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A 28 cm (11 in) spurtle, with decorated end resembling a Scottish thistle

The spurtle (or "spurtel", "spurtil", "spirtle", or "spartle")[1] is a wooden Scottish kitchen tool, dating from the 15th century, that is used to stir porridge, soups, stews, and broths.[2]

The rod-like shape means that porridge can be stirred without congealing and forming lumps,[2][3] unlike a spoon, which would have a dragging effect during stirring. The low surface area reduces the chances of porridge sticking to the instrument.[2]

Spurtles are made from wood, typically beech, cherry wood, or maple. They come in a range of sizes. Traditional spurtles have stylised thistles at the top, while modern ones often have a smooth taper.[2]

The custom is that a spurtle should be used to stir in a clockwise direction with the right hand.[2]


Old Scots spurtell is recorded from 1528. The Northern English dialect had a word spartle that meant "stirrer". The modern West Germanic and North Germanic languages, as well as Middle English, also have spurtle cognates that refer to a flat-bladed tool or utensil – so more akin to the couthie spurtle (see below) in shape. Latin spatula, as used in medicine and pharmacy, is their shared ancestor. Spatula is a diminutive of Latin spatha, a broad, flat tool or weapon, which in turn is from Ancient Greek σπαθη ("spathe"), the broad, flat tool used in weaving, or a paddle. The ultimate source of σπαθη is hypothesized to come from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language *spe-dh- for spade and its root *spe- for a long, flat piece of wood. According to this theory, spade and spoon are also suggested as having derived from the same hypothetical PIE *spe-, potentially making those words distant cousins of spurtle.[1][4]

Couthie spurtle[edit]

Early spurtles were flat, wooden or metal instruments, with long handles and flat blades.[1] The spatula-like utensils, known as 'Couthie Spurtles,' are often used for flipping oatcakes or making pancakes – but not for making porridge.[2]

Modern culture[edit]

The Golden Spurtle trophy

The World Porridge Making Championship awards a "Golden Spurtle" as its main prize.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "Dictionary of the Scots Language". Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Spurtle; customs, myths, legends and lump free Porridge". The Porridge Lady. 20 January 2014. Archived from the original on 3 December 2014.
  3. ^ National Trust (2007), Gentleman's Relish, Pavilion Books, p. 67, ISBN 978-1-905400-55-3
  4. ^ Spade on Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved on 2020-05-05 from https://www.etymonline.com/word/spade.
  5. ^ "Previous Winners". Golden Spurtle. Retrieved 30 September 2016.

External links[edit]