Word of the day – wintle

I came across the word wintle ['winəl / 'wintəl] in Louis de Bernières’ novel Notwithstanding, which I just finished reading. From the context – she walks carefully so as not to wintle on the rimy Bargate stones of the path – I guessed that it meant to slip or something similar.

According the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary it’s Scottish and means to stagger, reel or wriggle. It’s possibly comes from the Dutch word windtelen (to reel).

Dictionary.com defines it as 1. (noun) a rolling or staggering motion. 2. (verb) to roll or swing back and forth. 3. (verb) to tumble over; capsize.

Have you heard this word before?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

9 Responses to Word of the day – wintle

  1. Yenlit says:

    Robert Burns uses the word often in his poems.

  2. John the Editor (John Cooper) says:

    Earliest OED citations are indeed from Burns. Sense 1 is “to roll or swing from side to side”; sense 2 is “to tumble, capsize, be upset.” Burns used both. Most other citations are also Scottish or in Scottish dialect.

  3. Tamar says:

    I don’t recall ever reading/hearing this word in context, but I intuitively “knew” what it meant. Strange…

  4. peter j. franke says:

    Simon, the Dutch word you mentioned: “windtelen” is an old form and now written as “wentelen” in modern standard Dutch. It means: to roll (over);to turn about (round); to revolve (around the sun or on its axes); to rotate (on its axes); to welter, wallow, roll about (in the mud, etc.); he turned and tossed around on his bed. “Wenteling” means revolution (omwenteling) and rotation. “Wentelteefje(s)”: sop in the pan or a stewardess in a chopper (teefje is a female dog)…(used as a joke); een wenteltrap is a winding (spiral, cockscrew), stairs (staircase)…

  5. peter j. franke says:

    small correction: wenteltrap: winding stairs.

  6. Yenlit says:

    “Wentletrap” is also the name of a marine mollusc with a spiral shell.

  7. formiko says:

    Hmmm..any similarity to “winkle”, like “Wee, Willy Winkle”? :)

  8. Simon says:

    Isn’t it “Wee Willy Winkie“?

    Winkle is an abbreviation of periwinkle, an edible mollosk or an evergreen plant.

  9. Formiko says:

    Actually, I know it as:
    Wee Willie Winkle
    Runs through the town
    Upstairs, downstairs, in his nightgown
    Tapping at the window, crying through the lock
    Are the children in their beds? It’s now eight o’clock!
    I sing it to my daughter.