Swad, swipper and swol

Yesterday I wrote about a dialect word, ‘sweeling’ which means burning and especially used, as far as I know it, for controlled burning of moorland areas to prevent the sort of blazes and heath fires presently raging on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill. This sort of burning has been used for thousands of ears – and in the case of the Aborigines of Australia for tens of thousands of years. It’s been suggested that some of the terrible fires in recent years has if not been caused, then at least not been prevented by this practice no longer happening as the country has become urbanised.

I wrote yesterday:

I suddenly wondered if ‘sweeling’ was an actual word or whether I had misremembered/misheard/made it up… but no, it is an actual Lancastrian word. I came across it in a book called ‘Dialect of South Lancashire or Tim Bobbin’s Tummus and Meary” by John Collier. 

I then shared a few old south Lancastrian words for you to guess what they mean… and here are the answers:

  • swad – husk
  • swailor – a wholesale corn or provision dealer
  • swattle – to dabble or waste
  • swatter – the same
  • sweel – a great blaze
  • sweelin – burning, blazing; sweeling th’ moors; sweelin the chimney
  • swelted – melted
  • sweltin – melting
  • sweltert – melted
  • swingle – a stretcher to a plough
  • swingein – big, heavy. “A swingein piece of beef,” (a term rather local)
  • swipper – active, lithe, agile
  • swither – to dry up, to wither: also to burn
  • swithn – twisted, crooked, writhen
  • swol – to fasten cattle in their boose; swolt, fastened; swolten, fastening

Some of these words were either the origin of or derived from words which are more common, such as swelted/sweltin/sweltert which has an obvious link to ‘swelter’. Some of the dialect words sound like other words they don’t relate to – for example, swol sounds like swollen but that’s not the meaning!

Swingeing is a word which has entered into common use, particularly in the phrase ‘swingeing cuts in public expenditure/service’ etc. Swingeing here means huge and devastating, so you can see it might have come from the dialect word ‘swingein’. I’ve tried to find when it was first used, and all I can come up with that it was used in parliamentary debate in 1968, and the repeated in parliament many times over in subsequent years.

I think I’m going to have a lot of fun delving into this list!

Here is a link to Google books where you can see more:


PS… definition of boose: dialect word – a stall for a horse or a cow


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