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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Variabil(l, -le, adj. Also: wariabill, -le, variabyll, warieabill, vareable, veriabile. [ME and e.m.E. variable (Chaucer), variabill (c1400), uaryabyl (1448-9), varyable (Caxton), OF variable, L. variābilis.]

1. Susceptible to change; inconstant; fickle. a. Of things or circumstances. b. Of persons. c. Of natural phenomena.a. 1456 Hay I 128/29.
The sone suld help the fader as said is … be lawe of nature that is hede of all lawis na may never vary na change for na law, and it, that he is behaldyn till his lorde is bot variable thing and corruptibil the quhilk is nocht sa stark band as is the law of nature
a1500 Henr. Orph. 404.
Quhat art thou, lufe, how sall I thé dyffyne? … To sum constant, till othir variabil [A. wariable]
1513 Doug. xii i 105.
Behald the chance of batale variabill, Persave of weir the fykkill ward onstabill
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 145.
Wardlie plesour bene so variabyll, Myxit with sorrow, dreid and inconstance
1533 Boece 160a.
Be variabill fortune during in weris
1537 Lynd. Depl. Magd. 61.
O Dame Fortune … I se thy puissance bene bot variable
1554 Duncan Laideus Test. 164.
Put not youre hoip in wardlie vanitie … For manis stait in aerth is variabill
a1585 Maitl. Q. 204/90.
Then quhat ar we to trust into our strenth Our wisdome wit or staittis variabill Quhilk tyme will chainge and als devoir at lenth
b. 1456 Hay I 262/12.
Gif twa men has a debate togeder, and the tane of thame producis his witnes, ande thai deponis; and the tothir producis the samyn witnes, and thai depone, and in thair deposiciouns ar fundyn variable [etc.]
c1475 Wall. xi 579.
O wrech … that neuir couth be content … Bot thi fers mynd, wylfull and wariable, With gret lordschip thow could nocht so byd stable [etc.]
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 484.
I knew that was the court sa variabill Of eirdly lufe, quhilk sendill standis stabill
1513 Doug. iv x 92.
Variabill [Sm. vareable] and changeand thyngis beyn wemen ay
1528 Lynd. Dreme 411.
Sumtyme scho [sc. Venus] is chengeabyll, … Sumtyme constant and sumtyme variabyll
a1568 Bann. MS 212b/59.
I am nocht wariabill … vnto my lady deir
a1578 Pitsc. I 135/31.
The popularie … ar so warieabill and faccell
1581 Sempill in Sat. P. xliii 17.
The variable witch [sc. Fortune] makis all the warld ado!
c1590 Fowler II 117/22.
Men … ar for the maist part ingrait, variable, dissemblers
(b) 1461 Liber Plusc. I 387.
Be nocht in to thi vertu veriabile
c. a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 150.
The seuin planetis … hes power … To reull … Wedder and wind, and coursis variabill
1584-9 Maxwall Commonpl. Bk. 28b.
Quhat is moir wariabill than the winde

2. Open to disagreement, disputacious. 1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 258.
Schir James Hamiltoun … appointit with the duke concernyng all materis variable betuix thame

3. Appar. misreading of valiabill (Vailȝeabil(l adj. 1 q.v.). a1487 Gud Wyf & D. 69.
Variabill [Thewis Gud Women walabile]

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"Variabil adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Feb 2024 <>



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