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I'm originally from Yorkshire and my family, especially my mum, used the verb 'chevel', in the context of "you're always cheveling sweets". I don't know what the exact spelling was. Does anyone know its origins? Her family originated from the northeast coast of England, Saltburn to Scarborough.

I'm new to this forum so have just realised the question became closed. The word was used to describe me 'chewing' sweets.

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  • Sure it wasn't "shovelling"? May 17, 2021 at 8:44
  • What does the word mean?
    – Andrew Leach
    May 17, 2021 at 8:47
  • Were you coaxing for more, stealing, begging for, or stuffing sweets? If you were coaxing sweets from your mother, the word might be wheedle.
    – rajah9
    May 17, 2021 at 10:45
  • It sounds like the Lancashire dialect chewin'. May 17, 2021 at 11:25
  • 1
    @Kiloran_speaking It was closed because more details were required; your comment is a good answer following the provision of more detail: please do answer now the question is reopened. Stephanie, please edit your question to provide all the information which would help within the question itself. Thank you.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 18, 2021 at 7:01

3 Answers 3

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I'm also from Yorkshire, and this was a word my mother used too. I think the word you're looking for is 'chavel' rather then 'chevel'. The meaning is definitely the same - chewing, gnawing away at something. My mother always used it when the dog was grooming herself - 'Stop chavelling!'.

According to Merriam-Webster it means 'nibble, gnaw' and comes from the Middle English 'chavlen, chaulen', and Old English 'ceafl' (meaning 'cheek or jowl').

Definitions says that 'to chavel' means 'to chew'. The same site says that it's also a noun, meaning:

The jaw, especially, the jaw of a beast

I found a very interesting PhD thesis from 1952 by Albert Lyon Hoy, which gives an etymological glossary of the East Yorkshire dialect. This link will open a PDF of his thesis: 'chavel' is on pg 93.

Loy found a couple of examples of the word in Old/Middle English texts, in The Owl and the Nightingale, line 284 and in Ancrene Wisse, line 70.

Loy also found a definition in an old publication:

'Chawle, to chew imperfectly' (from A Glossary of Words Used in Holderness in the East-Riding of Yorkshire, published by the English Dialect Society in 1977)

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I can't find this word, but I've found some suggestive similar terms.

There is dialect word further south chivel meaning to chip away at, tear, crumble into pieces (J Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary, 1898), and chibble with a similar meaning, with chibbles used for small pieces of food in various parts of central and southern England (Word Detective).

This may be related to the verb chisel which literally means to carve away at with a chisel but in slang means "to employ shrewd or unfair practices on in order to obtain one's end" (Merriam-Webster).

There's a Romany (Gypsy) word chorav which means steal. It's gone into the Scots language as chore, char or chorey (from Scottish National Dictionary (1700–) and supplement). There is commonality between Scots and dialects of northeast England, as well as lots of words from Romany passed directly into English slang. Another corruption of this word might give "chever" or "chevel".

It might help if you provide more information on what exactly it means.

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  • Bizarrely, when my Mum was a child her Mum (my Grandmother) always let Roamny Gypsies camp in the bottom of their garden for year upon year during the summer. It could indeed be something she picked up from the Romamy Gypsies, great shout, thank you! May 17, 2021 at 16:24
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This is very interesting.

The Oxford English Dictionary entry for jowl meaning a jawbone, carries the following etymology - which includes the Middle English word chevel.

Forms: α. Old English ceafl, (? ceáfl), Middle English cheafl, chefl, chæfl, (? chouel), Middle English chauel, chavel, cheuel, chevel, Middle English chawl, chaul, Middle English chavyl(l, Middle English–1600s chaule, Middle English chawylle, 1500s chall(e, Middle English–1600s chawle; 1800s dialect chole. β. 1500s–1600s ioule, 1600s jowle, joll, 1800s jole, jowl.

The word chew also includes chewen in its Middle English etymology.

All these words would seem to come from the same Old High German root. I had not heard chevel before - though I'm also a native of the east coast - namely Norfolk.

Though the Norfolk dialect, sometimes appearing in sympathy with the east coast (see the entry on "staithe") generally, has clearer linguistic links to the south of England.

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