glossary of archaic Scots terms B


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Scotland - a glossary of archaic terms, as well as a number of Modern Scots words and phrases, useful for genealogical research. Legal terms, words linked to property and possessions, found in wills and testaments.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.


BACKMAN, supporter in time of war

BACK UP,  endorse

BACKSEATS of land, backsets, subleases.

BAGINET (beginet), bayonet.

BAICK BREAD (balk breddis), kneading trough or baking board.

BAILIE (baillie, bailzie), magistrate in a burgh or in a barony, officer employed to give seisin or formal possession of land. Bail(i)ery, the bailie's area of jurisdiction

BAILIE-COURT, a court presided over by a bailie as magistrate.

BAIRN, barne, 1. young person, youth (as opposed to contemporary use, child or infant) 2. Schoolboy or chorister

BAIRNTIME, bairnteme, offspring, brood of children (also of animals)

BAITH, baitht, bath, batht, bayth, both

BAIT WRICHT, shipwright, boat-builder

BAJAN, first year university student

BALLANCE, flat dish, plate 

BALLANDIS (for maddir), balances or scales for madder, a kind of dye stuff or (believed to be) a measure.

BALULALOW, lullaby.

BAND, bond, contract.

BANDIS, marriage banns

BANERMAN, bannerman, bennerman, bearer of army standard

BANIS, baneis, banish. Banisment, baneisment; banishment

BANKET, banquet 

BANNES, banish ;  bannest,  banished

BAPTIST, christened, named

BAREMAN, a bankrupt individual, person in debt

BARGAIN, bergan, dispute

BARON BAILLIE, baron's deputy

BARON COURT, within a barony, a tribunal presided over by the baron or his deputy (baillie)

BARONY free, an estate holding of the crown, and erected by crown charter into a barony, with power to hold courts, inflict penalties, etc.; see s. Regality, Sheriffdom.  

BARRIKIN, small barrel

BASAR, executioner

BASSING AND LAWAR, bason and laver (washing-jug)

BASTION, burdoun, cudgel.

BATAILZE, brattle, battle

BATEL, battel, battle pl. battelis

BATHE AS ANE AND ANE AS BATHE, jointly and equally

BATOUN, baton

BATTARD, small cannon

BAUCHILL, to denounce/disgrace publicly

BAUDKIN, bakin, acloth, richly embroidered

BAXTER, baker. Baxtarie, baxtrey; the craft of baking

BAYRN, pl. bayrns, or barne, pl. bairnis, child (children) 

BAYTHT, both

BE, (prep.) by

BEAND, being.  

BEAR, bere, barley. Bear-sawing, bear-seed; 1. Seed barley 2. Barley sowing season

BEARER, coal carrier, often a girl or woman, who carried the coal in baskets from the face to the shaft

BEDDAL, peddel, 1. church (kirk) officer 2. University officer

BEDHOUS, BEDE HOUS, hospital or almshouse

BEE-SCAIFS (or bee-skeps), bee-hives.

BEET, flax, bundle of

BEETYACH, bittoch, bittock, small sword or dagger, knife

BEIR, bear, i.e. barley.

BEITTING, building.  

BEKEN, admit as possessor

BELL PENNY, money saved for funeral costs

BENIS, beans.

BENT SILVER, financial contribution from children at school to pay for 'bent grass' to cover the floor

BEREANS, Protestant sect

BERE FRA, to dispossess someone of land or property

BERIS, place of burial

BERN, pl. bernis, barn

BERS, barse, bas, very small cannon

BESCHOP, bishop

BEST AUCHT, the most valuable possession (animal, article) that may be claimed by a superior on the death of his tenant

BETUIX, between

BEUK, buik, pl. beukis, book(s)

BIBIL, bible

BIG, build bigget, built

BIGGEN, with child

BIGGING (biggin), building.

BILGET, billiet, military order in document form

BILL CHAMBER, court presided over by judges of Session

BIND, bin standard barrel measure for packing goods

BING, funeral pile

BIRD ALANE, only child 

BIRLAW COURT, local court for lesser disputes. Birlaw man, person elected to the function of judge in such a court

BIRLIN, birling lagr rowing boat, or a galley, from the West Highlands

BIRL QUHEIL, spinning wheel

BIRNING, punishment by branding

BIRNY, byrne, coat of mail

BIRTH, crop, produce

BIRTHFUL, berthy, birthy, fertile, usually with reference to animals

BLAC, black

BLACK HOUS, thatched Highland hut of stone and turf, central fireplace on earthen floor

BLACK WARD, holding in ward by a subvassal of a different vassal who himself is held in ward of his superior

BLANTER, oat-based food (eg. porridge or bread)

BLASON, King's messenger's badge of authority

BLEEZE SILVER, gift of money to schoolteacher at Candlemas

BLENCH FERME (also blench-duty), mode of land-tenure, a nominal or peppercorn rent ; cp. Blanch rent, or Free blench. Blench holding, the holding of land under this system of tenure

BLEW, blue.

BLOKIT, sex ellis of lange, bargained for ; cp. Blok, a bargain.  

BLUDE ROLL, list of those accused of bloodshed. Bludewite, bludeweck;  guilty of or liable to such a charge

BLUE, a spirit, usually whisky

BLUE BLANKET, Edinburgh craftsmen's guild banner

BOCHT, bought.

BODAY, a scarlet dye 

BODDOCH, (contemp. mutchkin); liquid measure equivalent to three-quarters of a pint

BODILY, personal (e.g., bodily oath, great bodily oath), solemn oath personally given.

BODOM, bottom.

BOID, bid.  

BOIRDOURS, bordours, borders

BOLL, the heaped measure of that name, most commonly equivalent to six bushels, e.g., boll's oatmeal (measures of oatmeal), bear meal (barley meal), victual (grain generally). Also a valuation of land according to the quantity of bolls it produced

BONDAGE, binage, bonnage, service owed and performed by a farmworker for the farmer

BOND OF PROVISION, bond by a father, providing for his children.

BOND OF TAILLIE, entail.  

BONDELSOURE, bonelesew, pasturage linked to bond service

BONE WARK, bonday wark, service, unremunerated work as part of tenant service, bone/bonday plewis, unpaid ploughing as part of tenant service, bone/bonday silver money paid in lieu of service

BONNET, bannet, protective metal helmet

BONNET LAIRD, small farmer tending and owning his land

BOOKING, tenure of, system of land tenure in Paisley burgh necessitating an entry on the burgh register

BOOKS OF DISCIPLINE, Two volumes containing the laws of the Reformed Church, adopted 1560 and 1581. Also referred to education.

BORDER WARRANT, a warrant for the seizure of the effects and person of a man in England for debts owed in Scotland. 

BOREAUS, borreaus, executioners, hangmen (M.Sc. burriours)

BORDEL, brothe. Bordeler; brothel-keeper (occasionally, a frequenter of brothels)

BOREING, borrowing.

BOROW, borrow, stand surety on behalf of (bail). borch, broch, borowis; bail, surety

BOS, leather wine container

BOT (butt), without.

BOTE, wine cask

BOTHYN, a lordship or occasionally a sheriffdom

BOTISMAN, boitisman, boitman, botman, boatman

BOUND COURT, district tribunal

BOUNTY, extra sum paid to fishermen at end of season's fishing, over and above that received for fish caught

BOUTHOUS, mill building for the sifting (bolting) of the flour

BOW, 1. herd of cattle, cattle-stock, (usually cows) 2. Sealed church missive

BOW HOUS(E), cow shed

BOX MASTER, treasurer, keeper of the cashbox.

BOX PENNY, market duty

BOYART, single masted small vessel

BOYIS, leg-irons

BRABONER, weaver

BRAE, salmon trap

BRAIG, large knife

BRANKS, iron bridle/gag, for the public punishment of the likes of abusive language

BRED, measurement unit for skins

BREEK BROTHER, rival in love

BREVE (brief), a writ from chancery authorizing an inquest or service. Breve, brief of inquest: writ directing the sheriff (or bailies in a burgh) to try the validity of a claimant's title. Breve, brief of mortancestry: writ directing an inquest into a claim that the plaintiff is entitled to property/land formerly possessed by an ancestor and now wrongfully held by another

BREW TALLOUN, duty paid for brewing rights

BRIDLE SILVER, tip given to sevant for leading horse

BRIEVE BAUCK, a ridge of land left unploughed

BRIGANTINE, form of armour

BRIM, stream, burn

BROD, brood, brude, yound child, often the youngest in a family

BRODER (brodir, broder, broyr, brudir, brethyr, bredther, brither), brother.  ep. Fayr, Moyr, Modir

BRODER BARN, brother's offspring Broderdochter, brother's daughter; broderson, brother's son

BRODMAL, brood 


BROKEN, without a feudal chief, outlawed

BROKIN ship-wrecked, or stranded

BROWD, embroider, browstar, browdinstare, browdstare; embroiderer

BRUGHT, burgh.  

BRUSERY, embroidery. Brusoure; embroiderer

BUGGIS, lamb's wool.

BUIRDE, board.  

BUIT, compensation payment

BUITIS, torture instrument

BULGIT, a bag, budget. Fr. Boulgette.

BULLAX, type of axe

BULL'S HEAD, symbol of the death penalty, indicating imminent execution

BUN, small barrel

BUNSUCKEN,  bound in service to a certain mill (thirled)

BUR ("a toddis heid and bur"), brush (?).  

BURCHT, burght, burgh

BURD CLOTH, A, table cloth.  

BURDINER, guarantor assuming financial responsibility for another

BURDING, burden.

BURGAGE, burgh law. 2. form of tenure under which land in a royal burgh is held by the king (or the land itself)

BURGESS AIR, the heir of a burgess.

BURGESS TICKET, the document conferring the freedom of a burgh.

BURGH COURT, town/burgh tribunal

BURGH LAW, town law, based on the ealy 15th c. 'Leges Quatuor Burgorum'

BURGH RUDIS, land under cultivation belonging to the town

BURNIS, (A.S. burne), brooks, streams

BURNLEDER, burnman, water-carrier

BUROUSTOUNIS, burroustounis, borough-towns

BURRYMAN, scapegoat for all the ills befalling a community

BUSH, vessel used to carry cargo, or occasionally for fishing

BUTTERMAN, trader in butter 

BY, apart from, e.g., "be and by the law," according to and apart from the law.

BYGOTTIN, illegitimate

BYRONIS, arrears.



This glossary is under constant revision. We welcome all contributions of archaic terms linked to Scotland, that may be helpful in genealogical research. Please complete the SUGGESTIONS form with your thoughts, additions and corrections.


One of the earliest myths of British history, there were two distinct versions of the legend of Brutus, the older one being found in Nennius, received at an early period by the Scottish and Irish Celts. It is recounted in the opening stanzas of the 'Duan Albanach', which was sung or recited at the coronation of Scottish kings through to Alexander II. It tells of how Brutus and Albanus, the two sons of Isacon (Ascanius), first conquered the island dividing it up between them, naming their respective lands 'Briutain' and 'Alban'. The following version is dated ca. 1070....

A eolchan uile,

A shluagh feuta foltbhuidhe,

Cia ceud ghabhail, an eol diubh,

Ro ghabhasdair Albanbruigh.


Albanus ro ghabh, lia a shlogh

Mac sen oirderc Isicon,

Bathair is Briutus gan brath,

O raitear Alba eathrach.


Ro connarb a brathair bras,

Briotus tar muir n-Icht n-amhnas,

Ro Gabh Briutus Albain Ain,

Go rinn fhiadhnach Fotudain.

O all ye learned of Alban (Scotia)

Ye well-skilled host of yellow hair,

What was the first invasion - is it known to you?

Which took the land of Alban?


Albanus possessed it, numerous his hosts,

He was the illustriuous son of Isacon,

He and Briutus were brothers without deceit,

From him Alban of ships has its name.


Briutus banished his active brother

Across the stormy sea of Icht,

Briutus possessed the noble Alban,

As far as the conspicuous promontory of Fotudain



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