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

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Habil(l, Hable, Habile, adj. Also: habyll, haible. (OF. habil(e, hable, L. habil-is. Cf. late ME. habylle (Caxton), e.m.E. habile (1670), and Abill a.]

1. Of persons: Possessed of ability, power, or competence, in various senses.(1) c1420 Wynt. iv. 2493.
Octovyane … , Commendyt off gret douchtynes, … Honest, habyll and avenand
1457 Acts II. 49/2.
Na persounis bot hable and of gud fame
1536 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 78.
[That no-one] be sufferit to set wp buith … without he be fundin sufficient, habill, and wourthy in practik
1578 Glasgow B. Rec. I. 66.
Every ane substantious and habill man
1689 Peebles B. Rec. II. 129.
The toun clerk to conveen the habile burgesses and to proceid in the said electiones
(2) 1456 Hay II. 117/14.
Thai men ware mare lyfly, hale, faire, habil and strenthyar
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun 33.
Alexander … wes ane hable man of his bodie
1636 Grant Chart. 229.
Tuelf habill fensibill men of the best sort
(3) 1456 Hay II. 157/24.
Sum man rude as an as, and sum man bathe subtile and habile as a dyamant
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 13.
Quha beis nocht fund habile salbe deposit to ane lowar classe
1626 Glasgow B. Rec. I. 352.
[To receive the next vacant bursary] he being fund apt and habill

2. Having the necessary ability or qualifications, fit, competent, for, till, or to some function, etc. 1456 Hay I. 267/12.
For quha ever lykis to be a procuratour, sa that he be hable tharfore, may be it
Ib. II. 40/11.
To mak men knychtis that war nocht hable till armes
1531 Bell. Boece I. 33 (S.T.S.).
Eftir his deth, the Kingis son sall succede to the crowne but pley, gif he war habill thairto
1535 Stewart 26437.
Euerilk freik [that] was habile for the feild
1576 Edinb. Test. IV. 335 b.
The proffitt of the barnis part gudis to be furth cumand to thame … as thay salbe habill for mariage
1616 Ib. XLIX. 164 b.
The saidis bairnes … to be put to sum craftis and occupaciouns sic as thei salbe maist habill and meit for
1622-6 Bisset II. 251/17.
That na maner of persone set himself furtht for sufficient steirisman, [etc.] … except he be habill and qualyfeid therefoir

b. Able, or competent, to do something.(a) a1400 Leg. S. xxvi. 56.
His fadir thane, that saw he wes Habil to cum to gret grace
1456 Hay II. 35/6.
Sik men ar nocht habil to wyn honour in armes
1528–9 Reg. Morton II. 3.
Havand ane sare leg and not habill to endure grete travel in weirfare
1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 127.
That thay may be habyll to teche the faith to utheris
1571 Diurn. Occurr. 221.
To considder … gif the said Matho … wes ane apt and habill man to governe
1602 Colville Parænese Ep. 62.
Euer habill and willing to supplie him … for resauing embassadors
1622-6 Bisset I. 46/16.
Young men … sall sleip on buirdis … to mak thame habill to suffer distres in the kingis wearis
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xl. 1433.
To gang hame thu sal hable be one thi fete
1456 Hay II. 13/25.
Sen a man is mare hable till have mare noble curage and to be better na woman
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 10.
That God … wald send the sort apon him that war habliast to exerce that estat
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. cx. 51.
Ryche comownis ar rycht profitable, Quhone thai to serve thair lord are hable
1616 Crim. Trials III. 404.
Becaus he was nocht hable to discharge that administratioun … in respect of dyuerse trubbilis and cummoris
1632 Edinb. B. Rec. VII. 107.
Ydill persounes, haill and strong in bodye and haible to worke
(c) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 232.
And thai sall baptis ȝow, and mak Habile Cristis kinrik to tak
1511 Lennox Mun. 194.
Say that allwais the airis … sal be lauchfule and habile to succeid … , thai beand maile

c. Used without complement. 1570 Reg. Morton I. 51.
Cuming sowth quhen God pleis to mak me hable
a1570-86 Maitl. F. lxxiii. 29.
Is none so hable … That eftir all mannis will can wryt

3. Of things or animals: Fit or suitable (till, to, for some purpose; also absol.). 1456 Hay I. 283/24.
For it [the colour azure] is … hable till ressave all influences of the planetis
Ib. II. 11/28.
Syne thai inquerit quhat beste was … maist hable to mannis service
Ib. 121/4.
The kembing of thy hede … thy fyve wittis makis mare hable
1483 Edinb. Hammermen's Seal of Cause.
Gif it be … gud worthi and habil werk to serve the kingis [legis] with
1513 Doug. x. ii. 135.
The fatis sal provyd a way mair habill
1602 Conv. Burghs II. 142.
The skipper sall caus beitt the ship … gif sche may be … maid habill for transporting … guidis
1613 Crim. Trials III. 263.
Altogidder distrusting that thais herbis war hable to do that wiket turne

4. Admissible in law, legally valid. 1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. (1699) 264.
[Witnesses] shall not depon upon any wrong done to themselves. for … it will make them, though otherwayes habil, to be rejected from being witnesses
1682 Decis. Lords F. 17.
[The Lords found] That the comprising upon the bond was not an habile diligence
1685 Ib. 69.
The defunct had delivered up the bond upon his death-bed, yet it not being a habile way to transmit it, it was not a relevant defence
1723 Glasgow B. Rec. IV. 180.
By the deposition of the tenants and other habill witnesses

5. Liable, likely, apt, subject; const. to with inf. 1456 Hay I. 213/25.
Thai war conquestable sen nouthir thai helde of God na of the Empire ... bot habil tilbe conquest be the suerd
a1500 Lufaris Compl. 42.
Quhen fortune semys most ... stable, Than to begyle a wicht scho is most hable
1513 Doug. ix. iii. 43.
With mortal handis wrocht … , thir schippis so habill to faill
1534 Bamff Chart. 62.
Quhair throw thair is habile delay discord and pley to ryse betwix him and his saids neighbours
a1570-86 Maitl. F. xlv. 58.
He that covatis all is hable all to tyne
(a1585 Maitland) Maitl. Q. ii. 75.
Be na dainser for this daingeir, … That ȝe ar habill to waist geir
1587 St. A. Kirk S. 604.
That the sessioun is habill to decay without remaid be providit
1590 Crim. Trials I. ii. 232.
Sche knew be hir devilisch prayer that the said lady wes nocht hable to recover
1606 Edgar Hist. Dumfries Notes 153.
Thair brig habill to decay without tymes remeid

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"Habil adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



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