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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

STELL, n.2, v.2 Also ¶stele. [stɛl]

I. n. 1. Sc. variant of Eng. still, for whisky, etc. (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Sth., Mry., Per., Slg., Lnk., Gall. 1971). Cf. P.L.D. § 58. and I, letter, 2.Per. 1704 W. A. Gillies Famed Breadalbane (1938) 307:
Three pounds sterling to buy a stell which is pawn for it.
Lnk. 1733 Session Papers, Neilson v. Weir (25 June) 4:
The Head and Worm of a Stell.
Rs. 1751 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) I. 139:
Aquavitae stell, 2 masking vats.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Scotch Drink xx.:
Thae curst horse-leeches o' th' Excise, Wha mak the Whisky Stells their prize!
Fif. 1811 C. Gray Poems 38:
An' should you stumble on a Stell, Ne'er try to get a cleek o't.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 94:
Three stout loons flew ower the fell, And robb'd a neebourin' smuggler's stell.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 196:
She wad rather seen the gaugers I' the stell that day.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 132:
He put the strippins inta a kin' o' stell, an set it on the fire.

Combs.: (1) big-stell, a still with a large boiler (used before the large-scale commercial production of whisky), which prolonged the time taken in the process of distilling. Cf. (3). Gen. attrib. with whisky; (2) muckle stell, id.; (3) sma stell, a small still, with a lower boiler which distils the wash more quickly and was supposed to produce mellower whisky (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Usu. attrib. and freq. implying whisky made illicitly. Also in Ir. dial. Ppl.adj. sma-stilled, of whisky: made in a sma stell; (4) stell-ee, the end of the worm of a still at which the distilled spirits are drawn off. See Ee, n., 2. (1) (d); (5) stell-house, a place where spirits were distilled on a small scale; (6) stell-lum, the chimney of a distillery; (7) stell-pat, -pot, the body of a still, the boiler, a small still.(1) Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 36:
Be't sma' stell or big stell, smuggled or legal.
(2) Per. 1835 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1887) 73:
Preferring “Highlan' whisky ”to “the muckle-stell trash.”
(3) Sc. 1822 J. Wilson Sc. Life 382:
Taste the whisky, Mr Gordon — it is sma' still, and will do harm to no man.
wm.Sc. 1835 Laird of Logan (1841) 312:
Anither class contented themsells with sma'-stell whisky, made intil toddy.
Sc. 1886 Whitaker's Almanack Advts.:
Highland Whiskey is the produce of numerous “sma' stills”, worked for the most part upon the old original system of distillation, a process by which a much smaller extract is produced from a given quantity of grain.
Ags. 1891 A. Lowson Tales, etc. 112:
Currachs filled with ankers of sma'-stilled whisky.
(4) Rnf. 1830 A. Picken Dominie's Legacy III. 246:
A bit mouthfu' frae the stell-ee.
(5) Ags. 1727 A. J. Warden Burgh Laws Dundee (1872) 188:
The back houses, stell houses, and places where tallow is molten within the burgh.
Rxb. 1766 Caled. Mercury (21 April) 191:
The Brew Houses, Stell House and other conveniencies in Hawick.
(6) Fif. 1875 A. Burgess Poute 122:
It's lyin' as white on the tap o' the “stell lum.”
(7) Sc. 1746 Caled. Mercury (30 June):
A Copper Stell-pot, some Brewing Utensils.
Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Sc. Songs II. 547:
A stell-pat they gat, and they brewed Hieland whisky.

2. A vat or vessel in which crude oil was boiled and distilled in the making of paraffin.Fif. 1865 St Andrews Gaz. (14 Jan.):
The flame of the candle coming in contact with the boiling oil in the stele.

II. v. To distil; to discharge (liquid) in small drops. Obs. in Eng. Phr. to stell claret wine, fig., to bleed at the nose.e.Lth. 1713 Country-Man's Rudiments 32:
Of the Juice of these [potatoes] also stelled they make most excellent Aqua-vitae.
Sc. 1770 Mrs Glasse Compleat Confectioner 274:
Still them in a limbeck with a slow fire.
Fif. 1883 J. W. Wood Gipsy Weir 147:
As he lay before him grainin', an' stellin' claret wine.

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"Stell n.2, v.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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