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

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First published 1986 (DOST Vol. VI).

Puis(s)ance, n. Also: puyss-, pwys(s)-, pwiss-, puysch-, puss-, pusc-, and -ans, -ence. [Late ME and e.m.E. puis(s)aunce (1420), puysshaunce (1447), pusaunce (1422), OF puissance (12th c. in Littré). Cf. Pissance n.]

1. Operative power or capacity; ability, efficacy, virtue. 1494 Loutfut MS 10b.
It may be liknit & comperit till virtues puisance & mycht
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlix 26 (B).
Falsett no feit hes nor deffence Be power practik nor puscence [v.r. Be puir practik nor piscence]
1532 St. P. Henry VIII IV 624.
We ar of puyssance and strenthe in our persoun and liegis to recompence and acquyt ws to ȝou of ȝour gud deid
1533 Bell. Livy I 231/30.
Quhil the ciete was drawin on this wise, be consullis & tribunis, in sindri opiniouns, nocht onelie apperit na pussance left in the ciete, bot [etc.]
1537 Lynd. Depl. Magd. 61.
I se thy [Fortune's] puissance bene bot variable
Ib. 191. ?1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 240.
Wald God my pwissance wer conforme to my will
1562 Crim. Trials I i 425.
Of will and mynd to mak satisfactioune … according to his pussance and habilitie
1588 King Cat. in 1573-1600 Cath. Tr. 209/33.
Faithe consideris nocht the order and rewllis off natur … naither leanis it vpone the puissance or raisons of man

2. The power or authority wielded by an imperial power, a ruler or a magnate; dominion; influence.In a few instances, in ambiguity with sense 5.In one's puissance, in his power. Man of puissance, a man of authority, a potentate or magnate.(1) 1537 Lynd. Depl. Magd. 181.
Sen pryncely puissance may nocht be exemit From deith
1547–8 Corr. M. Lorraine 214.
For thay may will consyddyr it can nocht be yowr lordschip only pwysance quhilk may mak this realm tharis bot mekle mair yowr laboris and pwyssance wer ye beand present
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 789.
Thay had puyssance imperiall Aboue all thyng materiall
Ib. 2012. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 548.
Ane nobill king, Quhilk royallie into his realme did ring With greit puissance, riches and honour
1567 Sat. P. vii 111.
Than acht he be of all puissance denude
1570 Ib. x 94.
In euerie quarter quhair he had puissence
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 49.
And other be hir requeist or puissance caus hir be restorit agane to her former authritie
a1578 Pitsc. I 14/14.
Alexander Erle of Douglas … than contempnit all the kingis officairis in respect of his gret puissance
Ib. 109/22.
Becaus that it is wnderstand to be ane suire puissance quhene he dois moderat his awin strength and powar
(b) 1533 Bell. Livy I 118/11.
To signifie the grete pussance and magnitude of Romane empire
Ib. 119/29.
To augment the boundis of empire with new pussance
Ib. 130/7.
With ripe and strang pussance
1533 Boece 349.
Thare pussance to thare innatife tresoun wald ansuere
Ib. 80b. 1561–2 Crim. Trials I i 418.
As the inhabitantis of our Burgh of Dunde, quha ar of grit pvssance, situat in mair commodius parte nor [etc.]
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xxv 15.(2) 1567 Anderson Collect. Mary I 93.
The plane attempting of force to have us in his puissance
1568 Q. Mary in Facs. Nat. MSS III lviii.
For the danger that I may fal in being as I am in A [sic] puissance
(3) 1533 Boece 192.
The slauchter of grete men and of pussance
1581 Burne Disput. in 1573-1600 Cath. Tr. 161/3.
Quhairfoir al men of puissance infectit vith the poysonit Antichristian doctrine of Martin Lauter, sould feir leist [etc.]

b. ? Domination by force. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) (ed.) 2457.
Supois that I mycht hald it [authority] throw puissance I will nocht haue it with ȝour displesance
1494 Loutfut MS 43a.
And the empriour is maid be electioun or be puissance

3. The divine or supernatural power of God, death, etc. 1537 Lynd. Depl. Magd. 1.
O cruell Deith, to greit is thy puissance
1556 Knox IV 96.
The puissance and power of Godis word
1581 Hamilton Cath. Tr. 64b.
[Thay] blastis out blasphemie aganis goddis almichtie puissance

4. Military resources or power, (the possession of) an armed force or forces.a. 1531 Bell. Boece (M) I 35.
Sen hattrent avalis nocht but puyssance
1548 Reg. Privy S. III 458/2.
We understand nocht to assure him … fra the puyssance of uthiris princes
1549 Compl. 92/14.
For ȝour ald enemes quhou beit of ther puissans vald neuer [etc.]
Ib. 90/18. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 6107. 1563–4 Scot. Ant. XVI 81.
Feiring their lyves … be the said Normond and his complices, being of ane greit noumer and lairge puissance
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 172.
[If] the said Inglismen come to thair said burgh, and thaj not being of that puissance to mak thair awne pairtie gude, the same wald be hurtfull to the said burgh
Ib. 195.(b) 1531 Bell. Boece (M) I 26.
Ane strang gard of men, be quhais pussance & chevelrye he dantit the pepill
Ib. 136.
[They] desyrit him to send support in tyme, to occur the present dangere afoir thair pussance wer brokin
Id. Livy I 53/20. 1533 Boece 50. Ib. 241.

b. Those constituting military forces; troops, collectively. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) (ed.) 3101.
Than Duk Betis … in the menetyme gadderit his puissance
1531 Bell. Boece I 107.
We mycht than, with baith oure puyssance iunyt to giddir, diffyitt our inimeis

5. Physical strength or might. a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 442.
For fault of puissance [v.rr. pussance, pissence], pelour, thou mon pak thé
1533 Bell. Livy II 210/20.
Thare [sc. Vestal virgins] pussance was sa waik that thai mycht nocht turs all the saidis reliquis with thame
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus Prol. 170.
Sum settis … thair puissance and curage To hald thair realme … out of thirlage

6. Financial resources; ability to pay.Freq. of puissance to do something. 1510 Aberd. B. Rec. I 80.
Quhill thai be of puyschance to mend him his fee
1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 98.
With als gude hart, as utheris that offerit mekil mair, conforme to thair puissance
1559–60 St. A. Kirk S. 45.
I am not of puissance to procure probatioun furth of far cuntreyes
1560 Edinb. B. Rec. III 97. 1570 Yester Wr. 211.
And for laik of puissance and substanis to reedefy [etc.]
1590 Welwod 65.
Because the master suld not search out ilk mans puissance
1591 Burntisland B. Ct. 16 July.
Effeiringe to ewerie manis pussans substans and habilitie

b. Financial strength, purchasing power (of bullion). 1596 Dalr. I 114/25.
The welth of our king may be weil compaired with the puissance of golde and siluir

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"Puisance n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 May 2022 <>



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