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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Murther, -ur(e, -our(e, Morther, Murder, n.1 Also: murthere, -ire, -yr(e, -ar(e, -eur, murthre, mwrther, -ir, -our, mourther, muirther; mortho(u)r, -ower; murdir, -our, mourder, mowrtour, mwrdour, mwrdre, morder, -or. [ME. murþer, morþre (13–14th c.), ME. and e.m.E. murther (Cursor M.), -ur, morther (c 1449), mordre (14th c.), moordre (15th c.), e.m.E. murder (Shakesp.), OE. morðor, also OF. murdre, moerdre, murtre (F. meurtre) of Germanic origin, med. L. mordrum, murdrum.The forms in d and t are no doubt due to the OF. and med. L.]

1. Murder, unlawful killing of a person or const. possess. of the victim, espec. premeditated or secret killing.Also const. possess. of the person committing the murder.Also with indef. article or in plur., an instance of murder.(1) 1235 Reg. Episc. Aberd. II. 269.
Cum … girthebrekyng, flemyngrith, murthir et latrocinio
1373 Acts I. 184/2.
Si per murthir siue per forthouchfelony fuit homicidium perpetratum
14.. Ib. 342/1. 1456 Hay I. 240/31. Ib. 27/32.
And his said maister did a crime of murthir or thift or ref
1473–4 Treas. Acc. I. 4.
1569 Sc. Hist. Rev. I. 40.
I never thoght … that the persowns nominat by the persown off Kynnoir wald jnterprysyt sik a vyle & execrable mourther
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 30. c1575 Balfour Pract. 508.
The four pointis of the crown … viz. murther … burning, robberie or reif, and ravisching and deforcing of women
Ib. 512. 1600 Hamilton in Cath. Tr. 228/19.
Ib. 234/33.
For of it proceidis murthre
1598 James VI Basil. Doron 43/8.
As King Dauids [conscience] uas after his murther & adulterie aye quhill [etc.]
Ib. 62/7, 64/8. 1596 Dalr. I. 289/9.
Donald and his wyfe, authoris of the murthir, the seruandes, committeris of the murth[er]
1608 Lett. & St. P. Jas. VI 129.
All wther slauchteris, muirtheris, hairschippis
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii. 132 b, 3.
The first of these crimes is murther, quhilk is publick, quhen ane is slane be forethocht-felonie. And commonlie is called voluntare slauchter. Or it is privat, quhilk is committed quietlie, and secretlie … the quhilk wee call properlie murther
(b) 1501 Acta Conc. MS. XI. 5 b.
His hienes will nocht geif remissions … for tressoune murthare … commone resset of thift
(c) 1473 Treas. Acc. I. 4.
Al accionis except murthure, tressone and commovne thyft
1502 Ib. II. 348.
Certane personis that wer suspeckit of murthur about Edinburgh
1508 Reg. Privy S. I. 270/1. 1525 St. A. Formulare I. 269.
The committaris of … saikles murthuris … reiffis [etc.]
1568 Buch. Indict. 47.
a1578 Pitsc. II. 194/16.
Quhilk ratified all the murthur that was done befoir and now oppinlie declairit
1596 Highland P. I. 158. 1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Mvrthrvm. 1612 Jurid. Rev. X. 466.(d) c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 20/12.
He suld speir at … baronis & men of weir anentis reif, murthour and stouth
a1538 Abell 31 a.
Pray apone pray and mwrthour apone murthour
1567 Reg. Privy C. I. 545.
That be the murthour of his fader he had purchest a pretendit mariage of his moder
1567 Crim. Trials I. ii. 501. 1568 Haddington Corr. 271. 1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 30.
Hamiltoune send … seruandis to execute the murthour
Ib. 33 35. 1573 Sempill Sat. P. xxxix. 302.
To puneis lounes that hes ourlaid this land By murthour
1579 Reg. Privy C. III. 196. 1582 Crim. Trials I. ii. 103. 1584 Laing MSS. I. 41.
To practise our murthour be shot or other wapon
1590 Crim. Trials I. ii. 206. 1592–3 Misc. Spald. C. II. l.
In respect that the alledgit deid forsaid is ane foule murthour, committit vnder clud of nycht, and consequentle ane caus of tressone
1613 Crim. Trials III. 262. 1619 Ib. 481. 1625 Justiciary Cases I. 27.
And of the murthour and slauchter of the persones foirsaidis
1627 Ib. 73.(e) 1563-72 Ferg. Tracts 10.
The punishment of whordome, dronkennes, … morther, thift
1568 Buch. Indict. 33.
Quhairbie it apperis evidentlie that the Quene … ves previe of the horrible and wnvorthe morthour perpetrat [etc.]
1579 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 107.
Cheiflie culpabill of the said crewall morthoweris
1586 Cal. Sc. P. VIII. 447.
1589 Black Bk. Taymouth 244.
(f) 1165–1214 Facs. Nat. MSS. I. 20.]
[Exceptis … causa de murdra, causa de assaltu premeditato
1456 Hay I. 245/13.
Or poysonis or othir maner of murderis in hyd maner
Ib. II. 40/21.
Ony grete excessive syn as tresoun or scisme, sorcery or wichecraft or grete murderis
Ib. 36/4. 1515 Reg. Privy S. I. 398/2.
1567 Crail Kirk S. 19 Nov.
For the mordor of hyr barne
1590 Grant Chart. 177.
1596–7 Misc. Spald. C. I. 99.
Thow was ane continuall practizer withe … thi mother of hir haill mwrdres
1600-1610 Melvill 17.
Of the Kingis mourder at the Kirk of Field
Ib. 23.
Ib. 427.
(2) c1420 Wynt. vi. 2372.
He In murthyr hym slwe on the prewe
1498 Acta Conc. II. 291.
Apone forthocht felony in maner of murthare under cilence of nycht
1515 (c 1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I. 156.
Stouthreif, invasioun be way of murthure [etc.] … ar pvnist to deid
1526 Reg. Privy S. I. 524/2. 1551 Breadalbane P. No. 79.
Vnder silence of nycht … be way of murthure and hamesukkin

b. Also applied to any heinous or strongly reprobated killing or multiple slaughter or massacre, whether illegal or legal. c1420 Wynt. ii. 1014.
Off that incest fell murthyr kene
Ib. v. 2220.
That fellowne slawchtyr he awowyd, And sayd … thai Suld it murthyre call na way, For tyll wndo thare goddys fa, How lychtlyast thai mycht hym sla
c1475 Wall. vii. 369.
Our kyn ar slayn … Throuch feill murthyr the gret dispite is mor
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 211/6.
In this samyne ȝere was a gret murthour of lordis in Yngland
Ib. 214/5.
Hislyf was evir into tressonable murthoure
1531 Bell. Boece I. 19.
Suppone we be vincust, quhilk may nocht succeid but undemus murdir of you, than sall ye be an facill pray to your ennimes
Ib. 44.
Seing the feild left efter sa huge murdir
1533 Boece ii. xii. 85.
Sa vehement was the murthare that nowthir kynde nor age mycht avale
15.. Clar. v. 84.
Thair was of Sampson the murthere
1560 Rolland Seven S. 5030.
To quhome Romanis had done greit vilanie, Be greit murther and malice thame molest
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i. 469.
I vg ȝour murthour and hirschip to declair For thocht ȝe sla nocht pure men with ȝour knyues Ȝit with ȝour dearth ȝe tak from thame the lyues
1567 Sat. P. iv. 103.
By thrawart malice and murther manifest … hangit … but dome
1567 Ib. xi. 49.
Throw thé murther wald beir the swing
a1578 Pitsc. II. 316/22.
To excuise his pairt of the murthure of the Scottismen
1589 Black Bk. Taymouth 245.
Causing thame authoreis the said creual mvrthour

c. To do, commit or ma(k (ane) murther. Also const. on or apoun the victim.(1) 14.. Reg. Maj. c. 138.
Ane is that is callit murther the quhilk is done priuily … sa that sudandly folowys nocht the cry of the pepyl
1494 Loutfut MS. 109 a.
Apon murthir tresson or ony siclike accioun quhilk is done in secret maner
1567 G. Ball. 3.
Thow sall do na murther
(2) c1475 Wall. viii. 1120.
The wengeance … Off gret murthyr his men maid in till Ayr
(a1570-86 Dunb.) Maitl. F. x.43.
The mourderar ay mourder mais [v.r. The murderaser and martyr mayis] And ay quhill he be slane he slayis
1533 Boece viii. vi. 261.
In feildis villagis and townys fellon murthure was maid, bot in the fleyng sum parte mare
1560 Rolland Seven S. 6732. 1570 Sempill Sat. P. xii. 59.
Lythquo, lament … Cause of this murther laitly maid amang ȝow
(3) 1544 Corr. M. Lorraine 95.
Fyrst to commit tresson and sayne morther
1551 Hamilton Cat. 86.
Thai brek this command … quha of crabitnes committis slauchter or murthour
a1595 Cullen Chron. Aberd. 37.
The grytt and crwll mwrther and messecar of Paris wes committit be Hendre, Kyng of France [etc.]
1593 Edinb. Test. XXV. 203.
The committar of the said mwrdour being apprehendit
1596 Dalr. I. 288/23.(4) 1492 Myll Spect. 283/3.
The damesell that had commysit sic a foull mvrthur on hir awne proper fader
1531 Bell. Boece II. 49.
Gret murdir and punitioun was maid on al thame that war repugnant to this proclamation
1533 Boece vii. vi. 233.
Vtheris … made na litill murthure apon Romanis
Ib. ix. viii. 304.
The tratouris … maid apoun him haisty murthire
1547 Reg. Privy C. I. 71.
Thevis and tratouris that … makis revis, slauchteris, mowrtouris and oppressionis upoun our soverane ladyis liegis
a1578 Pitsc. II. 291/14.
Thair chanceit to be maid in the towne of Parreis ane gret murthur vpone the haill protestanis

d. As a cry uttered by one who believes there is immediate danger of murder. a1500 Henr. Fab. 486 (Bann.).
Scho said and gaif a schout: ‘How, murthour, reylock!’
a1651 Calderwood VII. 124.
The Archbishop of St. Androes reposing in his bed … was walkened with a cry of blood and murther

e. Attrib. in murthour-aith (= oath) (unless this properly belongs to Murther n.2). a1500 Henr. Fab. 2865 (Bann.).
Gife thow sueir to me the murthour aith … to bring me our this flude But hurt or harme
Ib. 2884 (Bann.).

2. Applied to: The (? mass) killing of animals. a1578 Pitsc. I. 55/32.
Ilk ane lyand wait for wther as they had ben settand tinchellis for the murther of wyld beistes

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"Murther n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Dec 2023 <>



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