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

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First published 1986 (DOST Vol. VI).

Principal(l, -ale, adj. and adv. Also: princy-, princie-, prince-, prynci-, pryncy-, prynce-, prinsi-, prynsi-, prynse-, and -palle, -pail(l, -pell, -pill; and prynsabyll, prinspail; Prinsuall. [ME and e.m.E. principal(e (c 1290), princy-, prynci-, prynsipall(e (1448), F. principal (11th c. in Hatz.-Darm.), L. principāl-is.]

1. Of persons. a. Chief above all others, foremost; that is the head of all the rest. 1397 Douglas Chart. 39.
I wil at he be … principale foluar of al dettys to me aucht
1456 Hay I 66/7.
Quhen the principale lord and prince cummys, all jurisdictioun of jugis subordynate cessis
Ib. 210/27.
In all governaunce … we se a hede and principale governour
Ib. 6/33. 1490 Irland Mir. MS fol. 236 a.
For Jhesus is gud that is the principale gevare & minister of the sacramentis
? 15.. Dunb. To London 54. 1513 Doug. ii Prol. 5.
Bot sen I follow the poete principall
Ib. i Prol. 339. 1518 Bentinck Dornoch 98.
That they may tyne att our handis as principaill superior to thame
1530–1 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 111.
That Alane persewe the prynsabyll maister that poundit the ground
1543–4 Corr. M. Lorraine 67.
That I am the principell man that causis division and braik be in this realme
1545 Ib. 132.
Your graice is prinsipall mediatrix to lawbour concord
1546–7 Stirling B. Rec. I 46.
Johne Smyth, principale fermorair of the Larde of Caldouris heucht
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1969. Ib. 5651. a1568 Bann. MS I p. 6/12.
Thow art till Him most deir, Most pretius and principale but peir
1570-3 Bann. Trans. 34.
As the principall persuader of him to that rebellione
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 272. 1580 Fam. Innes 139.
1590 Cal. Sc. P. X 411.
All the answerris from the prynsipall parsones to whom we war derected to my lord ambassadore
1603 Shetland Sheriff Ct. (ed.) 99.
The said sax merk land of Gruting wes thair heid bule, and thairfoir could nocht be … disponit fra the principall air
1630 Rutherford Christ & Doves 16.
And he as principal-contractor binds for us, and we are his assigneys
c1679 Kirkton Hist. 363.
Because it makes every man who shall either harbour, entertain, or converse with the persone intercommuned, equally guilty with the principal criminal

b. That is among the leaders or the most notable of the sort of persons designated by the noun or noun phrase. 1492–3 Acta Conc. I 273/2.
& principale doaris thairof
1512 Reg. Privy S. I 375/2.
Ane of the principale committaris of the slauchter
1531 Bell. Boece I lx.
Afore thay dayis the principall men of Scotland vnder the king war callit thanis
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 242.
1558 Admir. Ct. Bk. (St. S.) 76.
And als as unrelevand nocht qualifiand that the pretendit noumer of Scottismen was principale salaris as capitane [etc.]
1558–9 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I lxiii.
Sum principall landit man of his lordschips kyn
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 47.
And wes ane of the principal instrumentis that nurissit dissensioun betuix hir and the king
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 127.
Thaj … confest that thaj … wer the principall slayeris of him
1576 Reg. Privy C. II 542.
Be avise of the rector, dene of facultie and principall maisteris of the said Universitie
a1578 Pitsc. I 122/9.
And leift be money of his principall freindis
Ib. 49/18, 299/25, etc. 1596 Dalr. I 116/12.
The place of the principal citizens in the toune
1673 Argyll Justic. Rec. I 29.
Be the foresaids principall theives

c. With the designations of various royal and other officers and functionaries in one or other of the prec. applications.Principall provest, applied in 1514–15 to the lord provost of Edinburgh, sc. Lord Home, in distinction to the officer who presided over the council in the provost's absence, known as the president (President n. 2).(1) 1477 Aberd. B. Rec. I 36.
That Alexander … be continevit vpper and principale maister of wark
1524 Reg. Privy S. I 494/2.
Makand him ane of the merschellis principale in the Kingis hall
1524 Holyrood Chart. 257.
Maister Dauid Vocat principale maister … of our grammar scule
1532 Exch. R. XVI 152.
[To be] principale maister maker and meltar of our gunnis and artilȝerie
1542–3 Reg. Privy S. III 9/1.
Principal lavendar
1545 Soc. Ant. II 395.
Be the principal clenger
1563 Glasg. Univ. Mun. I 69.
Maister Johne Dauidsone principall regent of the Pedagog of Glasgw
a1578 Pitsc. I 265/28.
The captans heirof was the Earle of Surrayis princiepall lwtennant to the kingis maiestie [etc.]
1579 Acts III 182/1. 1585 Edinb. Univ. Chart. 96. 1589 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III 188.
Principall mair of fee of heretage of the haill schirefdome of Aberdeine
c1650 Spalding II 4.
His livetennant … wes principall commander
1652 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. III 75.
Mr. Johne Campbell prinll. shreff. clerk
1676 Lauder Jrnl. 225.
Appointing their should be only 3 principall clerks of session
(2) 1514 (c 1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 146.
My lord principale provest hes interponit his ordinar jurisdictioun … chargeand his president and baillies that [etc.]
Ib. 153.
My lord principale prouest president baillies and counsall ordanis [etc.]
The principall provest baillies and counsall hes decernit [etc.]

d. Following the designations of certain officers or functionaries, denoting the principal officer in contradistinction to his deputes or subordinates.For further examples see the various nouns. 1501 Treas. Acc. II 130.
[To] Maister Richard Lauson, executour principale to umquhile [Thoma]s Cant
1516 Ib. V 82.
To the shereff and crounar principale of Forfar
1524 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 389.
Alexander Senȝour seriand and mayr principall of the schir of Rane
1528–9 Reg. Privy S. I 594/1. 1539 Crim. Trials I i 221.
Because our scheref of Air principale is frend to the manne that is slayne
1542–3 Reg. Privy S. III 4/2.
Makand him keipar principale of the quenis graceis prive seill
1543 Ib. 84/2.
In ane justice-courte haldin befoir the justice principale in the tolbuyth of Edinburgh
1559 Ib. V i 151/1.
Takisman principall of the personage of the parroche kirk of Crawmond
1564–5 Rec. Earld. Orkney 118.
1586 Jurid. Rev. IV 295.
Baillie deputt of the regalitie of Dunfermling be his commissioun of the baillie principall of the said regalitie
1624 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. II 310.
Alexander Neilsone piper principall
1641 Cochran-Patrick Coinage I xxx.
The warden principill hes 50 li. yeirlie
1664 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. I 583.
In favours of the thesaurer principall … of the citiedale of Innernes
1671 Goudie Shetl. Antiq. 234.
Mr. George Scott of Giblestoune, Stewart Principall, Justiciare and Admirall of Orknay and Ȝetland

e. Principall dettour, = Principal(l n.1 4 b. 1434 Ayr B. Ct. 19 April.
Thom of Carik & Gilcrist Mour acordit of the accion be twen thaim to pas to the prinsipale detur to Leth
1483 Acta Conc. II cxxx.
Robert … as principale dettour, and Johne … as borgh for him, sall content and pay [etc.]
1596 in Melvill 365.
Chryst is the cautionar of the covenant and contract for us, and sa principall deatter

f. Principall party, the person chiefly concerned; the principal in a law-suit. = Principal(l n.1 4. 1456 Hay I 245/8.
Quhen a capitale and mortale inymy haldis in his power the principale party advers
1511 Bk. Old Edinb. C. XI 107.
Quhen ony parteis enteris to pley, that the principale party and thar advocat sale entir with thaim without ony ma personis
c1575 Balfour Pract. 549.
That the receiptar, or the complices, sall not be compellit to answer untill the assise proceid and deliver tuiching the principal partie
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 155.

g. With plur. inflection in concord with a plur. noun. 1482–3 Acta Conc. II cxi.
That letters be direct to schirefis in that part charging thame to distrenȝe the principalis schirefis landis and gudis
1509–10 Edinb. B. Rec. I 128.
Ane certane of the principalis maisteris of the said craft
1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 151.
The maist principalis cryaris out on the vices of kirk-men
1561 Reg. Privy C. I 173. a1578 Pitsc. I 134/22.

2. Of things. a. Chief, first in importance. b. That is, or is among, the most important, main. c. Great, considerable. d. compar. and superl.a., b., c. (a) c1420 Ratis R. 272.
To thé, my sone, ȝit ken I sall The four vertuous principall
c 1420 Liber Calchou 449.
In man ar iij principal partis and membris, the hart, the leuer & the harnys
14.. Burgh Laws c. 104 (A).
A principal bede with the schetis & the pertinene
a1500 Henr. III 171/53.
As in the principall mencioun of the messe
a1500 Rauf C. 358.
With all kin principall plentie for his plesance
1481 Peebles B. Rec. I 188.
At the … curat haf ane of the principall forchameris of the said tenement
1530 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 33.
And the tother principall bar to the irne yet
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 241.
Sum prynsipall thingis quhilkis is the caussis
1553 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 18 May.
All pentices and howsis biggit upon the causay … without the eisdrop of the principall hows
1555 Coll. Aberd. & B. 383.
Euill auisit personis … hes remouit the principall merche stanis
1557 Acts II 502/2.
At the geuing of the sentence in the principall mater
1558 Bk. Old Edinb. C. XXIII 102.
Quhairthrow thair discendit fra the said principall burn ane small watter
1560 Rolland Seven S. 3590.
It was a principall caus That [etc.]
1562-3 Winȝet I 23/16.
The teching of the ȝouthhed … to obtene the thrid principal place maist commodious and necessare to the Kirk of God
1570 Leslie 241.
Certane of the princepall benefices of the realme
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 324. 1590 Thirds of Benefices MS (Reg. H.) E4S/23.
And with the haill viccarage principall of Stronnes and Sandink xx lib.
1600 Aberd. B. Rec. II 207. 1604 Shetland Sheriff Ct. (ed.) 144. 1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii 126 b.
That the principall decreit sould haue further execution
1612 Lett. & St. P. Jas. VI 205.
He is nott a fitt man thair to menage your rent, for he hes principall entries in thaes landes
1622-6 Bisset I 171/14.
The pairtie defender in the prinsipall caus
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii 664.
Rycht to the tempil principale
1392 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 25.
The princepale fermys vnpayit at the termys and place beforsayde
14.. Burgh Laws c. 56 (B).
That thar is thre principale mutys in the yhere
1456 Hay I 2/18.
The principale parties of the buke
Ib. 74/16.
It is ane of the principale poyntis of oure faith
Ib. 225/31.
Quhen a thing principale is grantit, all the nedefull pertinence till it is grauntit
Ib. II 133/25.
The mannis body is nurist … be thre thingis principale
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 13990.
The erde quhilk is oure principale element
a 1498 Orig. Par. Sc. II 292.
Quhil his principale kirk in the Ile of Man be recouerit fra Inglismen
c1515 Asl. MS I 299/23. 1518 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 128.
Thai nocht being brocht to the said principale free burgh
1540 Acts II 374/2.
Nowthir for the principale land nor for annuellis awing furth therof
1562 Edinb. B. Rec. III 138.
The thre principale membris of the said lordis rycht arme to be cuttit
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. ci 23.
Neir hirreit is oure principale toun
1571–2 Prot. Bk. J. Colvill 66.
[Directed by the] kirk principale of this realme
(c) 1375 Barb. iv 746 (E).
That cours, that is Pryncipaill caus off thar demyng
c1475 Wall. ix 5.
[May,] Pryncypaill moneth forsuth it may be seyn
1526–7 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 84.
In that principaill tyme that the hors was tane fra hym that he was at the kingis horne
d. (1) 1490 Irland Mir. II 124/13.
For sene the saule that is spirituale is mar principale na the body be ressoune the principale reward and premiacioun suld be spirituale
c1550-c1580 Art of Music 13 b.
Certane signis les principall
(2) 14.. Reg. Maj. c. 63.
Sua that first his lorde of the best & mast principale thing that he has
c1508 Ch. & M. Prints vi b 12.
Thou art till hym … Maist preciouse and principall but pere
1490 Irland Mir. I 164/32.
The maist principale of my sawis standis starklie in haly writt
1513 Doug. xiii iii 24.
Lyke as quhen that the fomy bair hes bet … the hund maste principall
1551 Hamilton Cat. 233.
The maist principal and maist excellent ordour is preistheid

e. Freq. applied to a principal dwelling or chief residence, esp. that of a particular estate.For further examples see Chemis n. 1 b, Mans(e n. 1 a, b, Mansioun n. 2. 1399 Acts I 212/1.
The schiref & the officeris forsaid within the princepale places of thair bailleriis
Ib. 359/2.
The tother wif sall duell in the principall wonnyng of hir husband
1587–8 Aberd. Council Lett. I 21.
The said Laird of Balquhanes principall place of Fetterneir
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. Table ii 87 b.
The messuage or principall dwelling house of ane burges sould not be given [etc.]

f. Applied to the sheriffdom of Edinburgh proper as distinguished from its dependent ‘constabulary’ of Haddington.See further Fife Sherif Ct. 352–6. 1515–16 Reg. Privy S. I 418/1.
The schiref of Edinburgh principale within the constabulary of Hadingtoun
1533 Treas. Acc. VI 131.
Lettres direct to the Shereffis of Edinburgh principall, and Edinburgh within the constabularie
1559–60 Reg. Privy S. V i 170/1.
Liand within the schirefdome of Edinburgh principall
1567 Reg. Privy C. I 517.

g. Principall gud, soum, silver, etc., = Principal(l n.1 7.(1) 1432 Ayr B. Ct. 28 July.
Or than his prinspail gud & the fensment was deferrit to the nex curt
(2) 1455 Lennox Mun. 71.
As of principale dete to the said Patrik
(3) a 1423 (1430) Reg. Great S. 38/2.
The fermys and the frottis … tane in the principale some of na maner of waye to be contyt
1504 Sc. Hist. Rev. XL 100.
That he stand dettour be himself for the principale soume to the king
1580 Conv. Burghs I 109.
Fifty merkis for the lane of the said principall sowme
1586 Reg. Cupar A. II 295. 1589 Culross I 128. 1609 Skene Reg. Maj. (Latin) ii 114 b.
The frutes and profites shall be reakoned as ane part of the stock and principall summe
1642 Irvine Mun. II 54. 1642 House Gordon II 462.
Of principall sowme and annual rents
1649 Aberd. B. Rec. IV 98. 1682 Dunferm. Hammermen MS II 5 Aug.
The craft hath received from Thomas Stivinson his prinsipall soum bot he rests his annual rent
1684 Decis. Lords F. 63.(4) 1558 Treas. Acc. X 405.
For the hale principale silver ressavit fra him and cunȝeit in Lorance
1566 Edinb. Old Acc. I 63.
The lennars of the principall money

h. Applied to registers and documents, especially to originals as distinguished from copies: cf. Principal(l n.1 6. 1469 Acts II 95/1.
The quhilk register sall haue the samyn force as the principale reuersione wer schawing for the tyme
1488–9 Acta Aud. 123/1.
That the said copy and transsumpt suld haf the samyn strenth … as the said principale annexatioun
1493 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II 228.
And nain comperand with the principale summondis
1496 Acta Conc. II 19.
This sade copy to be of als gret strenth … as the sade principale charter
Ib. 5. 1496–7 Ib. 54. 1540 Ayr Chart. 17. 1638 Bk. Univ. Kirk App. xix.
Mr. Archibald Johnstone said, hee had the principall Book of Policie, written in Lumbard paper
1670 Aberd. Council Lett. V 8. 1700 D. Hume Account of Estate App. 122.
Imprimis principal summonds and an execution for first and second diets

3. In absol. and predic. uses.See also Principal(l n.1(1) c1420 Ratis R. 279.
The first of thai four principall [virtues] Is stalwartnes of hart at all
c1450-2 Howlat 423 (A).
Part of the principale [arms] … I sall haist me to hewe
c1515 Asl. MS I 305/22.
Thir ar the principale [places] of Asia
1549 Compl. 4/7.
To be ane of the principal of al the nyne noblis
1568 Hosack Mary Q. of Scots I 572.
We ar heir of the principal of ȝour grace's nobilitie and counsal
(2) 1513 Doug. xi vi 25.
Amyd The cepturyt men, as first and pryncipall
a1538 Abell 86 b.
The first is principal & final
a1568 Scott i 27.
Applaud to prudent men, and principall … thy wirschep till avance
1580 Fam. Innes 138.
To … acknawlege him as cheiff and pryncepall

4. adv. or passing into adv. use.Cf. ME and e.m.E. (north midl. and north.) princi-, prinsi- (c 1400), princypall (1480), id. c1420 Ratis R. 1316.
Sic frendys as scho princypall Tyll hald hire vp
c1420 Wynt. i 518.
Thir kynrykys pryncipale
Ib. iv 1291.
And the caus wes pryncipall Of that were and off that batalle That [etc.]
Ib. v 4828.
a1500 Colk. Sow i 338.
Sum of Affrickis age And principale of Cartage
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 131 (Harl.).
The wele and wa of euirye regioun Dependis apoun the king maist principale [: mortale]
1513 Doug. i iv 105 (Ruddim.).
Bot pryncipale the petyful Eneas Regrettis oft the hard fortun … Of sterne Orontes
1570 Leslie 83.
The gryit trubles … happinit principale becaus [etc.]
a1578 Pitsc. I 53/23.
He suspectit principall James Kennidie bischope of Sanctandrois

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"Principal adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Aug 2022 <>



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