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

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First published 1983 (DOST Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Pissance, n. Also: pyss-, pisc-, pisch- and -ans, -aunce, -auns, -ense, -ens; pischan[c]e, (passance); (pissaver). [Late ME. pysauns (1449), var. of Puis(s)ance n., otherwise appar. only Sc.]

1. Operative power; ability. = Puis(s)ance n. 1. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 146/4.
Sche js the lady of pissaunce and wisdome
Ib. II. 70/7.
In this artikle is wnderstand the wertu and pissaunce of the vii sacramentis of the kyrk
1531 Bell. Boece I. 24.
How unsicker is to confide in ony vane pissance of man
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 272.
In quhatsumevir thingis as may gudelie stand with my pyssance
a1568 Bann. MS. 69 a/12.
Help misterfull … With ȝour pissance ȝour strenth & all ȝour mane
1562-3 Winȝet I. 94/20.
Gif be that titill euiry man (albeit he haif wit and pissance thairto) may iustlie be a king to ministrat iustice
Ib. II. 6/22.
Quhilk singular instrument … [is] of sik pissance and aptitude that … it sal … help wp the wallis of Ierusalem
a1568 Scott xvi. 15.
War I of pissans [v.r. -auns] for to prufe My lawty & my hairtly lufe

2. The authority of a ruler; influence. = Puis(s)ance n. 2. c1500-c1512 Dunb. iv. 33.
He [Death] spairis no lord for his piscence [B. piscens, M. pissance]
1513 Doug. xi. viii. 61.
The pissans [Ruddim. pissance] of Latyn kyng Do set at nocht
1531 Bell. Boece I. x.
My landis braid … Sall gif thy hienes … Triumphant glore … With sic pissance, that [etc.]
Id. Livy I. 230/14.
Sen the delaying of thare purpois for ane tyme mycht tak na pissance [v.r. passance] fra thame, bot erare fortify thame with mare strenth
1540 Lynd. Sat. 519.
My way I mon advance Till ane prince of pissance
1556 Melrose Reg. Rec. III. 165.
To bring it to ane gud pass baith be pischence and consall
1582 Cal. Sc. P. VI. 228.
[As your honour has] pissance [to command me after my ability in all honest and dutiful manner]

3. Supernatural power. = Puis(s)ance n. 3. 1513 Doug. xii. iv. 98 (Ruddim.).
I swere … be … The pissance [v.r. pyssans] of the goddis infernall
a1568 Bann. MS. I. p. 22/4.
For all sic sorrow ȝit thow nocht sest Bot past to hell with thy pissans

4. Military resources. = Puis(s)ance n. 4. 1513 Doug. viii. viii. 36.
We haue bot sobir pissance, and no wonder, To help in batale
1531 Bell. Boece I. 6.
Havand … ane strang gard of men, be quhais pissance and chevalry he dantit the pepill on sic maner that [etc.]
Ib. 271.
Thoucht the Scottis and Pichtis wer … feblit in thair pissance, yit [etc.]
Ib. 12, 261. Ib. (M) II. 250.
Traisting … to be of pissans to meitt thame with playn batall
Id. Livy I. 205/18.
The Romanis had sa eternall pissance that [etc.]
1533 Boece xiv. ii. 545.
Thai traistit to haue bene equale to thame in strenth and piscence
Ib. xv. i. 575 b. 1541 Sc. Hist. Rev. VI. 152.
1542 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 36.
The army of Ingland wes cum in with ane grite pissence to Kelsoth

b. Troops, collectively. = Puis(s)ance n. 4 b. 1513 Doug. vi. x. 79.
Within this place … Ar hail the pissance quhilk, in iust batal, Slane in defens of thar kynd cuntre fell
Ib. x. iv. 5.
To schaw quhat pyssance, ostis and army … In falloschyp com with the prynce Ene
Ib. viii. vi. 37; xi. vii. 44. 1515 Id. in Doug. (Sm.) I. p. xxxix.
And [= if] he wald cum wyth hys army or send hys pyssans in this realm and [etc.]

5. Physical strength. = Puis(s)ance n. 5. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlviii. 108.
Lat no small beist suffir skaith … Of greit beistis that bene of moir piscence
1513 Doug. xii. x. 57.
With gret pissans thai thrist The leddyrris to the wallys
1531 Bell. Boece I. 134.

6. Financial resources. = Puis(s)ance n. 6. 1547 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 255.
Inhabitaris of the said burgh, bayth fre and vnfre, efter thair pischan[c]e and power for support to the furnesing of the premisses
1549 Compl. 7/35.
He dois sa mekil as his pissance maye distribute
1555 Peebles B. Rec. I. 207.
The counsale ordanis tua of ilk quarter breik the laif of thair nychtbouris … to the pissance of thair geir
1572 Aberd. B. Rec. II. 7.
According to thair faculties, rentis, and pissance
1574–5 Reg. Privy S. VII. 5/2.
1589 Burntisland B. Ct. 5 April.

b. Power or might derived from wealth. 1531 Bell. Boece II. 383.
Thair hicht and gret pissance, baith in manrent and landis
a1578 Pitsc. I. 41/19.
The king hes givin and grantit [ȝow] large greit riches and rentis withtin this realme and far abone the pissance of wtheris

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"Pissance n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Feb 2024 <>



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