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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

We(i)rd sisteris, n. pl. Also: werd systrys, -systeris, wer(e)de sisteris, weird sisters, veird systirs, waird sisteris, wird sisteris. Sing. (once) werde sistere. [Late ME and e.m.E. wyrde systres (Cath. Angl.), translation of L. parce, weird sisters (Holinshed), with reference to the story of Macbeth, wey(w)ard (Shakespeare), as We(i)rd,n. and Weird,v.] The Fates (once, a Fate) of classical mythology, viewed as determining the future. b. The three prophetesses or witches in the story of Macbeth. c. Witches more generally.sing. c1400 Troy-bk. ii 2818.
Sche was, I trow, A werde-sistere [L. fatam]—I wait neuir how
pl. c1515 Asl. MS I 325/1.
The thre sisteris fatall callit Cloto, Latis & Antropus thre werd sisteris
1513 Doug. v xiii 74.
Grant at thai may … atteyn … The flude Tybir … gif so the fatis gydis Or gif that my desyre may grantit be Or ȝit werd sisteris list geif thame that cuntre
(b) 1549 Compl. 64/5.
The tail of the thre veird systirs, the tayl quhou that Dedalus maid the laborynth [etc.]
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus ii 679.
Than he … vnto thair sicht did go … Clotho, Lachesis … Atropos … thir thre … To ilk man geuis in warld his fatall weir[d] … he tuik guid nicht at thir weird sisteris than
a1570-86 Arbuthnot in Maitl. F. 49/5.
O wrachit weird … O cruell destanie … O weird [Maitl. Q. waird] sisteris quhat alis ȝow at me
1566-70 Buch. Comm. on Virgil Æn. i 22.
Parcas, weird sisters
(c) 15.. Clar. i 1027 (see Weird v.).
Waird sisteris
b. c1420 Wynt. vi 1864.
Thai wemen than thowcht he Thre werd systrys [C. werd systeris, W. werd sisteris] mast lyk to be
1531 Bell. Boece (M) II 150.
Werede sisteris
1531 Bell. Boece II 259.
Becaus al thingis succedit as thir wemen devinit, the pepill … jugit thame to be weird sisteris
1531 Bell. Boece II 260.
Than said Banquho, ‘Thow hes gottin all that the first two weird sisteris hecht’
1533 Boece 458b.
Thir thre vulgarly war interprete owthir nymphis, or werdesisteris, or prophetis
a1605 Montg. Flyt. 281 (T).
On ane alhallow evin … The wird sisteris [H. weird sisters] wandering, as they wer wont than

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"Werd Sisteris n. pl.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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