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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).

Maistres, Maystres, Mastres, Mestres, n. Also: -ess(e, -ace, -ece, -is, maister-, master-, maesteres, maisters; and Mistres. [ME. and e.m.E. maistresse (? a 1300), maistiresse, mastiresse (14th c.), mestresse (1471), OF. maistresse f. maistre Maister n.1]

1. A woman who wields authority or dominion; a person's female sovereign or ruler, a princess; the mistress or possessor of an estate. Also transf. and fig.(1) c1450-2 Howlat 32.
Thir sauorus seidis War nurist be dame Natur, that noble mastres
Ib. 276.
Natur, thar alleris mastris
1461 Liber Plusc. I. 383.
Heil neuir this erde … Quhill we haue murnyt the dull of our mastres
a1500 Henr. Orph. 44.
Caliope … of all musik mastres
1513 Doug. vi. ii. 83.
Our hir hallowit schaw, Proserpyn maid thé patron and mastres
1545–6 Corr. M. Lorraine 158.
That … your grace will be his gracios pryncis and gud mastres
1547 Ib. 181.
Praying God to conserff our masteres and your grace
1558 Rec. Earld. Orkney 109.
Shiref … to our grece masteres the Quenis grace
(b) 1513 Doug. i. vi. 44.
Maistres of woddis, beis to ws happy and kynd
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 864.
Of this … place Ane lustie ladie wes maistres Quhais lord was deid schort tyme befoir
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus ii. 509.
Maistres to thame all
1563 Reg. Privy C. I. 244.
The Quenis majestie, my maisters
a1570-86 Maitl. F. xvi. 55.
O michtie prince and spous to our maistres
1576 Crim. Trials I. ii. 57.
That was the Quene of Elfame his maistres
a1578 Pitsc. II. 159/12.
They wald serue hir as thair quene and maistris
1596 Dalr. I. 62/22.(c) c1610 Melville Mem. 126.
What the Quen my mestres thocht of him
(2) transf. 1375 Barb. i. 550, 1456 Hay I. 21/22 [see Lady n. 2 (3)]. 1513 Doug. i. i. 30.
This goddes ettillit … This realme to be superior and mastres To all landis
1533 Boece vii. iii. 224 b.
Rome (sum tyme maistres and souerane of all naciouns)
(3) fig. a1500 Colk. Sow Proh. 12.
Quhair melody is the mirthfull maistrace
Ib. i. 32.
Quhair mesur is nocht maistres
c1490 Porteous Noblenes 99 (Ch. & M.).
Thay sulde weil adoure thé [Perseverance] as lady maistres [Asl. mastres] patrone
1560 Acts II. 531/2.
The trew kirk … obeyis the voce of hir awin spouse … bot takis not vpon hir to be maistres ouer the samin
(4) a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 1012.
To Goddis moder mastres of mercye
1490 Irland Mir. I. 112/18.
For sche was queyne and mastres of all wertuis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxxvii. 13. a1585 Maitl. Q. lxv. 78.
That wofull maistres of mischeif
(5) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 448.
Rowme … thu Wes mastres of errour
Ib. xxxvi. 612.
Sancte Johnne the scole of uertuise wes & of clene lif the maistres
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1605 (Bass.).
Fals fortoun, quhilk of all variance Is haill maistres
1535 Stewart 36547. 1596 Dalr. I. 68/16.
To decore … historie quha is … the maistres of lyfe, the lychte of the truthe, with mistie fables
a1651 Calderwood IV. 406.

b. Maistres nurice, a title (? on the analogy of Maister n.1 13 a) given to the nurse of the child James VI, and later (quot. 1598) to the nurse of his children: but cf. 4. c. Maistres sewstar (= sempstress): cf. also Maister n.1 13 a and 15.b. 1566 Fleming Q. Mary 499.
To be schetis to the Ladie Reris and the maistres nureis
1567 Mar & Kellie MSS. 18.
Helene Litill, maisteres nutrix
1571–2 Crail B. Ct. 5 Feb.
Helene Litill … maistris nowris to the Kyngis maiestie
1590–1 Exch. R. XXII. 138.
To Elene Litill, maistres nurice … 60 caponis
1598 Treas. Acc. MS. 110 b.
F.or ane chayare to the maistres nureis
c. 1597 Treas. Acc. MS. 38 b.
Grissell Hammilton maistres sewstar

2. The female head of a household or family. 1584–5 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 400.
The maister or maistres of euery howse
1609 S. Leith Kirk S. 7.
The masters or mastresses of the families

3. A servant's mistress or employer. 15.. Clar. iii. 799.
My dochter … I wald wisch yow unto sum gud maistres
Ib. 966. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 1847.
Thair awin maistres thay chancit for to meit
Ib. 3518.
Cleker of cair … Greit maistres to Mahoun
1565 Edinb. B. Deeds 183.
The said Alexander salbe ane gude seruand and prenteis to his saidis maister and maistrace
1603 Dundonald Par. Rec. 30.
Bessie Lin … beand ane widow and his maistres

4. A woman (or a female personification) who has the care or tutelage of another as guardian, governess, nurse or teacher.Also lady maistres, Lady n. 4 (4). a1400 Leg. S. xviii. 745.
Sa that thu myn mastres be & ledar in wa of sawete
c1460 Thewis Gud Women 205.
Weil mar suld madenis ȝhinge Be stratly kepit … In teching with a gud maistres Quhilk knawis gud thewis
1490 Irland Mir. fol. 312 b.
His saule that was be ressoune souerane lady mastres and gouernour of him
1517–8 Treas. Acc. V. 146.
To the Kingis mastres Elizabeth Douglas
1529 Lynd. Complaynt 83.
I tak the Quenis grace, thy mother, … Thy nowreis and thy auld maistres [etc.]
1530 Id. Test. Pap. 968.
Ydelnes To Lychorie was mother and maistres
a1538 Abell 121 b.
Our maistrace the Kirk of Rome
1541 Treas. Acc. VII. 463.
To the auld maistres, xx li.
1587-99 Hume 71/104.
The maistres sharpe of fuiles, Experience

5. A woman who has the control or management of property etc. b. fig. 1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 123.
It is na lytill honour to be mistres of ȝour gudis
b. a1568 Bann. MS. 228 b/21.
Sen of my hairt ȝe ar the cheif maistrec[e]
c1590 Fowler I. 166/4.
O Neptune … Protect from rocks the maistres of my mynde

6. A lover's (female) beloved, a lady-love. a1568 Scott xiii. 13.
Sum luffaris wantis … For falt of speich the lufe of his maistres
a1568 Bann. MS. 224 b/5.
I will go mene ȝit on to my maistrece [: cace, allace]
a1585 Maitl. Q. lxv. 56.
Fairweill my maistres Margareit

7. One's wife. 1637 Baillie I. ii.
Remembring my service and my mastres to yow and your mastres

8. Used vocatively. a. As a term of polite address to a woman. a1500 Henr. Fab. 1006 (Bass.).
Thay … fand the meir … ; ‘Maistres’, quod he, [etc.]
1560 Rolland Seven S. Prol. 100.
[To the poet's aunt:] Thairfoir maistres I mon hald ȝow excusit
1607 Maxwell Mem. II. 191.
(Katherine Hamilton, wife of Captain Bruce)

b. In sense 6. 1540 Lynd. Sat. Proclam. 152.
My fair maistres, sweitar than the lammer
1549 Compl. 65/3.
[Song:] Mastres fayr, ȝe vil forfayr
a1568 Bann. MS. 220 b/10.
O maistres myn
c1590 Fowler I. 312/18. c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxii. 10.
Quhairby I hoip, mestres, … For sic revard

9. A style applied to the wife or widow of a male heir-apparent of an earldom or lordship.The female correlative of Maister n.1 20. Also ȝong maistres as the style of the wife of the heir-apparent's eldest son. 1549 Treas. Acc. IX. 307.
To ane barboure that mendit the ȝong maistres of Sympillis cheik
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun 39.
[In 1559] to Helynor maistres of Symmervale thre hundreth merkis
1574 Edinb. Test. III. 57 b.
Lady Dame Jane Hay maistres of Arrole
1590 Cal. Sc. P. X. 271.
His sister the mestres of Levistoun
1597 Gray Lett. & P. App. xiv. 1603 (1610) Reg. Great S. 104/1.

10. Prefixed a. to the surname, or Christian name, of a married woman, b. to the Christian name of an unmarried gentlewoman.In both uses perh. chiefly after Eng. usage.a. (1) 1505–6 Treas. Acc. III. iii.
For ij elne holland claith to Maistres Francis [sc. wife of John Francis, an English merchant]
c1500-c1512 Dunb. liii. 30 (M).
Than cam in Maesteres Mwsgraeffe
1511 Treas. Acc. IV. 230.
Mastres Musgray
1618 Stirling B. Rec. I. 149.
Quhilk he ressavit fra Maistres Murray for … the pure
(2) 1568 Lyndesay Pref.
The lyke jugement sufferit Maistres An Askew [a martyr]
b. 1635 Echt-Forbes Chart. 135.
The saidis Arthour Forbes … and Maistres Anna Forbes … sall Godwilling marie
1641 Acts V. (1817) 625/1.
The said Maistres Anna Gray onlie dochter … to the said Andro Lord Gray

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"Maistres n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Aug 2022 <>



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