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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XI).
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Wach(e, Vach(e, Wech(e, Watch(e, n. Also: wacht, wacch, wasche, vacht, vatch(e, wauch(t, wa(u)t(h)sche, waich(e, waitche, waych, vaich(e, vaych, weich, wetche, veych, vetche, wyche, walk, wak(e, waik. [ME and e.m.E. wæche, wake (both c1300), wecche (Orm), wacche (c1275), wak (Cursor M.), wetche (Prompt. Parv.), watche (1445), wach (c1450), waake (16th c.), waike (1575-6, north.), OE wæcce, *wacu (nichtwaco night-watch), MDu. wake, ON vaka. Cf. Walk v.]

I. 1. The action of watching for the purpose of guarding or protecting, an occasion or instance of this. Also const. wach and ward.There is some ambiguity between senses 1, 2 and 3.(1) 1460 Hay Alex. 3334.
The pray was sesit and futmen for to cache Off discoverouris thai send about the wacch
1509 Selkirk B. Ct. MS 3b.
The wacht [ed. wachis] to be kepit be menne and na ladis
1522 Mar & Kellie MSS 11.
Lord Erskin … sall caus the wache to be maid nightlie
1531 Bell. Boece I 28.
The inhabitantis thairof … had continual wachis, als weil be nicht as day
1535 Stewart 44139.
The erle Dauid … on him tuke The watche that nycht
1544 Treas. Acc. VIII 272.
The nychtlie wache for sure keping of the … artalȝe
1547–8 Treas. Acc. IX 170.
To charge the lardis of Louthiane to mak balis and nychtlie waches
c1575 Balfour Pract. 633.
For the watch that sould be maid in time of troubill … upon the sea coastis, the admiral, … may cause all men of the parochin, subject to the said watch of the sea, mak wappin-schawingis
c1575 Balfour Pract. 640.
It sall be equallie dividit amang the remanent of the companie marineris that mak watch, and gangis to the ruder
1645 Aberd. B. Rec. IV 51.
Euerie watch to continow for the space of tuentie four hours
(b) 1375 Barb. ix 317.
He … swa gat has the castell tan, Throu falt of vach
1528 Carnwath Baron Ct. (SHS) 73.
That ilk person sall cum with thair best geir & … hors … & sal keip the vacht
1532 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 127.
xviii veychmen … to observe vaych with nychtbouris and utheris
a1578 Pitsc. II 265/7.
The haill Hammiltownis … had enterit thairintill var nocht the better vatch
(c) 1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 11.
Efter this greit and stark waitches wer in Edinburgh
(d) 1512 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 17.
This inquest findis that the balyeis [ar] in the falt of the wauch of the gud towne becaus thai wil nocht puneis and tak thair unlaws
1572–3 Peebles B. Rec. I 354.
For the evading of incursiones of thevis … to ilk quarter of the tovne ane wauthsche daylie
(e) 1525 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 78.
1555 Peebles B. Rec. I 218.
Item, ordanis tua wechis to be maid nychtlie at the baillies devise
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 304.
The Erle of Buchane … being with the nowmar of iijc horsmen on the wech out with the toun
1578 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 80.
1622-6 Bisset II 218/21.
There wetche be day to be with smuke or reik, and on the nycht be fyre
1647 Rec. Old Aberd. I 78.
That ther salbe ane wetche withine the toune for keiping of the samen striklie for fear of the plaige
(2) 1456 Hay I 114/34.
It efferis to the constable to kepe the keyis of the castellis and wallit townis quhare he cummys; and to mak gude wache and warde bathe nycht and day
1456 Hay I 175/1.
He puttis him in ferme prisoun … with gude wache and warde apon him nycht and day
1460 Hay Alex. 1241.
[They] plantis standartis … And ordand wache and warde
1521 Douglas Corr. 80.
And kepis baith wach and ward abone the kinge
1546 Reg. Privy C. I 52.
The tenantes and inhabitants of the [gap] Glenluse rise with the said eirle and pay ward and watch with him during the tyme of were
1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Excubiae, vigiliae, watch and warde

b. The duty of an individual guard.(a) 1375 Barb. xvii 38 (C).
A burges, Sym of Spalyng … set hym [sc. the marshal] tym to cum at nycht … And he suld meit thame at the vall For his vach [E. walk] thar that nycht suld fall
14.. Acts I 37/2.
Thar sal ane wachman be haldyn to cum furth quhen that the wakstaff gais fra dure to dure quha … sal gang til his wache wyth tua wapnys
1527 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 89.
Ve ordand all induellaris to uphauld thair vaich with nychtbouris
1551 Hamilton Cat. 148.
Certane schipherdis keiping thair weche in the nycht
a1568 Scott xv 38.
I plene the nicht is schort Away I went, my wache the cuschett cryis
(b) 1375 Barb. xvii 38 (see (a) above).

2. A sentinel, also coll., a number of sentinels or guards used to protect a castle, town, etc. by warning of danger; an outpost or scout fulfilling a similar function.Quot. 1562 may belong in 1 b. 1375 Barb. iii 187.
The king that nycht his wachis set
1375 Barb. vi 44.
He, that had his vachis ay On ilk syde, of thar cummyng, Land or thai com, had vittering
1375 Barb. xix 442.
The Lord Dowglas, that ay-quhar Set out wachis heir and thar [Gat] with of thair enbuschement
c1420 Wynt. iv 1171.
That gus sic crakyng mad That waknyd the wachis … And warnyd the Romanys
1429 Ayr B. Ct. in Sc. Hist. Rev. XXXI 145.
ij galoun off ale to hors wachys that rade
c1450-2 Howlat 619.
Baith to walk and to ward, as watchis in weir
1460 Hay Alex. 953.
[They] set the wardis and watchis as it suld stand
a1500 Rauf C. 274.
Vpon the morne airlie … The king buskit him sone with scant of squyary. Wachis and Wardroparis all war away, That war wont for to walkin mony worthy
c1475 Wall. viii 860.
The ost agayn ilkane to thar ward raid Comaundyt wachis
a1500 K. Hart 783.
Langour the watche
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 26/33.
Langour wes weche upoun the wall That nevir sleipit
1513 Doug. ix iii 209.
Twys sevin Rutilianys … Was chosyn … forto wach the town … All the fornycht thir wachis … spend in revale, gam, and play
1565 Reg. Privy C. I 383.
To command … the wardanis of the eist, middill and west marchis that thai … appoint watchis in everie hie passage, and … serche … quhat personis … passis in Ingland
a1578 Pitsc. I 269/22.
Be this the watchis come and schew the king that the Inglisch airme was in sight
coll. c1475 Wall. vi 819.
Than tuk he twa … clame the roch … Thus entrit thai … The wach befor tuk na tent to that syd
1513 Doug. ix iv 134.
The nixt wach thai walknyt … Quhilk gat on fut and to thar rowmys went
1531 Bell. Boece I 23.
It was concludit, that Fergus, with his folkis, at the first vigill, sall set on the wache of Britonis
1562 Misc. Maitl. C. I 31.
The soume … debursit … for paillyeisis to the gaird … extending … to the soume abonewrittin as the clerk of the wachis … comptis proportis
1568 Buch. Indict. 37.
The Ladie Reires wes tane gangand throuche the watche
1568 Hosack Mary Q. of Scots I 537.
He returnit directlie to his … chalmer … passing and repassing by hir watche
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 275.
The wache of the Inglis horsmen being ijc men brak upoun the said Frenschemen with intellable audacitie
a1578 Pitsc. I 325/1, 7.
Quhene the watche was sett and all thingis was at quyitnes the king … slipit out … and was unpersaiffit of the watchis
1650 Thanes of Cawdor 291.
It is necessar that ther be sex sojors with the present porter and watch

b. transf. or fig.One who or that which watches over or out for (a person or thing). c1420 Wynt. iii 95 (W).
Scho … said scho his wache suld be, And nane suld wit at thare were he
a1500 Henr. Fab. 499.
Our walkryfe watche, vs for to warne and tell
a1500 Seven S. 1814.
Quhen at the myrrour was sa put dovne Thai maid gret mayne sighand full saire Our wache is done for evir maire Quha sall kep ws fra the suprys Or warn ws of our enemys
c1490 Porteous Noblenes 183/12 (A).
Sobirnes is … helpe of the wittis wache of the hele

c. Wach of day, Venus, the morning star. 1513 Doug. xii Prol. 1.
Dyonea, nycht hyrd, and wach of day

3. specif.a. A member of a town guard. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 2506.
Thow cummis not in … Quhill the watches, and al nichtbouris about Quhat ane thow art, thay may perfytelie knaw
1570-3 Bann. Trans. 134.
There was some young men of the toun gangand vpon the gait and the watches of the stiple asking what they were [etc.]

b. coll.A group of persons drawn from the freemen of a burgh whose duty it was to guard the town by patrolling, etc., esp. during the hours of darkness. Freq. const. def. art., the town guard.Quots. const. upon or to the wach may belong in sense 1.(1) 1510 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 11.
This inquest … ordanis ane wach of xviii men nechbouris and houshaldaris … to wak … quhyll … cokcraw
1513 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 142.
At ilk nycht thai cheis and gar mak ane sufficient wache for the keiping of the toun
1515 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 35.
Sex men to wak in ilk wachis
1524–5 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 75.
1527 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 91.
1547 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. II 131.
That thair be xij abill men chosin to watche nychtlie weill airmit with jak steill bonet and halbert … and thai to convene at the Croce and enter to the watches at 8 houris at evin and remayne quhill the oppining of the ports
1547 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. II 131.
Gif ony of the said watches beis fundin absent [etc.] … and that the said watches apprehend all misdoares [etc.]
1549 Aberd. B. Rec. I 268.
1550 Cupar B. Rec. 17 June.
Ane wache off tuelf personis nychtlye to be warnit thro the town for saiffite … fra Franchemen and lymmaris
1578–9 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 101.
He jugeit … that the watche suld be strenthit and inlargeit … that thair sal be ane nychtlie vetche of ane hundreth personis
(2) 1481 Prestwick B. Rec. 29.
The warnyng of the toune nychtly to the wache to walk anentis the Inglis men
1513 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 142.
And quhat persoun beis apprehendit be the wache … that the wache tak thame and put thame in firmance quhill on the morn
1513 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 142 (see 4 a comb. (2) below). 1531 Soc. Ant. II 393.
That the ports of the towne to be keipit with a man at ylk port and to begyn quhair the Michaelmas wache left and go about the town
1545 Stirling B. Rec. I 41.
Contrair the will of the wache, manisand and boistand thaim
1567 Digest Justiciary Proc. F 17.
The disobediance of the maister of the wache in not keiping of the plaice assignit be Johne Leithe maister of watche
1585 Burntisland B. Ct. 23 Oct.
That bairnis be nocht apoune the wache
1624 Dunferm. B. Rec. II 145.
[They were] … misusing the watch in evill language
1661 Soc. Ant. XXII 246.
The treuth of this last confession was testified by thrie men which wer on the watch that night
1669 Rothesay B. Rec. 171.
Any burges … who being warned to the watche did not compeir [etc.]
1681 Inverness Rec. II 297.
The keipers of the guard & watch of this brugh
1686 Lauder Notices Affairs II 732.
Anent the Commission of the Hylands that thosse shires near it might pay … for a salary to the watch against the theiffs and robbers
(b) 1442 Aberd. B. Rec. I 8.
Ony man that beis warnyt be the officiares of the toune to the waiche
1517 Treas. Acc. V 156.
For aile to the waiche that nycht my lord regent lugit in Laudar
1524–5 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 75.
The waych to warrn Jhone Jonsone in heid of the town or thai pas to thair bed
(c) 1568–9 Inverness Rec. I 174.
And war nocht the weche he had slane the said William
1573 Inverness Rec. I 230.
The towneschipis weche
(d) 1571 Lanark B. Rec. 63.
The fouir balleis to deill the toun in fouir, and ilke ane of thame nychtly rasave the wache and put nychtly sufecent wyches to the port, … and ilk balye to put xx men to the nychtly wyche within the toun
transf. 1581 Burne Disput. 89.
He declairis … that he is put as in the vatche, to aualk ouer the hail kirk

c. The district patrolled by a group of guards. 1509 Selkirk B. Ct. MS 3b.
The wacht … [are] to wak one the baksyde within thar bundis of thar wachis

d. Wach and ward, a feudal obligation owed by burgesses or freemen of a town to participate in the activities of the town guard. Sometimes commuted to a payment. 1534 Dumfries B. Ct. 146b.
Swa lang as the said Johne kepis scott & lott vach vard siklik as wtheris fre burgessis in the burgh
1584 Reg. Privy C. III 655.
Burgessis [etc.] … obey the commandiment … of the saidis provest [etc.] … in all thing tending to the avancement of his hienes present service other be thair corporall service … or in paying of sic stent [etc.] … or in the keping of watche and waird within or without thair toun
1611 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. II 100.
Fre of stent vache and waird
1622 Aberd. Council Lett. I 198.
To pay ordinair taxatioun and to keepe watche and warde and beare all uther burdenes for the weele of the said burgh
1627 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. II 342.
Frie men and burgeses of this burgh that beir burdein with the toun be payment of stent and taxatiounes and keiping of watch and ward
1627 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. II 353.
And hes fund Thomas Henrie cautioner for payment of all stent watch and ward and all portable charges in the toun
1640 Dumbarton B. Rec. 61.
Albeit the said burgh intends nothing bot peace and to leiff peceabillie and to keip thair watche and ward for the castell
1664 Inverness Rec. II 219.
Chargeing all burgeses … to repair heir … and heir keip ther forum et larem and scott, lott, wache, wark [prob. erron. for walk] & warde

4. a. attrib., comb.and senses 1-3 above.Watche bell, horne, wache cry, a warning bell, etc. Wache buke, ? wech hous, pertaining to the town guard (sense 3). Wachemeile of Kilpatrik, wach male, appar. a levy of oatmeal on the parish of Kilpatrick, in support of Dumbarton Castle: cf. Terre sue infra partes de Levenax existentes … ab omnimodis exactionibus [etc.] … solventes duntaxat annuatim quinque celdras farine avenarum ad munitionem castri de Dunbertan pro terris predictis suis; 1363 Reg. Paisley 177. Watche sylver, ? monetary commutation of the obligation of guarding (sense 3).attrib. 14.. Acts I 13/2.
Gif ony man slais an othir mannis hund … he sal wak apon that mannis myddin … for falt of his wache hund
comb. (1) a1500 K. Hart 262.
The watche horne he blew
1513 Doug. vii x 87.
The slogorne ensenȝe, or the wache cry, Went for the battale
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2554 (see possess. below).
Watche bell
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI (1825) 369.
At the first entre and dealing with the wachemen, the bell of the castell soundit … the watche-bell of the mute-hall (whilk is the common place of justice in Carlisle) was also rung
(2) 1513 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 142.
That all personis that remanis at hame fra our souerane lordis armye that thai compeir in thair quarter place of the toun the tyme of the calling of the wache for the kingis honour … that thair names may be put in writt in the wache buke
1593 Edinb. D. Guild Acc. 505.
For ane irne prik and a thane to the wech hous
(3) 1448 Acts I 352/1.
For cuming of ane Inglis oist in Scotland ther sal ane baill be brynt … on the watchfell
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 69.
Out of ȝour awin watche towre ȝe hard with ȝour eiris the noyes of the ruyne, ȝe saw the smuik and asches with ȝour eyis
1578–9 Reg. Privy C. III 81.
The wache toure upoun Trailtrow, callit Repentance, mon be mendit … and … the greit bell and the fyir pan put on
1645 Hawick Arch. Soc. (1951) 9.
Allan Deans … confessit he was at the watch-know
1649 Last and Heavenly Speeches of Viscount Kenmuir Epist. Dedic.
If you be elevated in the world … be as watch-towers, not as mis placed beacons or lowring rocks
(4) 1514 Stirlings of Keir 302.
Assignis … to the said William … the hale profit pertenyng to the keping of the said castale [sc. of Dumbarton] … with the wachemeile of Kilpatrik
1562 Treas. Acc. XI 198.
To five wache men remanand within the said Castell of Dumbritane for thair wache male for the Lammes terme
(5) 1599 Edinb. B. Rec. V 254.
Thai dischairge Michael Michell of his watche sylver, he keipand the muse well lokkit and cleyne
possess. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 2550.
In the meane time the watches bell thay rang. … 'Heir ȝe not now how that the watche bell rings'

b. comb.With qualifier indicating a particular sort of guard or patrol.See also Chak-Wache n., Nicht-wach n., Out-wach n., Stand wache n. a1500 K. Hart 141.
Quhilk did the dayis watcheis to effray, For seildin had thai sene sic folkis befoir
1523 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 68.
That nayne of thaim [sc. the watch] be fund wythin the hows nor in na othir plais wythout leaff of the chakwacht
1531 Bell. Boece II 216.
This castell … wes sa straitlie keippit … within wach and out wache, that na man gat ische nor entres but [etc.]
1568 Lanark B. Rec. 41.
The daye wach … till keipe the port all day quhill viij houris at nycht
1569–70 Edinb. B. Rec. III 269.
The nycht wasche
1572 Peebles B. Rec. I 347.
Ane of the hind watsche to attend quhill the sone ryse
1625 Misc. Maitl. C. II 199.
And that ilk baillie appoint ane chaik watche for attending the ordinarie watche quha incais of sleiping or absens sall pay the lyk paine
1654 Dumfries Kirk S. 9 Feb.
Censured … for abuseing Robert Crechtoun … at the night watch

5. A group of persons set to guard others in custody. 1585 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 416.
The said persouns to be putt be thame selffis and ane watche to be putt in ane luge besyde of thre clene persouns to keip thame

6. The action of watching, lying in wait (in order to do harm). Also in fig.context. b. Persons lying in wait; an ambush. c. A place liable to ambush. c1420 Wynt. iii 327 (W).
Thai enbuschit thaim neire by That womanis chalmer prevely, And set thare wache for to se Quhen vnarrayit all wes he That sa thai mycht him best supprise
1533 Bell. Livy II 207/22.
Thai … began to drede sum hid watche and tressoun
1535 Stewart 25693.
Aurelius thairto he tuke gude waucht, Betuix the Scottis and the Pechtis that faucht
1567 Acts II 584/2.
For lying at vatche onsetting & putting of violent handis in our said soueranis persoun
fig. 1549 Compl. 87/7.
Bot aye quhen ȝe beleifit til hef hed maist sure pace betuix ȝou and them, than thai lay at the vatch, lyik the ald subtil doggis bydand quhil … discentione suld ryes amang ȝou
b. c1475 Wall. iv 433.
In a dern woode thai stellit thaim … Be ane our nowne thre for rydaris went bye The wach turned in to witt quhat was his will; He thaim commaund in couert to bide still
1525 Acts II 298/1.
Setting the gait laying wachis for men to do thaim scaith
c. 1606 Acts IV 258/2.
That na geir nor merchandice be sufferit to pas by land frome Scotland into England … by the waist groundis and wasches. It is statute … that all gudis … pas onlie by the wayes of Berwick and Carlyle

7. A watch. See Monter n. for further examples. Also comb. 1637 Reg. Deeds DVIII 23 Aug.
Item ane waich plaitit with gold round fashioned and inambled with all culloris and on the back theroff ane rose
1695 Foulis Acc. Bk. 181.
For a glass to my watch, £1 4 s.
1702 Household Bk. Gr. Baillie 267.
For lowsing his brothers watch he panded, £7. 10 s.
comb. 1686 Edinb. B. Rec. XI 192.
Paul Romeau watchmaker
1692 Aberd. B. Rec. IV 313.
Patrick Kilgowr, watchmaker

b. Knok watch, a portable clock (Knok n.1), or large watch. 1698 Moray Test. MS I 315a.
An knock watch

c. Watch larum, the alarm mechanism of a clock. 1689 Arch. Scot. I 180.
A house clock, with a watch larum

II. 8. A vigil, esp. practised as a religious observance or in association with a death; the ceremonial attendant on this.(a) a1400 Leg. S. iii 156.
Sa suld that ald his penance mak In prayer, almus and in walk [sic in MS]
a1400 Leg. S. ii 423.
Thare prayere can thai may, With dewote fastinge and wak
a1400 Leg. S. xl 59.
14.. Acts I 332/2.
Salbe … chalangit all the bedalis … at thai tak nocht euinly the wakis [L. vigilias] alswell of rich as of pur
1639 Glasgow Trades House 202.
For ane winding scheit to Johne Smythe … Item spent att his waik
(b) 1566 Crim. Trials I i 485.
Eftir the slauchter of … Riccio … I … chanceit to pas to the said palice and to be present at the wache kepit thairin

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"Wach n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jan 2023 <>



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