Note the Scots plural form –is (we’d use –s/-es), and the Scots past participle –it (we’d use –ed), which you may want to drop off a word when looking for definition.
U, v & w were interchangeable before spelling was regulated. Also ‘i‘s in place of ‘j‘s (or otherwise when in Roman numerals).
Qu – is often used instead of “wh“. Hence the abbreviations qm – “whom” / qr – “where” / qch – “which“.
Þ þ – Thorn – “th“. Often a “y” is used instead as in “Ye olde pub“, which was always said “The old pub“.
Ʒ ʒ – Yogh – “y“. An archaic Scots letter that made the surname “Menʒies” pronounced “Mingus”. Often a z replaces it being aesthetically similar rather than for the “z” sound.
The majority of archaic Scots text becomes clearer on reading it aloud. The varying spelling can make it seem like a daunting task but I find saying the text out loud usually makes it obvious.
Aeriare To build aeries as hawks.
Aitht An oath or pledge.
Allanerlie / Allenerly Only.
Almoigne Tenure where a religious corporation holds lands given to them and their successors forever.
Alluterlie Completely / Entirely.
Amanuensis Transcriber – someone who writes/types up documents or dictation.
Ane A. / An.
A° Abbreviation of Anno [year].
Appunctuat Fixed by agreement. / Appointed.
Arras Tapestry / ies.
Assoilzied Absolved, released from blame.
Beadle Church official who may keep records/assist in religious functions.
Behoved Found it necessary.
Brueria A thicket of broom.
Burna A burn or brook.
Calceia-ae A causeway.
Calumnies Lies. / Slanders.
Caparison Harness / saddle covering.
Cessionaris One to whom a cession of property is made. (Usually coupled with “assignais”/”assignay”)
Chalmer Chamber / room.
Claia wiscata A wattled hut.
Cnoll A knoll.
Cobella A coble, or flat fishing boat.
Compeir / Compear(ed) Appear in court.
Contumacious Stubbornly disobedient towards authority.
Contumely Insolent or insulting language or treatment.
Coram / Quorum Company / gathering.
Corda An instrument of hunting.
Croise / Croyse Cross.
Cundos(um) The ridge of a hill.
Cudbear Purplish / red dye from some lichens.
Dae Doe (female deer).
Denunced Denounced. / Proclaimed.
Depones Gives testimony.
Depredat(ion) Driving away cattle with use of arms.
Diffident Reticent / Lacks Confidence.
Disinterested Unbiased / Actions taken without thought of personal gain.
Dispone Legally transfer property.
Divers Diverse / Various.
Eleemosynary Relating to charity.
Enfilade Direct a volley of gunfire along a course.
Escheat Forfeiture of property.
Falda A fold.
Forisveiae / Forsveiae A penalty for trespassing; perhaps for turning out of a road.
Fraught Travel by water.
Gallepyn Turnspit / under-servant.
Grait Greet / Great (context req.)
Gile A Gill, still used in the north of England for the cleft of a hill of the channel of a brook.
Halghes / Halkahs / Halechs / Hauhwes Haughs or meadows.
Heithertills Until now.
Hes Has / His (context req.).
Hogaster Perhaps a hog or young sheep.
Hogus / Hogh A hill or mount.
Indytit Indicted. Accused / Charged with a crime.
Infeft(ment) Official or symbolic bestowal of heritable land on a person.
Inlangis / Enlang Along.
Inwere Civil war.
Iter Roman footpath.
J (roman numeral) 1 – the last “i” can be a “j” but denote the same number.
Jois To enjoy. / Have the use of.
Joynter Jointure. The estate held by a wife for as long as she survives her husband.
Land In relation to Edinburgh’s history, lands were buildings containing apartments.
Landae Arable lands.
Lazar House Leper hospital or place where lepers were quarantined to.
Lecche Small stream through a ditch.
Lent Slow (fever).
Lesum Legally permissible.
Libra / lib / (l., s., & d). £, (pounds, shillings & pence).
Limer Thief / Villain / Rogue.
Lollardry / Lollardy Mediaeval English movement for ecclesiastical reform.
Lubberdly Lazy / Idle.
Lyand Lies – position-wise rather than fibbing.
Mannyr Till or cultivate.
Manrent A solemn oath to support another.
Markque (Letter of) Authorisation from a Regent for the holder to seek redress from any national of the country that did them wrong.
Mayling The action of leasing property.
Mereburne A boundary stream.
Moeta A meute or cry of hounds.
Mon be Must be.
Montebanck Charlatan / Con man.
MS. / MSS. Manuscript/(s).
Mussa A moss or peat bog.
Nayn / Nane None.
Nutrix Wet nurse.
Obloquy Strong public condemnation.
Orison Plea / Prayer.
Pasquil Satyrical rhyme.
Pastisar Pastry chef.
Pecuniall Pecuniary / Monetary. Relating to money.
Petae / Petaria Peats, a peatary or peat moss.
Placks A type of coin.
Propyn Something given as a gift.
Prorogat Extend / Lengthen.
Pryce Seizure. / Something seized.
Quhingear / Quhinzeir Short sword or dagger. From the Gaelic ‘Cuinnsear’. Sometimes ‘Whinger’.
Quytclaim To Renounce a Claim.
Rae Roe deer.
Rancountred Engaged (in battle).
Resaitting Receiving / Accepting.
Restand Restituted / Restored.
Rockariss/Rokkaris Rockers [nannies] of royal infants.
Rubricate Add decorative initial to a manuscript.
Ryal A type of coin.
Scalinga A summer hut used by hill shepherds.
Sederunt The sitting of an ecclestiastical assembly.
Sicklyk Such like / such as.
Sicus A syke or ditch.
Sorner Someone who stays in your house & eats your food without contributing. (Scrounger is what we’d use but sorning was considered a crime.)
Spoliated Plundered / robbed.
Stagnum A yare or wear in a river.
Staincros Stone cross.
Standande Stane Standing stone.
Teinds Rent from land that maintained the local clergy.
Therof / þerof Thereof.
Thesaur / Thesaurer Treasure / Treasurer.
Toucher / Tocher Dowrie.
Trigild The penalty / fine for destroying trees.
Tulʒie, Tulyie Skirmish.
Turbae / Turbaria Turfs, a place from which turf for fuel is cut.
Twichit / Tuich Touched / touch.
Utwere Foreign war?
Veschell Vessel / utensil.
Viands Food / Edibles.
Vilepend Express contempt.
Violaris Viol players / instrumentalists.
Waiked / Waulked Thumped.
Waxes Says a lot.
Weill Wellbeing / veal (context required).
Whilom Previously. / Formerly.
Wictuall(s) Victuals. / Food. / Provisions.
Wodset / Wadset To give / pledge in security, specifically a mortgage (land or other heritable property).
Ye / þe The.
Yklept Previously named.
Zeir / ʒeir Year.
Zow / ʒow You.
For anyone interested, I direct you to the online Dictionary of the Scots Language.
For ‘Balfour’s Historical Works’, the original transcript (rather than the updated) mentions dates often as being the “(no.) of the ides of (month)”, or the “(no.) of the kalends of (month)”, and “(no.) of the nons of (month)”. I initially took as read the date was the (no.) of the (month) but I quickly found I was wrong. If you come across a date mentioned in this way, to obtain the correct date referred to please visit a Medieval English Calendar, it’s a super handy site for this purpose.
For further information of any Acts of Parliament mentioned in ‘Balfour’s Historical Works’, or elsewhere in Random Scottish History, that interest you I recommend the University of St. Andrews’ Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707.