glossary of archaic Scots terms C


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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.



CADDIE, military cadet 

CADUCIAR, subject to, by means of

CAIBE, cabinet maker

CAIRD, tinker, pot-mender

CAIRT, cart, 1. ship's chart 2. Cart. Cairt gate; road used by carts

CAIRTER, carter

CALLAN, girl

CALSAY, causeway, street

CANDAVAIG, type of salmon 

CANDLEMAS, 2nd of February, a Scottish quarter day (with Lammas, Martinmas and Whitsunday). The days on which farm contracts, leases, rents began and ended.

CANNONAR, cannoneer

CANNY, canvas ; e.g., canny lynt, canny dammas.

CANOUS, grey-haired

CAPE, a privateer. Caping, capring, privateering

CAPELLANE, cheplaine, a chaplain

CAPER, bread or oatcake with butter and cheese 2. Pirate's vessel, privateer

CAPITANRY, captaincy

CAPPER, copper 

CAPTION, arrest. Captour; court-appointed individual to apprehend criminals

CARAGE, carraige, a form of servitude by which a tenant was bound to carry for the proprietor a stipulated quantity of coals, grain, etc., or to serve him with men and horses a certain number of days in the year.

CARDOW, work illegally in a  trade without being a freeman, cardower

CARDOWER, 1.illegal worker in trade 2. travelling tinker or tradesman 3. travelling tailor

CARECAKE, small cake eaten on Shrove Tuesday

CARE SONDAY, Passion Sunday

CARRY, weir

CARTOW, quarter cannon (cannonball weighing a quarter of a hundredweight)

CAST, repeal as illegal, cancel, annul

CASTELLAW, flour or cheese measure

CASTELLWARD, payment in lieu of the required feudal service of guarding a castle

CASTING UP THE HERETAGE, i.e. taking up peats on the estate  

CASUALTY, miscellaneous item of revenue due from a tenant under certain circumstances

CATERAN, an outlaw (Highlands) 2. Band of outlaws

CATHEAD, poor quality ironstone 

CAURIE, see cautioner  

CAUSEY PAIKER, prostitute

CAUS WIN AND LEAD AWAY, cause to dry and cast away ; to " win peats " is to dry them.

CAUTIONER, surety ; cautioner, caurie, suretyship.  

CAVEL, a division, share of property, assigned by lot

CEDENT, an individual who assigns property to another

CERTIORAT(E), certified

CESSIO BONORUM, legal process enabling a debtor to avoid prison by surrendering all his means, on the assumption that he was not guilty of fraud

CESSIONER, an individual who is in receipt of property that has been ceded by another

CHAKKERAW, the Exchequer Row ; and also a chequered cloth or chess board.

CHALDER, a measure of sixteen bolls.

CHALLENDER, maker of coverlets

CHALLOP, shallop, large boat

CHAMBER IRON CHIMNEY, an iron grate for a room.  

CHAMBERLAIN, chamerlane, 1. a principal officer of the Scottish Royal household 2. circuit court presided over by the chamberlain.

CHAMLET, light cloak, garment, dyced, camlet in squares, chequered.  

CHAMPART, the share of produce due under the feudal system

CHAPPIN, see Chopin

CHAPLAINRY, chaplaincy

CHAPTANE, captain

CHARGER, plaintiff

CHARPENTEIR, carpenter

CHARTER, a document of title, grant from the crown or superior, the conveyance of an estate.

CHARTEROUR, a Carthusian

CHAUMER, chalmirleir, chambermaid.  Chaumercheild, valet

CHECK WHEEL, a wheel for spinning lint, with a check inserted to stop the wheel when so much is spun.  

CHEIFFIS, chiefs

CHEKKER, chakker, official auditor appointed to hear court cases relating to royal revenues

CHESTON, chestnut 

CHETERY, land reverting to the feudal lord when the tenant died intestate (escheat)

CHILDER, 1. ordinary sailors, hands on ship 2. people in general

CHILDIR, cheldyr, children 

CHIMNEY CREWKES, hooks for hanging pots over the fire.

CHIMNEY GALLOWES, projecting beam on which to hang cooking vessels.

CHIMNEY RAXES, See s. Raxes.

CHIMNEY SPEEL, a spit for roasting.

CHIRURGEON, chirurgian, chirugenair, surgeon. From Greek, meaning a worker with the hand.

CHOPIN (chappin), quart measure.

CHOPIS BAK, back shops.  

CHRISTIN, Cristin, Christian. Chrissenmas, Christinmes, Christmas

CHYMNA, chimney.

CINQUEFOIL, a charge in heraldry, consisting of five leaves.  

CIRURGYEN, surgeon.

CISTEUS, a Cistercian

CITAT, cited

CITE, city. (pl. citeis)

CITINAR, pl. citinares, citizen(s)

CLAG  claim against property

CLAIS (clathis), clothes.

CLAMANT, demand for redress

CLAP DYKE, wall for drainage, usually turf or earth

CLARE CONSTAT, precept of, a writ granted by a subject superior for entering in a property an heir, whose right clearly appears (clare constat) from documents.

CLAYTH (claith, clath), cloth

CLEARANCES, The, practice of removing tenants from land, mainly to enlarge and improve farming efficiency (Highlands)

CLED, provided

CLEIT, small stone construction for drying peat (St Kilda)

CLEME, claim

CLEPE AND CALL, a court summons

CLERK OF THE BILLS, the official who takes charge of the bills of complaint presented to the court.

CLOUT, small piece of land

CLUB, apprentice (usually in shoemaking) who is not yet a freeman

COAD (cod), pillow or cushion; COADWAIR (codwair), pillow slip, cushion cover. Anglo‑Saxon, codd, a lag ; waer, protection.  

COAL (Coll) FAULD, coal yard. Coll bearer; female worker carrying the coal on her back from the coal face to the surface. Coll heuch, mine. Collever, coal-bearing horse

COBLE (cobel), e.g., of salmon, a small craft or fishing boat ; or of a kiln, a vessel for steeping malt. Coble and net, the symbols used in the transference of ownership of fishing rights. 2. a malt-steeping vat

COCKET (cocquet, coket, coquet), a certificate under the seal of the proper officer that the customs have been paid on goods exported from such and such a post. Clerk of cocquet, or coqueter, the officer granting the certificates.  

COFE, coffing, an exchange

COFT, bought ; cp, German, kaüfen, and Eng., coffer.

COGNITION, the magisterial act of recognizing an heir, as entitled to be seized in property. Thus to be "cognosced heir " is to be formally recognised as such.

COGSTER, flax dresser

COLLAR, haysheaf maker

COLLEP, a type of drinking vessel

COLLUM, ship

COMBURGES, co-burgess, fellow-burgess.

COMMISSARIOT, local registry far confirmation or probate of wills and for grants of administration, commissary, the officer making the confirmation or grant.

COMITE OF STATES, committee of estates.  

COMMIXTION, Mixing together of property of various owners, with varying effect on the owners' rights.

COMMODITIES, advantages, benefits stemming from the possession/use of property

COMPEAR, to appear, generally in a legal proceeding before the Court.

COMPOSITOR, componitour, compositioun, 1. arbitrator in legal disputes 2. sum paid in settlement 3. agreement for settlement

COMPROMIT, settlement or agreement

COMPRYSING, lit. comprehending, but legally a process similar to apprysing, q.v.

COMPT (accompt), account.

CONAND, covenant

CONDESCEND, to state the facts. Condescendance, a summary of the facts in a legal proceeding.

CONDUCE, employ, take on, hire

CONDUCK, conduct, water channel

CONFIRMATION OF A GRANT, Confirmation of a charter by an overlord or subject superior.

CONFIRMATION OF A WILL; see a. Commissariot.

CONJUNCT, joint ; e.g. conjunct feftment, fee shared in jointly, conjunct fiar, ownership of land by more than one person jointly.  2. Connected by blood

CONNEX, connexis, appurtenances, things connected with an estate ; cp. Annexis.

CONNOTAR, a public notary acting in tandem with another

CONQUEISH, conquess, consques, conquis, to conquer ; to acquire property by purchase, donation or exchange, as opposed to by inheritance.

CONQUEST, HEIR OF, an heir succeeding not by descent from the predecessor but by ascent, as representing an older line, e.g., when the second of three brothers or his heir dies, the youngest succeeded to the heretable but the eldest to the conquest property. The distinction between heritage and conquest was abolished in 1874.  

CONSANGUINEAN, A brother or sister who has the same father but not the same mother.

CONTORAR, Contrary.

CONTRACTED, betrothed, and in Scotland legally equivalent to marriage; consent being legally enough, and the public ceremony of marriage being introduced in order to make so important a contract known, though not essential to it ; see Stair.  

COOKIE, prostitute

COP, cup used as liquor or grain measure

COPER GUIS PAN, copper pan for cooking geese.

CORDINER, cordwainer, shoemaker.

CORNEL, crownell, crowner, colonel

CORONELL, coroner

CORONICLES (cornicles, corniclis), chronicles.  

CORSHOUS, building standing crossways to the others

COSE, cosse, an exchange, usually of lands.

COSNANT, wages without board

COST SIDE, (sea) coast

COT, coat.  

COTHOUSE, cottage, labourer's house

COTTAR, cottrall, cotter, tenant occupying farm cottage, sometimes with a small plot of land, in return for labouring on the farm  Cottar land, land attachd to a cottage

COUNCILLOR, counsellor, town councillor, or some­times advocate.


COUP, 1. basked used to catch salmon 2. enclosed cart used to carry manure, or earth 3. cup

COUPER, herring dealer. Couper-boit, a herring dealer's boat

COURS (linen), coarse.  

COURT PLAINT, the feudal privilege of dealing with complaintes made to a court of justice.

COURTEN ROADS, curtain-rods.  

COURTESY, liferent, entitlement to income from the heritage of a deceased

COWCLINK, prostitute

CRANCA, (possibly also) crance, a garland; also a stuff made of hair.

CRANIS, cran, a crane of herrings is a barrelful of unsalted herrings.

CRANNOG, ancient lake dwelling

CREAR, small merchant vessel

CREEL, wicker basket for fish.

CREEP (a hood of), crape, crèpe.

CREVE, petition for one's right

CRIMPSON, crimson

CRO, financial compensation, recompense for a killing that has taken place

CROFT, a small piece of land adjoining a house ; cp. Crofter.


CROWDIE-MOWDIE, oatmeal and water eaten uncooked

CROWNES OF THE SUN (sone). French coins, so-called from the mint mark ; value about fourteen shillings.  

CRUE, croy, hovel

CRUK, circle, hook.

CRUKIT HAUCHE, winding low ground beside a river.

CRUMMOCK, type of edible tuber or skirret, a rootplant

CRYIT FAIR, fair with advance public proclamation

CUCH BED, a couch bed.

CUIK, cuke, cook

CULLOUR, colour


CULVERING, 1. handgun 2. Large cannon

CUMMER, kimmer, witch

CUMPTOUR, A counter, accountant.

CUNIGAR, cuningar, rabbit warren

CUNNAR, cunstar, ale taster

CUNTRA (cuntray, cuntre), country (pl. cuntris)

CUNYIE, corner plot of land

CUNZEHOUS, the mint ; cunzeour, master of the mint.

CURATOR, curat, guardian of an infant between fourteen and twenty-one years of age, as opposed to tutor, guardian of a child under fourteen.

CURATOR AD LITEM, guardian of a minor in a suit or of a wife in a process v. her husband.

CURRACH, coracle

CURROUR, Forest warden

CUSSING, cousin.

CUSTOMAR, collector of customs dues.

CUTHILL, a wood

CUTTER, someone who cuts down trees for wood without permission



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 ideas, additions and corrections. Thanks!





Of Bruces left side shall spring out a leif

As neere as the ninth degree,

And shall be flemed of faire Scotland,

In France farre beyond the see,

And then shall come againe riding,

With eyes that many may see;

At Aberladie he shall light,

With hempen holters and hors of tre.


How euer it happen for to fall,

The Lyon shal be Lord of all;

The French wife shal beare the Sonne,

And from the Bruces blood shall come

As neere as the ninth degree.


Included in Lord Hailes' 'Remarks on the history of Scotland (1773), said to have been composed just after the Battle of Flodden, announcing the arrival of the Duke of Albany from whom as Regent great things were hoped, albeit in vain.


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