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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).

Law, a. and n.4 Also: lawe, lau. [North. and north midl. ME. law(e, lau (Cursor M.), midl. and south. lowe, loue, loghe, loȝe (c 1200), earlier lahe, laȝe, laȝhe (Orm), inflected form of lāh Laich a. Cf. also Lauch a.]Unlike Laich, Lauch, (and Lach(e), common esp. in the fig. senses, 4–5 below.

1. Low in stature or upward extent; small. 1375 Barb. xvii. 380.
The vallis of the toune than wer Sa law that [etc.]
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 729.
The Scottis schip scho wes sa law, That monie gunnis out ouir hir flaw
a1568 Bann. MS. 211 b.
The lawest treis hes cropis thocht thay be small

b. To lede or bear ane or the lawar saill (i.e. as of a ship), used fig., = to show oneself less prominently or openly, to proceed more quietly or cautiously. Cf. Law adv. 1 d. c1552 Lynd. Mon. 154.
Synthea … Scho loste hir lycht and lede ane lawar saill
a1578 Pitsc. II 14/1.
That causit him and his freindis bayth to bear the lawer saill

2. Occupying a low, or the lower, position; also, far down, deep in situation.(1) 1375 Barb. xiii. 653.
For twa contraris … Set agane othir on a quhele; Quhen ane is hye, the tothir is law
1456 Hay II. 158/16.
As the last party and the lawest is the leggis
c1460 Wisd. Sol. (S.T.S.) 448.
I saw fulis set one segis of honore, and wysmen set one lawar segis
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 302/11.
God devidit watteris fra watteris, the hieast the firmament, the lawest the se
Ib. 24, 26.
It had iiij housis, ane lawar for bestis of filth … : siclyk figuris hell lawest
a1500 King Hart 388.
Our lord … , That ȝit is law amang the nether bowris
1533 Bell. Livy I. 269/3.
The pepill … in the law discence thareof [the Capitol] rasit thare ensenȝeis with gude array
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 12.
Remuifit … to the Quenis awin ludgeing, and thair laid in ane lawer chalmer, directly under the chalmer quhair the Quene lay
1585 James VI Ess. 50.
Mount heigh vp through the air, To gar thy heat and beames be law and neir
c1590 Fowler I. 65/188.
They that highest went, The lawer and the deeper doun agane was thair dissent
1587-99 Hume 47/14.
The heauen it is his dwelling place, The earth his littil fute-stule law
1629 M. Works Acc. MS. XXI. 37.
ij pair lang bandis to the ȝettis in the law gairdein
transf. 1533 Bell. Livy II. 188/18.
The power of the said Ethruschis war fra the ovir seyis namit mare superum to the law seyis namyt mare inferum betuix quhilk seyis Italie lyis inclusit in maner of ane ile
(2) c1475 Wall. ii. 157.
And ek thar to he was in presoune law
1490 Irland Mir. fol. 219.
In the law fos and pyt of syn
1513 Doug. iii. vi. 166.
Vndir a roch, law within a cavern
Ib. x. xiii. 144.
Sone eftir is the spreit of lyfe furth went, Down to the goistis law
Ib. xi. iv. 102. Ib. xi. i 56.
Acheron, the lawest hellys see
c1590 Fowler I. 229/2.
The stormye sees Quhase wawes uer high lyke hills and law lyk hell

b. Low-lying (ground, place, part); and applied to the underworld.(1) a1400 Leg. S. v. 498.
The eyrne … mon of fors he cum done To the law ȝerd
c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1645.
This tyme, quhen that herwist had In law places his coursses maid
1456 Hay I. 164/33.
To geve thame the werr felde, outhir lawar or in a myre
Ib. II. 158/24.
The erde that is lawast is ay calde
1513 Doug. ix. i. 9.
Ane valle wondyr lovn and law
1533 Bell. Livy I. 50/28.
Hostilius … led the batall … in the law vail vnder mont Capotoll againis the Sabinis
1551 Hamilton Cat. 157.
Hell is in the lawast part of the erd, or in sum place under the erd
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 17.
Being set in ane law plaice and a verray marische
(2) c1460 Wisd. Sol. (S.T.S.) 201.
All elyk … drawis till a law place downwart, quhen thai de
Ib. 485.
Thane suld a man have mynde … one the mirknes that is in the law parte
1533 Gau 49/28.
He first passit dwne to the law partis of the ȝeird
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 886.
Sum lychtit in the lawest hell

c. The law cuntrey, = Lawland n. 2. 1596 Highland P. III. 79.
To be transportit … to the law cuntrey and thair to remaine

d. Low (Germany), the Low (Countries).(1) c1515 Asl. MS. I. 306/11.
Germanea superior hie Ducheland, … Germanea inferior law Ducheland
1616 Doug. Chart. 323.
To depairt … to … France or heigh and law Germanie allanerlie
(2) a1578 Pitsc. II. 215/27.
In all Flanderis … and in the law cuntries
1597 Conv. Burghs II. 8.
The nameis of thais persouns that sall happin heirefter to arrywe within the Law Cuntreyis with burnecoll
1610 Ib. 297, etc. c1610 Melville Mem. 24.
The K[ing] entrit far in the Law Contrees
1610 Misc. Hist. Soc. II. 166.
Being in the lau cuntries … at the arryvail … of the Arceduke
1628 Stirling B. Rec. I. 162.
Lait conservatour in the Law Countreis for the Scotis natioun

e. Law wat(t)er, low tide. 1554–5 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 297.
Twa fyrn spars … to sett ane of thame at the full sey and the uther at the law watter
1597 Ib. V. 195.
That thair be fourty persouns … enterit to the fylling of the bulwarks at law waters
1600-1610 Melvill 168.
Because it was law water, we behoved to ly a whyll in the road till the water grew
Ib. 486.
The sie … about a law water, debordet and ran upe abon the sie-mark
1638 Edinb. B. Rec. VII. 200.
That the saids persouns sall caus cleng the herbarie of all hirsts of chingill … , giff it be above the watter at ane law watter

f. In Orkney and Shetland: (Land possessed) fra the hiest (stane) of the hill to the lawest (stane) of the eb.(1) 1488 Rec. Earld. Orkney 197.
Fra the hiest stane of the hill to the lawest stane of the eb
1528 Soc. Ant. XXV. 191.
Fra the hyest point of the hill to the laues stein off thye ebb
1536 Ib. XVI. 194.
The said v merk landis … fra the heast stane in the hil to the lawest in the eb … to be … browkyt be the said Adam
(2) 1531 Rec. Earld. Orkney 214.
Fra the hyest of the hill to the lawest in the ebbe
1558 Soc. Ant. XXV. 191.
Fra the hyest of the hill to the lawest of the eb
1639 Sc. Hist. Rev. XXI. 131.
From the highest of the hill to the lawest in the ebb, far and near, wnder the eard as abone the same

3. a. Of a sound or voices: Not loud, subdued. b. Of a musical note: Low in pitch, flat. 1513 Doug. iii. i. 75.
Furth of the graif a duylful murnyng law I hard
15.. Clar. ii. 1861.
Great was the banquit … With law demandis of ladies by and by
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. iii. 14.
Sing sho tua notis, the one is out of tone, As B acre lau and B moll far abone

c. Of a colour: Dull. a1586 Lindsay MS. 46 b.
Of the colour sad and law lyk walx

4. Of persons. a. Of low birth, station or rank. Also absol. 1375 Barb. iii. 556.
Wes nane amang thaim, hey na law, That he ne had pite and plesaunce
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 497.
Thar is no liffand leid so law of degre That sall me luf vnluffit
compar. 14.. Acts I. 299/3.
Al thir that ar lawer than thir in kyn ar callit carlis
1456 Hay II. 104/11.
That thou despise neuer lawar personis na thyself
c1475 Wall. viii. 1230.
It was nocht rycht, A queyn on kneis till ony lavar wycht
1490 Irland Mir. fol. 310 b.
A thing … ordinat of the prince and ouirman quhethir he be god ore laware
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 324/8.
Ysaias, Jeremias [etc.] … with xij lawar prophettis
1533 Boece iv. ix. 138 b.
That nobilis suld nocht vse the wyiffis of the laware pepill in commoun
a1568 Scott xxvi. 40.
Thay wald with nobill men be nemmit Syne laittandly to lawar leindis
absol. c1420 Ratis R. (S.T.S.) 176/5.
Than he and law … Suld do syk lawbore as thaim afferys
a1500 Henr. Fab. 931 (B).
The lawest heir I may rycht sone vp hie
1490 Irland Mir. fol. 298.
Ane vthire ascens … fra the lawest in dignite to the hiest

b. Of low condition or fortune, mean, base, of little account; also, humble, modest. c1450-2 Howlat 937.
And sen thow art so elate, As the Ewangelist wrait, Thow sall lawe be
1456 Hay I. 110/24.
Bot quha ever of ȝow be first, that he be lawest servitour to ȝow
a1500 Henr. III. 131/55.
Remember him … Quhilk rasis the law and humilis the hie
a1500 Colk. Sow i. 441.
Such is this warldis glore, Now law, now he; Nothing stable we se
1490 Irland Mir. I. 32/20.
Sene he js sa hie in hevin and thou sa law
Ib. 63/36.
Justice originale causit in the jnferior and lawar part of the saule the wertu of prudence
1533 Gau 30/22.
God hes al tyme hwyd the richt visdome … and schawis it to thayme that ar simpil and law
1535 Stewart 43877.
Thocht I be now so law and wratchit wicht
1567 G. Ball. 78.
Christ come full humill and full law
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 417 (L).
All ouris ar reput to be wys, Our heych, our law, our rasche, our nyce

c. A low or the lowest class in a college, etc.; junior. 1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 8.
The lawast clas
Ib. 11.
The thre law classis sal nocht be subject to cum to preaching or exercise public, except on the Sunday

5. a. Of birth or rank, station or place: Low, humble.(1) 1456 Hay II. 151/24.
Despis nocht a man for his law birth
a1500 Henr. Fab. 60 (Makc.).
He no wald Tak the disdeyne of he nor law estat
a1538 Abell 99 a.
He was of law kin for it is said at he wes a schomendaris sone
Ib. 107 b.
Tamburlayn … wes in Tartare borne of law place
15.. Clar. ii. 1220.
Unto bedis went he and law estait
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 654.
Amang ws peple of the law estait
1560 Rolland Seven S. 8878.
My birth it is to law, Sa heich maters I durst not to ȝow schaw
1562-3 Winȝet I. 10/7.
Sen men of the law sorte ar togidder with ȝour excellence
a1568 Scott vi. 24.
So serwice cumis of sympilnes, And leilest lufe of law degre
1584–5 Elgin Rec. I. 177.
That na … persone … ressaue ony maner of persone of hie degre or law degre … within thair housis
1596 Dalr. I. 286/13.compar. 1375 Barb. i. 58.
Thai said successioun of kyngrik Was nocht to lawer feys lik
1429 Acts II. 18/2.
At the yeman of lawer degre … be bodyn with souer hate & doublat
1456 Hay II. 98/26.
That all othir wayis suld be punyst a notable man na a man of lawar condicioune
a1487 Gud Wife & D. 56.
Hear honour, bettir thing, And lawar stat, lakar clething
a1500 Henr. Orph. 376.
He wald noucht lufe in na lawar place Bot Juno, quene of nature & goddace
a1500 Bk. Chess 253.
In him suld mercye … Appeir … fer mor Than ony man in lawar honour
1540 Acts II. 362/2.
That all vtheris of lawer rent and degre in the lawland haif jak of plait [etc.]
a1578 Pitsc. I. 80/23.
Thair was wtheris of lawer estait, sic as … knychtis and gentillmen
superl. 1456 Hay II. 22/5.
Suppos … the knychtis office be the lawast of office of dignitee under … ryale magestee
1533 Bell. Livy I. 143/23.
All hie estatis sall be equate to the lawest
1562-3 Winȝet I. 7/20.
Fra the lawaste to the hieast degree
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 34.
In the lawest ordour of knaves
1596 Dalr. II. 365/3.
Monie amang thame not of the lawest sort of the peple
(2) a1487 Gud Wife & D. 48.
Noucht our fer pres hir till avans, … Bot euir with … schamfulnes Scho suld draw to the lawast plas, And erar lawar place to tak Na hear

b. Of condition, quality or degree: Lesser, inferior. 1456 Hay I. 251/28.
A thing that is of lawar condicioun may nocht be juge till ane thing that es of hyar condicioun
Ib. 284/16.
It is the lawest of degree of all the four elementis
Ib. II. 48/15.
Quhen he war doune strykyn, than war his honour lawe
1490 Irland Mir. I. 57/23.
The erd and erdlie thingis God has put lawast
Ib. 58/14.
This element of erd … js the lawast of all … And ȝit it js of gret wertu
a1538 Abell 70 b.
And thai do the contray thai fall in a law gre of pane
c1536 Lynd. Compl. Bagsche 204.
Ane dog may cum furth of Balquhidder, And gar ȝow leid ane lawer tryne
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 34.
That the Scottis be of sa law courage that [etc.]

c. Low in amount, value or rate. 1467 Acts II. 88/2.
To auis … vppon the avale of the grot of the crovn … & to set it heare or laware as salbe thocht spedefull
1541 Elgin Rec. I. 65.
And war [ale] to be set be the cunstaris to lawar prece
1554 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 204.
Gif ony of the said siluer be fynar or lawar of fynes thai to be payit thairfor according to the fynes thairof
1557 Inverness Rec. I. 15.
Selling thair aquavitte of na lawar prices quhen the boll is gud chep nor quhen the same is at the derrest prices

d. Of less consequence; pertaining to minor matters. Only coupled with hie, hey. a1400 Leg. S. xxvii. 1131.
Quha is Goddis wit ma knaw, Or ȝet his consall hey or law?
1456 Hay I. 153/18.
Gif the baroun … haldis him … thare quhare he has bathe hye and law justice, jurisdictioun and powar to do justice
a1500 Bk. Chess 36.
The manere of office lawe & hie Of kingis and lordis sall he efter knaw

6. Used absol. as n. (Cf. Laich n.1 and Lauch n.3, and see also sense 4 a above). a. The, or a, low place, position or part, in the above senses, lit. and fig. b. In law, to a low position (of station or fortune). On law, in a low voice, quietly.Appar. only in early writings.a (1) 1375 Barb. iii. 707.
Sum [ships] wald slyd fra heycht to law
Ib. vi. 518.
Schir Ameryis rout he saw, That held the playn ay & the law, And in haill battale alwayis raid
1456 Hay II. 123/27.
The remaynis lyis lang in the law of the ground of the stomak
Ib. 140/25.
Bot of all wynis the best ar thai that growis betuix the hye and the lawe in mydlyn erde, that is nouthir our hye na our law erde
(2) c1420 Wynt. v. 2596.
Quha that haldys hym in the lawe, Till hycht his meiknes will him drawe
1456 Hay II. 62/36.
For man that has na mesure in himself, quhen he dois outhir till the hye or to the law
b. c1420 Wynt. v. 2580 (C).
Qwha that wil draw hym on hicht In law hym doun behuffis to licht
?1438 Alex. ii. 1586.
Ȝonder ar the folk men may nocht fle, That spekis on law and strekis on hie

c. ? Cf. Laich n.1 1 (a stretch of low-lying ground, a hollow), Lauch n.3, Lache, and Law n.3 1358 Rot. Scot. 829/1.
Cuiusdam piscarie … vocate la lawe in aqua de Twede

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"Law adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 7 Oct 2022 <>



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