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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WHIRL, v., n. Also whirrell; whurl(e) (Kcb. 1911 Crockett Rose of the Wilderness xxiii., Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 10). See P.L.D. § 59. Sc. usages. [ʍɪrl, ʍʌrl]

I. v. 1. To propel on wheels, to wheel, trundle, cart (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., Kcb. 1930, Bwk. 1942 Wettstein, whurl; Cai., Fif., Ayr., sm.Sc. 1974).Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 20:
I use to whirl out cow dirt for her.
e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 135:
Sae narrow, a barrow It's risky owre't to whirl.
Kcb. 1901 R. Trotter Gall. Gossip 358:
She whurl't peats tae the casters.

Hence comb. and deriv. (1) whirlbarrow, a wheelbarrow; (2) whirlie, -(e)y, whurlie, -y, (i) a Hutch, a small truck or basket on wheels used for conveying coal from the working face (Lnk. 1974); (ii) a castor (Sc. 1887 Jam.). Comb. whurly bed, a bed, mounted on castors, which can be rolled under another bed when not in use, a truckle-bed. Cf. Hurlie, n.1, 4. Also abbreviated to whirly (Lnk., Ayr. 1974); (iii) = (1) (Cai. 1974).(1) Sc. 1834 Tait's Mag. (Feb.) 16:
The breed o' sheep Robin Steele tells about, with tails sae braid that ilk ane maun have a whirlbarrow to carry the tail o't after it?
(2) (i) wm.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report (2) 20, 96:
He is induced to bring down another younger, of nine or so, to help him in drawing the whirley. . . . The corf, or whirley, “is sometimes made of iron, sometimes of wood, but more commonly of wattled hazel-rods secured in a wooden frame.”
Lnk. 1893 T. Stewart Miners 42:
We took out whatever quantity of coals we dug in half-ton waggons, called hutches or “whirlies.”
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 10:
When gaun to the muir pit for water to wash, Wi' the burl and the whurly.
(ii) Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verses 93:
When I lie, and steek my een In my whurly bed.
Arg. 1949 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 335:
Wee George is awful could in the whirly.

2. To bore, drill (a hole).Sc. 1826 Moss-Troopers I. iv.:
A hole whirrelled through it wi' unco pains to tie a bit blue ribban til't.

3. As in Eng. to throw, hurl, roll. Deriv. whurler, appar. a stone. ? From cant or gipsy usage.Gall. 1898 A. J. Armstrong Levellers xx.:
The last time we cam' this airt we kilched a wheen whurlers, an' we'll do the same again an' again if the need be.

II. n. 1. Anything that rotates; the act of whirling or rotating. Dim. whurlie, (1) a rotating hob at the side of a fireplace (Slk. 1947); (2) a toy “windmill” or “aeroplane” with paper sails or propeller, a whirligig (Ags. 1974); (3) a chimney-cowl (Kcd., Lnk., Rxb. 1974); (4) to play at whirley, to whirl, to spin, poss. in allusion to (2).(2) Ags. 1946 Forfar Dispatch (9 May):
There'll be nae rag-and-bane mannies oot the road . . . and fa wid ye be giein a whirlie til onywey?
(4) Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xxv.:
Ane o' the hen's feathers is playing at whirley wi' the breath o' your nostril.

2. In dim. forms whirlock, -lik, hwirlek; anything twisted into a knot or tangled bunch (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1974); a knot in wood (Sh. 1825 Jam., s.v. whirrock).

III. Combs., freq. in dim. or adj. form whirlie: 1. whurlie-birlie, anything that whirls round, a spinning toy, a toy windmill or the like (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 475). See Birl, v.1; 2. whurlie-bodie, meant to represent the local name of some bird, but of doubtful authenticity; 3. whirl-dodie, a spinning-top, esp. one made from a cotton bobbin (Sh. 1974); 4. whurly-gate, a turnstile (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Fif., Lth., Lnk., Ayr. 1974); ¶5. whirlygeerum, any fanciful convoluted ornament or trimming to dress, headgear, etc. A nonce conflation of whirligig and Variorum. See 7. and Whigmagairie; ¶6. whurliegirkie, a fanciful story or dogma, an involved or devious notion; 7. whirlmagee, a piece of unnecessary ornamentation or decoration. Cf. Whigmajee; 8. whirlmaleerie, a revolving contrivance, in quot. of a turnstile. Cf. 4. and Whigmaleerie; 9. whurlie mill, a kind of toy water mill made with rushes and set to revolve in the current of a stream; 10. whurly organ, a barrel-organ; 11. whirlie wharlie, a trill, grace-note run or the like in music; 12. whirlie-wheeter, a kind of sea-shell of the whelk variety, Buccinum (Sh. 1959); 13. whirly-whirr, a person or thing of no account, a bagatelle, trifle; 14. whirlie-whum, a piece of fancy confectionery. Used fig. in quot. The second element = whim.1. Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 475:
This yirth doth wheel, Just like a whurlie-birlie.
2. n.Sc. 1957 N. B. Morrison Other Traveller iv.:
He had names Dick had never heard of before: briskies, sand-baekies, dyke hoppers, blethering Tams, linties and Tom Thumbs, whurlie-bodies.
3. Sh. 1967 New Shetlander No. 81. 13:
I mind eence whin I got a pirm da whirl-dodie at I made.
4. Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chronicle (19 July) 2:
It would be a good thing to have a decent Stile, or a “whurly-gate,” at the entrance to the Teviot banks.
5. s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders II. 378:
Dressed oot like a leddy, wi' pinners on her head, and a sort of whirlygeerums.
6. Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 109:
Why mak life a mair melancholious thing than it is in reality by lending your lugs to a' the whurliegirkies with which the priests are aye deaving us?
7. Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 304:
When I die ther'll be no whirlmagees aboot me, but just a pennyworth o' blackball on my coffin, and away ye go.
8. Arg. 1914 J. M. Hay Gillespie iv. iii.:
This whutteruck o' a whirlmaleerie's like Lonend's mill-wheel.
9. Kcb. 1893 Crockett Stickit Minister 87:
It's some bit Machar's burn that laddies set their whurlie mills in.
10. Gall. 1904 Crockett Raiderland 159:
You Frees wadna care gin yer psalms were turned on by water poo'er on a puggy's whurly organ.
11. Per. 1881 D. Macara Crieff 32:
The lad rattled the music off at once, on which Hugh remarked that there were too many whirlie wharlies in't for him.
13. Lnk. 1922 T. S. Cairncross Scot at Hame 51:
Ithers were but whirly-whirrs If a' was richt wi' Megsie.
14. Lth. 1888 D. Carmichael Cosietattle 258:
And when your turn comes, young dandy, Braw whirlie-whum o' sugar candy.

[There has been some confusion in sense, esp. in I. 1. and 3. with Hurl, v.1, 1.]

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"Whirl v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 May 2024 <>



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