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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid



DOTTLE, n., v.


In the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) dottle has many meanings. One of them is:


“a very small person”.



This usage has quite a long history, with an example in DSL dating from the Letters of Thomas Carlyle to his Brother (1844):


“A little useful ‘dottle of a body’ already working for its little bit of bread there”.



I came across it again in an extract from an obituary (Daily Record, January 2012):


“Ruby was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. A tiny little dottle of a woman, she had the heart of a lion.”



More recently, it appeared as the nickname of a band member in The Southern Reporter (August 2022):


“For professional recording, Jimi enlisted fellow Gala man, drummer/percussionist and Soundstation studio owner David ‘Dottle’ Little to help with the project, while final mastering took place at Precise Mastering, Hawick”.



This usage is probably an extension of another meaning of dottle for a “particle, a jot”, which is also still current - as evidenced in Thomas Clark’s translation, Animal Fairm (2023):


“We are born, we are given jist sae muckle scran as will keep body and soul thegither, and thon o us that are able tae are garred tae wirk tae the last dottle o oor micht”.



Then there’s a variant I’m not so sure how to interpret! It comes from Sheena Blackhall’s poem The Check-Oot Quine’s Lament in Blethertoun Braes (2007):


“Mealie jimmies, ganzie, Cheque, or caird, or cash, Ma dowp is dottled sittin, Grip, skyte, flash.”


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at