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

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

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

Spurtles are made from wood, including beech, cherry wood, and maple. They come in a range of sizes. Traditional spurtles have stylized 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. There was a Northern English dialect word spartle, for stirrer. The modern West Germanic and North Germanic languages, as well as Middle English, also have spurtle cognates which 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 reconstructed Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language hypothesises *spe-dh- for spade and its root *spe- for a long, flat piece of wood as the ultimate source of σπαθη. Our spade and our spoon are also derived from the same PIE *spe- and are therefore distant cousins of spurtle.[1][4]

Couthie spurtleEdit

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

Modern cultureEdit

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.
  3. ^ National Trust (2007), Gentleman's Relish, p. 67, ISBN 978-1-905400-55-3
  4. ^ Spade on Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/word/spade, retrieved 5 May 2020
  5. ^ "Previous Winners". Golden Spurtle. Retrieved 30 September 2016.