Pronunciation: Brit. /məːl/, U.S. /mərl/, Sc. /mərl/
Forms: 18– mirl, 19– mirrel, 19– mirrl.
Etymology: < the unattested Norn reflex of the early Scandinavian word represented by Swedish regional myrla, Danish regional myrle, both in sense ‘to swarm, teem’, of uncertain origin: perhaps < the Scandinavian base of Old Swedish myr ant (see mire n.2) + the Scandinavian base of Old Swedish -la -le suffix 3; with the development of sense compare Middle French, French fourmiller to swarm, teem (1587), (of the skin, etc.) to crawl like ants (1575) < Middle French formier to crawl like ants, swarm, teem, tingle, twinkle (11th cent. in Old French in form fromier; < classical Latin formīcāre (of the skin) to crawl like ants (see formicate v.)) + -iller, frequentative suffix. Compare mirr v.
Sc. National Dict. s.v., suggests that the word may have been influenced in form by semantically similar verbs; compare e.g. whirl v., twirl v.1
1. intr. To move lightly and briskly; to twirl around; to shimmer, quiver, tremble
a1838 J. Jamieson MSS (National Libr. Scotl. MS 22–1/12) XII. 194 To Mirl, to move rapidly around
1886 J. J. H. Burgess Sketches 64 Da stars wis mirlin' i' da lift as if dey wir trimblin' wi' cowld.
1932 A. Horsbøl tr. J. Jakobsen Etymol. Dict. Norn Lang. in Shetland II. (at cited word), He is mirlin wi' joy.
1958 Shetland News 30 Dec. 4 Mirlin laek a russi-foal.
1979 J. J. Graham Shetland Dict. (at cited word), Da peerie lass was mirlin wi excitement as shö opened da parcel.
2005 C. De Luca Smootie comes ta Lerrick 5 Da lichts o Bressa wis mirlin on da Soond.
2. trans. To shake, cause to quiver.
1900 Shetland News 5 May 7/1 He pointid at da yow an' lamb lyin' apon his fore knees sookin' awa' an' mirrlin' his tail.
1932 A. Horsbøl tr. J. Jakobsen Etymol. Dict. Norn Lang. in Shetland II. (at cited word), De lamb is mirlin its feet.
1932 A. Horsbøl tr. J. Jakobsen Etymol. Dict. Norn Lang. in Shetland II. at Mirl, Mirlin, trembling, quivering, shaking.
1933 J Nicolson Hentilagets 15 A mirrlin coorteen reeks across da lift.
1976 R. Bulter Shaela 44 Risin in a mirlin shooer‥da waari fleas.