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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHOUPILTIN, n. Also -peltin; shoopeltee, -piltee, -ie, shoepultie, sjupilti (Jak.), soolpaltie. A water-sprite or -demon in the form of a horse which lured its riders to drowning, a Kelpie or Nyuggle (Sh. 1821 Scott Pirate xvi.). [ʃu′pɪlti(n)]Sh. 1711 R. Sibbald Descr. Zetland 9:
Sometimes they catch with their Nets and Hooks Tritons, they call them Shoupiltins and Mermaids, but these are rare and but seldom seen.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Sh. 524–6:
The Celts paid homage to a peculiar god that presided over all waters, under the name of Niord or Neith. In Shetland he was recognised by the name of the Shoopiltee. The Shoopiltee assumes the form of a beautiful shelty, inviting some one to mount him, when he immediately runs into the sea and drowns his rider.
Sh. 1881 Contemp. Review XL. 191:
The Water Nuggle — also called in some parts of Shetland, the Shoepultie — resembles the Scotch Water Kelpie strongly in almost every particular, save the tail which he knew how to use on certain occasions as a propeller.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 197:
Ta reel a pirm or wind a clew, A lö soolpaltie will tak you.

[Ad. O.N. sjó, sea, + piltr, a boy, lad. The -in form represents the O.N. suff. art.]

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"Shoupiltin n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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