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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 since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Chefe, Cheif, n. Also: chef, cheff(e, cheef(f, pl. chevis; cheiff, cheife, cheyf(f, chief; scheif(f, scheyff. [ME. cheef, chefe, chef (c 1300), OF. chief, chef head.]

1. a. In chefe, as an immediate vassal. 1375 Barb. i. 154.
Gyff thow will hald in cheyff [Wynt. cheff] of me, … I sall do swa thow sall be king
c1420 Wynt. iii. 781.
He … gert thame all hale of Assyry … hald thare land off hym in cheffe
Ib. viii. 589.
The tenandis off that land, That thare feis war haldand Off the Duke hym-self in cheffe
1426 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 202.
The qwhilk … land the said Dauy … sal hauld of our lorde the Kyng in chefe
1492 Acta Conc. 241/1.
He clamit the saidis landis to be a tennandry of Bothuile, and haldin of him in cheiff as erle of Bothuile
1526 Reg. Privy S. I. 530/2.
The ward of the landis of Enterkin, … perteining to Johnne Dunbar of Enterkin, haldin be him of umquhile Johne erle of Lenax in cheif
1677 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 50.
The towns and lands of Auchrydie … held in chief of the Lairds of Towie

b. In or at chefe, in the principal place. c1420 Wynt. v. 5605.
Ane ymage in cheffe thare-in wes set Off Romule
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxii. 23.
In siluer caigis thai sit at cheif

2. The head town or city; the capital. a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 767.
Smarag is a faire ton & chefe of the regione
c1400 Troy-bk. i. 219.
Thar was a fare cite … ; It wes the cheef of that kynrik
c1420 Wynt. iv. 1333.
Cartage … That wes the cheffe [C. cheyff] off all Affryke
Ib. 2524.
That ilke towne That cheffe [C. cheyff] ware of that regyown

3. One having place or power above others; a lord or leader. c1420 Wynt. vi. 22.
God … is his cheffe And nane othir meyne persowne
1456 Hay I. 146/18.
Sen … the man of armes askit leue at his lord and cheif to pas hame
Ib. 210/36.
Gif in the governance of ane houshald thar war na cheif
c1475 Wall. vi. 272.
The worthy Scottis … Chesit him for cheyff, thar chyftayne and ledar
1549 Compl. 98/2.
Their vas in Rome tua consullis, … quha var committit to be cheiffis and captans of the armye
1567 G. Ball. 79.
Gif ȝe haif rissin … With Christ our cheif and souerane
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 26.
For feir of the quhilk the erll of Arrane, cheif of that cumpany, fled to … the lord Hume
1585 James VI Ess. 55.
Gif Nature be cheif, … reulis will be ane help and staff to Nature

b. The head of a Scottish clan, kindred, or feudal community.(a) 1432 Lamont P. 13.
To be … leyl and a gud lorde as his lorde and cheff of kyn acht for to be to thar neyr cosen and man
1440 Reg. Great S. 60/1.
Doand … til the chief of the said landis service auch and custume
1478 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 339.
The said Alexander Irwin as cheif to the said Alexander Cummyn
1510 Glasgow Dioc. Reg. II. 361.
Schir, ȝe wat we want our cheyf; ȝe may refe ws all at we haue, an ȝe will
1530 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 9.
Ane honest assythment to be modyfyit be ws to the said Robert for the slauchter of his cheif
1547 Breadalbane Doc. (Reg. H.) No. 64.
Thay … hes … chosyn … Ihon Cambell … to thair cheyf to be thair protectour & defendour … as ane cheyf dois in the contreis of the Helands
1551 Black Bk. Taymouth 191.
The said Collin … sall haif the dew dewty that ane cheif and maister aucht to haif fra him and his perpetuallie
1570 Thanes of Cawdor 177.
[They] hes giffin … thair manrent and calpe … as ane cheyff … aucht to haiff
a1578 Pitsc. I. 63/13.
Schir Thomas Randall … cheif of the clanne Allane
Ib. 128/26.
Nor ȝeit wald he make the messingeris foir to dispair of thair cheiffis remissieoun
1587 Acts III. 463/1.
The capitanes, cheiffis, and chiftanes of all clannis … to entir sic personis pleges as salbe nominat be the kingis maiesties lettres
1596 Dalr. I. 104/15.
Thay pas in ordour, following thair maistiris, or cheif of thair hous, and thair anseinȝie
16.. Highland P. II. 271.
The Hylanders ar by nature most … pron to adventur … ther liwes … for ther masters and cheifes
c1650 Spalding I. 3.
Considering thair younge cheif, the laird of McIntosh, wes bot ane barne
1645 Kinghorn Kirk-S. 48.
A flesher was a honester man then the cheife of his kin
1698 Fam. Innes 37.
Haveing his cheefs favor
(b) c1550-79 Chron. Fortirgall 121.
Alexander McGregor of Glenstra our scheyff was bot one barne
1585 Thanes of Cawdor 188.
I ordane the lard of Calder to gratifye my scheif as he thynkis convenient
16.. Hist. Kennedy 65.
Johne Dik … , quha had slayne his maister and scheiff, the Laird off Bargany

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"Chefe n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Feb 2024 <>



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