It would be a
Herculean task to give a glossary of every obscure word in
the Scots dialect. This glossary is confined to words and
terms that occur in the articles on this site. A more detailed Glossary of 17C Scots that appears in eg verbatim quotes of business in Parliament and the General Assemblies is here.
Scots acre is raised using the Scots chain of 74ft
and equals 54,760 square feet. The English acre contains
43,560 sq ft. 10,000 English acres equals 7869 Scots acres
or 10,000 Scots acres equals 12,708 English acres.
Advocate. In Scotland
equivalent to a barrister, takes cases in the superior
Airt – quarter.
Anent – concerning.
Arian. A follower of Arius
of Alexandria (280-366).He rejected Christ`s divinity.
Arminianism. Arminus a
Dutch theologian of the 16th century denied the
Calvinistic doctrine of pre destination and asserted that
free will of man determined personal salvation.
Baxter. A baker.
Bawbee. Originally a copper coin worth 1/2penny; later raised to three pence Scots money in the reign of Mary Q o S. Later it became 6 pennies. As an old Scottish
silver coin of six pence it was equal to an half penny
Ben – in.
Boll. A measure of volume,
of grain especially, equal to 6 imperial bushels (or 48
gallons). Also a weight of 140 lbs. In Scotland the
standard wheat boll was 8798.34 cu. ins. For oats and bear
(barley) it was 13623.476 cu. ins; and for beans and peas
9616.572 cu. in.
Boot. A metal case that
wrapped round the leg into which wedges were driven by
hammer blows, ultimately crushing the leg. Used, by law,
in the presence of the Privy Council.
Bushel. A measure of
capacity, equal to 4 pecks or 8 gallons. The standard
bushel was of 2218.2 cubic inches or the volume of a
cylinder measuring 19.1/2 inches in diameter and 8.1/4
Cadie. also `running
stationer`. A person whose trade is being on call to run
errands. Probably similar in origin to `caddy` a
person who carries a golfer`s clubs and gives advice about
the golf holes.
Cess – tax or assessment (of liability)
Chain. Scots chain a lineal
measure of 24 ells or 74 ft (exactly it is 74ft 4.8
Chalder. A measure usually
of grain, often quoted as part of a minister`s stipend. It
was equal to 16 bolls or 64 firlots of corn (768 gallons).
Not to be confused with a chaldron which was 36 bushels
(288 gallons) of grain, and 25.1/2 cwts of coal.
Compear. To make an
appearance in a court of law.
Cordiener. A shoe maker.
Court of Session. The
supreme civil court in Scotland.
Creamer or Kraimer. The
occupant of a cream or kraim, a booth from which goods
sold. In Edinburgh booths were along the walls of St Giles
Church. Jenny Geddes sold cabbages from one.
Depone. To give evidence on
oath in a court of law.
Ding – drive.
Dow – can , dare to.
Elicitly – publicly.
Ell. A measure of length –
English ell 45 inches (1143 mm). Scots ell 37 inches
6 ells Scots equals a `fall` (18.1/2 ft); a Scots
chain equals 24 ells. or 74 ft.
Erastian. Follower of
Erastus, a Swiss physician (d 1583) who held that the
church was subject to the state in matters of government
Episcopacy. Government of
the Church by Bishops.
especially, for which there is no heir, and ownership
reverts to the superior landlord. The land obtained by the
Crown in Ulster when the Earls fled in 1607 was escheated
land. This formed the basis for the Ulster Plantation and
sale of substantial plots to the Undertakers.
Evite – shun, escape.
Fall. A lineal measure of 6
ells or 18.1/2 feet ( correctly 18ft.7.2 inches).
Fash – trouble.
Feu-ferme. The selling of
property with hereditary rights (often church lands) with
a large down payment, called the `grassum`, and an annual
`feu duty` payable in perpetuity. The land was usually
bought by nobles, lairds, rich urban dwellers and
merchants often creating or adding to large family
Firlot. An old Scottish
measure of volume. 4 firlots made 1 boll. A firlot was
equivalent to 1.1/2 bushels or 12 gallons.
Flesher. A butcher.
General Assembly. The
highest church court of Presbyterianism, meeting annually
(circumstances permitting). The Moderator, or chairperson,
is elected each year and is 8th in precedence to the
throne in Scotland.
Hardheid. A coin valued at
three halfpence, devalued in 1574 to one penny (Scots).
Heritor. A proprietor or
landholder in a Parish.
Indweller. A resident
within a parish or town. This sometimes conferred
Jouges. Metal collars on a
short chain fixed to the wall of a building e.g.
tollbooths, for holding prisoners.
Kyth – appear, show oneself.
Ladder, Tipped off the
ladder. A ladder was propped on a scaffold which the
prisoner climbed and sat on the top rung, from where the
executioner `tipped him off `
Land tenure. Nobles, lairds
and `bonnet `lairds were the only land owners who enjoyed
heritable tenure and could pass on land title to others.
Nobles and lairds were also called rentiers and did not
actually farm the land personally. The bonnet laird was a
small land owner who tilled the land himself and with
servants. They were common in Galloway and the region to
the south west of the river Clyde – the Covenanter
Litster. A dyer.
Maiden. The guillotine of
Scotland, often used for executing nobility but also women and child murderers. Now in the Museum
of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Mercat Cross. The market or
town cross, the traditional meeting place where
proclamations were read. The Mercat Cross of Edinburgh has
had five locations over the years, now standing next to St
Giles Cathedral, it is a two storey structure with
embattlements at the open first floor level where the
Herald and a drummer stood to make announcements. There is
a central flag pole with heraldic shields on the outside
of the embattlements.
Merk. A small silver
Scottish coin equal to 13 shillings and 4 pence (two
thirds of an English pound) or about 67 pence in modern
Mile. English mile 1760
yards; Scots mile 1984 yards.
Mutchkin. One quarter of a
Scottish pint, or 25.851 cubic inches. Note this is 3 cu.
ins less than the English pint.
Notary. A person, usually a
solicitor, authorised to record statements, certify deeds,
to take affidavits and statements on oath.
Papist. A supporter of the
papal system; an adherent to the Pope; a Roman Catholic.
Pasquill / pasquin. A
satirical piece of writing, a lampoon. Often anonymous and
posted on prominent buildings etc
Peck. Unit of
measure/volume used for grain, Equivalent of 2 gallons or
20 lbs of water, or 554.1/2 cubic inches. A peck of flour
weighed 14 lbs; a peck loaf of bread weighed 17lbs 6 ozs.
Pint, Scottish . Equals
103.404 cubic inches divided into chopins, mutchkins and
gills. It is larger than the English pint, to convert
Scots to English pints multiply by 3.65.
Plack. Coin valued at four
pence, devalued in 1574 to two pence (Scots).
Port – gate of the town
Pound. Scottish pound worth
1 shilling and 8 pence (12 Scots = 1 English pound) or 8
.1/3rd pence modern currency. The English pound consisted
of 20 shillings each of 12 pence, thus 240 pence equalled
£1. Also a measure of weight made up of 16 ounces.
Prelacy. The office or
dignity of a bishop; government by bishops.
Prelate. Formerly an Abbott
or prior. A bishop or other church dignitary of equal or
higher rank, eg Archbishop.
Presbytery. A body of
Elders in the Christian Church. A church court consisting
of all the ministers (Teaching Elders) in a certain
district and a ruling Elder from each church. Also a
priest`s residence and the space in a cathedral between
altar and choir.
Prig – bargain, haggle about a price.
Quarter Days –
in England, Scotland and Ireland. These are relevant to
leases and rentals when contracts are completed and monies
are due paid. Lady Day 25th March. Candlemas Day 2nd
February. Midsummer 24th June. Whitsunday 15th May.
Michaelmas 29th September. Lammas Day 1st August.Christmas
25th December. Martinmas 11 th November.
person who resides within the parish or town, also see
Rue – regret.
stationer. see also `cadie` – a person whose trade is
Scrimpit – narrow, small.
lower court of the Presbyterian Church in which the
Minister and Elders confer on church business. The Session
Clerk records the business. The Deacons’ Court is usually
considered the “lowest”court. Generally the Session is
charged with the spiritual oversight of the local
parish/church, while the Deacons’ Court attends to the
monetary, material, and building matters.
Shabble – short sword.
Skaith – harm, loss.
Spean – wean.
Speer – enquire, seek .
Stipend. Money paid for the
services of a minister, a minister`s salary. Derived from
tiends, or tithes.
Stour – dust.
Synod. A convention or
council. In the Presbyterian church government an assembly
of ecclesiastics in a church court that is superior to
Presbyteries but subordinate to the General Assembly.
Teinds. Tithes, the tenth
part of income liable to assessment for paying the
stipends of the ministers of the established church. The
Court of Teinds is the inner House of the Court of Session
responsible for dealing with teinds.
Thumbkins. A mechanical
device that locks the thumbs together and prevents assault
by the prisoner, also a screw device that tightens on the
thumb and can crush it. Alleged to have been introduced by
Bishop Paterson; also said to have been imported from
Russia by Thomas Dalziel of the Binns, aka the `Beast of
Tollbooth. Originally a
place for taking toll charges made for the use of roads,
market fees and for locking up persons who refused to pay
a toll; in Scotland the town gaol, which also contained
offices and sometimes a market hall.
belief that the Communion host, bread and wine, become the
actual flesh and blood of Christ. A doctrine of the Roman
Catholic Church that the ` whole substance` is changed by
the priest’s consecration of the elements.
Trone. An ancient weight
used for hay, butcher meat, cheese, butter and some other
farm produce. A stone equalled 16 lbs, each pound being
22.1/2 ounces avoirdupois. A hundredweight (cwt) was 112
lbs and thus consisted of 5 trone stones. To convert trone
lbs to avoirdupois multiply by 1.406.
Tronman. A chimney sweep,
named after the storage area where they kept their brushes
– alongside the `tron scale` the beam scale used for
Tryst – agree to meet.
Wabster or wobster. A
Waiters – customs officers.
Wapinschaw. A review of men
in the neighbourhood to ensure each individual was
properly armed according to his rank.
White iron smith . A
tinsmith, or tin plate worker.
Winchester bushel. The
standard measure of grains in England and Scotland used in
national and international trade. Eight Winchester bushels
equals one quarter or 10 cubic feet.
Writer. A solicitor. A
Writer to the Signet was a solicitor privileged to prepare