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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
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Stair, Star(e, n. Also: staire, stairre, stayr(e, staer, steare. [ME and e.m.E. steire (c1200), steyre (Chaucer), staire, steyer (both Trevisa), stayre (14th c.), stayer (1427), stair (1551), steare (1555), stare (1585), OE stǽᵹer.]

1. sing. A staircase, stairway, flight of steps or stairs, chiefly on the outside of a building giving access to the upper floors. Also fig. Also attrib. See also Fore-stair n. and Bak-stair n. Also pl.Some pl. examples may belong in 2.sing. (1) c1420 Wynt. i 948.
Mony a symly cyte fayre, Wytht towre, and stepe, and hewyn stayre [C. stare, W. staire]
(2) 1498 Reg. Privy S. I 38/1.
To big twa fute of a stair fortar than his esdrop of his hous apon the kingis common strete and a penteice under the sammyn
1530 Glasgow Prot. IV 35. 1531–2 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 104. 1598 Birrel Diary 47.
A juglar playit sic sowple tricks upone ane tow quhilk wes festinit betwix the tope of St. Geills kirk steiple and ane stair beneathe the cross callit Josias close heid
1632 Aberd. B. Rec. III 47.
Ordinance againis foirstairis and choppis: … Quhan any stair or chop … salhappin to fall or decay … it sall nawayis be lesume … to big wp or repair the same … becaus the kingis hie streitis is greatlie nidderit and wrongit thairby
1699 Thanes of Cawdor 392.
Upon the south syde of the said geavell ther is to be peatt stones … made lyke a stair in the midle of the wall by which ther may be a convenient way for getting up to make cleen the chimnies
(b) 1497–8 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 72.
To tak doun his corbell he hes furth for a stare to be biggit vpoun thair commoun streitt
1509 Reg. Privy S. I 296/1. 1660 Lamont Diary 124.
The said meason buelt a new stare to the corne-girnell
1703 Hossack Kirkwall 211.
To big a stare at the nucke of his house
(c) 1638 Wemyss in Sc. Diaries 122.
The bishop of Edinburgh … was so stoned with the wifes … that he was forsed to flie to ane steare benorth the crosse and did wine up otherways they head killed him
(3) c1420 Wynt. viii 2115.
That hey stayre [C. stayr, W. staire] he harlyd hym down
c1459 Reg. Paisley Pref. vi n.
The body of the kirk fra the bricht stair up he biggit, and put on the ruf and theckit it with sclait
c1475 Wall. vi 248.
Out our the stayr … is he gayne
1512 Prot. Bk. J. Foular II 150.
That Adam Sword has na titil of rycht for the bigging of the stain stair
1515 Treas. Acc. V 52.
In complete paiment of the mending of the lang stair within the castell of Edinburgh
a1540 Freiris Berw. 533, 536 (B).
Freir Johine attour the stair is gane … And in ane myr he fell … Wes fourty futis of breid vndir the stair
1593 Edinb. B. Rec. V 85.
[He] patt violent hands on his wyff … and cuist hir our hir awin stair
1600 Sc. Hist. Rev. XXXVI 9.
[Gowrie gave the order] ‘Up the stair!’
1646–7 Dumbarton Treas. Acc. MS.
For the whol workmanshipe to the timber and stone of the commoun stair of the key
1649 Kelso Baillie Ct. 53b.
The said Jenet … to repair the stair going doun to hir kill logie
1682 Melrose Reg. Rec. III 4.
He came up the tolbuith stairre to bring out his brother
1705 Foulis Acc. Bk. 371.
To the wrights to drink for makeing and seting up a caise to the knock in the stair 5 s.
(b) a1500 K. Hart 362.
Pietie doun the stare full sone is past
1521–2 Dundee B. Ct. I 72b (29 Jan.).
[He] sall mak a dur to the hiegait & mend the star and the asiamentis in the said land
1535–6 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 166.
Tymmir for cleithing of the galry of the gret stare
1535–6 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 166.
To the biging … of … the gret stare to the chapell
1557–8 Edinb. Old Acc. I 241.
Gevin to ane man for dychting of the laycht Tolbuith stare … vj d.
1560 St. A. Kirk S. 39.
The deponar past to the stare of hir hows quhare sche dwellis, and there fand the dur snecked and unbarred
1600-1610 Melvill 273.
The partie convenit befor Mr. Wilyeam's mother's stare
(c) 1507 Lanark B. Rec. 17.
Werkmanship of the tol[buith] staer
fig. 1635 Dickson Wr. 81.
God shall ding you over the stair of presumption
(4) attrib. 1562–3 Dumfries B. Ct. in Prot. Bk. M. Carruthers 7.
Schir Mark had sauld his stair land and biging in the venellheid within the burgh of Drumfries
1563–4 Edinb. Old Acc. I 470.
For v hundreth stair nails for cleithing of the foir stair
1645 Aberd. B. Rec. IV 47.
Ane dwang with ane houfe vnder the stair doore
pl. 1498–9 Acta Conc. II 296.
For the breking of staris, windowis and loftis
1501 Aberd. B. Rec. I 70.
That all personis … furnys and graitht the staris of the forgait with arres werk daily … for the ressaving of our souerane ladye the queyne
1568 Edinb. Hammermen I 5b.
That na armorare … sett out ony gairdis to sell on stairis buith dureis or windois
a1570-86 Maitland in Maitl. F. 28/25.
And all ȝour stairis with tapessarie gar hing
1578–9 Haddington Treas. Acc.
To the said quariouris for … stappis to stairis
1593 Edinb. B. Rec. V 102.
That … all … haiffand convenient places in the foregaitts hing furth ane … lanterne ower thair staires
1599 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. I 366.
Libertie … to sett furthe and big stairis and skonsses on the northe eist and southe quarteris of his rowme at the croce
1631 Laing MSS 189.
In the mornings and evenings clime up and creep downe their staires
Urquhart Rabelais i liii.
Between every tower … there was a paire of winding (such as we now call lantern) staires
1692 Lanark B. Rec. 241.
To build two stairs without the Laigh Kirk to answear the lofts

b. Tolbuith stair, vattyr star, used as a meeting place, or a place for making proclamations, also, to indicate location.(1) 1520 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 201.
The mercat for the selling of aitis and hors corne be halden at the govis aboue the Tolbuith stair
1533 Wigtown B. Ct. 292b.
Mechell Mccrovne officiare past to the tobuyt stayre & varnyt [etc.]
1534 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 112.
The breff of inquest … red dewly execut and indorsat with proclamatione at the towbotht stayr of the said broght
1558 Inverness Rec. I 20.
The petition of the sayd William wes opynle proclamit at the tolbuyth stayr
1560 Inverness Rec. I 43.
He salbe pot in the gewis on Palme Sunday and thairefter brocht to the tolbuyth stare
1562 Dumfries B. Ct. 151b.
His modir oftymes callit at the tolboytht stair geif ony person or personis vald compeir to obiect aganis the samin
1570 Inverness Rec. I 189.
Conforme to the wse and practyk vsit of befoir quhilk was proclamit at the tolbuyth stayr as wse is
(2) 1482 Liber Aberbr. II 183.
Payande yerly … fyve barrellis of gude salmonde … withyn the burgh of Perth one the schore at the vattyr star at the fest of the Assumpsyon

c. Under (the, a) stair(is, in various contexts with reference to the use made of the space beneath the outside stairs of houses. Cf. 3 (1) 1487 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 53.
That thay set the meill in the commoun mercat and nocht in houssis nor vnder stairis
?1507 Aberd. B. Rec. I xxxix.
That all swyne croiffis maid apone the forgait, under stairis, and wther plaicis, be destroyit
1553 Edinb. B. Rec. II 181. c1575 Balfour Pract. 588.
Gif thair be ony penteissis, that is under stairis, haldin on the fore-gait, or farder furth nor the law permittis
a1578 Pitsc. II 251/32.
Thir lordis … brak thair ordour and passit vnder staires and in clossis for feir of the cannonis of the castell
1629 Reg. Privy C. 2 Ser. III 66.
Hardlie can anie man walke upoun the streits or conferre under staires bot they ar impeshed be thir beggerlie lymmars
1664 Gunn Cross Kirk, Peebles 189.
Those that vage and clatter under stairs on the Sabbath day
a1668 Chron. Perth 88.
He … has suffered the young thing … to be under stairs … lying objected to wind and weet
(2) 1578 Reg. Privy S. VII 253/1.
To … fix standertis of tre … under the stairis of his … tenement … the foundament of the tenement foirsaid being so waik as it can nocht weill be sufficientlie … uphaldin without proppis
1587 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 510.
The puir littell aynes that … lyes vnder the staires
sing. a1540 Freiris Berw. 536 (B).
And in ane myr he fell … vndir the stair [M. stayr]
1618 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 94.
For making a laich hous under the cadgers stair to my Lord Buckinghames horsmen to ly in
1681 Colvil Whig's Suppl. (1751) 95.
Hanging to me will be less trouble, Than worrying on a windy bubble At a dike-side, or under a stair

d. In mining: The stairs or stairway giving access to (a section of) a coal-mine. Also attrib. 1531 Reg. Dunferm. 362, 363.
My lord … abbot and convent of Dunfermeling … grevis sall pas in at ony stair thai sall pleis to thirll ane gall west through to thair awne coill … and als the said abbot and convent of Newbotill ar contentit that thir sex stairis fallowing be left appin that is to say the four westmast stairis ane stair at the gall … and the stair of the town leis be est the said stair
1532 Acta Conc. & Sess. (St. S.) 150.
[The Lords decree 85 merks compensation for pursuer's cessation of work in the] colepat or staire quhaire thai now laboure
1672 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 14 Sept.
For cutting 2 pair of bandis & putting them into the staire head & for mending the staire in the southe syde of the combe
1674 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 31 Oct.
For cutting and leading whines for the backing of the said stair
1679 Fawside Coal Compt 48a.
Halfe hundir naills to the stair 6 s. 8 d.
1679 Fawside Coal Compt 48a.
For a dille to the stair 8 s.
1683 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 27 Oct.
To the wrights at the legining of the jewell coall staire
1684 Fawside Coal Compt 124.
For dighteing the stare & gett 10 s.
attrib. 1679 Fawside Coal Compt 38a.
For the stair pickeing £2 12 s.
1696–1700 Wauchopes 35.
For timbering 3 fathom of the stair sink, £2

2. pl. Steps, stairs, comprising collectively a flight of steps or stairs or a staircase. = 1 sing. above.Quots. 1560 and 1563-4 may belong in 1 pl. above.1508 Mill Mediæv. Plays 327. 1511–12 Reg. Privy S. I 359/2.
A licence maid to Walter Chepman … to haif staris towart the Hie Strete and calsay, with bak staris and turngres in the Frere Wynd
1513 Doug. xii xi 132.
Quhilk towr of sillys and gestis gret belt he And thar vnder to roll it quhelis set, With staris hie and batelling weirly bet
1560 (c1650) Dundee B. Laws 22.
That na person presum to hiet pick vpon the stairs of the shoar or near hand any astler work therof
1563–4 Edinb. Old Acc. I 469.
For vj greitt garrownis to be interdaillis and gavill bands to the stairs
1633 Misc. Spald. C. II 232.
That thair be ane stoupe set vp vpoun the braid staires of the parliament hous to be ane marche betuixt the said [etc.]
1638 Baillie I 123.
If they minted to use the like behaviour in my chamber, I could not be content till they were down the stairs
a1651 Calderwood VI 660.
They were convoyed … to the Towre staires, where they tooke boat
1670 Mod. Acc. Scot. in Harl. Misc. (1745) VI 123.
The most mannerly step but to the door, and nest upon the stairs
1682 Melrose Reg. Rec. III 3.
The saids defenders … followed him up the tolbuith stairres
1688 Tryal Philip Standsfield 21.
I apprehended the voices to be near the chamber door sometimes, or in the trance, or stairs
1705 Foulis Acc. Bk. 371.
To m B. woman held the candle doune stairs £1 9 s.
fig. 1622 Scot Course of Conformity 12.
The first great step of their blind-winding staires, whereupon they are lifted by all the former engines and preparations was their vote in Parliament

3. The space under an outside stair used for storage, selling goods, etc. 1442 Ayr B. Ct. Nov.
To gif to John Boyman xx lib. at Martymes & Witsunday for the stare of the tolbuth lik as it is mad in Edinburch
1531–2 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 98.
For ane key and lok … to the stair within the gardin for keping of the partrikis
1548 Perth Guildry 256.
And that na chepman sell ony geir in thair chalmeris or staris except on the mercat day

4. transf. A storey of a building. 1597 Aberd. B. Rec. II 153.
Thair salbe ane hous biggit … tua stair hicht … the laichest of the saidis tua stairis to be the wreitting hous for the clerk of this burght … out of the quhilk laichest stair thair salbe ane dur to enter to the counsalhous and the hichest stair to be ane hous quhairin [etc.]

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



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