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.
Abone / Abowe Above.*
Acavite Aquavitæ, whisky.*
Aeriare To build aeries as hawks.
Afoir / Afor Before.*
Againis / Agane Against.*
Airt and Part Aiding.*
Aitht / Aithe* An oath or pledge.
Allanerlie / Allenerly / Alleanerly* Only.
Almoigne Tenure where a religious corporation holds lands given to them and their successors forever.
Alluterlie Completely / Entirely.
Als / Alsua Also.*
Alsmekle As much.*
Amanuensis Transcriber – someone who writes/types up documents or dictation.
Ane A / An / One.
Anent About / Toward.
A° Abbreviation of Anno [year].
Appunctuat Fixed by agreement. / Appointed.
Arras Tapestry / ies.
Arryssade / Arisad For a full description of this form of common Highland female dress I give a quote from M. Martin’s ‘A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland’ (1703);
The ancient dress wore by the women, and which is yet wore by some of the vulgar, called arisad, is a white plaid, having a few small stripes of black, blue and red; it reached from the neck to the heels, and was tied before on the breast with a buckle of silver or brass, according to the quality of the person… The plaid being pleated all round, was tied with a belt below the breast; the belt was of leather, and several pieces of silver intermixed with the leather like a chain. The lower end of the belt has a piece of plate about eight inches long, and three in breadth, curiously engraven; the end of which was adorned with fine stones, or pieces of red coral. They wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, closed at the end as men’s vests, with gold lace round them, having plate buttons with fine stones.”
Assoilzied / Assolye* Absolved, released from blame.
Attoure Over and Above.*
Aucht Ought / Eight.*
Aught Eighth / Possession.
Auld / Aulde Old.*
Aye Yes / Always.*
Bairn Child; Bairn’s part of gear, a child’s legal share of inheritance.*
Barrikin Sort of cloth.*
Beadds / Bedis Beds.*
Beadle Church official who may keep records/assist in religious functions.
Begud / Begwd* Began.
Beircorie Sort of Cloth.*
Behoved Found it necessary.
Biggit / Bygyt Built.*
Black-maill Protection money.*
Bot / But Without.*
Bouage A tenure of pasture.*
Boaks / Box / Bocks* Vomits.
Braid Bread loaves.*
Braik ward Escapes prison.*
Brecbennach Banner of St. Columba, kept by the Abbey of Arbroath.*
Broads / Brods Pictures.*
Brueria A thicket of broom.
Bruiking / Bruikyt Enjoying / Enjoyed.*
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.
Chalmer-fie Room hire.*
Claia wiscata A wattled hut.
Cnoll A knoll.
Cobella A coble, or flat fishing boat.
Coillis / Colys* Coal.
Colpindach A heifer.*
Compeir / Compear(ed) Appear in court.
Contre / Cwntray Country.*
Contumacious Stubbornly disobedient towards authority.
Contumely Insolent or insulting language or treatment.
Conversi Lay brothers of a monastery.*
Coram / Quorum Company / gathering.
Corda An instrument of hunting.
Cordiner A shoemaker.*
Cro Penalty for slaughter.*
Croise / Croyse Cross.
Cundos(um) / Condosum* The ridge of a hill.
Cudbear Purplish / red dye from some lichens.
Cut-thrott Short pistol.*
Dae Doe (female deer).
Dauach (of land) What may be tilled by a plough of oxen.*
Denunced Denounced. / Proclaimed.
Depones Gives testimony.
Depredat(ion) Driving away cattle with use of arms.
Deyn Dead; applied to any dignified churchman.*
Diffident Reticent / Lacks Confidence.
Dinmont A wedder of the second year.*
Disinterested Unbiased / Actions taken without thought of personal gain.
Dispone Legally transfer property.
Divers Diverse / Various.
(In) Dominico In the actual possession of the lord of the soil.*
Dornik Kind of linen.*
Dowsand / Dussone Dozen.*
Duil-weid Mourning clothes.*
Dyet Fixed time* / Appointment.
Dyittit / Dyteing Dictated / Dictating.*
Eleemosynary Relating to charity.
Enfilade Direct a volley of gunfire along a course.
Escheat Forfeiture of property.
Fair fall thee Good luck to you.*
Falda A fold.
Feu Perpetual right of inheritance.*
Fiar Person in the fee of an estate.*
Fico Fig, in the, “I don’t give a fico,” sense.
Forasmeikle / Forsamekil* Forasmuch.
Forisveiae / Forsveiae A penalty for trespassing; perhaps for turning out of a road.
Frathynfurth From thenceforth.*
Fraught Travel by water.
Froward To be openly rebellious.
Fulyie Filth / Manure.*
Gallepyn Turnspit / under-servant.
Galnes Satisfaction for slaughter.*
Gile A Gill, still used in the north of England for the cleft of a hill of the channel of a brook.
Glaslawis Instrument of torture.*
Grait Greet / Great (context req.)
Gresmen Pasture tenants.
Guerra [En]Querré / Enquiry.
Haldin / Haldyn* Held.
Half-hag Short gun.*
Halghes / Halkahs / Halechs / Hauhwes Haughs or meadows.
Hamesukin Assault in one’s own house.*
Haud / Hawd* Hold.
Haugh An alluvial plain by a river side.*
Heithertills Until now.
Hes Has / His (context req.).
Hog A sheep before it has been once shorn.*
Hogaster Perhaps a hog or young sheep.
Hogus / Hogh A hill or mount.
(Put to the) Horne Denounced a rebel.*
Hosting Military service.*
Ilk Same* / Each.
Ilkane Every one.*
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.
Jack Vest of mail.*
Jois To enjoy. / Have the use of.
Joynter Jointure. The estate held by a wife for as long as she survives her husband.
Kain Petty rent paid in kind.*
Land In relation to Edinburgh’s history, lands were buildings containing apartments. Houses.
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 / Limmar* Thief / Villain / Rogue.
Lollardry / Lollardy Mediaeval English movement for ecclesiastical reform.
Lubberdly Lazy / Idle.
Lyand Lay down.
Maison-dieu Hospital or foundation of charity.*
Man Servant / Vassal.*
Mannyr Till or cultivate.
Manrent A solemn oath to support another.
Manteined / Manteym* Maintained.
Markque (Letter of) Authorisation from a Regent for the holder to seek redress from any national of the country that did them wrong.
Mart An ox killed at Martinmas.*
Maugre Despite / Notwithstanding.
Mayling The action of leasing property.
Menschattis Fine flour rolls.
Mereburne A boundary stream.
Midden Dung / Rubbish heap.
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 / Nain* None.
Nativi Natives / Neyfs / Villains.*
Noutis Nuts / Pine Cones.*
Nutrix Wet nurse.
Obloquy Strong public condemnation.
Obtest To bear witness to.
O’er / Owr* Over.
Of-tuik Took off.*
Orison Plea / Prayer.
Pallium Robe appropriate to an Archbishop.*
Pasmentis Stripes sewed on.*
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.
Pot-valiant Courage due to drinking alcohol.
Propyn Something given as a gift.
Prorogat Extend / Lengthen.
Pryce Seizure. / Something seized.
Pwr / Puir Poor.*
Quaich Small drinking cup.*
Quhingear / Quhinzeir Short sword or dagger. From the Gaelic ‘Cuinnsear’. Sometimes ‘Whinger’.
Quhois / Quhais Whose.*
Quhyt / Queyt* White.
Quinzdor Gold piece.*
Quytclaim To Renounce a Claim.
Rae Roe deer.
Rancountred Engaged (in battle).
Resaitting Receiving / Accepting.
Resaue / Resauit Receive / Received.*
Restand Restituted / Restored.
Rockariss/Rokkaris Rockers [nannies] of royal infants.
Rubricate Add decorative initial to a manuscript.
Ryal A type of coin.
Saulis / Sawlys Souls.*
Scalinga A summer hut used by hill shepherds.
Scauts Little boats.*
Schath / Skaith Harm.*
Sederunt The sitting of an ecclestiastical assembly.
Sensyne Since then.*
Sessnatt Fine silk fabric.
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.)
Span Orkney measure of weight.*
Spoliated Plundered / robbed.
Stagnum A yare or wear in a river.
Staincros Stone cross.
Standande Stane Standing stone.
Steel-bow Tenure of land where the stock belongs to the landlord.*
Stirks Young oxen.*
Straik / Strayk Struck.*
Tain / Tayne Taken.*
Targe / Targatt Shield.
Teinds / Teynd* Rent from land that maintained the local clergy.
Therof / þerof Thereof.
Thesaur / Thesaurer Treasure / Treasurer.
Toucher / Tocher / Tochir* 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.
Umquhill / Vnquhill* Deceased.
Utwere Foreign war?
Veschell Vessel / utensil.
Viands Food / Edibles.
Vilepend Express contempt.
Violaris Viol players / instrumentalists.
Wadset Land held in pledge.*
Waiked / Waulked Thumped.
Waird Prison / Ward.*
Waxes Says a lot.
Weil / Weyll Well.*
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).
Wold / Wald Would.*
Wylie coat Vest.*
Ye / þe The.
Yklept / Yclept Previously named.
Zeir(e) / ʒeir(e) 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.