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.

Acre. The 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 courts.

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. An old Scottish silver coin of six pence (equal to an half penny sterling).

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 inches deep.

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 and club selection.

Chain. Scots chain a lineal measure of 24 ells or 74 ft (exactly  it is 74ft 4.8 inches).

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.

Ell. A measure of length - English ell 45 inches (1143 mm). Scots ell 37 inches (939.8 mm)
 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 and discipline.

Episcopacy. Government of the Church by Bishops.

Escheat.  Land 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.

Fall. A lineal measure of 6 ells or 18.1/2 feet ( correctly 18ft.7.2 inches).

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 estates.

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 privileges.

Jouges. Metal collars on a short chain fixed to the wall of a building e.g. tollbooths, for holding prisoners.

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 country.

Litster. A dyer.

Maiden. The guillotine of Scotland, used for executing nobility. 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 currency.

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).

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.

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.

Residenter. A person who resides within the parish or town, also see `indweller`.

Running stationer. see also `cadie` - a person whose trade is running errands.

Session. A 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.

Stipend. Money paid for the services of a minister, a minister`s salary. Derived from tiends, or tithes.

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 Muscovy`.

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.

Transubstantiation. The 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 weighing salt.

Wabster or wobster. A weaver.

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 Crown writs.


Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material