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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.

WALE, n.1, adj., v. Also wail (Slg. 1744 Burgh Rec. Slg. (1889) 361; Edb. 1827 M. & M. Corbett Busy-Bodies I. xi.; Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 46), waill, waile ; wael (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.), ¶wael, ¶well; wall (Ayr. 1886 J. Meikle Lintie 57; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), ¶wal(le) (n.Sc. 1805 Water o Gamrie in Child Ballads No. 215 D. ii.), waal (Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 15), waul; ¶weil (Edb. 1866 J. Inglis Poems 73); †weal (Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 133); wyle (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Per., Fif. 1915–26 Wilson; ne.Sc., em.Sc. (a) 1973), wile, see P.L.D. § 126.2. [Sc. wel, Cai. weɪl; ne., em.Sc. (a) wəil; Bte., Ayr., Kcb. + wɑl]

I. n. 1. Choice, the act of choosing, scope for choice (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Kcb. 1900; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne. and m.Sc. 1973); a selection; abundance, plenty to choose from (Cai. 1966, a weal o fish). Phr. will and wale, free choice, also adv. in abundance.Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 72:
Of Daintiths they had Routh and Wale.
Abd. 1748 R. Forbes Ajax 9:
Lat him than now tak will an' wile.
Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 310:
Gif that ane soud tak the dorts, They'll get their wale o' twenty.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 105:
I hae bought a house wad please ye, Caps an' luggies, rowth an' wale.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 129:
And flocks o' brownies, will and wale, Some chain'd, some loose.
Dmf. 1824 Dumfries Courier (21 July):
Ane has time to look about them and tak' a gude wale.
Peb. 1836 J. Affleck Poet. Wks. 81:
I've sheets and blankets, will and wale.
Sc. 1836 Michael Scott The Cruise of the Midge Vol. I (1894) 316:
Nae wale o' wigs here.
Slg. c.1860 Trans. Slg. Arch. Soc. (1923) 24:
What use is licht, or the gleggest o' sicht, When there's neither pick nor wale.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Brier Bush 210:
There's sic a wale o' stuff that the man canna get what ye want.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 28:
Some one offered him his waul o' a penny and a saxpence.
Ags. 1960 Forfar Dispatch (17 Nov.):
There wiz a wile a twa roads and fa kens whilk ane a bus'll tak it intae its heid tae traivel?

2. The pick, the choice, that which is selected as the best (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai. 1905 E.D.D.; Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–1926 Wilson; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Slg., Lth., sm.Sc. 1973). Cf. Outwale, n., the rejects, refuse.Sc. 1720 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 150:
The Wale of well-set Ruby Juice.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 109:
Auld Reikie, wale o' ilka Town That Scotland kens beneath the Moon.
Ayr. 1789 Burns To J. Tennant 32:
The ace an' wale of honest men.
Abd. 1804 W. Tarras Poems 78:
But I hae flocks the vera wyle.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lv.:
The Bertrams were aye the wale o' the country side.
Sc. 1828 Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret in Child Ballads No. 260 B. xvi.:
He pat it till his rosy lips, And then the well o wine gaed in.
Slk. a.1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 283:
She talks nought but the wale o' grand words.
Per. 1842 R. Nicoll Poems 48:
Memie's the queen amang the flowers The wale of womankind.
w.Lth. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 223:
Thou wast a coat, o' coats the wale.
Kcb. 1890 A. J. Armstrong Musings 71:
My laddie was match for the wale o' the lan'.
Ork. 1927 Peace's Almanac 137:
Lads is droll tings teu; aye, even Peter 'ats da waal o' dem.
Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 88:
But Maillie is the wale o' beasts.

3. In phr. and comb.: (1) the wale o (someone), a person's equal; (2) wile warst, the worst of the lot, the very worst (Abd., Kcd. 1973), prob. adapted from weel warst s.v. Weel, adv.(1) Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xv.:
Ye'll have heard tell of Prophet Peden. There was never the wale of him sinsyne.
(2) Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick xx.:
'E wile warst [weather] 'at we've seen for mony a day.

II. adj. Choice, select, excellent. Rare and liter. Obs. in Eng. since 16th c.Ayr. 1789 J. Fisher Poems 102:
Ae simmer e'en baith wale an' trig, About the mirkning, doun the rig A lad cam' to the Fitman-brig.

III. v. 1. tr. (1) To choose, select (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 95, 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Cai. 1934; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes Dial. S. Kintyre 15, waal; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne., m., s.Sc. 1973). Also in n.Eng. dial.Gall. 1703 Session Bk. Penninghame (1933) I. 104:
If John M'Caul had been wailing a dog he might have wailed one of a good kind and not a Highland whelp.
Sc. 1713 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (B.R.S.) 507:
To expenses with the wrights when wailling the timber for the Hie Kirk.
Ayr. 1785 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. viii.:
To lowse his pack an' wale a sang, A ballad o' the best.
Per. a.1824 Lady Nairne Songs (Rogers 1905) 211:
Her waddin' goun was wyl'd and won, It ne'er was on, it ne'er was on.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 170:
Wale yer sweetest, best-gaun reed. Yer loodest chanter.
Bte. 1853 W. Bannatyne Poems 157:
Resolved a guid ane for to waul.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 4:
So I maun only wyle a fyou, An' maybe no' the best.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 396:
Eppie McFetrick had tae wale anither lad tae hersel.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Jooly 6):
Whaar der bit ean ta tak, ye hae crimp room for waelin.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xiii.:
A broken man that is unlocking his heart and cannot wale his words.
Ork. 1929 Old-Lore Misc. IX. ii. 79:
He hed naeting tae deu bit geong 'is waas tae da kirkyaird an' waal a screw nail oot o' a coffin 'at hed been anunder da meuld wi' a corp in id for seevan year.
Sc. 1952 Scots Mag. (March) 459:
Nae walin' blithely the brawest bloom, It was Murray's Meg or — the tree o' doom!
Abd. 1993:
Ye aye wyle e biggest een, divn't ye?
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 3:
Bunty Strachan fa cud hae wyled her pick o the loons fur miles aroon, hid she nae bin sae sweir tae pick a lad.
Dundee 2000 Matthew Fitt But n Ben A-Go-Go 164:
The But n Ben's location had been carefully waled. The dachas on the Gorms belanged the ubercless, each ane hoosin a paragon o Port douceness an respectability.

Also with advs. and in phr. (i) to wale by, to choose and put the selected objects to one side; (ii) to wale out, to pick out after selection (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1973); (iii) to wale one's feet, road, steps, way, to pick one's way, step forward with caution (Sh., Ags. 1973). Also in n.Eng. dial.(i) Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 56:
Bannocks and kebbocks knit intil a claith She had wiled by, and row'd up in her waith.
(ii) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
Wale out the whitest o' my bobbit Bands.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 72:
I ken them sae, that I cud hae nae doubt, Frae mony a thousand men to weal them out.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xix.:
He was a most creditable man that we had waled out for a Captain.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 114:
The Lord Himsel' in former days. Waled out the proper tünes for praise.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (16 Dec.):
Da boys is wael'd a' da anes wi' güde readin' oot afore doo got dem.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 16:
A cood wale oot Rule Waeter's coorse feine, — merkeet wui raws on raws o treis.
Gall. 1932 A. McCormick Galloway 152:
He had to climb the last twenty feet up a slithery face after “wauling” out grips for feet and hands.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick iv.:
A' the best eens'll be wilet oot.
Edb. 1965 J. K. Annand Sing it Aince 26:
He waled oot ane o' middle size.
(iii) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 59:
A' road to her was bad an' gueed alike; Nane o't she wyl'd, but forret still did streak.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Let. xii.:
Nae time to be picking and waling your steps.
m.Lth. 1857 Misty Morning 259:
Walin' his feet like a flae on a mangy dog rubbet wi' brumstane.
Gall. 1932 A. McCormick Galloway 43:
I had to “waul” my way down that rough cobble-path.

(2) Specif. To arrange according to kind, size or quality, to separate into lots, to sort, freq. of farm animals or produce, esp. potatoes (Kcb. 1900; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.; Wgt. 1939 Galloway News (25 Feb.), well; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., ne., m.Sc., s.Sc. 1973).Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxii.:
He fell to sorting out the potatoes, throwing the bad ones on a heap aside — “tattie-walin”, as they call it in the north.

(3) To rummage, to search about in, to grope through.Cai. 1869 M. McLennan Peasant Life 73:
I could wale the country for a husband.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 246:
I instantly begood to waul my pooches for a lance.

2. absol. To make one's choice or selection, to pick and choose. Gen.Sc.Per. 1805 Letters J. Ramsay (S.H.S.) 177:
Airth's marriage, which is the wisest thing he can do, if he shall wale well.
Ayr. 1848 J. Ramsay Woodnotes 104:
Even, when the hero took the beuk, He waled wi' earnest anxious leuk.
Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 100:
The seller aye fennie, the buyers gey smairt, An' a' waulin' wi' care.
Abd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 77:
How the Muse has wyled an' winnowed.
Per. 1903 H. Dryerre Blairgowrie 329:
With so much to “wyle amang.”
m.Sc. 1920 O. Douglas Penny Plain xxiii.:
He's waited lang, but he's waled weel in the end.

3. intr. with various preps. and advs.: (1) to wale amang, amo(n), to choose between (Sh., ne.Sc., Ags. 1973); (2) to wale awa, to pick out and take away, but in quot. prob. confused with Eng. wile, to lure away; (3) to wale for, to choose with care, to look out for (Sh., Abd., Ags. 1973); (4) to wale through, to hunt through, to investigate; (5) to wall upo, — apae, to seize eagerly, to pounce on.(1) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxi.:
There ocht to be ane or twa owre an' abeen, to wale amon'.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 149:
A person haes ta wale among dem, ye kno.
Abd. 1960 Stat. Acc.3 223:
“She wylt amo' the floors an' gaed awa wi' a docken” (a flirt often marries the worst of her admirers).
(2) Mry. 1887 W. H. L. Tester Poems 166:
An' then the rogues wal'd me awa, To spen' a nicht in Craigen's Kiln.
(3) Ayr. 1785 Burns Halloween iv.:
They steek their een, an' grape an' wale For muckle anes, an' straught anes.
Rnf. 1815 W. Finlayson Rhymes 50:
I'll leuk about me weil, an' for a guid ane wale.
Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 26:
Wale for da saftest hedder For yon peerie feet o dine.
Sc. 1931 H. McDiarmid First Hymn to Lenin 20:
If I'd to wale for ancestors, I'd ha'e Auld Ringan Oliver and the Caird o' Barullion.
(4) Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 12:
I have wauled three several times through the Scots Almanack.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 124:
I dinna ken what the folk'll say to thir notandums ava, or gin they'll ever be fashed to waul them through.
(5) Ork. 1929 Marw.:
As sune as he saw the bundle he walld apae hid.

4. In derivs.: (1) ppl.adj. waled (out), walit, carefully chosen, select, choice. Gen.Sc. Used ¶as a n., the chosen one(s), the elect. Combs. ill-waled, hand- (see Hand, n., 9. (42)), weel- (Sc. 1718 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 80, -wail'd, 1825 Jam., freq. ‘applied to persuasive language'). Gen.Sc.Abd. 1723 W. Meston Knight 20:
And with some well weil'd Interjections Could stirr them up to Insurrections.
Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 6:
These guid auld saws, that shine with wail'd sense.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 119:
My ill-wal'd words, master, excuse.
Kcb. 1815 J. Gerrond Poems 74:
Picked and waled were a' his words.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xviii.:
Gude and waled Christians they were too, . . . some o' them wad greet mair for a bit drowned calf or stirk, than for a' the defections and oppressions of the day.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 355:
Weel wault is mony a hazle stick, Enough to tak' a life.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah liv. 12:
Yer gavels, o' weel-wale'd pleasant stane.
Gall. a.1900 “Mulciber Veritatis” Gallowa' Herds 5:
May the Sun o' Reform yer genius sae warm, Till waled scun in a jiffey gets egress.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 149:
Some forty waled men.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. lv.:
Grace or divine luve is the proper gift o the walit.
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 29:
They [Samaritans] were no coontit kin wi' the waled-oot race.

Freq. in ballad usage in phr. waled wight men, also wale-, wa(ll)-, ¶well-, the best and bravest men, elite troops.Sc. a.1780 Child Ballads (1956) IV. 164:
Nine well-wight men lay waiting him, Upon the braes of Yarrow.
Sc. 1803 Scott Minstrelsy III. 12:
If fifteen hundred waled wight men You'll grant to ride wi' me.
Sc. 1828 Earl Brand in Child Ballads No. 7 G. xiii.:
If you'll get me fyfteen wale wight men, Sae fast as I'll fetch her back again.
Sc. 1828 Willie o Winsbury in Child Ballads No. 100 G. ix.:
O where are all my wall-wight men, That I pay meat and fee.
Abd. 1925 Greig & Keith Last Leaves 100:
He has hangit the proud Shirra, An' some mair o his wall-wight men.

(2) Vbl.n. walin, (i) the act or process of choosing, choice, selection (ne.Sc., Ags. 1973); (ii) the pick, the best (Abd., Ags., Ayr., sm.Sc., Rxb. 1973); (iii) the leavings, refuse (Slg., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1973).(i) Mry. 1914 H. J. Warwick Tales 15:
There is a great “wilin'” among the silvery heap but at length plates are full.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 9:
Wylins fae my wallet (Title).
Abd. 1917 D. G. Mitchell Clachan Kirk 197:
Wha stum'le aff in a path o' their ain walin.
(ii) Dmf. 1874 R. W. Reid Moorland Rhymes 9:
Like their faithers afore them, the walins o' men.
Kcb. 1930:
The taties dinna look tae hae mony chuns, but ye can set the walins o them.
Abd. c.1930 C. Murray Last Poems (1969) 14:
A lass like you 's had lads or noo, The wylins o' the glen.
(iii) Uls. 1953 Traynor:
One of a certain congregation complained that the bishop sent them the walins of all preachers.

(3) Agent n. wailer, a surface-worker at a coalmine who picks out stones and other rubbish from the coal, a picker. Also in n.Eng. mining usage.e.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report II. 435:
Men above, such as engineers, staithmen, wailers, trimmers, etc.

[O.Sc. waile, choice, 1450, will and wale, 1456, the best, 1513, to choose, 1420, of choice quality, 1515, North. Mid.Eng. wale, choice, O.N. val, choice, selection.]

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"Wale n.1, adj., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Oct 2022 <>



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