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This glossary of old Scots terms (and some from Upper Canada) has been consolidated from the glossaries published in the following McCowan Society Publications.

Abbrev'n

Title
FF Fairs and Frolics: Scottish Communities and Work and Play
TS To Sustene the Personis: The Agricultural Revolution
WG When the Ground Fails: An Economic Watershed
FLE Feeding the Family in a Local Economy, A Work in Progress 
CU Catching Up With the Market Economy, A Work in Progress 

Context in which a term  is used and the original source (eg 'RD') for the meaning may be obtained by purchasing the referenced publication.

Term Publ Page / Note Meaning
Aliment CU   Support, or sum payable for support, of a dependant.  (RD 1153)
Ameliorations CU   Improvements
Anon WG 13 Soon or presently
Answer TS 15 Written pleading in reply to an application to a court, such as a petition. (RD 1154)
Arrest / Attach CU   To seize or put under the control of a court (attach), property owed by others to one's debtor to secure payment of one's debt.   (RD 1154-5) An Arrestment is the execution of the associated decree of the court.
Auch WG

TS

8, 22, 47, 52

2, 12, 13, 18, 22, 23

Anglicised form of the Gaelic word for field. (See Auchtool, Auchtyfardle, Auchlochan and Auchanbeg [meaning "small field"].) (Nicolaisen 125)
Bailiff, Farm WG 25 A land agent managing an estate for its owner. (RD 1156)
Baillie TS

WG

2

17, 19; N54

Estate officer who presided over the Baron Court. (Whyte 269)
Bairnes TS 3, 4 Children.
Barony TS

WG

2, 5, 9, 10, 16, 21

11; N54

Basic unit of local government in rural parts of medieval and early-modern Scotland. (Sanderson 248)
Bear or Bere WG 5 Four-rowed variety of barley (Whyte 269); Good for malt (Robertson 145)
Bee FF 18, 20, 22, 31 A gathering of neighbours and friends to complete a task
Beltane TS 4 May 1. (Lanark 415)
Bent WG 33 Reedy or rush-like stiff-stemmed grass; heath (RD 89)
Bent / Plate FF 29 A bent is a section of a barn frame that was assembled on the ground and tipped up into place. Each bent would resist wind loads applied against either side wall of the barn. Wind loads applied against either end wall are resisted by the network of plates and braces which connect one bent to the next.
Beseikand TS 3, 4 Beseeching.
Beynes, milk CU   Staved wooden containers, broad and open. (SAM)
Biggings TS 14 Buildings. (Lanark 415)
Boll CU   Unit of grain measurement. One boll was four firlots or 16 pecks. (Whyte 268)
Bolster CU   Pillow
Bonnet-Laird WG 8, 16, 17 Small proprietor. (Sanderson 249)
Brae WG 8, 51; N10 Slope of a small hill. (See Cleughbrae in text) (RB 609)
Broose FF 5, 21 A race at country weddings (RB 610)
Bruk TS 4 To posses, hold and use. (Lanark 416) (A bruking would be a holding of a piece of ground.)
Burgh FF

WG

4-11

13, 17, 18, 20, 21

A town that was generally administered on a local level by a Town Council (RD 1158). A Royal Burgh derived its charter directly from the Crown while a Burgh of Barony was under the jurisdiction of a Baron. (Whyte 269)
Burn WG 14, 62 Small river or rivulet (See Coalburn, Burnhouse in text) (RB 610)
But and Ben WG 7 Two-roomed cottage where the But was the kitchen or outer room and the Ben was the parlour or inner room. (GRR 489-90)
Ca' the crack FF 4 Keep up the talk (RB 612)
Candlemas CU   February 2
Candle-Coal or Cannel-Coal WG 24 A grade of coal with illuminating qualities, eventually used for making gas for lighting.
Caution, (Bond of) WG 17 A written guarantee of payment or performance by another, given by a guarantor or Cautioner. (RD 1157, 1159)
Chalf Beds CU   Chalf from the thrashing was used to fill the mattresses. (SAM)
Chamberlain WG 25 Usually treasurer of a Burgh. (RD 1160)
Chapman WG 20, 21; N53 Pedlar (RB 611)
Chesurts, cheese CU   A staved wooden container with holes in the bottom. Stone weights were placed on the movable wooden lid. The lid pressed down on the curds which were wrapped in cheesecloth. The whey was thus squeezed out. (SAM) (Fenton 152)
Churl FF 7 Person of low birth; peasant; ill-bred fellow (RD 164)
Clachan WG 40 Small village or hamlet (RB 611)
Claes FF 14 Clothes (RB 611)
Coalheugh WG 24, 40 Coalworks or coal pit.
Collier TS

WG

27, 28

9

A worker at the coal face, a "pickman" or a "hewer" of coal. The term "miner" (with respect to coal) was generally reserved for those who sank the mine shafts to the coal seams. (Duckham 46)
Commonty TS

WG

6, 14; N15

24, 26

Rough pastureland possessed jointly by different proprietors. (Whyte 269)
Compear FF 5, 6, 10 To appear (in court) (RD 1162)
Conjoining of Actions CU   Putting together two or more pending actions for the same cause of action where the parties are the same or where one party is plaintiff (pursuer) or defendant (defender) in all of them. (RD 1163)
Cord FF 22 A measure of cut wood for fuel, 4'x4'x8'.
Cottar FF

TS


WG

3, 19

2, 11, 12, 16, 17, 21, 22; N54

7, 9, 13, 20, 30, 37, 49

The holder of a cotland, usually under a husbandman, the most substantial of rural tenant, and owing labour-services to him (ie a subtenant) but sometimes holding directly from the baron, with fewer rights and responsibilities than a husbandman. (Sanderson 250)
Court of Session WG N75 Supreme civil court in Scotland. (RD 1165)
Craig WG 8 A high rock. (See Craignethan, Craighead in text.) (RB 613)
Creel FF 16 Stag party (also, a basket, RB 613)
Croft TS

WG

ii

ii, 33, 51

A small piece of land enclosed for tillage and pasture. (Sanderson 250) (See also "Infield / Outfield".)
Cryit FF 9, 11 Proclaim (Lanark 417)
Deal Ground TS 14 Apparently those lands that had been formally divided into portions and then allocated (Sanderson 250). An "Akerdaill" was a portion of land one acre in extent (Lanark 415). A "Deal" or "Dale" was also an old measurement of land in eastern Scotland equivalent to two "rigs". One rig was 1/4 of a Scots acre. A Scots acre was equivalent to 1.26 English acres. (Whyte 267)
Dearth FLE   Scarcity and dearness of food (RD 232)
Deponent CU   A person who makes an affidavit. (RD 1167)
Dispone CU   To convey or transfer land. (RD 1168)
Divot WG 26 Turf
Draught WG 23 Load (Lanark 417)
Driving CU   Delivering
Drokin FF 8 Drunk (Lanark 417)
Duds and Duddies FF 13 Ragged or mean clothes (RB 615)
Dung TS

WG

16

30, 33, 52

Manure.
Enclosure TS 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24; N54 The process of dividing land into discrete fields by hedges or dykes.
Entry TS 14 Date at which possession of land is to be given under a contract. (RD 1170)
Ex FF 26, 32-33, 38 The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada (the CNE)
Excambion CU   Exchange of one piece of land for another. (RD 1170)
Factor FF

TS

WG

12, 15

16, 18, 19, 25, 27

13

Manager of estate, houses, etc., on behalf of the landlord or owner (RD 1171). A Judicial Factor was an administrator appointed by a court to manage the property of a person unable to manage his own (RD 1178)
Fall TS 21 6.22 imperial yards or 8 ells.
Fanners CU   Instrument for winnowing grain.
Fasten-e'en or Fastern's E'en FF 4, 7 Fasten's Even; the evening before Lent (RB 615); Shrove Tuesday in the Lowlands (Hole 114)
Fauld TS

WG

20

8, 51

An enclosed piece of ground used for cultivation. (See Greenfauld, Fauldhouse in text.) (Sanderson 251)
Fee FF

TS

WG

13, 14

4; N33

27-28

The regular payment to a hired or contracted servant. (Sanderson 251)
Fenuble / Finuble TS

WG

15

31

Fencible. Professor R. Sunter has kindly commented -- "The process of making a fence proof against livestock was undertaken by skilled workers -- it involved cutting, but not severing, the young limbs and then interweaving them. Today it's almost a lost art."
Fermtoun FF

TS

WG

2-4, 16, 18, 27, 43

2, 11, 12, 14, 22, 24; N48

1, 4-8, 13, 21, 22; N4

A farm settlement of several families having both arable land and pasture. (Sanderson 251)

(See Wattistoun, Orchardtoun, Robertoun, Bartoun in text.)

(See Yondertown, Fockertown in text.)

Feuar TS 2, 4 The holder of land by feu-ferme tenure. Feu-ferme was a feudal tenure where the annual rent or feu-duty was paid to the superior as a fixed cash sum in perpetuity. (Whyte 270, Sanderson 251 and RD 1171)
Fisk WG 27 Old Scots law term for "Fiscal" -- "Every Sheriff or Fisk of Court..." (JP 186). A Procurator-Fiscal was a public prosecutor at the Sheriff Court. (RD 1189)
Flesher TS 13 Butcher (RD 333)
Fodder CU   Feed for cattle
Forestalling FLE   Buying goods before they reached the market or before it was formally opened in order to resell at higher prices (Justices liii)
Freeholder FF

TS

21

3

For all practical purposes (though not in theory), the absolute owner of the land. (RD 1172)
Frie Geir TS 3 Moveable wealth of a deceased person after deduction of debts from the total moveables. (Sanderson 251)
Furthcoming, Action of CU   Action taken when one's debtor does not voluntarily authorize the delivery of property under the terms of an arrestment. (RD 1154)
Gill FF 15 Quarter-pint (in some districts half-pint) liquid measure (RD 368)
Gin, horse WG 47; N109, N122 Machine to hoist water or coal up the shaft.
Gowk WG 40 Fool (RB 618)
Gowpins WG 40 Double handfuls.
Grassum TS 14, 18 A lump sum paid on entry to a lease or feu, or for the renewal of a lease. (Whyte 270)
Greetin' FF 20 Weeping (RB 618)
Grieve TS 19 Country Overseer.
Heath WG 33, 39 Barren flat waste tract of land esp. if covered with low herbage and dwarf shrubs, so hence the plants found on heath land. (RD 403)
Herd TS 19 Cattle keeper.
Herezeld TS 4 Death duty to the superior on a husbandman's moveable estate. (Sanderson 251)
Heritable Bond and Disposition WG 28 Heritable property is land that passes on through right of blood. Heritable Security is money secured to a creditor over land. (RD 1173) A Bond and Disposition in Security is a promise to pay money combined with a disposition of land to the creditor in security -- the creditor may enter into possession and uplift [collect or draw] the rents, or, after notice to the debtor, sell the land, to satisfy the debt. (RD 1157)
Heritor TS

WG

3

28

An owner or proprietor of heritable property. Persons in the records designated "of" a certain residence or place were "lairds" or proprietors of land under the terms of an arrangement with either the King or some other superior. Tenants (or those designated "in") did not have heritable tenure of land.
Hogmanay FF 7, 16 The last night of the year
Holm TS

WG

13, 22

8, 22, 51

Arable land beside a river.
(See Holme and Langholm in Text.)
(See Clydesholme, Scorrieholm, and Holmhead in Text.)
Hypothec CU   Security right over movable property, constituted without transfer of possession to the creditor, eg a landlord's hypothec for rent (RD 1174). Hypothec may be put in force by the process known as landlord's sequestration. Evidently, this remedy was abolished with respect to rent of farms in 1880 (Gloag 144, referring to the Hypothec Abolition Act, 1880). Hypothec secures one year's rent, not prior arrears. It fails if not put in force by sequestration within three months of the last term of payment. It is the usual practice to sequestrate for the rent actually due and in security of that to become due at the next term (Gloag 145).
Ilk FF
TS
WG
5
4
23
Each or every (RB 621)
Inch / Insh WG 22 Small Island generally (RD 440)
Incoming WG 40 Income
Infield / Outfield TS

WG

13, 14

33

Generally, the "infield" was the well-fertilized and intensively cultivated ground nearest the farm buildings while the "outfield" was the poorest of the arable land on the farm. The "outfield" was fertilized only through the pasturing of cattle over the course of several years. It was then ploughed and cropped for several years until low yields did not justify working and seeding. The "outfield" was then allowed to recover during the pasturing phase of the cycle. (Whyte 60)
Interlocutor CU   Decree of a court, especially one not disposing of the case finally. (RD 1177)
Interpelled CU   Interrupt order
Intestate CU   A person who dies without a will or dies with a will that fails to dispose of his property. (RD 1177)
Intromissions TS 27 Dealings with property. (RD 1177)
Irritancy CU   A lease may be terminated by the enforcement of an irritancy, legal or conventional. The legal irritancies relate to non-payment of rent. There is an irritancy recognised at common law, and enforceable only by an extraordinary action of removing in the Court of Session, in all cases where two years' rent is upaid. (Gloag 148)
Jade WG 13 Wearied
Judicial Factor CU   Administrator appointed by a court to manage the property of a person unable for some reason to manage his own. (RD 1178)
Kane CU   Customary payments from tenants, usually in kind. (Sanderson 252).
Kindness / Kindly Tenant TS 2, 3, 11, 22, 23; N10, N20 Kindness was the claim to customary inheritance on the basis of kinship with the previous holder. (Sanderson 252)
Kirn FF 4 Harvest-Home (RB 622)
Laird TS

WG

2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 13, 26; N39

9, 10, 29

A landed proprietor, usually below the level of the nobility. (Whyte 270)
Lammas CU   August 1
Lead TS 21, 25, 26 To transport grain, coal or other commodity. (Sanderson 252)
Lemmane TS 4 Lover.
Let FF
TS
WG
15
14, 16, 21
30
Lease out or grant use of for rent. (RD 504)
Liferent WG N75 Right to the use and income or produce of property for life or a shorter stated period where the liferenter is liable for maintenance of the property. (RD 1181)
Lors TS

WG

14, 15, 19

12, 30

Lordship's.
Mails and Duties CU   Legal action directed against tenants by which a creditor of a heritable security may obtain control over the rents payable by the tenants. (Gloag 553)
Mal a propos FF 9 Inopportunely (RD 541)
March TS

WG

15, 21

31

The boundary of an estate or farm, not necessarily marked on the ground (especially before the agricultural revolution). (Whyte 270)
Mark or Merk TS 2, 4, 12 One merk was 13s4d Scots (Whyte 267) or 1s1d sterling.
Markland or Merkland TS 3 A nominal value of a piece of land, initially for taxation purposes. (Whyte 267)
Martinmas FF

WG

13

38

November 11. Payments of rent and interest were legally due on Martinmas and on Whitsunday (May 15) in the absence of some agreement. (RD 1180, 1182, 1202)
Meadow TS

WG

14

51

Grassland mowed for hay, often marshy and near a river. (Sanderson 252) (The farm of "Meadow" on Stockbriggs Estate was comprised of 11 acres of Croftland or Infield, 30 acres of Outfield, 4 acres of Meadow and 21 acres of Pasture [the higher land].)
Messenger-At-Arms FF 11 Official who executes citations etc. of the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary (RD 1182)
Missives CU   Letters exchanged in negotiation, embodying the terms of a transaction, for example, missives of let.
Moss TS

WG

14

33

Boggy ground of deep basin peat in upland or lowland situations. (Sanderson 252 and Whyte 270)
Mug Pettes CU   Pet sheep of the breed known as "Mugs" in southern Scotland: an early form of Border Leicester. (SAM)
Muir or Moor TS

WG

14, 17, 21

34, 44

Shallow hill peat or hill pasture on peaty ground. (Whyte 270)
Multiplepoinding CU   Action brought to determine conflicting claims. (RD 1183)
Multures CU   Tax or duty on grain ground at a mill, usually payable in grain.
Nappy FF 15 Strong ale (RB 624)
Natural Child CU   Illegitimate child (RD 1183)
Outfield TS

WG

13, 14; N36

51

See "Infield / Outfield".
Packman WG 20; N53 Chapman or unfree trafiquer, ie pedlar.
Pactional Rent CU   Payment of a fixed sum as liquidate damages for any breach of conditions of a lease. (Gloag 150)
Park FF
TS
WG
15
16
30
An enclosure for animals, grass or crops (Whyte 271)
Patatories, pitt of CU   Potatoes. Stored in pits and covered with straw and earth. (SAM)
Peck WG 44 One quarter of a bushel.
Pedagogue WG 12 Schoolmaster
Pendicle TS 14 A small portion of land. (Lanark 421)
Penny Weddings FF

WG

5

14

Guests donated a small amount to discharge the expenses of the supper, the drink and the fiddler. Any balance remaining was presented to the couple as a wedding gift.
Plenishings TS 3 Furnishings. (Lanark 421)
Pley TS 4 Plea or lawsuit. (Ayr 288)
Plough-Gang WG 38 A plough-gate was 104 Scots acres or about 130 English acres (Whyte 267)
Poinding CU   Execution of a court's decree in the form of seizure of property in the hands of a debtor by an officer of the court. (RD 1187)
Policies WG 45 Enclosed ornamental grounds around a large country house. (Whyte 271)
Popery WG 12 Roman Catholicism.
Portioner WG 29 One who owns part of a property; a small proprietor, often a feuar. (Sanderson 253)
Pound / Shilling / Pence     May be designated herein by "xx/yy/zz". One pound Sterling was equivalent to 20s (shillings) or 240d (pence [pre-decimal]). Hence, one shilling was worth 12 pence. Scots money was worth one twelfth of the value of Sterling. 1 Scots = 1s8d or 20 old pence Sterling (MP xi). A Shilling Scots was equivalent to 1 old penny Sterling. After about the middle of the eighteenth century, the Pound Sterling generally prevailed in Scotland. (Duckham 372) A merk (or mark) was equivalent to 13/4d Scots.
Precisian FF 7 One who is rigidly precise, especially in religious observance (RD 694)
Process CU   Formal steps or proceedings taken at the various stages of any legal action.
Procurator-Fiscal CU   Public prosecutor at the Sheriff Court. (RD 1189)
Pro indiviso CU   Undivided
Proof CU   Hearing of evidence in a case before deciding whether the claim or defence is relevant or sufficiently specific. (RD1189)
Provost FF 11 Chief magistrate of a burgh, elected by and from, and presiding over the town council (RD 1190)
Pursuer WG 24, 26 Plaintiff or the person bringing the action. (RD 1190)
Ques CU   Calves still fed on milk. (AL 81)
Quhill TS 4 Until. (Ayr 289)
Raising FF 18, 19, 29, 31 Erection of a barn or house with the help of friends and neighbours
Reduction, Action of CU   Action in the Court of Session to set aside a document, order, decree etc., alleged to be invalid. (RD 1191)
Regrating FLE   Buying all the goods that were exposed in the market in order to sell them elsewhere outside the market at higher prices. Or keeping goods out of the market to create a scarcity (Justices liii, Lanark 422, Ayr 289)
Remit CU   To submit a matter for report by an expert. (RD 1192)
Removing TS 15 An action brought by a landlord to eject a tenant. An "Extraordinary" action of removing is taken in the case of non-payment of rent. An "Ordinary" action of removing is used when the lease has expired. (RD 1192)
Rock or roke FF 4 A distaff; a distaff was a cleft staff about 3 feet long on which wool or flax was wound for spinning by hand (RD 257)
Rockin' FF 4 A small social gathering at which the women spin on the rock or weave a stocking (RB 627)
Roup FF

TS

15

17; N36, N44

Auction sale or to sell by auction (RD 1194)
Rowme or Room TS

WG

4, 7

18

A holding or piece of occupied land. (Sanderson 254)
Rugy hoggis TS 4 One year old sheep or perhaps course or rugged young sheep.
Runrig WG 6, 11, 46, 47; N120 Division of pieces of ground among tenants, those of individual tenants being scattered throughout the cultivated area. (Sanderson 254)
Sautie Bannock FF 7 A thick cake composed of eggs, milk and oatmeal, baked on Fastern's E'en (Rampini, 323)
Sederunt, Act of CU   Regulation dealing with civil procedure made by the Court of Session. (RD 1151)
Sequestration CU   Bankruptcy (in general).
Sett TS

WG

14, 15, 18

30

To lease or let.
Sinks TS 26;N65 Vertical shafts to coal.
Spense or Spence WG 6 Inner apartment of a house which may be used as a sitting room, small bedroom or store-room for provisions (GRR 493)
Squatter FF 21 A person who settles on common land without right or permission (RD 859)
Steelbow TS 8, 9; N20 A customary tenure under which the farmer received stock and seed with the farm. (Sanderson 22, 254)
Stipend CU   Salary of a Minister, originally payable out of teinds, the tenth part of the annual produce of land. (RD 1197, 1198)
Stobs CU   Wooden posts. (AL 82)
Stockin' FF 4 Stocking (RB 630)
Tack TS

WG

3, 12, 14, 15, 18; N36
30
Lease.
Tambouring WG 40 Embroidery on circular frames
Tawnle FF 8 Large fire
Terms, legal CU   Dates on which payments of rent and interest are legally due: Whitsunday (May 15) and Martinmas (November 11) in the absence of some agreement. (RD 1180).  The legal terms, in farms primarily arable, and where the tenant's entry is at Martinmas, are the Whitsunday and Martinmas following the term of entry. In a pastoral farm, with entry at Whitsunday, the first half-year's rent is legally due at entry, the second at the following Martinmas. The underlying theory is that rent is not due legally (though it may be conventionally) until the tenant has had the benefit of the crop. Rents conventionally payable before the legal term are known as forehand, payable later, as backhand. (Gloag 146)
Testament TS

WG

2, 3, 4, 20; N20, N29
35; N143
Disposition of personal property. (RD 1198)
Thirled CU   Bound to grind grain at a specified mill.
Tocher TS 2 Dowry; property brought by a wife to the husband on marriage. (RB 632 and RD 1169)
Tryst FF 7, 10 Appointed meeting (RD 951) (In our context, any "country get-together" such as a fair or market [MP 246])
Tuck of drumb FF 9 Drum roll (Lanark 424)
Umbrage WG 16 Sense of slight or injury, offence.
Unco FF 15 Strange, uncouth, very (RB 633)
Uplift FF 11 To collect or draw (rents, money etc.) (RD 1200)
Verdure WG 39 Flourishing green vegetation
Victual FLE   Food or provisions (RD 976)
Whitsunday TS 15 May 15. See also Martinmas and Terms, legal.
Wrought TS N63 Worked.
Yokin' FF 4 Yoking; a bout of work; a set-to (RB 635)
Yrof TS 4 Thereof.
Zuill TS 4 Yule.