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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Les, adj., adv. and conj. Also: lese, lesse, leis, leas, lass. [ME. lesse, lasse, OE. lǽssa adj., lǽs adv. and quasi-noun.] Used as the compar. of Litill.

A. adj. 1. Of smaller size or extent, smaller. a1400 Leg. S. ii. 430.
The mar banis the prechour awcht, And the les … War the banis of the feschere
c1420 Wynt. v. 1442.
Justyne … Abbregyde all tha gret storys In smallere and in les tretys
c 1450 Misc. Maitl. C. III. 203.
Four siluer crowatis tua mair and tua les
1498 Acta Conc. II. 257.
The malis of the les half of the landis of Westcrag
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 160/27.
The hale occiane … makis mar operacioun of the mone than ony part be him self that is smaller or les
c1500-c1512 Dunb. li. 22.
He is owre mekle to be ȝour messan, Madame, I red ȝou get a les ane
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 311.
Ȝoung Dauid was far les than I Quhen he with Golias … faucht
1549 Compl. 57/21.
Eftir the appositione, thai schel fische dimuneuis and grouis les, and of ane var qualite
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 330.
With ane Scottis peice les nor ane cannoun
1596 Dalr. I. 20/24. Ib. 39/12.
[This breed is] lyke thir hairie dogs that ar sent to ws out of Almannie, bot in body mekle les
1618 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 164.
The firlott and stup with the les measures
1658 Boyd Fam. P. No. 236 (27 Feb.).
Five peices of blue curttingis … quherof ane les nor the rest
1678–88 Soc. Ant. XXVII. 481.
Ane other sort of nutt is found … of less syze
1683 Inventory in Donibristle Mun. (Earl of Moray's MSS.) 9–10 May. 3.
Ane large picture of Lucretia and ane other less

b. To make (an appointed or standard weight) les, to give short weight for it. 1529–30 Selkirk B. Ct. fol. 143 b.
Quha that breikis the pais and makis it les, ve ordand the breid to be cheitit
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 150/2.
They keip not bot makes lesse the wecht given to them be the baillies

c. In certain geographical or personal names = L. minor: les Britane, Brittany; les Scotland, Scotland as opposed to mair Scotland, Ireland; les Asia, Asia Minor; the les iles (= isles); James the les.(1) c1420 Wynt. v. 3305 (W).
In Les Brettane till Audroen Thai send
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 157/4.
He strekis estwart to pas to the les Asya
Ib. 187/31.
The first that come out of mair Scotland in the les Scotland … was ane callit Ethios Rothay
Ib. 188/15.
Thai … counsalit thaim to cum in les Scotland, quhilk was nocht sa inhabit as was mair Scotland, now callit Irland
1596 Dalr. I. 56/13.
I wil nocht make mekle talkeng of the les Iles, albeit thay haue decore
(2) a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 156.
Next thame, Thomas and Mathow, James the les and Tadee
Ib. vii. 39, etc.

2. a. Less in amount; shorter in duration; less in measurement or number. Also absol.(1) c 1423 (1431) Reg. Great S. 45/1.
How we made our lyffing les in our tyme for lestand profyt to thaim
1474 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 32.
That na master nor persone of ony of the craftis tak ony prentis for les termis than sevin yeirs
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxvi. 102.
The feyndis gaif thame hait leid to laip, Thair lovery wes na les
1551 Reg. Privy S. IV. 223/2.
For oppressioun committit be him upoun the liegis of this realme in baking of breid of les wecht
1588 King Cat. i. iv.
Or giff ȝe finde nocht ȝowr ȝeres compleit take continuallie the nixt les with the signes degrees and minut
1596 Dalr. I. 5/7.
The circuit [of Britain is] … xx hundir thousand pace … bot the … historiographors affirmes it lesse
Ib. 14/28.
Thair is beir and aits meikle bettir and meikle mair copious than with vthires natiouns; quheit lesse
1597 James VI Dæmonol. 78.
Their [bairns'] lesse and ignorant age will no doubt excuse them
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 73.
The cro of ane maried woman is les be the thrid parte then the cro of her husband
1639 Lanark B. Rec. 133.
That nae persone … be admittit … frieman for any les wpsett nor is abone wryttin
(b) c1550-c1580 Art of Music 29.
And it is twichit or choippit with ane lass noit
(2) absol. 1456 Hay I. 46/31.
For in lesse na in ane houre all the joy that ever man had … he levis
Ib. II. 116/3.
Gif he takis lesse na is nedefull, alssua he will be seke
c1530-40 Stewart Maitl. F. lxxxii. 19.
I gat na les na dewill a thing For larges of this New Ȝeir day
1556 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 249.
The … sowme of lxxx li. at the maist, or samekill les as he salhappin to wair vpoun the bigging of the said myln
1661 Aberd. Council Lett. IV. 176.
As for the act of thirlage … we ar about all meanes to obtaine the samen … for les

b. Of lesser degree, intensity, quality, consequence etc. Also absol.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii. 251.
Les hurt is I de me ane Thane [that] ȝe als de one ane
Ib. xl. 443.
To the catel thai tuk les kepe
c1420 Wynt. viii. 2444.
Quha skaylis his thoucht in syndrynes, In ilk thyng it is the les
?1438 Alex. ii. 4970.
He is tane; bot we haue ane Of lytill les price … Gaudiferis bruthir
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 318.
The maire of abstynens, ay the les desyre
c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 59/28.
That purpos makis … the syn to be les
1531 Bell. Boece I. 210.
Seand thair houndis of les reputatioun than the Scottis, baith in bewte, swiftnes, lang renk, and hardiment
a1538 Abell 114 a.
The les part of this argument is patent
1545 Corr. M. Lorraine 146.
[The rumour] is leis nor it wos becas he is sa lang in cuming
1560 Rolland Seven S. 719.
Vnder … na les pane nor wanting of thair heid
1562-3 Winȝet I. 5/34.
Materis of les pryce, as of ymages [etc.]
a1578 Pitsc. I. 107/23.
To no les schame and mervell of his adwersaris then [etc.]
Ib. 202/15.
[This] caussit them to tak the lese feir
1597 James VI Dæmonol. 19.
The qualitie of these formes … is lesse or greater, according to the skil … of the magician
c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxvi. 8.
Appeirantlie sumtyme to forgett … Has na les force to kendill Cupydis fyre
1612 Highland Papers III. 123.
The executioun of everie sutche course as salbe then resolued vpoun … may with the lesse difficultie be effectuat
(2) absol. ?1438 Alex. ii. 6065.
Thay sall be outher shent or slane Or we defoulit! les may nocht be
1540 Crim. Trials I. 228.
Affirmeing that it stude him to no les nor his lyff

c. Of lower rank or estimation; inferior. Also absol. as noun.(1) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 45.
Paule wes les in his degre
14.. Acts I. 6/2.
That na man aw to thol jugment fra a les persoun than fra his peir
c1420 Wynt. v. Prol. 43.
Off this dowbyll governale The grettast is the spyrytuale, The temporalle is the les but lete
Ib. 2441.
Tharefor his state and his honoure Wes the les
?1438 Alex. li. 1745.
I wald be les than king … , With-thy that I als worthy war As ȝon knichtis
1490 Irland Mir. I. 151/7.
The litle montanis war the les angellis and inferior
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 322.
The mair he loutit for my luf, the les of him I rakit
(2) absol. c1420 Ratis R. 1014.
Be lel … to the les als veil as mare
1456 Hay I. 265/15.
It that the mare may nocht do, it is to presume that the lesse may nocht do that

d. To mak(e les of, to belittle, disparage. e. To bring to les, to extinguish (one's fame). c1420 Bute MS. fol. 160.
Gyf ony wacheman in the kyngys burgh consent to falset or talk hyre for cause of spilling or makyng les of the constitution of the toun … he sal be deprevit of hys offyce
c1590 Fowler I. 118/16.
The fame of mortall men … Which ought by death to quenshed be and quikly brought to les

f. In music, = minor. absol. c1550-c1580 Art of Music 5 b.
Heir is ane gryth varience betwix the Bretans and vtheris musicianes of dywers regiones annentis the muid perfyt of the less in this vyis

3. Mare or (na) les, les or (na, no) mair (moir), of greater or lesser magnitude or consequence, of any sort, in any way, at all. Only following the noun. c1420 Ratis R. 1256.
My sone, set nocht thi happynes In na syk plays, mar na les
Ib. 1332.
Thar wyllre mayne sum vem to se Efter as the hurt is les ore mare
a1500 Seven S. 190.
Full courtasly inclynit he thare, Bot a word les na maire He spak
Ib. 2271.
He had na wittering mar nor les
1567 G. Ball. 13.
Saif vs … From unbeleue, and Lollardis lair, And deuillis doctrine mair or les

b. Les or (also and) mare, mair or (nor) les, also quhillis etc. les quhillis mair, of larger or smaller amount, sometimes less sometimes more. Also absol., (neither) less nor more, the exact or whole amount in question.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xii. 244.
Quhat thing euir gyffyne was To Criste, vthyre mare or lese, Cryste gefit hyme ay in ȝemsele
Ib. xxii. 240.
Sic men [he] socht … & gaf thame almon, les & mare, As he saw thame nedyt til
a1500 Seven S. 1725.
Quhiddir that it be les or mare The half ȝe hecht ws till our scaire
1556 Peebles B. Rec. 236.
To tak consultatioun quhat suld be defalcat thairof les or mair
a1568 Bann. MS. 135 a/54.
For littill mair or les Mak thow na debait
1644 Aberd. B. Rec. III. 25.
They wald accept of … the lylk soume as hade bein advancit be the said burghe of Dundie, les or mair as it sould happin the … provest to aggrie vpon with the said noblemen
1666 Rothesay B. Rec. .
The sowme of twa thousand merks Scots money les or moir alledgit awand be him
(2) 1580 M. Works Acc. (ed.) 308.
[The Queen] assignit … for the keiping of the castell … particular soumes quhillis les quhillis mair therfoir as scho thocht guid
c1575 Balfour Pract. 517.
Amendis for slauchter … sould be modifyit be the judge sumtimes mair sumtimes les efter the state of the crime [etc.]
(3) absol. c1420 Ratis R. 336.
Rychtwysnes … ȝarnis neuir mar na les Bot that thow pres to do … Rycht as thow wald to thé war done
1535 Stewart 50047.
Fra ws on force tha think it salbe reft And leve ws alsua nother les no moir, And all oure riches [etc.]
1622-6 Bisset II. 258/3.
The wyne … aucht to be payed eftir the reat … nethir mair nor lese

c. Of persons: Mar or lesse, les or more, of high station or low, anyone. Also gret nor les. 14.. Acts I. 11/2.
Gif ony outhir mar or lesse … passis in the kyngis court … thruch ressonable enchesone hym movand
1535 Stewart 57364.
Gif ony lad or man … Hed tane that tyme other les or moir Ony thing he had nocht payit foir
1658 Rothesay Par. Rec. 5.
Whosoever of the townes-people bees found sitting at drink les or more in ther nighbouris house vpon the Sabaoth day
c1490 Porteous of Nobilnes 174/15 (Asl.).
Thai suld do na wrang nothir to gret nor les

4. Les and mair (moir), also mair and les. a. Of things: Larger and smaller, greater and lesser; hence, all of them or it, every one, everything. Only following the noun. Also absol. c1420 Ratis R. 1479.
God … Has hordand al thing, les & mare, … And rychtwysnes weil till endur
a1487 Gud Wife & D. 246.
In keping with a gud mastres Quhill kennis vertu es mair and les
1508 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 118.
At thai haif thair wechtis les and mair convenient thairfore
1535 Stewart 13309.
The messinger … schew till him his criddens les and moir
Ib. 17863.
For to reskew tha landis les and moir Carentius had giffin thame befoir
Ib. 55074.
Ane Inglisman tha jowellis les and moir Tuke of that image
Ib. 34151, 58014. 1567 G. Ball. 29.
Quhat I haif tholit les and mair
Ib. 35. a1578 Pitsc. I. 6/8.
Litill buik pas thow … To … that lord … And thair schaw him thy secreittis moir and les
absol. 1375 Barb. iv. 568.
The King … Callit … ane that wes preue … And chargit him in les and mare
c1540 Lynd. Kitteis Conf. 2.
The curate Kitte culd confesse, And scho tald on baith mair and lesse
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xlii. 50.
The Kirkis commissionars wes thair And did aggrie to les and mair

b. Of persons: Greater and lesser, of high rank and of low; every one, all of them. Only following the noun or absol.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxx. 619.
For the monkis, les & mare, Of hyre dissese had hartis sare
c1450-2 Howlat 190.
All maner of religioun, the les and the mair
15.. Dunb. App. ii. 67.
Off all his freindis les and mair
1535 Stewart 25362. c1552 Lynd. Mon. 5706.
Ȝe lordis and barronis more and les
a1568 Scott vi. 15.
That men and wemen les and mair Ar cumd of Adame and of Eue
1567 G. Ball. 76.
The angellis sang … Unto the hyrdis mair and les
(2) absol. 1375 Barb. v. 338 (E).
Thai that in the castell war Ischyt owt, bath les and mar
Ib. vi. 418, viii. 120. Ib. xii. 304.
I pray yow … Bath mar and les commonaly, That nane of yow … Haff ey to tak of thair ryches
a1400 Leg. S. x. 102.
Thane til the house come mare & les, That frendis to the ewnike was
Ib. xxv. 226. Ib. xxvi. 1169.
To [St. Nicholas] … be honoure & lowing, Of mare, of les, of auld & ȝing
c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1300.
As now is kende with lese & mare
?1438 Alex. ii. 1256. a1500 Peblis to Play 232.
Thair leif tuik les and mair
1567 G. Ball. 45.
Eternall deide sall nocht thame greue, Bot salbe sauit mair and les
Ib. 73.
The Sauiour of les and moir

5. Used to denote that the number or quantity immediately preceding is to be subtracted from a larger one mentioned or implied. = ‘minus’, but always following the number or quantity. 1483 Acta Conc. I. 82/1.
vjxx of ȝowis ane lesse
1496 Ib. II. 50.
Thar restit unpayit the sade xiiij merkis xxvj d. les
1509–10 Edinb. Hammermen 68.
To Donald Schaw for the makin of xiij ovnce siluer ane grot wecht les
1530–31 Selkirk B. Ct. fol. 150 a.
Wolle Thomsone grantit that he resavit fra hyme x s. vi d. les the pris of the oix
1574 St. A. Kirk S. 395.
Of the iij lib. iij s., ane hard-head les
1633 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. II. 386.
Restand awand nyn bollis meill thrie pecks tua haddisches les

6. Fewer. 1375 Barb. i. 458.
Thai war sum tyme erar may then les [H. eir maire than they were lesse]
1456 Hay II. 153/10.
Gif it befell that, on nede, thé behufit mak certane commissaris, mak na lesse na thre
c1460 Wisd. Sol. 414.
For the langar he leif, the mar synes … and the schorter the les
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxxii. 51.
Ȝour proffeit daylie dois incres, Ȝour godlie workis les and les

B. adv. To a lesser extent, in a lower degree, by a smaller amount. Also in special collocations.Also na les, nevir the les, nocht the les, q.v. in their separate entries.(1) 1375 Barb. iv. 703 (E).
Off the hewyn … the dispositioun … That wyrkys nocht ay quhar agatis, Bot sum quhar les and sum quhar mar
Ib. viii. 121.
That thai suld les thair fayis drede
?1438 Alex. ii. 2730.
The assaltis count I na thing, Ȝit prys I les this rioting
Ib. 5596, 5613. c1420 Ratis R. 1794.
Quharfor it suld be lufyt les Than suld wertew be
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS. No. 357.
Drink les & buy ane
(2) c1420 Wynt. vi. 2323.
Les lykly thyng suth mycht be Demyd be possybylyte
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lv. 9.
Till heff riddin had bein les ill Nor lat thair wyffis breid the pockis
1549 Compl. 9/23.
Scipio vas neuyr les ydil as quhen he aperit to be idil
1592 Warrender P. II. 168.
Sic others as ar suspect to be … na lesse culpable then thame selfes
1596 Dalr. I. 5/11.
He fand heit and calde lesse vehement in Scotlande than in France
(3) 1375 Barb. xi. 223.
Thai sall the les haf abasyng Giff men betyd in thrang to be
1575 Waus Corr. 102.
Geif I get it nocht, I man think my self the les in your common
1593 Warrender P. II. 207.
I houpit be my absence … your Majestie sould have bene the les irritat
1609 Acts IV. 410/1.
Some provisioun made by statute to disapoint thame … wald make thame the les curious to offend heirin
(4) c1460 Thewis Gud Women 136.
It is no point of honestee A gud woman allane to bee In cumpany of mony ane, And mekill les with ane alane
1562-3 Winȝet I. 119/4.
Albeit aggreing with the Scriptuir, fer les, heirfor, superstitioun
(5) 1562-3 Winȝet I. 8/26.
Thay ar na les than the vtheris degenerat ignorantis abone specifeit as wikit ethnikis and bund subditis to … avarice
(6) 1531 Bell. Boece I. 23.
Suspekand na thing les than sic irruptioun of ennimes

C. adv. phrase and conj., Les than or na (nor), les.

1. Introducing a clause expressing a condition on which an exception to the principal statement will or may exist: Unless, if … not, except. Cf. of les (than) and oles (na), Onles.(1) c 1390 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 21.
We can nocht wytt qwat he suld do lesse than mak hym obedienc
1445 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV. 398.
Parliament has decretit that al … possessiounis pertening to hym as the Kingis eschete lesse than he cum within yere and day and vndirgang the law
c1475 Wall. viii. 49.
Ane off ws sall de Les than he cum and knaw his rychtwis king
Ib. 551.
We sall do nocht les than it mowe in yow
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 200/14.
It is nocht till haf bene writtin in ȝour … bukis les than it haf bene werite
1513 Doug. i. Prol. 233.
For sykkyrly, les than wys authoris leyn, Ene saw nevir Touyr with hys eyn
Ib. 495.
Ȝit stude he nevir weill in our tung endyte, Les than it be by me now at this tyme
Ib. ii. ii. 10.
A ȝong man … dowtles reddy to de Les than to Grekis he oppynnyt the cite
Ib. iii. 63, vi. Prol. 14, x. xiii. 59, xii. xii. 94. 1533 Bell. Livy I. 151/5.
Porsena … commandit … this Mutius … to be brynt haistelie … les than he suddanlie revelit quhat … hid tressoun was compasit in his slauchter
Ib. 298/20.
Knawing weill … the pepill mycht tak occasioun … to depone thame of thare auctorite & honouris, les than thai war … confederit togiddir
Ib. II. 163/6. 1533 Acta Conc. Public Aff. 400.
How ony prelat of the realme may be haldin … be the law of God or man … unconvenit les than the cryme war notour
(2) 1488 Acts II. 210/1.
The chancellar sall mak the panis contenit in the saidis actis … to be execut apoun the brekaris of the saidis actis les na thai will lefe the saidis benificis efter thay be requirit thar apoun
1491 Acta Conc. I. 194/2.
Na state [shall] be gevin to hir … quhill xx dais efter that Dauid Hering … decesis and nocht than les na the said James will nocht giff [etc.]
1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 128.
Les nor this medicyne be applyit dewlie, it is not proffitable for the part of hym that misteris the medicyne
1581 Hamilton Cath. Tr. 14.
Not esteming thame selfis of ony gret authoritie … , les nor thai had eikit sumthing to thair maistees erroris
Id. Facile Tr. in 1573-1600 Cath. Tr. (S.T.S.) 234/22.
The sinne sal not be forgevvin les nor that be restorit whilk is tane auay
c1590 Fowler II. 30/21.
I might … mak thy awin maner odious vnto thy self, les nor in so doing I wald peraduentur offend the eares of the godly
Ib. 41/13.
I micht vse … mony … ancient writers for probatioun, les nor I sould seeme to be tedious
Ib. /36.
Christ commands … to haue recours vnto the Kirk … (quhilk war impossible les nor it war visible)
Ib. 64/34. 1584-9 Maxwall Commonpl. Bk. fol. 20 a.
Les nor my handis be better nor my landis, I will ly in the myre
(3) c1475 Wall. iii. 304.
I sall be bound to thé For Inglismen, that thai sall do him nocht, Nor to no Scottis, les it be on thaim socht
1513 Doug. i. Prol. 305.
I am constrenyt als neir I may To hald hys vers … Les sum history, subtell word or the ryme Causith me mak digressioun
1566 Keith Hist. App. 135 (Jam.).
We luk for nathing bot for gryt troubill … , les God … schaw his mercy upoun us
a1585 Arbuthnot Maitl. Q. xxxv. 101.
Repeit the poetis auld … Thair thou sall find, les thou be blind, The vertewis of wemen

b. Introducing a subordinate clause which expresses a consequence of setting aside the principal statement: Otherwise, else. a1500 Prestis of Peblis 763.
Ane count thairof ȝe sall gif … Lesse than it be throw sum grit negligence
1531 Bell. Boece I. 20.
Thairfor apperit na thing sa gud to Pichtis as to have friendschip of Scottis, les than thay purposit to rendir falset, hatrent and evil dedis for faith, luf and gud thankis
1567 Sat. P. vii. 28.
Quhilk charge … thay can not weill refuse, Les schamefullie thair office thay abuse
1600 Hamilton Facile Tr. 379.
This thay dar not grant, les nor thay confesse that … thay ar euer infidelis

2. Introducing a clause stating something to be prevented or guarded against: Lest, in case, for fear that. (Cf. Lest conj.)(1) 1513 Doug. i. Prol. 300.
Rycht so am I to Virgillis text ybund, I may nocht fle les than my falt be fund
Ib. iii. vi. 99.
Thyne haris with a purput vail ourheild Les than amyd the godly fyris … Thi ennemeis mycht … knaw thi face
c1590 Fowler II. 21/13.
Ȝit les nor throuch my silence, his lyes … sould haue sic aduantage of the treuth, … I am forced to enter in defence
(2) 1513 Doug. i. ii. 14.
King Eolus … Temperis thar ire les thai suld, at thar will, Beir with thar byr the skyis
Ib. ii. x. 20.
Queyn Helene … dreding les the Troianys wald … kast sum way for hir distructioun
Ib. iv. iii. 38.
I affeir me les the fatis onstabill … consent not, ne aggre, That bot a cite to Tyryanys suld be
Ib. xli. Prol. 281. 1570-3 Bann. Trans. 288.
Kis the Sonne, leas [M. least] the Lord be angrie
c1590 Fowler I. 91/146.
It is my part for to foirsee these ewillis before they grow, Les commoun bruit vnto our shame our infamie furth blow

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