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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1937 (DOST Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Bill, Byll, n.1 Also: bil, bille, bile; byl, bylle, byle. [ME. bille, bylle (Chaucer, etc.), AFr. bille, Anglo-L. billa, app. an alteration of L. bulla Bull n.]

1. A written document; a letter; a statement in writing. a1400 Leg. S. xxiv. 343.
He … wrat quhou he had left his wyf, … & plyit that bil, ore he wald leef
c1420 Wynt. iv. 911.
The Amerale swne land hes tane And saw this bill wpon the stane
c1450-2 Howlat 536.
For it bled he his blud, as the bill brevit
a1500 Henr. Fab. 835.
Withe horne in hand, ane bill in breist he bure
Id. III. 114/14.
A bil he bure apone his brest abone
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlii. 42.
Gud Houp rownit in my eir, And bad me baldlie breve a bill
1535 Stewart 50662.
Gif ony bill come to the bordour syde … thair mynd to him to schaw
Ib. 50667.
All thair names writtin in ane bill
c1536 Lynd. Compl. Bagsche 105.
Considder well this bill And reid this cedull that I send ȝow
1548 Treas. Acc. IX. 253.
To Alexander Ros, direct witht billis to all the gentillmen of Louthiane desyring thame [etc.]
1567 G. Ball. 61.
Thow lytill bill, thy wayis thow wend, And schaw my mynde
1567 Sat. P. iii. 230.
With that he rais and reikit me this bill
a1578 Pitsc. I. 256/22.
He wrait hame ane schirpe bill to the king

b. A scroll containing writing. c1450-2 Howlat 401.
On ilk beugh … Writtin in a bill was ‘O Dowglas, O Dowglas’
1540 Treas. Acc. VII. 293.
For brodering of ane comparisoun of his graces, with billis of silver rynnand aboute it
1565 Reg. Privy C. I. 413.
Ane bill about the tre [and] writtin thairin ‘Dat gloria vires’

2. Const. of the matter contained in the document. c1460 Thewis Gud Women 76.
Na bill of amouris to resaif
1458 Peebles B. Rec. 129.
Thar com in Andro Robenson with a byl [of] complant on his eldmoder
1473 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 26.
[The] maisteris of the said craft presentit vnto ws ane bill of supplicatioun desyreand [etc.]
1492 Myll Spect. 297/12.
Quharfor I was put out of hir [= Venus's] byll of hushald
1524 Douglas Corr. 95.
Pleise to vyt I haif rasavit … the copy of ane byll of tythandis
1528–9 Acta Conc. MS. XXXIX. 59.
The bill of compt gevin in be him
1560 Rolland Seven S. 219/14.
Ane bill of lufe to him scho leit doun fall

3. In special senses: a. A formal document, esp. a contract, decision, order, or enactment. 1429 Reg. Episc. Brechin I. 42.
In witnes heireof I offyr, in name of possessioun, a certane sowme of syluir and this byl
1439 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV. 190.
Al thir materis … sale be endyt betwex the day of this byle makkyne and Yole nexte folowande
1474 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 28.
The quhilk bill and ordinance beand red afoir ws, … we … confirmes the said bill in all pointis
a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 332.
Than Cynthia … red ane bill … Contening this sentence diffinityue
1494 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 213.
Anent the terme assignit be a bill to the … communite of Aberdene to produce and schew sic richtis [etc.]
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 347.
Quhen my billis … wes all braid selit
1554–5 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 297.
Gevin to James Harlaw for wrytting of ane bill and ane lettre upon it

b. A document containing a petition, claim, charge, or complaint. 1474 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 27.
The quhilk bill beand red … , [we] thocht and fand the saidis desyres wer resonabill
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lx. 2.
Complane I wald, wist I quhome till, Or wnto quhome direct my bill
1530 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 22.
The … communitie of the bonetmakaris … presentit befor ws thair bill and supplicatioun desyring [etc.]
1545 Ib. 116.
And the compleiner be nocht reddy and gif in his bill at that hour, he sall nocht be hard for that day
1563–4 Prestwick B. Rec. 68.
The byll beand red, the said Adame allegeyt at he acht nocht to ansuar
1569 Sat. P. x. 367.
Maist diligent he wes … to heir the pure manis bill, And gif answer according to Gods will
1581 Reg. Morton I. 127.
Giff we had bene present … quhen your bill was red, we sould have insistit [etc.]
1622-6 Bisset I. 127/13.
Ane summonis … without ony bill or suplicatioun maid or gevin to … the lordis
1641 S. Leith Rec. 36.
That no delincquends should be hard before the Sessione but be their bill made be the clark of sessione heir
1664 Forbes Baron Ct. 252.
James Fergus and Thomas McKillive … did giv ane bill … againest ane other for stricking and wounding

c. An account of charges. 1474 Treas. Acc. I. 24.
Gevin to a tailȝour … for certane lynyng, making, and vthir werkmanschip wrocht be him as his byll beris
1488 Ib. 100.
Item, his awin exspencis, his chelde and his hors … lyke as his bil beyris

4. In bill, in a written document, in writing. c1420 Wynt. iv. 870.
In bille He wrate his consale and his wille
Ib. vii. 709.
Rychtys, essys, and fredwmys, In byll titlyd
1496 Acta Conc. II. 34.
Gif it plesis the sade Erle to haf ony witnes in bill to breif that Schir Henry Allane … gaif his consent
1498 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 427.
To name and pray for the saulis gevin him in bile, as vys and wont is
1521 Fife Sheriff Ct. 278.
Sa mony … as the said Alexander … gevis thar names to ȝou in bill, that thai sal compeire before our Iustice
1531 Bell. Boece II. 438.
King David … commandit all thaim that did ony honest vassalage … to be gevin to him in bil
1544 Lennox Mun. 245.
All wtheris his compleces quhoies name sal be gevin in bill, to compeir befoir ws
1570 Sat. P. xxi. 9.
Bot, breifly for to breif in bill, Thay seme to me ouerluikit
1576 Compl. Zetl. 29.
Witnesis quhais names salbe gevin in bill

5. To burn one's bill, in sign of recantation. a1508 Kennedy Flyting 332.
Renounce thy rymis, baith ban and birn thy bill
1558-66 Knox I. 44.
So, after diverse purposes, thei commanded him to burne his bill
Ib. 58.
Of whome some … abjured and publictlie brynt thare byllis

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"Bill n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 28 Jan 2023 <>



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