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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

STEAL, v., n. Also stael (Wgt. 1904 J. F. Cannon Whithorn 107); stail. Sc. forms and usages. [stil; Bnff., em.Sc. (a), Wgt. stel]

I. v. A.

Pr.t. Sc. form of Eng. steal:Sh. 1991 William J. Tait in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 45:
Trow every yett o five
A ghaist stails hame
At, ne'er alive,
Can pey a daid man's debt.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 33:
Fell sweirt is the man tae get hissel shiftit,
siccan a fash an a trauchle he's haen
sin the gaffer he wrocht fur his arle arrestit
for stailan sum breers that werenae his ain.

Pa.t. strong. Sc. forms of Eng. stole: sta(a) (Abd. 1777 R. Forbes Ulysses 21; Rnf. 1788 E. Picken Poems 27; Edb. 1801 H. MacNeill Poems II. 122; Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 67; Ags. 1866 Arbroath Guide (20 Jan.) 3; ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 14; ‡Abd. 1931), staw (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 208; Ayr. 1791 Burns Banks o' Doon ii.; Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 64; Rnf. 1836 R. Allan Poems 6; ‡s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 208; Abd. 1922 G. P. Dunbar Whiff o' Doric 28); ¶stew (Ork. 1911 Old-Lore Misc. IV. iv. 186); stow(e) (Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 112; Per. 1895 R. Ford Tayside Songs 160); stal (Edb. 1806 H. MacNeill Poems I. 148); stale, stail (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 208); stule (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.), stül(e) (Sh. 1898 Shetland News (8 Jan.), 1932 J. M. E. Saxby Trad. Lore 63), stöl (Sh. 1937 J. Nicolson Restin' Chair Yarns 96, 1952 Robertson & Graham Sh. Dial. 35); stoll.Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 26:
"That thoo stoll forty 'ear ago. Yaas, id's a metter o' principle, thoo sees. Niver let a swindler git awey wi'd. An' come wi' less aboot bein' a peur ould fermer. ... "
Sc. 1991 R. Crombie Saunders in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 27:
I hadna fund in treason sae apert
Ane servitour wha staw my traist away.

Pa.t. weak. Sc. forms of Eng. stolesteal(e)d (Fif. 1757 Session Papers, Black v. Veatch 37; Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xliii., 1849 Lochmaben Harper in Child Ballads No. 192 C. xvi.; s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 208; Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 203; Kcb. 1899 Crockett Kit Kennedy vi.); stealt (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 98; Lnk. 1827 J. Watt Poems 66; Per. 1912 Rymour Club Misc. II. 44; Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; ne.Sc. 1971), steelt (Sc. 1858 Sc. Haggis 143; m.Sc. 1893 A. S. Swan Homespun viii.), staelt (Per., Fif. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork., em.Sc. (a) 1971).

Pa.p. strong. Sc. forms of Eng. stolenstow(e)n (Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 81; Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 53; Ayr. 1792 Burns Willie Wastle i.; Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 592; Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 321; Sh. 1899 Shetland News (14 Oct.); Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 28; Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. i. 43; Per., Ayr. 1915–23 Wilson; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., ne.Sc. 1971), stoun (Edb. 1798 D. Crawford Poems 27; Rxb. 1820 Scots Mag. (June) 534; Bnff. 1847 A. Cumming Tales of North 3; ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 61), stouin (Fif. 1845 T. C. Latto Minister's Kailyard 91) [stʌu(ə)n]; stawn (Sc. 1791 Lochmaben Harper in Child Ballads No. 192 A. xx.; Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 592; Rxb. 1868 Hawick Advert. (14 March) 4); ¶staw (wm.Sc. 1937 W. Hutcheson Chota Chants 31); 1996 Ronald W. McDonald in Sandy Stronach New Wirds: An Anthology of Winning Poems and Stories from the Doric Writing Competitions of 1994 and 1995 66:
"Ma bairn's bin stoen, Meg." She sobbed, "Fit kin ah dee?"
Edb. 2004:
Ma purse has been stoen.

Pa.p. weak. Sc. forms of Eng. stolenstealt (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 98; Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 278; Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 268; ne.Sc. 1971); staelt (Per., Fif. 1915–26 Wilson; Ags. 1947 J. B. Salmond Toby Jug i.; em.Sc.(a) 1971); stealed (Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 104; Wgt. 1848 Edb. Antiq. Mag. 59; Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 203).

B. Usages. 1. As in Eng. Pa.p. (1) in phr. stown dint, -dunt, see Dint, n.2, Dunt; (2) in derivs. (i) stow(e)nlins, stoun-, stowlin(s), adv., in a hidden or secretive manner, furtively (Sc. a.1813 A. Murray Hist. Eur. Langs. (1823) II. 10; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Also used adj.; (ii) stownways, -wyes, adv., id.(2) (i) Ayr. 1785 Burns Halloween x.:
Rob, stownlins, pri'd her bonnie mou.
Rxb. 1821 A. Scott Poems 22:
Wat stowlins harks in Lizzie's lug.
Uls. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 26:
And on alang he stowlin' tramps.
Dmf. 1874 R. Wanlock Moorland Rhymes 15:
Fient an icker rowthly sawn Cam' stowlins tae the sieve.
Ags. 1880 J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 26:
Oor bullies an' braggarts a' stowlins gaed slinkin'.
e.Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 156:
Just a keek I stowlins backward threw.
Abd. c.1910 G. Greig Folk-Song cxxxviii. 2:
I tried 'er wi' a stowlins kiss.
ne.Sc. 1929 M. W. Simpson Day's End 37:
Spring comes, stowlins, het-fit to the Glen!
(ii) Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 361:
Exceptin them [pears] that's plucked stownways.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 42:
That's fat gars them cairry on their coortin' stown wyes.

2. Combs.: †(1) steal(-the)-bonnets, a game in which two opposing sides try to seize the caps of their opponents (see quot.); (2) steal-corn, a name for the forefinger in a child's rhyme (see quot.); (3) steal-thief, a thief (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); (4) steal-the-pigs, the name of a game described in quot.; ‡(5) steal-wads, = (1) (Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Kcb. 1971). See Wad, n1.(1) Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Steal-Wadds or Steal-Bonnets. A game played by two parties equal in number or in strength, who lay down as manv hats or bonnets at one end of a field as have been deposited at the other. They who can steal or reave most to their side till the whole are carried off, gain the game.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lad's Love xxv.:
The Hempie caught [the plate] as deftly as if it had been a cap at “steal-the-bonnets”.
(2) Ags. 1825 Jam. s.v. Pirliewinkie:
“Here's Break-barn,” (taking hold of the thumb) “Here's Steal-corn,” — the forefinger.
(4) Abd. 1898 A. B. Gomme Games II. 215:
Steal-the-pigs. The game represents the stealing of a woman's children and the recovery of them. While [the mother] is busy a child-snatcher comes and takes away one. This process is repeated till all the children are stolen. She demands them back. The stealer refuses and puts them behind her. A tussle takes place.

3. In Golf: to hole an unlikely putt from a distance (Sc. 1881 R. Forgan Golfer's Handbook 35). Cf. II. 2.

II. n. 1. A theft or the thing stolen (Abd. 1825 Jam.).

2. In Golf: a long putt which reaches the hole contrary to expectation (Sc. 1857 H. B. Farnie Golfer's Manual 80). Now in St. Eng.Sc. 1833 G. F. Carnegie Golfiana 8:
Cl—n plays the like, and wins it, by the gods! A most disgusting steal.
Fif. 1867 St Andrews Gazette (28 Sept.):
Having played what is known in the sport as a “long steal”.
Sc. 1955 Scotsman (5 May) 8:
He putted exceedingly well, as witness his clever “steal” from off the green.

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"Steal v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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