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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Leste, Leist, a. and adv. Also: lest, leyst, lyst, liest, least(t, laist, laest. [ME. lest, (14th c.) leest, early least, north. (Cursor M.) leist, ME. also last, e.m.E. least, OE. lǽsest, lǽst.] Least. (Used as the superl. of Litill.)

A. adj. 1. Smallest in size, number, measurement or amount.(1) 1375 Barb. vi. 537.
And the lest party of thame twa Wes starkar fer na he and ma
Ib. xvi. 187.
In [all] tymis he wes ȝeit Ay ane for v, quhen lest wes he
1456 Hay I. 184/14.
How suld he oblis him to the dede or to tynsale of the leste member of his body
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 289.
Licht as leif of the lynd lest [: best, traist]
1482–3 Acta Conc. II. cxi.
That thai var utherwais retourit be the clerk na thai determyt and selit be the lest part of thame
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 309/3.
To Sem … the best and mast part Asia … to Cam the lest and werst part callit Affrike
1512 Treas. Acc. IV. 348.
Twa silvir stopes … of the lest bynd
(b) ?1438 Alex. (c 1580) ii. 7360.
Now prys I nocht the oist of Ynd The leist stra that men mycht find
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 160/2.
That rynnis throw Meid, Pers and Armony the leist
1528 Lynd. Dreme 629.
The eirth semis of so small quantitie, The leist sterne fixit in the firmament
a1568 Jok & Jynny 74.
It is weill knawin I am weill bodin, Ȝe may nocht say my pairte is leist
(c) 1588 King Cat. 85.
Vnder the least part of euerie consecrat hostie
(2) ellipt. 1537–8 M. Works Acc. (ed.) 220.
To Johne Thomsoun … for … away taking of the leist of the said thre flottis fra Leith to Lewin xl s.
1611-57 Mure Dido & Æn. 356.
Full vessells all, none can expect More than the lest containes

2. Least in degree, intensity, importance, value etc.(a) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 496.
Thir ar resonis thre, … And low the firste, that is nocht leste, That [etc.]
1456 Hay I. 203/21.
Than suld wis men tak the leste evill of the twa
1490 Irland Mir. I. 57/24.
The erd and erdlie thingis God has put lawast, as lest of nobilite
1584 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 423.
The wyis Grekis outwardly pretendit lest hostilitie to the Trojanes quhen the fatall horse wes in preparatioun
(b) c1460 Thewis Gud Women 58.
Efter honore cummys profyt And of al gud leist is delyt
a1500 Colk. Sow i. 18.
Bot the penny that wes hid I hold leist hude did
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 354.
Quho clymith moist heych moist dynt hes of the wedder And leist defence aganis the bitter blast Off fals fortune
1560 Rolland Seven S. 10526.
Sa quhen wit wants and strenth of ressoun leist, I count a man na better nor ane beist
1562-3 Winȝet I. 12/2.
For … mony … hes laborit to abolise … the leist memoriall thairof oute of the mynd of man
1564 Cochran-Patrick Coinage I. 92.
And have leist lois thairby
1610 Rep. Grant Mun. 6.
It was the leist thing we could give yow our kyndnes and gud uill
c1650 Spalding I. 221.
Any question whiche may seim to import the leist contradictioun with his Majestie
(c) 1633 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 389.
Yow sall not neid to conceave the least jealousie or suspition of oure careage
(d) 1610 Highland P. III. 118.
Rather to neglect my awin particuliers then the laest point of your Majesties seruice

b. More and leist, = all of it: see sense 3 b and Les a. 4 a. 15.. Clar. ii. 1804.
Fra he saw the honnour and the feist That thair was maid baith more and leist Unto the count

3. Of persons: Lowest in rank or estimation, humblest, meanest. 1535 Stewart 37774.
The best of thame durst skantlie tell his taill To the leist loun … Bot gif [etc.]
15.. Dum Wyf 105.
The leist deuill that is in hell Can gif ane wyff hir toung
1567 G. Ball. 44.
Bot quha is maist, sall serue the leist
1639 Fugitive Poetry II. xv. 2.
He's leist in heaven that breaks & teaches so
ellipt. 1572–3 State P. MS. (Reg. H.) No. 95 a.
Fyve scoir of gentill men landit, the leist of thaime haiffing heritag worth foure hundreth markis
1638 Nat. Covenant.
Whatsoever shall be done to the least of us for that cause [etc.]

b. Maste and leste, leste and maste, of highest and lowest station, every one, all of them: see Les a. 4 b. Also leist and best.(1) a1400 Leg. S. vi. 51.
That al that euire vare in the tovne Of al degre, maste and leste, Suld … cum to that feste
Ib. xvii. 198.
Al hyre covent, leste & maste
1513 Doug. viii. iii. 184.
With glaid semlant blythly maste and lest … now instant Our tabillis as ȝour frendly burdis hant
Ib. x. 18.
Duke Tharcon and the Tuscanys maste and lest Not fer from thens … Thar palȝeonys all had plantyt
a1570-86 Maitl. F. lvi. 53.
Thair we sing bayth most and leist Blyssit be that natiuitas
(2) 1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. iii. 267.
The companie all haillelie, leist and best, Thrang to the well to drink

c. absol. Those of lowest position, the humblest or meanest. 1456 Hay I. 232/11.
For he that has poware apon the maist has power apon the leste
1596 Dalr. I. 322/4.
Her sister Marie, Eustache Erle of Bolonie mariit, not ane of the leist

4. absol., governed by a prep., forming advb. phrases. a. At the leste, be the leste, at leste, as the smallest admissible number, at the lowest rate; at any rate, at all events, at least.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxvi. 219.
A hundre medreiis at the lest Of ilke schip at his request
1429 Acts II. 18/1.
Na man … bot … knychtis and lordis of ijc merkis at the lest of ȝerly rent
1448–9 Aberd. B. Rec. (S.H.S.) cxi. n. 2.
That is to say at the leste for three sekis owtwarte twa tonnes hamewartis
a1400 Leg. S. xxxvii. 370.
Tho it mocht nocht etyne be One dry land with ony beste It suld in the se at the leste Be etyne of fel bestis thare
1456 Hay II. 148/1.
And syne chese be thyne awin wit the best or at the leste the lykliest for thy prouffit
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 1182.
Quhethir ye like me lord, laught in the feild, Or ellis my life at the lest lelely forga
1513 Doug. i. viii. 114.
Then suythly, at the leste, the Sycill see … We sall seik
1520 Peebles B. Rec. 511.
He beand at the lest ane plain sangstar
1559–60 Soc. Ant. XI. 520.
Your lordships will direct lettres simpliciter on hir to that effect or at the lest lettres to poind hir landis and gudis
1562-3 Winȝet II. 37/11.
That othir aluterlie thair wes nocht a manis saul or at the lest that thair wes sik a soul quhilk wantit … ressoun
1584 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I. 319.
The falset, at the lest fenȝeitnes, of the said pretendit instrument
(b) 1542 Mill Mediæv. Plays 155.
iiij s. Scottis … till his vage at the leyst
1573 Cath. Tr. 26/20.
Ye suld haue produced ane at the leist, indewit with the trew wirshiping of God
1596 Dalr. I. 31/9.
Loch Fyne … in lenth … is about xxv myles, in bredth althrouch at the leist 4
a1633 Hope Major Pract. I. 66.
At the leist to be subscryved be six of them
1559 Inv. Q. Mary xcii. n. 2.
The said erle and scho … being quyetly mariit or handfast or at the leist [etc.]
1560 Rolland Seven S. Prol. 102.
I traist sic termes befoir few tymes ȝe vsit, Or at the leist ȝe come nocht quhair thay grew
1562-3 Winȝet I. 66/5.
Sen euery man sall beir his awin burding at the leist [MS. lest]
1568 Anderson Collect. Mary IV. ii. 71.
Haif ye not desyr to lauche to sie me lie sa weill, at the leist to dissemble so weill
1609–10 Reg. Privy C. X. 672.
Everie gentilman … sall put at the leist thair eldest sone … to the scuillis
1673 Rothesay B. Rec. 317.
James Stewart sone and aire foresaid at the leist executor and intromettour with his said fathers goods and geir at the leist lawfully charged to enter aire to him
(c) 1548–9 Corr. M. Lorraine 288.
We … beleyffit … tyll hawe haid at the lyst twa thwsand Scoittis men. Bot … we fand ws faire by that nwmyr
1560 St. A. Kirk S. I. 41.
Margaret Murdow grantis the sclanderous wordis layd to hir charge or at the liest sick wordis in effect
(d) 1588 King Cat. 55.
At the least ains euerie ȝeer
(e) 1636 Fam. Innes 225.
At the laist itt will be seuyne yeirs before they gett the way of briding, excepe thay satill at home
(2) c1420 Wynt. ii. 983 (C).
This Tenelayus he walde haf slayn And be the lest [R. be lest; E.2 at the lest] hym banyst he
1513 Doug. xii. xiii. 23.
Desist heirof, now at last, be the lest, And condiscend to bow at our request
1535 Stewart 48738.
This king Edward … This royall ruif that tyme baith all and sum, Gart talk it doun than be the leist ane crum
(3) a1400 Leg. S. xlv. 64.
Mak sacrifice at lest til ane
1614 Misc. Spald. C. V. 218.
To be removed or at lest ther masteris to bind for them
1653 Argyll Synod II. 62.
That at lest a dolour may be had for his use out of everie kirk box
(b) 1483 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. II. 104.
Without he serve for the space of two ȝeirs at leist
a1568 Bann. MS. p. 7/33.
At leist sum part I thé beseik To swage my pane
1562-3 Winȝet II. 56/12.
The hail cumpanie of praelatis quha awcht at leist to haif the hail knawlege of Godis religioun thame selfis
1597–8 Reg. Privy C. V. 443.
[They stood] with him in apparent … freindship, at leist but ony professioun of feid
1632 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 367.
The poore sholars should be … defraudit of the thrid part at leist of thair due allowance
1644 Aberd. B. Rec. IV. 21.
The toun being convenit, at leist pairt thairof
1677 Ib. 297.
All litle stones … to be takine away or at leist sunkine in the ground
1684 Cunningham Diary 23.
378 mks. at most, or 288 mks. at leist
(c) 1603 Moysie 146.
It continued … thrie dayis at leastt
(d) 1660 Aberd. Council Lett. IV. 34.
As for the customes the burrowes are not senceable or at laist had not soo just occatione too feir the prejeduce that we wilbe at if [etc.]

b. In the leist, in the smallest part or degree. a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 853.
By kynd then, we fynd then Few laks them [the senses] in the leist

B. adv. In the lowest degree, to the smallest extent.(1) 1375 Barb. xi. 495.
That of thar host the lest hardy Be countinans vald formast be
1496 Acta Conc. II. 27.
Ane inquisicione of the best and worthyest, lest suspect, that best knawis the veryte
a1570-86 Maitl. F. clxx. 84.
Quhen syt and sorrow seimis superlatiwe Sagis suld seim leist sucius and sorie
1622-6 Bisset I. 4/28.
The leist schorte space of tyme
(2) a1400 Leg. S. xlviii. 90.
Thu tel … In quhat tyme lest gref ȝe may To cristine men
a1538 Abell 70 b.
The jakmen at laubouris leist faris best in nobilis howsis
1560 Rolland Seven S. 5741.
Scho will dissaue ȝour grace quhen ȝe leist wene
a1568 Bann. MS. 210 a/5.
Quho most hes witt leist suld in it effy
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 53.
Unworthie things ar aluay leist invyde

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"Leste adj., adv.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2023 <>



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