Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English sǒuel, souvel, suvel (food eaten with bread; food in general), from Old English sufel, sufol (anything (especially relish) eaten with bread; sowl),[1] from Proto-Germanic *suflą (entremets, viands), from Proto-Indo-European *seu-, *sew- (juice; moisture; rain). The word is cognate with Danish sul (sowl), Middle Dutch suvel, zuvel (modern Dutch zuivel (dairy products)), Middle Low German suvel, süvel, suffel (sowl), Old High German sufil, sufili, Old Norse sufl, Norwegian suvl, sovl, sul (milk porridge; food eaten with bread, porridge or soup), Saterland Frisian süfel (dairy products), Swedish sofvel, sovel (sowl), West Frisian suvel (dairy products).


sowl (plural sowls)

  1. (Britain, dialectal) A dainty; a relish; a sauce; anything eaten with bread.
    • 1812, Tim Bobbin [pseudonym; John Collier], “Reader. Hear a Spon-new Cank between th’ Eawther and His Buk.”, in The Miscellaneous Works of Tim Bobbin, Esq. Containing His View of the Lancashire Dialect, [], Salford: Printed by Cowdroy & Slack, [], OCLC 80909155, page 16:
      Good lorjus days, whot whofo times ar' theese! / Pot-baws ar scant, an dear is seawl an cheese!
    • 1850 May 10, Hensleigh Wedgwood, “English Etymologies [continued]”, in Proceedings of the Philological Society, volume IV, number 97, London: Printed by Richard and John E. Taylor, [], OCLC 1026878820, page 249:
      It [the word pittance] does not signify the whole share of each individual in a conventual meal, but merely that smaller portion of more tasty viands which in frugal housekeeping is used to give relish to the bread or pottage constituting the substance of the meal; what is still called sowl or sowling in some parts of England. The Pembrokeshire peasant says, "I have not had a bit of sowl to my bread for these six months".
    • 1857, L. P. Barnaschone, “Manners and Customs of the People of Tenby in the Eighteenth Century”, in J. Williams ab Ithel, editor, The Cambrian Journal, volume IV, London: Published under the auspices of the Cambrian Institute; Longmans & Co., J[ohn] Russell Smith, and J. Petheram; Tenby, Pembrokeshire: R. Mason, OCLC 1552606, page 185:
      What was called "souling," or "sowling," was practised by the female portion of the poor, who visited their more wealthy neighbours, demanding "sowl," which signified, in its provincial acceptation, any condiment eaten with bread, such as meat, fish, &c., but especially cheese.
    • 1981, Geoffrey Scard, Squire and Tenant: Life in Rural Cheshire, 1760–1900 (History of Cheshire; 10), Chester, Cheshire: Chester Community Council, →ISBN, OCLC 568055305, page 93:
      All Souls' Day was celebrated by souling, a custom going back to pre-Reformation days: soul cakers and mummers toured the village begging for a soul cake – a plain, round, flat cake seasoned with spices.

Alternative formsEdit


Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English soul, soule, sowel, sawel (soul).[2] See further at soul.


sowl (plural sowls)

  1. Archaic spelling of soul.
    • 1525 September 1, Robert Richard Tighe; James Edward Davis, “Windsor in the Reign of Henry the Eighth (Continued.)”, in Annals of Windsor, being a History of the Castle and Town; with Some Account of Eton and Places Adjacent, volume I, London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, published 1858, OCLC 966385441, page 515:
      [W]here in tyme past wthin the p[ar]ish chirch of new Wyndesor hath ben kept yerely on Trinite Sunday an obitt wth mass of requiem on the moro next followg for the Sowles of all the Brethren and sisters of the Trinite brotherhood there, wch tyme out of mynde hath bene usyd, the said Andrew for th' inlarging of the sd anniv[er]sary or obiit for more merytte to all the seyd sowls and for the well of all his good friends sowls hath gyven to the wardens of the sd fraternite or Brotherhood to the brothern and systers of the same frat[er]nite and to their successors for ev[er] a certaine tenem[en]t in new Wyndsor []
    • 1631, John Weever, “Ancient Fvnerall Monvments within the Diocesse of Rochester”, in Ancient Fvnerall Monvments within the Vnited Monarchie of Great Britaine, Ireland, and the Islands Adiacent, with the Dissolued Monasteries therein Contained: Their Founders, and what Eminent Persons haue beene in the Same Interred. [...], London: Printed by Thomas Harper [...] and are to be sold by Laurence Sadler [], OCLC 1039527038, page 326:
      Of yowr cherity pray for the ſowls of Reynald Peckham the elder, Squire for the body of the moſt excellent Prince king Henry the eight, who deceſed 27 Feb. 1525. and for the ſowl of of Ioice Colepeper his wife which deceſed 20. March, 1523.
    • 1829, “an independent layman” [pseudonym], “XIX. I do firmly believe that there is a purgatory, and that the souls kept prisoner there, do receive help by the suffrages of the faithful.”, in The Catholic Church Invulnerable and Invincible: Or, An Explication of the Celebrated Creed of Pope Pius IV. [], London: Published for the author, by Thomas Flint, [], OCLC 316563038, page 113:
      [T]he guide who accompanied me [] told me, with a most serious face, that there were three different fires in purgatory, through which all the faithful passed. [] "And what is the third fire to do?" "Oh, that is to purify them entirely, and fit their sowls for the presence of the grate God!"
    • 1884, Cruck-a-leaghan [pseudonym; Dugald Macfadyen]; Slieve Gallion [pseudonym; David Hepburn], “Father Magee”, in Lays and Legends of the North of Ireland, London: Houlston & Sons, []; Edinburgh; Glasgow: J. Menzies & Co.; Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, OCLC 54203971, page 69:
      For in all the long coorse av a twinty year's spell, / Dael an' Irishman's sowl cud he get into hell— []

Etymology 3Edit

A farmer sowling or pulling the ears of an orphaned piglet to teach it not to jump on people. This sort of disciplining would ordinarily have been done by the piglet’s mother.

Origin unknown; compare German zaulen, zauseln, zausen (to tug, drag). See also tousle.


sowl (third-person singular simple present sowls, present participle sowling, simple past and past participle sowled)

  1. (transitive) To pull (especially an animal) by the ears; to drag about.

Etymology 4Edit

From Middle English sōlen (to become dirty or soiled; to make dirty, soil; to be defiled, polluted), from Old English solian (to make or become foul, sully),[3] from Proto-Germanic *sulwōną, *sulwijaną; compare sullow and sully, and Danish søle (to make dirty, defile), Gothic 𐌱𐌹𐍃𐌰𐌿𐌻𐌾𐌰𐌽 (bisauljan, to bemire), Middle Dutch soluwen, seulewen (to besmirch, soil), Old French soillier, souillier, soller (to dirty, stain; to tarnish (a reputation, etc.)) (modern French souiller), Old High German solagōn, bisullen (to make dirty), German suhlen (to make dirty, soil), Old Saxon sulian (to mire, soil), West Flemish sowelen, suwelen.


sowl (third-person singular simple present sowls, present participle sowling, simple past and past participle sowled)

  1. (obsolete) To soil or stain; to dirty.
    Synonyms: sullow, sully


  1. ^ sǒuel, n.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 29 May 2018.
  2. ^ soul(e, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 29 May 2018.
  3. ^ sōlen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 11 October 2018.