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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).

Nobil(l, Noble, a. Also: nobil(l)e, -yl(l, -ylle, -el(l, nobbill, nob(i)lle, noubile, -le, nowbill, -ell(e. Compar. nobillare etc. Superl. nobil(l)ast, -est, etc., noblest, etc. [ME. (Ancr. R.) and e.m.E. noble, nobil(l, etc., F. noble, L. nōbilis.]For early examples of the word as a surname see Black Surnames s.v.; also Johannis Nobil (1330 Exch. R. I. 273), Thomas Nobill (1364 Rot. Sc. 886/2).

1. Of persons: Of noble rank and character.Also ironically.For examples in collocation with king, lord, prince, see these words and also Michty a. 1 a (3). Also Nobil(l)-man n.(1) 1397 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 32.
Betwix a nobil ladi Margaret Contas of Mar [etc.]
1449–50 Glasgow Chart. I. ii. 27.
Be our nobil antecessoures
1458 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 325.
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 664.
Schir Bedwar [etc.] … nobil to neuin
a1500 Rauf C. 54.
Thow semis ane nobill fallow, thy answer is sa fyne
1503 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 72.
Bot for the nobill and honorable personis of the town
c1500-c1512 Dunb. viii. 19.
The prince of knychtheid, nobill and chevilrous
Id. xlii. 97.
Matremony, that nobill king
1513 Doug. i. ix. 48.
Sa nobill a queyn!
Ib. v. xiv. 46.
Wald thou I lippynnyt the maist nobil Ene?
1535 Stewart 33.
Thair sall he find als nobill and als fyne As euir wes ony of the nobill nyne
1538 Crim. Trials I. i. 206.
Your nobill grace
1549 Compl. 12/32.
Nobil Scipion
1560 Rolland Seven S. 551.
Ane mayd … Nobill, courtes and plesand of visage
(b) 1423 Edinb. Chart. 213.
Yhure noble depute the gouernour off your realme
c1450-2 Howlat 32.
Dame Natur, that noble mastres
1456 Hay I. 17/9.
Thai noble pillaris and warreyouris of the faith
a1500 Henr. Fab. 855 (Bann.).
We, noble lyoun
a1500 Quare Jel. 256.
Jelousy … Quhareof eschamith euery noble wy
c1490 Porteous Noblenes 176/9.
Herfor euery noble creatur suld eschew to do wrang scaith or iniure
Ib. 177/24.
Worthines … is sweit … to noble & liberall men
a1570-86 Maitl. F. clxxvi. 1.
All wemeine ar guid, noblle and excellent
(c) 1552 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 277.
Ane potent and nobel lord
a1578 Pitsc. I. 114/5.
Sindrie wther nobell knychtis
(d) 1464 Reg. Episc. Brechin. II. 107.
Nouble and michtie lordis, Andro Lorde Avandale [etc.]
1515 Douglas Corr. 318.
Be the advice of the great and nowbelle lordis of the realmme
1559 Edinb. B. Rec. III. 46.
1581 Nugae Scoticae 37.
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxiii. 61.
This noble cunning sort Quhom of befoir I did report
Also b. sometimes indicating illustriousness or loftiness of character as distinguished from high rank or membership of the nobility, and conversely. c1490 Porteous Noblenes 180/15.
It is folie … to ony man of noble & hie blude to … hald him self noble without that he … schewe him noble be his wertuis dedis
1533 Boece iv. v. 131 b.
Quha … fand invensiouns to caus men of substance deburs maist monye was repute maist nobill
1596 Dalr. II. 163/21.
[Albany] destributet the kirk lyuengs to ilk as he was noble, nocht conforme to his vertue

c. superl. (freq. absol.).(1) ?1438 Alex. ii. 361.
The nobillest king That euer bare croun
a1578 Pitsc. I. 408/19.
Gif he had ressawit goode consall … he had ben the most nobillist prince that ever rang in the realme of Scottland
1567 G. Ball. 43.
Princes ar repute nobilest, The quhilk rewlis moste awfullie
(2) a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 1080.
The ȝungeste Of that land & the nobileste
c1420 Wynt. iii. 158.
The nobylest [C. nobillast, W. noblest] in that cumpany
c1450-2 Howlat 887.
Dame Natur the nobillest nechit in ane
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 227.
Of the nobillest be-name, noumerit of nyne
a1497, 15.. Gray MS. vi. 16. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 102/37. 1528 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 97.
With certane of the nobyllest of our communite
a1578 Pitsc. I. 127/11.
Ane of the nobllist of they dayis
1605 Melvill 606.
That the most nobillest and hightest hes joynit thame selvis

d. With the defining phrases of lignie (see Ligne(e n. a), of blud. a1568 Bann. MS. 238 b/19.
Rycht nobill of blud
1596 Dalr. I. 91/9.
The gretter of digrie and the nobiller of blude that ony of thame war, in the weiris he was formest

e. Of birth, lineage, etc.See also Birth n. 1 c, Kin n. 5 (2) and Ligne(e n. c for examples with these words. 1531 Bell. Boece II. 53.
Ane madin of nobill blude
1535 Stewart 20635.

f. Of attributes, actions or reputation of persons: Pertaining to, or befitting, a noble person; illustrious, distinguished, admirable.Passing into sense 3 a. c1400 Troy-bk. i. 386.
Ressauit with hym with noble fare
1424 Edinb. Chart. 213.
At ȝhour noble comandement
1447 Ib. 68.
Oure progenitouris of noble mynde
c1450-2 Howlat 453.
Ȝour hart nobillast
1456 Hay II. 58/32.
Alexander … had sa noble a curage that he dispisit avarice and covatise
Ib. 67/36.
And that he be lovit for his noble dedis of worthynes
c1466-80 Letter from Lord Hamilton.
At ȝour nobil hartis desyr
a1500 Henr. Fab. 150 (Ch.).
Science and cunning … Quhilk is sa nobill, sa precious and sa ding
c1475 Wall. i. 2. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 67/17, 18.
The man jn this nobile state of jnnocence had thire hie and nobile wertuis befor spokin
Ib. 69/28.
The nobillare natur and wertu has the mare nobile operacioune
1491 Acta Conc. I. 168/2.
His trew liegis sulde … desire to prefer the noble estate of his excellence
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlviii. 119.
[The lion] Quhois noble yre is parcere [pr. proceir] prostratis
Id. lxxxiii. 9. 1535 Stewart 73.
Ane Hector Boyis … of nobill fame
1549 Compl. 153/21.
Thou hes nocht dune sic ane nobil act as to genner ane nobil prince
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 4943.
Thare nobyll name
1567 G. Ball. 115.
Thy nobill actis
a1570-86 Maitl. F. clvii. 13.
Becaus he is of nobill spreit
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. lii. 19.

2. Distinguished for ability or learning; gifted, expert; (of fighting men,) valorous.Also Nobil(l)-man n. 1375 Barb. ix. 481.
This Schir Eduard … Wes of his handis a nobill knycht
1456 Hay I. 22/33.
A woman, the quhilk … a noble clerges was
Ib. 37/23.
The noble doctour Orosius
Ib. II. 35/33.
Gif thou will wale worthyast and maist noble man of curage
a1500 Henr. Orph. 422 (Ch. & M.).
Doctour Nicholas Quhilk … a noble theolog was
c1475 Wall. iv. 543.
Twenty he had that nobill archaris war
1531 Bell. Boece I. 112.
About this time was mony nobill clerkis as Persius [etc.]
1535 Stewart 7503. c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 807.
Ane nobill leiche the squyer had
a1568 Bann. MS. 144 a/8.
Becaus he is in cumpany Ane noble gyd
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. xvii. 30. 1567 Sat. P. iii. 51.
Nobill him self and nobill of ingyne
1596 Dalr. I. 3/11.
Thay being sa noble seymen and sa expert in sayling

3. Distinguished in quality or appearance; excellent, fine; admirable; illustrious; splendid, magnificent.a. Of non-material things. Cf. sense 1 f. Also (a) nobill thing.(1) ?1438 Alex. ii. 4019.
At the nobill renouned iorne
c 1420 Liber Calchou 448.
Her begynnys a nobyl tretyse
c1475 Wall. viii. 483. 1492 Myll Spect. 288/16.
I sall to thé schaw sum nobbill examplis & historys
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 99.
Thair Quene so clere Quham of thair nobill norising thay thonk
Id. Tua Mar. W. 248.
God … send me sentence to say, substantious & noble
Ib. 511. a1568 Bann. MS. 141 a/12.
Ane agnus day with nobill nott
1562-3 Winȝet II. 36/1.
That noble and large werk, of na les than of thretty buikis
1596 Dalr. I. 349/4
A noble victorie he obteynet
(2) 1375 Barb. i. 225.
Fredome is a noble thing
?1438 Alex. ii. 290.
The worship and the nobill thing Of the nobill duke
Ib. 356.
Of douchty man is nobill thing That alwayes gangs with mening
1456 Hay II. 23/3.
It is a noble thing quhen knychthede and clergy is assemblit togedir

b. Of places, esp. towns, and of institutions. c1400 Troy-bk. i. 213.
In Colkas the nobile ile
?1438 Alex. i. 17.
To tak the nobill toun of Tyre
Ib. ii. 470. 1456 Hay I. 55/33. c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2538. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 33.
Fra Papis come that nobill towne within
1562-3 Winȝet I. 33/32. 1596 Dalr. I. 19/13.
A noble toune [Peebles]
c1650 Spalding I. 150.
The nobill brughe of Abirdein
1456 Hay II. 48/37.
To … manetene the poyntis of his maist hye and noble temporale ordre
1490 Irland Mir. I. 11/28.
[The Emperor] foundit many noble abbayis and the noble and worthi vniuersite of Paris

c. Of material things. c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 982.
A ryche and nobile sepultur
c1420 Wynt. i. 1385.
Ane land of nobyl ayre
Ib. vii. 51. 1456 Hay I. 228/7.
And I had hecht a man a noble suerd
Ib. 282/10.
The quhilk armes ar the maist noblez
Ib. 290/7.
Sen he is maist noble of princis, it sittis wele he have croune of the nobilast of all metallis
a1500 Henr. Fab. 367 (Ch.).
As fitchis myngit ar with nobill seid
c1475 Wall. ii. 398.
His suerd that wes of nobill hew
1490 Irland Mir. I. 46/7.
Maist noble jowell
Ib. 76/3.
A place noble and worthi for his estait
Ib. 154/11.
The ark … maid of the noble and precius burdis
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 228/21.
He … held ane noble hous and was ay wele purvait
1513 Doug. i. iv. 98.
Nobill auld wyne
Ib. ii. vi. 26. 1535–6 Selkirk B. Ct. MS. 209 b (24 Mar.).
To by ane nobyll lok and put it vpone the dvr
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4555. c1550 Id. Meldrum 887.
With nobill confeittis, bran and geill
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2155.
This tre was laidin fow Of nobill frute
1596 Dalr. I. 204/36.
In fair ornamentis and noble decore
1597 Misc. Spald. C. I. 114.
Thow … drew ane acher furth of the laid [of barley] and said, That is nobill geir

d. Of horses and of dogs.(1) ?1438 Alex. i. 1431.
He sat vpon the nobillest steid That ony lord mycht haif at neid
1456 Hay II. 93/19. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 3196.
Ane nobill steid
1596 Dalr. I. 14/7.
Nathir thay mekle gret horse … ar haldne sa nobil with our cuntrey men … as horse of midway stature
(2) 1596 Dalr. I. 20/13.
The secund kynde of hunting dog is … mair couragious … and nobilar of kynde

e. Noble part, one of those bodily organs which are essential to the continuance of life.Also e.m.E. (1632) and mod. Eng. 1568 Skeyne Descr. Pest 13.
The hart and nobillest interioure partis of the body
1612 Crim. Trials III. 237.
Vpone the diaphragma or midreid, quhilk is ane noble pairt
1613 Ib. 263.
His haill nobill pairtis inwardlie consumeing
1626 Justiciary Cases I. 37.
Bruiseing and breking his intrall and noble partis uithin him

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



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