pickle.
Sc. 1754 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 401:
The neighbours interrogating the prisoner, she said she had put nothing in but a pickle sugar.
Abd. 1769 Session Papers, Petition W. Gordon (13 Nov.) 8:
Some poor folks, who for the conveniency of getting horse to lead them, did cast pickles of their sods, in a dry year, in the Greenmyre.
Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 31:
He'll gar a little pickle Greeks Ding a' the Trojans dead.
Ayr. 1787 Burns To James Tennant 51–2:
Her kind stars hae airted till her A guid chiel wi' a pickle siller.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality viii.:
He could somegate gar the wee pickle sense he had gang muckle further than hers.
Slk. 1829 Hogg Shep. Cal. ii.:
I hae done nae ill to your pickle sheep.
Sc. 1841 Chambers's Jnl. (18 Sept.) 274:
I was shearin' a pickle of grass to my cow — a pickle bonny caller grass it was.
Ags. 1857 A. Douglas Ferryden 10:
When the boats showed the largest takes, their reply to every interrogatory on the subject was “Weel, there's pucklies”.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders iii.:
It drew near to term day, when I got my little pickle money.
Inv. 1905 J. Fraser Reminiscences 137:
I had a “pukley” barley over one year, and I thought I would make a drop of whisky for the New Year.
Abd. 1920:
Ane's nane, twa's some, Three's a puckle, an' four's a curn.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chron. (8 April) 2:
Div ye no' think oo might hev been better wi' a mair pickle o' frost?
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 13:
A made a faisable mael oot o pei-soop (a pickle grand thing, 'at war they!).
Bch. 1930 Abd. Univ. Mag. (March) 103:
A hinna heard o' im for a gey puckle year an' A doot 'e maun be deid.
Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie 15:
[They] boucht a pickle milk frae a neebour.
wm.Sc. 1951 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 317:
A puckle dirty watter.
Sc. 1955 J. Beith Corbies iv.:
It's no me that's grudging a pickle guineas in the service o' the Lord.
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 43:
She's aye had her puckle siller tae,
And her that perjink and cannie
The perfect chatelaine
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 42:
He's skailt on the bar's formica bleck
a puckle gowden draps o whisky.
Dundee 1988 Ellie McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 54 29:
The spectators
cheered thaim on like they wir glaudiators
about tae dee. A pucklie wir fell seik
lookin oniewey.
Ayr. 1988:
A pickle (o) saut.
Per. 1990 Betsy Whyte Red Rowans and Wild Honey (1991) 51:
Most of them were asking for bandanas which they tied tightly round their heads, until they looked like a puckle of wild Indians.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 25:
a hantle o fowk hae trockit
thir tongue for a pig in a poke
an a sicht mair ken nocht
but a puckle o words.
Sh. 1991 Robert Alan Jamieson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 169:
Seekin fir da puckle o truth
du slippt fae dy neb quhan du flew,
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 91:
'Aye, aye,' nodded Jonah. 'They've had a puckle snow doon there.'
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 44:
An infinity o lichts
That ding oor human cantrips intae smachrie -
A pucklie smush
Ooto the wallopin faulds
O the pooch o time.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 65:
'Sae I says tae him, where's the sense in fallin oot ower a puckle bawbees? Ye want tae mak a profit oot o Leith - I'll spare ye the bother o administerin the levies, suppressin corruption amang yer officials and the like. I'll buy the ciadel back frae ye for Edinburgh. ... '

II. adv. In form puckles, short for puckles o times, occasionally, now and then, several times (ne.Sc. 1965).Abd. 1957 Bon-Accord (24 Jan.) 8:
He got hame anither car last week, an' his hid it oot puckles since sine.

III. v. 1. To scatter pickles of corn as food for birds, to feed with grain.Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (March) 617:
It [napkin] did not wear a fortnight, till the piece Was fit, wi' downright holes “to pickle Geese.”

2. Fig. in Mining, in vbl.n. pickling, the falling of small particles from the roof of a mine-working which is about to collapse (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 50).

[O.Sc. pickill, = I. 1., 1552, pickle, a grain of salt, 1607, a small amount, 1618. Dim. form of Pick, n.1, 3. Orig. obscure, ? phs. the same word as Pickle, v.2, q.v., sc. that which is pecked up (by fowls).]

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"Pickle n.2, adv., v.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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