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

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First published 1986 (DOST Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Posses(s, v. Also: posess, posses(s)e, poces(s. P.t. and p.p. po(s)ses(s)it, -yt, -ed, pocessyt; posses(s)t(e, pocest, posseist. [Late ME and e.m.E. possesse(n, possess, to put in possession (c 1465), to occupy, inhabit (Caxton), to seize (1526), OF possessier, -er (1269 in Godef.), f. L. possess- p.p. stem of possidēre to possess, beside OF poseer, -eir, -eoir, L. possidēre.] To possess, in various usual senses.

I. Causative uses.Found earlier than the radical senses entered as II below.

1. tr. To enter (a person), sometimes formally, by the performance of a symbolic action, into possession or lawful occupancy of (in, into, intill, within, to), to endow or invest (with), to give possession of (heritable or other property, a benefice, a right or title, etc.).In early use appar. chiefly or only passive: see also c below.(1) 1402 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 55.
Fra he hafe bene possessit in the said landis
1409 Ib. No. 73.
Fra we be possessyt with in the landis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxv 22.
Nor thow in to no benifice beis possest Quhill that [etc.]
1516 Misc. Spald. C. V 396.
At the justice … sall posses the said Jhone Schaltie in the said qui of Hwrre
1534 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 143.
Robert Chepman and James Ken bailyeis to possess yong Thomas Jonsone in the sammyn [heirship goods]
1570 Prot. Bk. T. Lindsay 32 b.
The said Villiam sall entir and posses the said Helene into his kyndelie stedding and rowm
1572–3 Bann. Memor. 308.
All persones … disposesseth during the trubles, sall be possessit to thair houssis, levingis, benefices, landis, tackis, rentis, cornes, guidis moveabill, now extant in the possessione of the first intromettouris thairwith
a1578 Pitsc. I 169/9.
He [Cochrane] obtenit the Earledome of Mar frome the king and was possest in the samin
1581 Prot. Bk. W. Cumming 269 b.
Also possest the said Robert in name of the said nobill lord and lade in hyr secund terce of Kyluerak … be deliuering of cobill and net
1589 Sutherland Bk. III 164.
That the said Erle of Caithnes … sall not intruse or be ony cullour or ingyne posses thame or ony of thame in ony of the said … landis
1589–90 Prot. Bk. J. Inglis 18 March.
& to posses the said James & his tenentis thairintill
1665 Irvine Deeds 8 Aug.
To possess the said Hew … in the yeard & rig of the said tenement at laburing tyme nixtocum
(2) 1515 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 33.
The inquest … ordanit thaim to posses Wolle with the ayrschip of umquhyll Mungo Broun
1531 Ib. 113.
We ordand Wol Lormer to posses Johne Couper with the lok agane
1549 Compl. 19/16.
He possessis vthir pure pepil … vitht the samyn reches that he hes tane fra them that [etc.]
a1568 Weddirburne Bann. MS. 260 b/49.
For tha giftis that I gafe till hir … .With thame scho did posses hir paramour
1586 Prot. Bk. W. Cumming 90.
In … takyne of reall possession of his puncttis of arschip possest Sande Hay with ane … pece of siluer

b. reflex. To gain or take possession of (in, into, with), to obtain or occupy.(1) 1589 Reg. Privy C. IV 392.
Seiking all meanis and wayes to posses himself in certane hir terce and conjunct fee landis
1638 Henderson Serm. 219.
The Lord … gives her [Rahab] his mark, that she may be kent thereby, and possesses himself into her house
1688 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII 314.
[His father's younger brother] did … posess himselfe in the saids lands
(2) c 1615 Old Ross-shire I 31.
Mr. Jhone Munro … refussis to possess himselfe with the said miln

c. passive: To be possessit (of or in property, a right, etc.), to be in possession or lawful occupancy of, to possess; to enjoy. = 3 and 4 below.Also ? fig., const. with.(1) 14.. Acts I 385/2.
Of wylde bestis [etc.] … It forsuth that is possessit of na man fra it be tane … is grauntit to thaim that it occupiis
1438 Reg. St. A. 430.
In the first Monniacky medew sen I am possessit of part of it
1456 Hay II 42/31.
Bot first the makare be possessit of his gift, and of his ordre
1496 Acta Conc. II 5.
The saide umquhile Duk of Albany was possessit and saisit of the saidis landis of the Erledome of Mar
1624 Misc. Maitl. C. III 506.
All and singular the meynes and estait that I sall die possessed of
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxiv 18.
Thocht he in lordschip be possest, He levis bot ane wrechit lyfe
Ib. lxxxi 88.
I am possest in kirkis sevin
1570 Sat. P. xxiv 46.
I put na doubt … To se vs shortly in thy place possest
1581 Sempill Sat. P. xliii 173.
In Edinburgh Castell quhair thay war possest, He them desplaced
(3) 1515 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 32.
Becaus Cristiane Crukschankis was anes possessit the wob
(4) 1637 Maxwell Mem. II 262.
If yee can gett yourself first posessed, ther will be no questioun of it
(5) a1561 Norvell Meroure 8 b.
? fig. Where others shall thole paine for euermore His elect people uith grace shall be possest

2. To cause (land) to be occupied by (with, of) cattle.Only in Selkirk B. Ct., 1515–1523, and cf. also Possed(e v. 4. 1515 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 32.
Jhone Smyth to possess the ground of Schir Williem Bradfuitis of the pruff he tuk of it
Throw the quhilk he [Jok Sandersone] is als fre to possess the ground as ony other tenand of the laiff of that lordschip
1522–3 Ib. MS 97 a.
This inquest hes ordanit James Ellot to posses [ed. proces] the ground with the kow becaus of the wrang scho was tane of the ground but officer of his awin autorite
Ib. (ed.) 67.
The inquest ordanit James Ellot to posses the ground of Adam Scotis with the best quhar he tuk hir fra siclyk as he fand hir becaus scho was wranguslie … tane without teching

II. Radical senses. = Possed(e v. 1–3.

3. To be in possession or occupancy of (property, land, a right, an office, etc.), as owner or, freq., tenant, or otherwise; to occupy. In passive, = occupied by (with or be). Also fig. and transf.(1) 1514 Facs. Nat. MSS. III xi.
He sall bruk joyis and posses perpetualy to him and all his ayris the said Nicolis fadir part of all and sindry his rychtis
1525 Misc. Bann. C. III 107.
To the quhilk lorde I geiwe and leiffis all the landis that I possessit efter my fader deide in Ȝetland
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. cx 11.
Sum be thair lordis ar opprest Put fra the land that thai possest
1573–4 Reg. Privy C. II 336 (see Kindnes n. 2 (1)). a1578 Pitsc. I 104/8.
His forbeiraris, quhairthrow thair goode service had conquist baith the landis that he possest presentlie
1587 Acts III 489/1. 1596 Dalr. I 284/27.
Quha posseste in thir cuntries the parte that lay neist Ingland
1607 Acts IV 371/1.
[English subjects are] enhabillit to … succede, inhered and posses all landis [etc., in Scotland]
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 27.
No lord of session … should bruik and possess the office of ane inferior judicatorie
1679 Galloway P. 4 Jan.
[A tak of] the mark land of Blackquarter … as John Fergeson … pocest the samyne
(2) passive. 1512 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 17.
Robert Scot … hes set … to Mungo Broun … his landis of Harisbuttis liand betuix a part of the samen possest wyth James Robesone and the Milburne
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 239.
And in this myn tym my pwre leyffyng wes possest with my compeditour
1543 Shetland Deed MS (Shetland Archives).
[Land] to be pocessyt rejoysyt and brokyt be the said Gylbert and all his aris
1627 Rep. Parishes 78.
Thir landis ar in maynsing and ar possest be the said Laird of Smetoun him selfe
1637 Boyd Fam. P. 12 Oct.
I have also set to the said William the haill laiche land formerlie possest be Johne McCrerie
1674 Rentals in Highland P. I 277, etc.
Ardnacroish [etc.] … possest be Charles M'Lean and pays of money-rent without casualties
1680 Edinb. B. Rec. X 405.
[The] stable in the Society Wynd whilk wes possest be the lait Lord Register contigue to that coatch house alsoe possest be the Register
1687 Galloway P. 9 April.
The thrie wast … tenement of housses some tymes pocest be Robert Gaa [etc.]
1697 Penninghame Par. Rec. I 11.
And gathered some of them [lambs] from the ground that was not possessed by him
(3) fig. and transf. c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 152.
The godlie sall in heauin haue thair intrance, Thair to posses thair iust inheritance
c1616 Hume Orthog. 22.
The acute [accent] … may possesse the last syllab, … the penult, [etc.]

b. To be in occupation of (a place) as its resident user or controller; also in weakened sense, to inhabit. a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 121/25.
It is beleuit … that our bodyes flesche and bloude sall possesse the kingdome of heawyne
1596 Dalr. I 82/10.
Before the Romanis thair cuntrey invadet … the Britanis possesed that ile
1646 Earl of Loudoun Severall Speeches (Edinb, 1646) 23.
The bloudy barbarous Irish … possesse the mountains and highlands
1660 Boharm Kirk S. 22 Dec.
That no common servant men sould possess the dasks of honest men
1691 Proclamation 12 Feb.
Lists … of waste houses belonging to them not possest
1704 Edinb. Univ. Chart. 155.
The best chambers in the colledge, which wer useually possesst by childring of noblemen … are now otherwayes inhabited

4. To have or enjoy (wealth or goods) as belonging to one. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xi 34.
Nocht eftir death thow sall posses … bot thy guid deid
1549 Compl. 178/4.
Heffand as mekil gold as Cresus or Medas possest
15.. Clar. iii 1172.
Quhen the constabill saw the ches royall … He … said … The maike of it possest no Cristien king
1558-66 Knox II 128.
Yf the poore, the schooles and the ministerie of the kirk had thair awin, his keching wald lack two parttis … of that whiche he injustlie now possesses
1567 G. Ball. 98. c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 563.
God will nocht send incresse To thame that wrangus conqueis dois possesse
1672 Edinb. Test. LXXIV 233 b.
That the langest lever … shall bruick, possese, and joy and dispon all … goods and geir
1686 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII 52.
Great fortouns possest by the lyfrentrix

b. To have or enjoy (something non-material); to have as an attribute; also, to suffer (wrong). 14.. Acts I 61/2.
That the merchandis … sall haif thair merchand gilde and sall ioice and possesse the samyn with libertie to by and sell in all placis [etc.]
1549 Compl. 3/15.
Ande ther ȝe mycht posses abundance of al pleiseirs
1565 Facs. Nat. MSS. III lvi.
That quhilk ye already posses, that is, a faithfull harte
1567 G. Ball. 44.
Thairby it sall cum to lycht, That ȝe ar my disciples rycht, Giue ȝe amang ȝow lufe posses
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 698.
This … glorie Quhilk be no vther meanis can be possest, Except Gods wourd in to our hartis tak rest
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xl 230.
For troublis ar the bage thay mon posses
a1585 Maitl. Q. lx 38.
The gretest wrang That euer nobill man possest

c. With personal obj. (or passive subj.): To have as one's own. a1568 Scott xxxiv 60.
He is nocht to reprufe That is with ane possest
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i 296.
So lang as tha seyk him [Christ] carnallie, Tha can no wayis posses him spirituallie
a1570-86 Maitl. F. lxxxix 9.
Quha dois ane faythefull freind posses
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 88.
With help of Christ thow sall, or Pasche, Thy kyndlie prince posses

d. fig. To ‘own’, have dominion of. a1568 Scott vii 14.
Hence hairt … For quhy thow art with hir possest
c1590 J. Stewart 38/297.
The fairest lamps that luife possest, I meine, The heauenlie eis that chiftans did coak

5. To take, or to enter into, possession of (property, an office, etc.); to occupy. b. To take by force, to seize (a place or person). 1578 Edinb. Test. VI 356 b.
Ane cotland new possessit be the said Johne
a1585 Maitl. Q. xliv 101.
Sua sen thow hes the princes place possest Luik [etc.]
1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv Prol. 80.
Pynand true preichouris for to possess there places
1596 Dalr. I 113/13.
For in na parte of thair fathiris heritage may thir succeid bot the eldest sone possessis al
1674 Kirkcaldy B. Rec. MS 7 Dec.
The tua chalmbers … to be posseist be him efter Witsonday nixt
b. (1) 1549 Compl. 23/9.
I remembir … oure ald enemeis … violentlye possessand ane certan of our burghis … to ther auen vse
1596 Dalr. I 283/8.
Quhat be the sworde was wonn, afor the Inglismen vniustlie it possest [etc.]
(2) 1636 Dumbarton B. Rec. 50.
Robert Gays to be imprisoned in the tolbuith, sua thois ar desiring you to possess him and put him in closs ward

c. Of the Devil or a deity: To occupy and control, to invest (a person's mind, or a place). d. Of a mental attribute: To take hold of (a person's mind), to seize and dominate.c. 1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 136.
The devyll possessit the hart of Judas to betrais his lorde and maister
Id. Compendious Ressonyng (ed.) 153/32.
Sic ignorant peple … quhilkis did affirme our salueour to be possessit with the devill
1622-6 Bisset II 107/28 (see Inpryson). 1691 Kirk Secr. Commonw. (1964) 452.
Superstition, idolatry, presum that dieties inform, ensoul, and possesse templs and images
d. c1590 Fowler II 30/24.
If ather honesty might mouit thé, or ressoun had possessit thee

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"Posses v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Apr 2024 <>



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