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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.

THRISSEL, n. Also thrissil, thris(s)le, thristle; thrus(t)le (Dmf. 1873 P. Ponder Kirkcumdoon 23; Lnk. 1895 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 35; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; m.Sc. 1972); thirstle (Cai. 1972); thirsle; and, from Eng., thustle (Sc. 1831 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) III. 180; m.Sc. 1972); I.Sc. tistle (Sh. 1924 T. Manson Peat Comm. 239), See T, letter, 9. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. thistle (Abd. 1861 J. Davidson Poems 120, Bwk. 1897 R. M. Calder Poems 81; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein, Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Gen. (exc. I.) Sc. [θrɪsl, θrʌsl; Cai. θɪrsl, m.Sc. θʌsl; I.Sc. tɪsl]

1. Sc. form of Eng. thistle. As in Eng. Sc. combs. and deriv.: (1) bur(r)-thistle, the prickly thistle, Carduus lanceolatus (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 104); (2) moss-thistle, see Moss, n., 3. (60); (3) Scotch thistle, see Scots, I. adj., 1. (42); (4) swine-thistle, see Swine, 3. (18); (5) thistle-cock, the corn-bunting, Emberiza calandra (Ork. 1885 C. Swainson Brit. Birds 69; Cai. 1907 J. Horne County of Cai. 375), also thirstle-cock lairag (Cai. 1905 E.D.D., Cai. 1972), see Laverock, the bird freq. nesting among thistles. Sometimes confused with throstle-cock s.v. Throstle; (6) tistle-sporrow, = (5) (Sh. 1950); (7) thistle-tap. thistledown; (8) thris(s)l(e)y, thristly, (i) thistly, like a thistle, prickly, bristly, overgrown with thistles; (ii) fig. testy, short-tempered, cantankerous (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.).Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 196:
Burnt tae cinders, fit for the aisehole, fertiliser for gykes and thirsles, and shelter for the corncrake.
(1) w.Lth. 1768 W. Wilkie Fables 122:
The tither catch'd a tough bur thristle.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Gudewife of Wauchope ii.:
The rough burr-thistle, spreading wide.
Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 345:
May you flourish like a big burr thristle For mony a year.
(5) Ork. 1910 Old-Lore Misc. III. iii. 135:
Other names given to it in Orkney are the Thistle Cock, the latter because of the habit that the male has of perching on a thistle or on a dochan stem in proximity to the nest where his mate is sitting.
(7) Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 113:
The saft thistle-tap lines the gowdspink's ha'.
(8) (i) Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems II. 80:
And dapplin' on his camseach chin His thristly honours grew.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 58:
Reapers who have the bad luck to reap thrisly corn.
Abd. 1851 Apollodora North. Tales ii. 15:
Thrisley corn and warm days.
Slk. 1917 H. J. C. Clippings from Clayboddie (1921) 208:
A thrissley sheaf, too, is always a dry one.
Abd. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 35:
Ower in the thristly nyeuck.

2. The thistle or a representation of such, (1) as the emblem of Scotland, adopted in the reign of James III (1460–1488). Combs. thrissle-badged, thistle-stampit. Ppl.adj. thristled, decorated with a thistle design. See also Scots, I. 1. (42).Sc. 1708 J. Chamberlayne Present State Gt. Britain 449:
The Royal Badges, and Ordinary Symbols of the Kingdom of Scotland, are, a Thistle of Gold Crown'd, the White Cross of St Andrew in a Blue Field.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 138:
Gar'd Scottish thristles bang the Roman bays.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Earnest Cry vii.:
Paint Scotland greeting owre her thrissle.
Dmf. 1810 R. Cromek Remains 161:
The White Rose flaunted owre the wall, The thristled banners far were streaming!
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 77:
Our foes there, the rose there, Did to our thrissle kneel!
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 83:
For fegs thy tunefu' kind epistle, Does honour to our Scottish thristle.
Sc. 1831 Scott Castle Dangerous xiii.:
She seeks the Black Douglas, or some such hero of the Thistle.
Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rhymes 166:
I trow auld Scotland's burrie thristle Has never lost ae single bristle.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 50:
A bonnet meets his broo, Thrissle-badged, an' cockit.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 145:
Auld Scotia's bardy Thristle.
Sc. 1882 J. Walker Jaunt 41:
Thistle-stampit auld Scotch bodles.

(2) as the badge of the Order of the Thistle, an order of knighthood in Scotland, founded by James VII in 1687, reconstituted by Queen Anne in 1703, and now comprising the Sovereign and sixteen members, with a Dean and a Secretary, the insignia being decorated with thistles; the order itself as conferred on an individual. The Thistle Chapel in St Giles Kirk, Edinburgh, was dedicated in 1911 for the use of the Order.Sc. 1727 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) III. 292:
Seafield got his Commissioner's office, to balance his charges of representing the King in installing the Duke of Hamilton Knight of the Thistle.
Sc. c.1750 in T. Somerville Life (1861) 91:
The old provost, who danced to the whistle Of that arch-politician, the Dean of the Thistle.
Sc. 1766 Caled. Mercury (18 Jan.):
George Dempster Esq., Secretary to the Thistle.
Sc. 1856 Scotsman (5 May):
An investiture of the Order of the Thistle was held on Friday at Buckingham Palace.
Sc. 1911 J. B. Paul Knights of Thistle 9:
The Order of the Thistle cannot claim the illustrious antiquity of its sister Orders such as the Garter and the Golden Fleece.
Sc. 1947 Scotland (Meikle) 191:
His Thistle Chapel in the Church of St Giles, Edinburgh, exhibits an astouding virtuosity in handling the most elaborate Gothic detail.
Sc. 1953 Scotsman (29 June):
The Queen, as Sovereign of the Order of the Thistle, yesterday morning attended the installation of the Duke of Edinburgh as a Knight of the Order at a private ceremony in St Giles' Cathedral. The Dean of the Thistle, Dr Charles Warr, administered the oath.

(3) Nickname for Partick Thistle Football Club; see also Jags s.v. jag n.1, v.1 I. 3.Gsw. 1985 Michael Munro The Patter 69:
Thistle, the Short for Partick Thistle F.C.; 'Ah thought her aul man wis a bluenose - turns oot he's a Thistle supporter.'

[O.Sc. thrissil, = 2., 1488, thissell-cok, a.1600.]

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



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