quirl n Also querril, querl, quorl [Appar blend of curl, quoil or quile (varr of coil v1, n1), and whorl. Cf SND quirl n. “Variant of Eng. curl. . . Used fig. in quot. =a trick, catch. . . Adj. quirlichie, curly, twisted, tangled”; the SND, however, has no exx earlier than 20th cent.] Cf quirl v
a A coil, curl, or twist.
1760 in 1900 Boston Registry Dept. Records 29.75, An Account of Sundrys Burnt in the Late Fire Belonging To James Lamb . . a Quirl of Roap. 1789 NH Gazetteer (Exeter) 31 Oct /3, A Mr. Cook, . . coming up river in a small schooner, accidentally caught his leg in a quirl of the cable, just as he let go his anchor in the Great-Bay. 1794 Newhampshire & VT Jrl. (Walpole NH) [22 Aug 4]/3 ceNY, The inhabitants . . have found a very great number of shapes resembling rattle snakes. . . They are placed in different positions; some in a quirl, others again at full length. 1835 GA Telegraph (Macon) [30 July 3]/3, Appoint him to the office of high crigger, the duties of which office is to pull out the quirls from pigs’ tails. 1865 in 1939 IN Mag. Hist. 35.84, A “detail” was then made to take down the bodies and bury them. The soldiers performing this task whacked off as much rope from each dangling quirl as they could reach, and, cutting it in small pieces, threw it among their comrades below. 1890 DN 1.75, Quirl [kwɜl] : curl, v. “Quirled way up.” Cape Cod. (G. L. K.) “Quirl, both noun and verb, is familiar to me.” (C. H. Grandgent.) 1899 (1912) Green VA Folk-Speech 341, Querl. . . A twist; a curl. 1915 Crawford Mirror (Steelville MO) [12 Aug 5]/5, Mr. McDaniels killed the snake which put itself in a quirl and commenced to rattle. 1952 Brown NC Folkl. 1.581, Quirl [kwɝl]: n. and vb. . . A coil; to coil. 1956 Dorson Negro Folktales 196 MI, Mr. Snake was in a quirl where he’d quirled up for the winter, you know. 1968 DARE (QR, near Qu. P25) Inf SC9, A rattler gets into a [kwɛrl].
(1) A whorl of hair on an animal’s coat or a person’s head.
1788 Berkshire Chronicle (Pittsfield MA) 28 Aug /3, Stolen . . a bright bay Horse, . . has a Star in his Forehead, with a plain Feather or Quirl on each Side of his Neck. 1799 CT Gaz. (New London) 27 Nov /4, [Advt:] Stolen from the subscriber . . a valuable Mare, about six years old, of a bright bay colour . . ; a quorl or feather so called on the near side of her neck. 1818 GA Jrl. (Milledgeville) 5 May 1/1, [Advt:] Tolled before John Meroney, Esq. . . one Sorrel Horse, 9 or 10 years old, 5 feet high, a swab tail, and a remarkable quirl on his weathers. 1836 Portsmouth Jrl. Lit. & Politics–Rockingham Gaz. & State Herald (NH) 21 May /2, [Advt:] Stolen . . a Small Horse, . . the quirl with a small white spot about the centre between his eyes. 1846 Mth. Jrl. Ag. 1.786 [=374], I noticed that a sort of bran or dandruf detached itself in considerable quantities from certain spots on her hind parts, formed by the meeting of the hair, as it grew in opposite directions. [Footnote:] These marks are, in some parts of our country, called quirls. . . American Translator. 1889 Chicago Tribune (IL) 17 Nov 27/7 cwIL (as of c1812), Some Indians went down Wood River and killed six children and a woman and brought away their scalps—the quirl of the head, you know, where the hair grows around. 1894 Galveston Daily News (TX) 27 Mar 4/7, [Advt:] Look out for one gray horse . . ; has a red spot on side about the size of a dollar; a noted querl in the hair on the hind leg between the hock and pastern joint. 1916 Mt. Sterling Advocate (KY) [14 Nov 5]/3, [Advt:] Stolen—From my place on Red river, one bay horse. . . Has a hair quirl just in the edge of mane near where horn of saddle rests. 1958 Orlando Eve. Star (FL) 16 June 15/1, According to barbers, the placement of the hair part . . depends upon the location of “head quirls,” a barber’s term to describe the little hair-meeting, twirl-like spots surrounding the head apex. 1969 Poughkeepsie Jrl (NY) 30 July 5/3, [Advt:] “Carefree” Pre-Styled Dynel® Stretch Wig $25 Superbly styled with tapered back, flattering face-framing bangs and top quirl of curls.
(2) A curl or ringlet of hair.
1841 N. Alabamian (Tuscumbia AL) 4 Sept /4, I told him oll bout it, and fixt him up in gal clothes. . . Josy naterly had a mighty perty face, but when I looked at him oll rigged up in quirls . . I never did see nuthin nor nobody else look so handsum. 1863 Portland Advt. (ME) 12 Sept 3/5, “Jenkins” has been to Saratoga, and attended a hop. He was reminded of what St. Paul said of the glory of woman being her long hair, by a gushing creature who whispered to her next friend: “Isn’t it too bad;—charging twenty-five cents a piece for querls, and a dollar for fixing ’em on?” 1880 Mower Co. Transcript (Austin MN) 20 Oct /6, Querls are in vogue. The mania rages to such an extent that . . the black eyes of Grand Meadow’s pedagogue fairly scintillate when those querly-headed misses enter the school room. 1889 Cooke Steadfast 162 CT, She only recalled a short, energetic little figure, with wiry black hair . . so indomitably curly that it waved, and frizzed, and bristled out in a hundred resolute little quirls above the low forehead.
(3) A curly or wavy mark; an ornamental flourish; also fig.
1841 Godey’s Lady’s Book 23.233, “Nonsense!” cried Merial, “there cannot be a more perfect S.—Don’t you see the two quirls?” “Yes; but they are like the quirls of a Q.” 1851 Choral Advocate 1.163, Composers are supposed to have written their music as they wished it sung, but that is no reason why singers should not improve upon it by the introduction of quiggles, and quirls, and spasmodic jerks of their own. 1865 Daily Bee (Sacramento CA) 28 Oct /3, The complaint is signed in a masculine style of handwriting, ‘Felicite de Vestvali,’ with a businesslike quirl underneath. 1889 Hartford Courant (CT) 14 May 8/6, [Advt:] For Sale, Cheap—About 1,000 feet of blackwalnut and cherry . . plank, boards, and solid sticks, including many choice knots, quirls and curves for mantels, furniture, veneers, etc. 1905 Atlanta Constitution (GA) 25 June 1/1, [Advt:] Sheer, cool Batistes, Lawns, Dimities, . . in scores of loveliest patterns—flowers, figures, stripes, spots, splashes, sprays, whirls, quirls and odd printings that cannot be described. 1921 Moberly Monitor–Index (MO) 19 Sept 4/3, Fill this oyster mixture into the shells and top with a querl of whipped cream. 1938 Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light (TX) 7 June 8/7, The egg was somewhat larger than the average and had a perfectly formed quirl resembling a pig’s tail.
(4) A twisted tendril.
1854 Taylor January & June 23, [The grapevine’s] aspirations were soon manifested in the display of divers mermaidish-looking ringlets, with two or three dainty “quirls” therein. a1862 (2000) Thoreau Wild Fruits 108 ceMA, If the vine [of a watermelon] is quite lively, the death of the quirl at the root of the stem is almost a sure sign [of ripeness]. 1883 Ft. Scott Weekly Monitor (KS) 18 Oct 8/2, Oh, Chap, blow your next pumpkin vine—but see if the quirl is dead first! 1898 Bailey Lessons Plants 400, The middle branch [of a tendril] failed to find a support, and has twisted up into a querl. 1908 DN 3.303 eAL, wGA, Curl. . . The tendril on a watermelon vine. A melon is said to be ripe when the curl, i.e., the particular tendril at the axil of the melon stem, has turned brown or is dead. Often pronounced kwirl by the negroes. 1915 Lamar Democrat (Vernon AL) 8 Dec 1/2, The Angel of Death took from Mr. and Mrs. Gib McDaniel their little son, Claude. His death was caused by swallowing a little quirl from a grape vine. 1950 PADS 14.55 ceSC, Quirl. . . A curl, as on a watermelon vine. 2002 Oliver Cooking and Living 48 wNC, At the top of the ripening watermelon is a curled stem, which the settlers called a ‘querril.’
(5) The rootstalk of a ginseng plant. chiefly wNC Also called twirl n
1917 DN 4.416 wNC, quorl, n. Coil; whorl. “The quorl of sang roots.” 1936 Post (Big Stone Gap VA) 9 July 4/2, Pap threatened to give me a genteel thrashing for being so careless in digging the [ginseng] roots. Every one of my bunches had the top stem-quirl clipped off. The stem-quirl was valuable as any other part of the root, and made the root readily identified as genuine. 1999 Isbell Keepers 9 nwNC, “The ’sang roots can look like a little man,” says Ted. “Got two legs, sometimes two arms, and a ‘quirl’ that looks like a head.” 2019 in 2021 DARE File—Internet nwNC, [YouTube video; title:] Tradition of ginseng hunting in Southern Appalachia. [Transcription:] There’s no limit other than the yearly—age limit on ’em, which you determine that with the quorl [making an upward spiral motion with his hand]; it’s similar to cutting a tree down and counting the rings as to aging it. . . Can’t break the quorl or they won’t buy it.
(6) See quots. Note: It seems likely that in fact the reference is to a twisted rootstalk, as in the preceding sense, and that the definition given in the quots is an erroneous deduction from context; cf quot 1813 at quirly adj.
1927 AmSp 2.362 cwWV, Quorl . . cluster. “There is a quorl of snake root.” 1975 Gainer Witches 15 sAppalachians, Quorl (n.), cluster. “I found a quorl of yellow root near that big rock.”