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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

May, Ma, v.1 Also: maye, mai(e, maij, mey, my, mae, (2 sing. maist), (maw). P.t. micht, miht, mycht(e, (mychtest), (mytht), mi(c)ght, myght, (Douglas myghtyn), mich(e, mych, mith, myth, mecht, meight, maycht; mocht, moycht, (motht), moght, moucht, mowcht, mought, mowghtt; (mught); macht. [ME. may, mai, mey, (Orm) maȝȝ, also (13th c.) ma, p.t. miȝt(e, (Orm) mihhte, might etc., also (13th c.) mahte, and (midl. and north.) mohte (Layamon), moȝt, moght (Cursor M.), mouchte (Havelok), etc., OE. mæᵹ, meᵹ, 1st and 3rd pers. sing. pres. indic. of maᵹan (pres. subj. mæᵹe, plur. mæᵹen), p.t. meahte, later mihte and muhte, (ON. , p.t. mátte, earlier *mahte).In the 2nd pers. sing. pres. indic. (chiefly north.) ME. may, mai (Cursor M.), and midl. and south. ME. and e.m.E. maist (Chaucer), mayst etc., replace earlier micht, miht etc., OE. meaht, miht.The phonology of may, ma, is appar. like that of away, day, lay p.t. of Ly v., pray, say, etc.]

I. As a verb of complete predication: To have power or ability. 1579, 1617 Despauter (1579) 121.
Valeo, to may or can

1. tr. a. With cognate object: To possess, exert (power, might).Only early. 1375 Barb. iii. 366.
God help him that all mychtis may [: ay]
c1420 Ratis R. 390.
Subtill craftis … Ȝhit can scho and pres hire nocht That neuir ȝhit strenth of body mocht
(1337) Liber Plusc. I. 285.
Montagu, for al the power that thou may [etc.]
c1475 Wall. iii. 396.
For all the pouer thai mocht
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 457.
Ay the manlyest on mold, that maist of myght moght [: brocht, socht, wroght]

b. To be capable of (much, (no) more, little, anything, nothing), to possess (much, little etc.) power or ability.(But cf. sense 12 b.)(1) 1375 Barb. ii. 302.
Quhen thai saw thai mycht no mar
?1438 Alex. i. 739.
Sa helpe me God that mekill may!
c1420 Wynt. vii. 2683 (W).
Thai that were pure and litill mocht
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 3192.
And he allmost for bleding mycht no mare
c1460 Thewis Wysmen 296. 1492 Myll Spect. 287/3. 1531 Vaus (1531) 2.
[A pronoun] may almaist als mekil as ane nowne and sumtyme resauis certane persone
c1536 Lynd. Compl. Bagsche 10. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1083.
Love may meikle but money may mair
(2) 1513 Doug. iv. vii. 40.
Forsuyth gif reuthfull goddis may ony thing
c1510 Prester John 310.
And kyngis may nocht withoutyne preistis
a1568 Balnaves in Bann. MS. 138 b/27.
Gife thow nocht may, ga way, ga way, Than art thow all forhowit

2. intr. a. Gif (that) I etc. may, if I have any power in the matter, hence ‘if I can manage it’, ‘if I can help it’.Only in Alex. ?1438 Alex. i. 1170.
His fais sall nocht hald him that day For child at striking, gif he may!
Ib. ii. 3506.
That for thare sake, gif that I may, Sall the Pharoun passed be
Ib. 4419.
Thou sall de fleand, gif I may!
Ib. i. 2499. Ib. ii. 4089.

b. To cope with a circumstance, to prevail over an adversary. c1515 Asl. MS. I. 155/17.
All that liffis may better with cald na heit but mesour
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1683.
Wo is them that thow may over, and that is puir I

II. As an auxiliary verb with following infin. or with ellipsis of this.

3. To have the inherent or acquired power, ability or capacity (to do something); can.In a. principal, and b. subordinate clauses (other than those expressing intention or result: cf. senses 7 and 12).a. (a) 1375 Barb. ii. 329.
God may rycht weill our werdis dele
Ib. vii. 356. c1420 Ratis R. 1675. ?1438 Alex. ii. 2153.
I may nocht quyte ȝow this bounte
c1420 Wynt. i. 1388.
Thare nakyn best off wenym may Lywe or lest atoure a day
c1450-2 Howlat 763.
Mo than I mene may [:gay, tray, assay]
1456 Hay II. 26/19.
A knycht may never be hardy … bot he have wisdome in him
Ib. 165/1.
Thou can nocht na may nocht estymy the paynis
a1500 Henr. Fab. 769 (Bann.).
Gorrit I am and may no forther gane
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 196.
I may refresch yow with folk
c1475 Wall. vii. 967. 1513 Doug. xi. vii. 27.
Na bargane may thame irk nor tyre
Ib. v. i. 37. 1546 Menzies MSS. 16.
He … may not indure travell uithout danger to his lif
1567 G. Ball. 192. a1568 Bann. MS. 257 b/39.
Quhat hand may hald that will away
c1590 J. Stewart II. 7/31.
My lispan leid may not vpsteir Vork vordie
(b) a1400 Leg. S. i. 272.
In the ayre als ma I now Fle
Ib. 483.
Gyf he liffis, he ma spek and ga
Ib. ii. 873, vii. 538. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 2129.
I na ma Change my birth na put my weird away
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxiii. 14. 1525 Douglas Corr. 98.
And I mae haif pacience quhill [etc.]
1533 Gau 8/16.
We ma notht dw the thyng quhilk we suld dw
(b) c1420 Wynt. v. 627.
Lang it mycht noucht lest in lywe
Ib. vii. 1354. c1475 Wall. v. 827. a1500 Rauf C. 19. a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 491. 1513 Doug. iii. ix. 77.
Ne this Kyng of Itachy hym self nor his Myghtyn forȝet into sa gret a plyght
Ib. v. ix. 39.
The fowle, for al hys wark, Ne mycht he twich
a1538 Abell 37 a.
Thai mycht nocht brek thame
Ib. 125 b.
That mycht nocht suffice him in the south parteis bot he send his lymmaris to do the sam in the north
c1552 Lynd. Mon. (1806) 2969.
Ane man allane mich nocht be abill To stanche hir luste insatiabill
Ib. 4021. 1570 Sat. P. x. 312.
Than mycht the rasche bus keip ky on the bordour
c1590 J. Stewart II. 25/366.(b) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 557.
With flesly ewine he na se mocht
Ib. xxi. 250.
Contene hyre langare scho ne mocht
Ib. xxxiii. 891, xxxvi. 848; etc. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 88.
Than on na wyse entir agane scho mocht
b. (a) a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 473.
Thare-fore thare [is] na man may Lofinge inuch of Sancte Johnne say
1398–9 Acts I. 210/2.
Sen it is welesene … that our lorde the Kyng for seknes of his person may nocht trauail to gouerne the realme
c1400 Troy-bk. i. 153.
But cause that I may se
1405 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 58.
Gif thar be ocht that may plece yw that I may do of resoun
1456 Hay II. 32/18.
Thame that may nocht lyve chaste
1456 Peebles B. Rec. I. 116.
And the said Sir Jon sal hald vp that land … has he may do by his awn lefyng
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 3477.
Quhill I on fute may stand
c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 63/18.
He that may nocht lift ane birding
1513 Doug. xi. Prol. 122. 1549 Compl. 123/33. 1551 Hamilton Cat. 40.
Of God, fra quhom na lesinge may procede
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. cviii. 38. 1596 James VI in Facs. Nat. MSS. III. lxxiii. 1645 S. Leith Rec. 64.
Those people … [who] may pay for cleanging of thair clothes
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxvii. 1130.
For quha is Goddis wit ma knaw
Ib. xxix. 266.
Al payne That men ma of think or sayne
Ib. xxxii. 311, xxxiii. 407. c1420 Wynt. i. 824.
Thare adamant … is gude That nevyr ma brek but bukkys blwde
c1450 Cr. Deyng (E.E.T.S.) 197.
Forther than we ma agane-stand
1490 Foulis Chart. MS. (Reg. H.) 4 Dec.
Aganis all man and woman the loues or de ma
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 70. 1549 Banff Ann. I. 24.
Certane … schepe, novlt, hors, &c., that the said tovne ma lafulle beir and sustayne
(b) c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 457 (C).
That they myght nocht kendile the fyre
c1450-2 Howlat 500.
Was nane so sture in the steid micht stand him a start
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 1766.
Thaire was no man in erd that mycht it ges
a1500 Henr. Orph. 132. a1500 Bk. Chess 504. c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 221.
New acquyntance … fauoryt me quhill men mycht go a myle
Id. liii. 3.
For ony thing that he do mycht
1531 Bell. Boece I. 219. 1533 Boece xiv. x. 559 b.
Insicht sa mekle as thai mycht fure
1532 M. Works Acc. II. 74.
Quhen the hors mycht nocht laubour for hete
1536–7 Sc. Hist. Rev. VII. 358. a1568 Scott ii. 108. 1588 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 40.
And uther plenesing sic as meight be carreit
c1590 Fowler II. 22/12.
Perceuing that nather … arguments nor … promeissis micht perswade me to [etc.]
1596 Dalr. I. 152/11.
That euerie ane mycht marie how mony wyfes he lyket, or mycht halde vpe
16.. Rudiments 23 a.
The neutrall is that which ends in o, and mith not admitt the passiue forme
(b) 1375 Barb. i. 298.
Thair wes nane auentur that mocht Stunay hys hart
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 427.
Bot thai fand nane be law that Him hurt moucht
c 1550 Balcarres P. 316.
Quhowbeit I moucht nocht war travell this lang tyme

c. Passing into: To be agreeable or prepared (to do something); to be able to endure or tolerate (doing something). c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 264.
He mycht neuir tholl pryd vnressonabill
c1475 Wall. xi. 314.
The kyng … To chawmyr went, and mycht nocht on him se
1513 Doug. xii. Prol. 304.
I irkyt of my bed and mycht not ly … for it was ayr morow or tyme of mes
Ib. ii. vii. 79. 1570 Sat. P. xiii. 62.
The bischoppis micht nocht byde Him

4. To have the opportunity or possibility, to be in a position, to be enabled, to be free (to do or be something); can possibly.Passing into senses 8 and 9.With reference to present or future (or, in the past tense, past or future in the past) time: = is or will be able or free (to).In a. principal, and b. subordinate clauses (other than those expressing intention or result: cf. senses 7 and 12).a. (a) 1375 Barb. i. 233.
He that ay has levyt fre May nocht knaw [etc.]
Ib. 264.
Ȝe may weile se … How hard a thing that threldome is
Ib. ii. 285.
Then on our best maner may we … Ryd towart thaim rycht hardyly
Ib. 325, v. 530. a1400 Leg. S. iii. 505. ?1438 Alex. ii. Concl. 31. c1420 Wynt. iv. 1149.
Gif othir … Can fynde bettyr accordance, This buk at likyn thai may mende
Ib. viii. 3320.
Lw how a lytill thyng may gere Gret harmys fall
c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 525. c1420 Ratis R. 448. c1475 Wall. v. 710. a1500 Henr. III. 171/31 (Ch. & M.).
It may noucht be this warld ay thus suld lest
1490 Irland Mir. I. 16/17. a1500 Prestis of Peblis 86 (Asl.). a1500 Seven S. 900.
I am quhar I may neuer get out
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 406. Id. xviii. 5. 1533 Boece xv. iv. 582.
Quhat may libertie availl to oure inhoneist lif … gif to this tressoun we consent
a1568 Bann. MS. 135 a/31.
A man may be of grit kin and rycht littill worth
Ib. 230 a/18.
Ane luvar glaid may neuir be
1562-3 Winȝet I. 7/16.
We maye nawayis of reasone, bot impute that cryme to the hie reproche of ȝour nobilitie
1584 Grant Chart. 158.
I may lippin in ȝow as my maist spetiall freindis
a1570-86 Hudson Maitl. F. clxxxii. 10.
Thene thow … Mey sey his saull to lesting lyfe is send
c 1590 Calderwood V. 15.
With money, yee may list heere forces in this countrie als freelie as in Spaine
c1600 Montg. Suppl. x. 39.
My lyfe my na langer indwre
1600 Crim. Trials II. 285.
Your lo. may confyde mair in this ald man, the beirer heirof, nor in my brother, for [etc.]
1603 Philotus cliii. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 780.
He that slew his wife yesterday may sit and sa sorow on hir this day
(b) 1375 Barb. viii. 36.
Quhar that na hors on lif ma ga
a1400 Leg. S. iii. 477.
Egeas sad: ‘How ma this be?’
Ib. xxx. 632.
Bot thru thé Na lykine in my hert ma be
Ib. xliii. 580.
As thu ma with thi handis taste Tho thu ma nocht se a laste
Ib. xxx. 249. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 1865.
Richer armes to king ma na man prise
a1500 Henr. III. 93/101.
Thair ma na ianglour ws espy
1513 Doug. i. Prol. 300.
I may nocht fle
1533 Gau 26/3.
Heir euerie man ma mark quhow [etc.]
1535 Stewart 22806.
Onto ws all it ma be document
a1538 Abell 114 b.
Sa ma the Paip abus his keis baith of power and science
(b) 1375 Barb. iii. 347.
Men mycht haiff sene … At leve-takyng the ladyis gret
Ib. vi. 659 (E).
Better than thow I mycht it do, For Ik had mar layser thar-to
Ib. xv. 479.
Than mycht men her the speris brast
Ib. xvii. 142. a1400 Leg. S. x. 318.
Hyre consent he nycht nocht get
Ib. xxxii. 237.
For my crafte mycht nocht awale
?1438 Alex. ii. 42.
Vther wayis it micht not be
c1420 Wynt. vii. 502.
Owre hys throt it mycht noucht get
Ib. v. 1534. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 2172.
Mycht nane gang in that hall for stikit men
Ib. 2231.
Alexander als mycht nocht hald bot greit
c1475 Wall. v. 76.
Wallace mycht nocht a graith straik on him get
a1500 Peblis to Play 14, 132. a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 1102 (H). 1540 Lynd. Sat. Procl. 64. c1552 Id. Mon. 2875.
Quhen scho wes in tyll armour dycht Mycht no man know hir be one knycht
1554 Black Bk. Taymouth 125.
Men and wemen myth weyll pas on the ies of Lyon in syndri placis
1570 Sat. P. xxiv. 25.
Mycht thow not licence Inglis men to ryde Throw all this realme vpon thair awin expensis?
a1578 Pitsc. I. 121 n. 1.
Bot also they might weill persaif extreme danger ewin at hand
(b) 1375 Barb. vi. 666 (E).
And for thi that thai dred me noucht, Nothir thaim fer owt the mar I moucht
a1400 Leg. S. ii. 515.
Bot it mowcht nocht on thame lycht
b. (a) (1) c 1420 Liber Calchou 449.
& ilkane of thir has his clengyng plas quharehe may out his superfluces & clenge him
c1420 Bute MS. 172.
And thai se at thai may nocht get thair fraucht
1456 Peebles B. Rec. I. 116.
Tyl hym self takand that may be hys leyfyn essely
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1390 (Bann.). c1475 Wall. vi. 54. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 27/27.
As a candill may gif lycht to diuers als weill as to ane
Ib. II. 90/13.
A thing inpossible that na way may be
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 488.
1531 Bell. Boece I. 37. 1542 Grant Chart. 88.
Becaus I … may nocht gait souyr enteres to my … landis
c1568 Lauder Minor P. i. 9. 1594 Facs. Nat. MSS. III. lxxv.
So far as his vtter trawell [etc.] … mey reach
1611-57 Mure True Crucifixe 1884.
And none more guiltie than thyself thou maist suppone
(b) a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 24.
Storysse … That to plesis God vs ma kene
Ib. xxvii. 373.
To God as we ma se Nathing may inpossible be
Ib. xliv. 75.
It that thu gifis … Thu gifis, for thu ma nocht away Ber it
1489 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 545 A.
As ma be clerly vnderstande
1545 Prot. Bk. Sir Wm. Corbet 6.
That is the thyng that we ma nocht dony
(2) a1400 Leg. S. l. 652.
I wat weile bath thu may & can Eschewe richt weile … That thai … Of myn entent wald lat me sped!
1513 Doug. vi. v. 146.
Sen weil thow kan and may perform that cur
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xii. 107.
Quhen na man mycht se Thane wald he oyse sic cruelte
1405 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 59.
Yhour men com … and heryde al that thai mycht our take
c1420 Wynt. iv. 1685.
Quhen scho mycht noucht get assent Off that abbot
Ib. viii. 3407.
Lattand a crak that men mycht here
c1475 Wall. i. 234, ii. 408. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxii. 60. 1562-3 Winȝet I. 4/17.
As we for schortnes mycht collect to that effect
a1578 Pitsc. I. 231/16. c 1580 Q. Mary in 12th Rep. Hist. MSS. App. viii. 9.
I … am herteli sori that he miht not schou his commission to my soon, for [etc.]
1588 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 39.
Yit thai wer awey or he micht apprehend tham
1618 Trial Isobel Inch in Murray Witch-cult 202.
[He] was put in ane lockfast buith, quhair no maner of persoun might haif acces to him

c. Const. passive infin.(a) a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 12.
Thai ma nocht fra thyne be brocht Fra [etc.]
Ib. vi. 401.
Ensampil tane ma be sufficiandly be the wyne-tre
Ib. xxvii. 156. 1399 Holyrood Chart. 113.
Gif the fiffe mark … mai be recuverit … be the lach
c1420 Wynt. i. 1400.
Yhit thretty ylys in that se … ma welle reknyde be
1456 Hay I. 12/14. Ib. 18/15.
The sparow … sa may it be likenyt till a man that [etc.]
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 206/4.
And sa may nocht Ingland be callit a fre realme
1513 Doug. i. x. 37. a1540 Freiris Berw. 241 (M).
At this tyme ȝe may nocht harbreit be
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1930. 1567 G. Ball. 33.
Bot luke on that quhilk now ma not be sene
1575–6 Reg. Privy C. II. 500. a1585 Maitl. Q. lxvi. 72. 1592 Acts III. 553/2.
Quhairby the saidis locall stipendis may be prouidit
1596 Dalr. I. 187/20. 1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v.
Collistridivm, … quhilk maie be called the joggs
(b) 1375 Barb. vi. 368 (E).
Thoucht it mycht be weill wndretane Sen at anys mycht assaill bot ane
a1400 Leg. S. xxviii. 50.
Pryde … Herbryt in hyre mycht be na vise
1390 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 19.
Syn owr request mycht nocht be spedde anens yhow
c1420 Wynt. vi. 1398.
[A giant,] The heyast that than mycht jugyd be
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 80.
Thir mychti quenis in crounis mycht be sene
1580 Hume Promine 85.

5. To have authority, sanction or permission, to have the right, be entitled, be allowed (to do something).(a) a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 547.
Na ȝet ma I na liffand wyne Bot hyme that will nocht lef his syne
1398 Acts I. 210/2. 14.. Reg. Maj. lxi.
Ner the les mut may be apone that
1456 Hay I. 104/8. Ib. 108/31, 133/34, 277/33.
How may he than geve pardons
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 1950.
May nane repreif me quhan … I de ane king Bot gret lak is [etc.]
1458 Peebles B. Rec. I. 130.
Geyf it stand her of ned scho may sel part of that til hir lefying
c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 33/26.
Or thow maye tak ane nother personis gud in that case with mesoure
a1500 Seven S. 1319. 1533 Gau 7/24.
Sua that euerie man ma se … quhat he ma dw or lat be one dune
1540 Lynd. Sat. 1843 (Ch.).
Princes may sumtyme seik solace
1556 Knox IV. 126.
Otherwayes thow mayest eat whatsoever [etc.]
1564 Peebles B. Rec. I. 294.
c1575 Balfour Pract. 354. 1590 Conv. Burghs I. 335.
Sic satlid ordour as the saidis craveris of reformation may lesumlye vse
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS. No. 149.
A bannok is ane good beast. yow may eat the gutis of it on good fryday
1612 Inverness Rec. II. 94.
When one hath maid an affray and then fleeth to an house the constable mey [etc.]
1650 Stirling Ant. IV. 159.
Ȝe may fald ȝour tongue if ȝe lyk it
(b) 1375 Barb. i. 61.
For thar mycht succed na female quhill [etc.]
c1420 Wynt. vii. 99.
Hys lord mycht, wyth the lawe, Hym, as he wald, bathe hang and drawe
1456 Hay I. 157/7, 8.
And mycht be sauld in the mercate be thair takaris … or he mycht sla him gif he lykit
Ib. 252/33.
That the said Quene Johanne mycht nocht put by the lyne of the successioun fra [etc.]
1500 Acta Conc. II. 453. 1520 Fife Sheriff Ct. 191.
Ane lettir of contimax … quharthrou he mycht noucht persew nane actione [etc.]
1529 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 99.
That scho mycht big ane fair hall anent the forgait
1561 Q. Kennedy Compendious Ressonyng (ed.) 176/27.
Quhylk dois signifie that the godlie sacrifice … was finissit … and that the peple mycht departe
1563 Digest Justiciary Proc. E. 7.
The saidis lettres … allegit that the [sic] micht leiffullie haif taikin … him [etc.]
1564 Crim. Trials I. i. 443.
That the Justice-clerk mycht nocht be clerk … becaus he [etc.]
1596 Dalr. I. 152/11.
That euerie ane mycht marie how mony wyfes he lyket
a1633 Hope Major Pract. I. 288.
That the husband … might persew for the legacy
1627 Justiciary Cases I. 64. 1674 Justiciary Ct. Rec. II. 298.(b) 1513 Doug. i. i. 73.
Sen Pallas mocht on Grekis tak sik wraik

6. To have good cause (to do something), to be justified in doing it, may or can justifiably.(a) c 1315 in The Brut (E.E.T.S. 1906) 208.
Sare may ȝe morne, For tynt ȝe haue ȝoure lemmans
1456 Hay II. 84/12.
For men may wele consider that the warldis gudis haldis the saule lang in the body
a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 312.
Thy kin that leivis may wary thé and ban
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 205. 1513 Acta Conc. MS. XXVI. 9.
To undirstand quhat help we may lippin to him for the … defence of this realme
1540 Lynd. Sat. Procl. 218.
Scho may call me ane jufflane Jok
Ib. 4150. a1568 Flemyng in Bann. MS. 160 b/48.
Cukkaldis all togiddir May wis thair wyfis in graif
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. lvii. 13. 1635 Dickson Wr. 71.
Ye may as well say, ‘I am naturally a devil's limb’
1687 Dunlop P. III. 39.
Bot ye may lay your count to get no supply from them
(b) 1375 Barb. viii. 498.
Than mycht he weill ask ane lady … hir drowry
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxiii. 18.
Quhilk mony a man micht rew evirmair
1535 Stewart 24623.

7. In preceding senses, in subordinate clauses expressing the actual or probable result of the action of the main clause.(a) c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1720.
Now as hillis hie it schawis … That thai may se nocht bot the lift
c1420 Wynt. i. 540.
The quhilk … kepyde swa wytht cherubyn That lyvand man may nane get in
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1397 (Bann.). 1525 Acts II. 296/1.
The expens … is risin sa gret that his propirtie may nocht beire the samin
1536 Murray Lyon Hist. Lodge Edinb. 36.
Quhen the day beis schort that he ma nocht se … in the mornyng
1559 Inverness Rec. I. 31.
Quhen ȝe ar kepit at ye ma nocht cum to your intent
1562-3 Winȝet II. 13/10.
That with litle craft … of a guid medicinar thai may be cuirit
1567 Sat. P. xi. 23. c1590 Fowler I. 203/4.
O … disdanfull dame, … Who lenghts my lyfe that I may alwayes dee
c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxix. 88.
With thai graice so gaid me still Thatt [I] my newir depairtt Frome thy trew[th]
1585 James VI Ess. 42.
Yet men are not so rair Bot ye may get the lyke
(b) 1375 Barb. i. 198.
Officeris … swa hawtane … That Scottis men mycht do na thing That euir mycht pleys to thar liking
Ib. iii. 420, Ib. ix. 41, xx. 571.
A litill sonkyn bate … [That] sa litill wes that it Mycht our the wattir bot thresum flyt
a1400 Leg. S. i. 249.
He sad on hicht, that all mycht heyre, [etc.]
Ib.> xix. 534. c1420 Wynt. v. 4454. a1450 Fifteen Ois 77.
Sa that na sorrow mycht likynnit be To Thi sorrow
1456 Hay I. 37/9. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 103/25.
That Eleyne … was sa lusty that nane mycht luk in hir wisage without lust [etc.]
a1500 Prestis of Peblis 186.
And eftirward sa did this king … Of him mycht na man plenȝe on ressoun
1531 Bell. Boece I. 15.
Quhais injure wes so importabill, it micht suffir na delay
a1540 Freiris Berw. 228 (M).
Sche hid vp all … That no liknes of feist meit micht be sene
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 136/23.
Sua that they mich haue al said with S. Paul that [etc.]
a1578 Pitsc. II. 296/19. 1596 Dalr. I. 93/20.(b) 1375 Barb. iv. 198 (E).
He wes sa stad that he ne mocht [: broucht] Hys aynd bot with gret paynys draw
Ib. xvii. 118.
That thai moucht [: soucht] On na maner assemblyt be
a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 123, xxxviii. 534, xxxix. 206. c1420 Wynt. viii. 2437.
1513 Doug. iv. i. 10.
(c) a1400 Leg. S. xiii. 180.
& thonyre flaw done & fyr-slacht That stand one fut na man macht

8. The present tense used to indicate that what is predicated is a possibility only.a., b. Expressing the likely possibility of some future event or probable truth of some statement of a conjectural or hypothetical nature. = ‘perhaps’ or ‘probably will’; ‘perhaps’ or ‘probably does’, or, const. be, ‘perhaps’ or ‘probably is’.(1) 1375 Barb. i. 123.
For wnfayr thingis may fall, perfay, Als weill to-morn as ȝhisterday
Ib. iii. 293.
Weill mai fall That [etc.]
a1400 Leg. S. x. 39.
They ma fynd wele be his ded
Ib. vi. 648, xi. 269, 274. c1420 Ratis R. 158, 160.
A time a man may sic odore feill … It may mak syk recomforting [etc.]
c1420 Wynt. vi. 1246. c1475 Wall. v. 619.
Off lyklynes it may be wondyr weill
1490 Irland Mir. I. 87/4, Id.
It may be sperit at me [etc.]
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 32/7. 1528 Lynd. Dreme 894.
Quho wyll go sers amang sic heirdis scheip May habyll fynd [etc.]
a1568 Bann. MS. 147 a/17.
Quhen tyme is past ȝe ma do war
Ib. 259 b/8.
Remembir quhat ma cum behind
1567 Anderson Collect. Mary I. 129.
Whairupon daunger maie ensew
1567 G. Ball. ii.
This same flesche … Thocht it maie moulder and decay
1571 J. Maitland Maitl. F. clxxvii. 30.
Wanlukis quhair by thow may be lost
1581 Burne Disput. 106 b.
It is maist liclie that ȝour neu erectit kirk … may maist esilie err
a1570-86 Maitl. F. xlvii. 40.
To heill that efter may wittin be
c1600 Montg. Suppl. xix. 4.
For to deserue sum favour that may lest
Ib. xxi. 12.
May this nocht stanche ȝow of ȝour harmes
1689 Leven & Melv. P. 150.
It is like he may either get the boots or thumbikins
(2) ?1438 Alex. ii. 3127.
Ȝe wait … Quhen men cumis armit in battale, Sum men may tyne
1456 Hay I. 266/6.
Bot it may suffice to say [etc.]
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2707 (Bann.).
The pure peple this lamb may signify
a1500 Rauf C. 446.
Thair is mony carll in the countrie thow may nocht ken
1549 Compl. 183/23.
The sophist logicinaris per chance may argon that [etc.]
(3) a1400 Leg. S. vi. 424.
[The] aucht wel ma be For to luf hospitalyte
Ib. xi. 272.
That thar ma [vil] thinge thare-in be
1456 Hay I. 80/5.
And that may be be gude resoun
1490 Irland Mir. I. 72/18.
Alsua the presciens of God … ma be na presciens
Ib. /23. 1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. Pref. 99.
This Adamsone may weill be borne of Eve
1684–5 Dumfr. & Galloway Soc. 3 Ser. XXXVI. 167.
That there mey be some small thing of rents received be me quhich I have forgott
(4) c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 457.
Bot folk a cury may miscuke that knawledge wantis

c. In conditional clauses.(1) 1375 Barb. vii. 533 (E).
Giff futemen gaiff him battaile He suld be hard to wyn, giff he Off thair cummyng may wytteryt be
1385 Rot. Sc. II. 73/2.
And in cas thay may noght let it
?1438 Alex. ii. 2739.
Gif that I may dais thre Leif, and syne God wald help me Ȝit sall I athir wyn or tyne
1409 Douglas Chart. 370.
Gif thai may nocht acorde be trety in lufely manere, thai sall [etc.]
14.. Acts I. 346/2.
Gif he may nocht find that man inditit, he aw to arreste all his gudis
1456 Hay I. 247/25.
That gif a man may fynd ony man berand lettres that ar agayn the publyk prouffit
a1500 Rauf C. 253.
Ȝit I sall help thé, gif I ocht may amend
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxiv. 33.
Nor I be hangit be the nek Gife bettir butis of ledder ma be
1521 Douglas Corr. 79.
The quhilk help and we may have, we sal de and liff … for the souerte of oure said soverane
1531 Reg. Soltre 104.
Giwe the said Johne may nocht gudlie pleneis the said ground
a1568 Bann. MS. 227 b/20.
And I may nych hir neir, than gon wer neuer my glew
(2) c1420 Wynt. v. 4418.
May this chyld lyve, he sall but drede Cum till gret state
c1475 Wall. x. 616.
I cum to thé, may I chaip fra that dout

d. In a parenthetic clause introduced by gif, implying considerable doubt of the possibility of what is predicated: cf. 11 d. 1513 Doug. ii. ii. 154.
Gyf it with mortale folkis may fundyn be

9. In the past subjunctive expressing hypothetical possibility or contingency.Followed by pres. or perf. infin., = was or would be able to, would have been able to; could (have).a. In the protasis of a conditional sentence. Also with ellipsis of the conjunction and inversion: micht I = if I might.(1) 1375 Barb. vi. 499 (E).
Fra that he mycht anys fele The kingis sent … he wald chaung it for na thing
Ib. vii. 64.
Giff the hund mycht lest in lyve
c1420 Wynt. v. 4082.
He sayd he wald be blyth and fayne Ony man gyff that he mycht Rays … Fra dede to lywe
15.. Dunb. App. ii. 25.
Gif ony man his lyfe micht lenth, I wat it had bene Salamone
1531 Bell. Boece II. 363.
He curit not sa that he micht jose the samin [crown]
a1568 Scott ii. 37.
Sym … hecht he sowld be hittin, And he micht counter Will on hors
1598 Conv. Burghs II. 40.
Prouiding that … he micht haue allowit … his ressonabill chairgis
1622-6 Bisset I. 5/28.
I hard him … say, Gif these … registeris … of the kingdome … micht be gottin extant that [etc.]
(2) c1420 Wynt. ix. 992.
Letand that he suld beris bynd Mycht he on feld the Scottis fynd
c1475 Wall. iii. 31.
It war the best … Mycht he him get to be his … man For gold or land, his conquest mycht lest than
(3) 1375 Barb. xiii. 48 (E).
Mycht thair schot haff ony last It had bene hard
Ib. xvii. 927.
Mycht he haff levyt quhill he had bene Off perfyt eild
1567 Anderson Collect. Mary I. 136.
Micht the samyne mariage leisumlie haiff bin contractit

b. In the apodosis.(1) c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlix. 42. c1500 Interl. Droich 68.
Lassis micht leir at hir to stryde Wald ga to luvaris lair
1531 Bell. Boece I. 7.
Throw quhilk the Scottis micht have na tranquilite without the said pepill wer mair haistelie dantit
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 5384. Arundel MS. 252/416.
Thoucht I wald leife fra syn, I mycht nocht without Thi grace
1567 Sempill Sat. P. viii. 48.
Palȝart! war nocht our faith defendit … Than thow my[ch]t writte in gennerall
c 1570 Breadalbane Lett. (Reg. H.).
Gif it be possible for tham in presens of my lord we mocht end the mater
(2) 1375 Barb. xvi. 325 (E).
Couth he … with mesur haf led his dede, It wes weill lik … That he mycht haiff conqueryt … Irland
c1420 Wynt. viii. 3608.
And thai hade Went to the towne, with lytill payne Thai mycht have tane thare fays
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1114.
Geue thay of that tre had preuit Perpetuallye thay mycht haue leuit
Ib. 2962.
Had scho kepit hir chastitie, Scho mycht haue bene one A per se
1657 Hibbert P. No. 20.
Giff he haid bein evill sett against ȝow he micght haue wronged ȝow

c. In the protasis or apodosis, with reference to present or future rather than to past time, but freq. implying that the hypothesis advanced is more or less highly improbable.(1) 1375 Barb. i. 12.
Tharfor I wald fayne set my will, Giff my wyt mycht suffice thartill
a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 313.
& gyf percase ony mocht Kepe maydine in ded & thocht, Than wald I wit quhat reward [etc.]
1456 Hay I. 122/4.
For gif it mycht be sa that a gude prisonare sulde be the takaris, he suld than have [etc.]
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 423.
Gif pament or praier mught mak that purchese, For na largese my lord noght wil he neuer let [etc.]
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 188.
Of that, quod he, I wald be fane Gif I micht in this realme remane. Bot I mon first pas into France
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 125/23.
That the godly vark … and it mich be comprehendit be naturall reasone it var na mervalus
1562-3 Winȝet I. 23/8.
Giue euerie man mycht leue according to his vocation
a1568 Bann. MS. 244 a/11.
Gif … absence micht awance My hairt is haill possest
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 134.
Gif for my refuge I micht playne unto ȝow, I wald speik it unto na uther body
1584 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 1014.
Wha could cleirlie descryve his cases … Gif men mycht tyme and laser get [sc. to hear them]?
1598 Warrender P. A. fol. 359.
Gif we mycht advaill our self ony litill thing in doing thairof
1606 Highland P. III. 88.
Gif it mycht pleise ȝour matie to continew me [etc.] … I sall nocht onlie paye the … maillis [etc.]
(2) a1400 Leg. S. xxvi. 759.
Frend, mycht I thé lewe Myn wil ware gud thé to relewe With creance … gyf I mycht trew [etc.]
c1475 Wall. ii. 340.
Mycht I on lyff him anys se with myn eyn, He suld be saiff
a1500 Rauf C. 83. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 10004.
Micht I deill ȝour seiknes into thre, Ȝe suld not haue sa greit infirmitie
a 1568 Sempill Sat. P. xlvii. 61.
Mycht thay win to the girth, I tak no feir
(3) ?1438 Alex. ii. 78.
Gif the king into bounte Had ony peir, it micht be he
1450 Reg. Great S. 84/1.
Quhat myself mocht do and I war thare in propir persoun
1456 Hay I. 276/5.
And it war a thing done before the prince … it mycht nocht be revokit … but leve of the prince
1533 Boece iv. iii. 128.
Gif he taryit … Romanis mycht leis with dishonour the senȝeory
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 230.
Thinking that, he being detenit in captivitie, thaj mycht be kingis in his boundis and vptak his leiving at thair awne plesour
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xx. 31.
Had I offendit oght, Or wroght aganst thair will, But mercy, than they moght Conclvde my corps to kill
1658 Paisley B. Rec. 100.
To do everie … thing neidfull … as … onie of thame … micht have done gif thaye had not [etc.]
With suppressed protasis in d. principal and e. subordinate clauses.d. (a) 1375 Barb. i. 396.
Till gud Ector of Troy mycht he … liknyt be
a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 660. ?1438 Alex. ii. 4808, 6840. c1420 Ratis R. 672. c1420 Wynt. vi. 129.
Or than in cas it mycht fall lyk Sum hethyn man … Mycht wsurpe Crystyn feys
Ib. 2323.
Les lykly thyng suth mycht be Demyd be possybylyte
Ib. viii. 6078.
He mycht rycht welle content have bene That [etc.]
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 162.
1461 Liber Plusc. I. 385.
Quhat mycht God mare do till His creatoure
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2863 (Bann.).
For I mycht los both lyfe and libertie
a1500 Seven S. 121.
I am of age, And a ȝoung wyf … Mycht be the caus to abrek my lyf
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 110 (Asl.).
Thus mycht a king … caus the clergy to kepe gud obseruans
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 22.
Ȝit mycht thay be sa bald in thair bakbytting To gar me ryme
Id. liii. 30. 1513 Doug. viii. xi. 36.
Thar mycht thou se the Franch army alhaill Haist … to the capitoll
Ib. ix. viii. 55. 1533 Bell. Livy II. 166/20.
The thing that he has schewin be instinctioun of divyne … sprete, he mycht nocht revoke
Ib. 214/22. 1533 Boece iii. xii. 109 b.
The ilis of Orknay for … temperate and halesum are mycht be preferrit to mony vthir regiouns
1548–9 Corr. M. Lorraine 292.
Tha mecht never getin sa gud ane tym
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 801.
Quhat plesour mycht ane man haif more Nor [etc.]
Ib. 4660. 1559 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I. 159.
Thairon this inconvenient suld cum that … [men] mycht poynd at thair awin hand
1567 Sat. P. iii. 60. a1568 Scott ii. 95.
Thair wes no deth mycht be devynd
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 218 (L).
Bot lang mycht I haiff luikit so Or Cupide cum agane
Id. Misc. P. xiv. 13.
But libertie, what micht me meis?
1658 Edinb. B. Rec. in Butler Life Leighton 297.
Some sort of rudiments at leist might be condiscendit on, pairt English pairt Latine, for the more easie apprehension of litle children
(b) ?1438 Alex. ii. 3807.
Ȝour siching thare mocht pas the se!
1594 Colville Lett. 265.
You mowghtt do her majestie serves
e. (a) 1375 Barb. v. 174.
That he suld de war gret pite Bot quhar vorschip mycht prufit be
a1400 Leg. S. xviii. 843.
The gat that mycht me led To the flume Jordane
Ib. xxxvi. 744.
In my kirk sal thou neuir entre haf Thi lif hale tho that my[ch]t safe
1473 Acts II. 105/2.
Considering quhar thai mycht have gude money … for thar … fischis … thai … now … ar bar of money
1497–8 Acta Conc. II. 117.
With … dewiteis that the sade James micht haf had thairof be the sade space
1500 Ib. 457. a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 471 (Ch. & M.).
Thow fylde faster than fyftenesum mycht lawe
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 231.
I wald a tender peronall that myght na put thole [etc.]
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 142/11.
Giff I vald be als curyouse as perchaunce I mych be
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xlii. 728.
a1578 Pitsc. I. 3/15.
Ane hes that micht ane hundreith weill susteine And livis in vo
1597 Acts IV. 146/2.
Albeit it mycht haue bene ingadderit vpoun far les expens
1603 Crim. Trials II. 320.
Sum honest man, in whom hartlie his m. might confyd
1611 Ib. III. 153.
Quhair ony man that lyket to haif accuset him mycht haif drawin him to pannell
1626 Justiciary Cases I. 52.
[Na sustenance] quhilk scho mycht haif abstractit
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxvii. 540.
Syne thai saw ane vthire ile That thai mocht saile to in a quhile
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1863 (Bann.).
Grite fule is he that will nocht glaidlie heir Counsale in tyme quhill it availl him mocht
a1568 Bann. MS. 328 b/152.
Weill war the man … that mocht All his lyfe dayis in perfyte study war
1573 Inverness Rec. I. 228.
He band it nocht, quharthrow it mocht haif bene kepit upon the horse bak
1620 Grant Chart. 216.
In siclyk forme and maner as I mocht hawe done myself

f. With suppressed apodosis, in the expression of a wish the realisation of which is thought unlikely. ?1438 Alex. ii. 7707.
Me leuer war I mocht Resembill him … Than haue half-deill this warld
1567 Sat. P. xi. 34.
Mycht thow not, frantik fule! forbeir To sla [etc.]
1572 Sempill Ib. xxx. 8.
Him … Quhome dolent deith hes laitly done deuoir; Unlukellie, allace! gif man micht mend it

g. Followed by perfect infin. (to form the conditional past tense) with ellipsis of have: see Have v.1 1375 Barb. iii. 72.
The quhethir he mycht, mar manerlik, Lyknyt hym to Gaudifer de Larys
?1438 Alex. ii. 1195. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 1916.
[He] thocht that he mycht maist had grevit him thair
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 1098 (H).
And set that God … Mocht ws redemyt but sic difficultee [etc.]
1513 Doug. iv. xi. 31.
Mycht I not caucht and rent in pecis his cors … ?
1560 Rolland Seven S. 5724.
Galiene perchance micht found remeid
Ib. 8223. 1567 Sempill Sat. P. vii. 20.
Mycht thay not weill In quyetnes leifit
1570 Ib. xviii. 44.
Lang mycht he leuit with Lady An his maik
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 1260 (Wr.).
Unsocht ȝit, he mocht ȝit, For kyndnes cund us thank
c1590 J. Stewart II. 60/131. c1590 Fowler II. 30/24.
If ather honesty might mouit thé, or ressoun had possessit thee
1638 Henderson Serm. 290.
So that it might all that time been said, This soul belongs to God
a1689 Cleland 24. Ib. 21.
Blood and wounds might made 's repent it

10. Other uses of the present and past subjunctive to indicate hypothesis, contingency or uncertainty.In various preceding senses, with addition of the notion of hypothesis etc. = (Hypothetically, conceivably, perhaps) does or did, will or would, can or could, or, with be, is or was.a. In noun clauses of reported belief or assertion.(a) a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii. 476.
Gyf thu treuys that thou ma lif
1473 Reg. Cupar A. I. 190.
Gif he thynkis he ma do better to stabil hym in othir placis
(b) a1400 Leg. S. vii. 473.
Bot at the laste he hyme bethocht That in na maner tha mocht Lange hald the towne
c1420 Wynt. vii. 3429.
Ware than ony lyvand wend Mycht hawe fallyn be lyklynes
1456 Hay II. 4/24.
Considerand that this lyf mycht nocht langsumly endure
c1475 Wall. v. 288.
He saw full weyll lang swa he mycht nocht lest
1513 Doug. xi. iii. 9.
Assuryng hym, thar mycht be led na weir On venquyst folkis
1531 Bell. Boece (M) I. 167. 1533 Boece iv. xii. 144. a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 496 (Wr.).
For I have heard chirurgians say, Ofttimes deferring of a day Might not be mend the morne
Ib. 1229.
They thought then, they mought then Without a partie plead
1596 Dalr. I. 237/22.
As a man of his awne libertie, [he] thocht he mycht do quhat lyked him best

b. Following an indefinite relative construction.(a) 1375 Barb. i. 267.
Wedding is the hardest band That ony man may tak on hand
1397 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 33.
Hafand richt or mai hafe richt
Ib. No. 34. ?1438 Alex. i. 2838.
And quhan marcat or fair sal be, To thame that may pertene to me, Luke thow [etc.]
Ib. ii. 4026.
Lat fall how euer may happin syne
Ib. 11055.
Ta the best and of maist bounte That may be leuand of his eild
1418 Liber Melros 502.
All the fermys … at langis or may lang in tym to cvm till the said landis
c1420 Wynt. vi. 2054.
Owthire welle or ill as happyne may
1424 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 14.
Maste liking tithingiz that may be in this erde
1439 Sutherland & Cai. Rec. 225.
Agane all tha that leffis ore dee may
1456 Hay I. 127/13. Ib. 60/13.
Quha may sauf a mannis lyf and dois nocht, he slais him
c1460 Consail Vys Man 388.
Fore hecht at may be maid to thé
1466 Acta Aud. 6/1.
And al that he may let
a1500 Rauf C. 209. a1500 Bernardus 105.
And othir men oft spendys that he may wyne
1482 Fam. Rose 147. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxi. 7. 1623 Perth Kirk S. 305.
That when he may come he does it
(b) 1415 Reg. Episc. Brechin I. 36.
Ondir al pane that ma affer
1463 Wemyss Chart. 82.
Off all … querall … that I ma pretend, allege or oppon agane the said Johne
c1475 Wall. i. iii.
Is nayne in warld at scaithis ma do mar Than [etc.]
1522 Reg. Cupar A. I. 303.
The laif of the fych that thaj ma get
1536 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 20.
Ony caus … quhar throw the said James … ma not bruk and jois the … landis
1581–2 Elgin Rec. I. 164.
Scho sall cum to the preching … ilk sonday quhen scho ma be lassart
(b) 1375 Barb. v. 543.
Vomen … That vald tell all that thai mycht here
a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii. 694.
Ymang al that lyf mycht
1389 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 16.
Tha landys … or ony vthir that … scyr Dauy had rycht to or mycht have had
c1420 Wynt. vi. 1757.
The heyast gallows that man mycht se
Ib. iii. 944. c1420 Bute MS. 157.
Gyf aburges chalange that man of ony thyng qwhar for bataile mycht ryse
1498 Charter (Reg. H.) C.O. No. 83.
Vnto such tyme as the saidis kingis mycht haue bene aduertisit of the difficulte
1509 Justiciary Rec. II. 157.
Als soyne as he mycht be brocht he suld enter him
1514 Rec. Earld. Orkney 88. 1527 Reg. Privy S. I. 546/2. 1531 Bell. Boece I. 179. 1533 Boece ii. xiii. 86.
Sa mony galions … as apperandlie mycht cary the army
1535 Stewart 51441. 1559 Inchcolm Chart. 97.
For na laubour nor werk thai mycht do thai culd never hald thair awin
1560 Rolland Seven S. 10145. 1558-66 Knox II. 357.
Or yitt appearance of any strock whairof death might have enseued
a1568 Scott xxx. 36. 1572 Sempill Sat. P. xxxviii. 52. 1579 Edinb. B. Rec. IV. 114.
Sic sufficient wecht of syluer as mychtest serue thair turn
1614 Highland P. III. 153.(b) a1400 Leg. S. vii. 396.
That he kend nocht The crafte, quhare-thru he help it mocht
c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1010 (C).
Mought [: nought]
c1420 Ratis. R. 646.
Suppos thow had done al the syne That mocht do al thine ewen-kyne
a1500 Rauf C. 490.
For ocht that be mocht

c. In indirect questions, expressing uncertainty over a future eventuality, intention, purpose or hope.(a) 1375 Barb. xi. 278 (E).
Tharfor is gud we ordane now How we may let thaim of thair purpos
?1438 Alex. ii. 5056.
How thay thare lousing best may mak
a1500 Colk. Sow ii. 241.
For litill watt thow how sone that thow may slid
1513 Doug. iii. vi. 199.
Scho wil thé schaw … how thou may al lauborus payn sustene
1525 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 113.
Se quhome in thai ma lippin in
(b) 1375 Barb. xix. 406.
Apon quhat maner that thai moucht Ger Scottis lewe thair avantage
a1400 Leg. S. vii. 47, 48.
Quha mycht fyrst Of his kirtil mycht nycht the liste
Ib. x. 206.
To prefe Gyf thai mycht gere hym than lyfe
Ib. vi. 247, xxiv. 124. c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1946.
c1420 Wynt. viii. 181.
Had yhe wmbethowcht yowe inkkyrly Quhat peryle to yowe mycht appere
c1450-2 Howlat 259. c1475 Wall. ii. 156.
Gret merwaille was lang tyme gif he mycht leyff
Ib. xi. 792. a1500 Henr. Fab. 2171 (H).
Vpoun quhat wyse reuengit on him he micht
1513 Doug. i. iv. 44. 1531 Bell. Boece I. 35. a1540 Freiris Berw. 50 (M).
But gif that we In sum gude hous that we micht harberit be
1562 Inverness Rec. I. 92.
To consult quhat suld be the stipend … quharof the samyn moycht be had
1583 Wemyss Corr. 101
To see quhay mycht heid moneast

d. In indirect questions, with be, expressing doubt or bewilderment.? Only in early verse: cf. 8 d. 1375 Barb. iii. 484.
And quhen he hard sa blaw & cry, He had wondir quhat it mycht be
a1400 Leg. S. xviii. 366.
Lyand one the erde, he thocht Gyf euir it a spyrit be mocht That sa yt fenȝet for to pray
c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1768.
To seike thare lord and luke gif he Throw ony case mycht liffand be
c1420 Wynt. iv. 692.
Gyff … tyll thare nawyne ony se Mycht rowme enuch or large be

e. Used, with be, also have, in early verse to indicate that the number or measurement given is an approximate or conjecturai estimate.May, micht be, = ‘is, was about; is, was more or less’. May have, = ‘roughly has’.(1) 1375 Barb. ix. 241.
Ande his menȝe That mycht weill neir seuin hundreth be
Ib. xvii. 572.
Thre sper-lynth, I trow weill mycht be Betuix thame
Ib. xiv. 534. a1400 Leg. S. l. 1182.
That hill … That ix iurnays gret ma be Of Alexandir fra the cite
(2) a1500 Rauf C. 494.
Thow huifis on thir holtis … Quhill half the haill day may the hicht haue

f. Used to indicate that the situation predicated is or was of uncertain continuance or duration.(a) 1375 Barb. i. 270.
For quhill a thryll his lyff may leid, It merrys him
a1500 Rauf C. 784.
Quhill my lyfe may lest
a1500 Seven S. 231. 1535 Stewart 30508.
Ay quhill he ma induir
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus i. 253.
Quhill I may bruik my liue
1570 Sat. P. xviii. 67. a1605 Montg. Flyt. 342. c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxxii. 32.
(b) 1533 Boece iv. ii. 166 b.
Scottis & Pichtis … thinkand quhill thare life mycht indure thai suld nocht [etc.]

g. Used with suld (past tense of Sal v.) in reporting an alleged action. 1540 Elgin Rec. I. 53.
Thomas Hay fensit ane broch that the said Andro myth and suld say aganis the bailyeis [etc.]

11. As an auxiliary of the subjunctive or optative mood.Used with the infin. of the main verb in the same function as, and tending to supersede, the subjunctive of the main verb.In a. adverbial, b. relative and c. noun clauses, of intention, purpose or desired result.a. (a) a1400 Leg. S. i. 421.
I sal firste tell it thé to, Sa thu ma wit quhedir he [etc.]
Ib. iii. 532.
Ordanis ȝou that ȝe To Criste campionis ma be
Ib. xviii. 824, 1472, xxxvi. 234. c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 2540. 1434 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 390. a1500 Henr. III. 108/31. 1493 Acta Aud. 184/2.
To put him to liberte … sa that he may commoune with his … frendis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 427.
I drawis my clok forthwart … That I may spy, vnaspyit
Id. iv. 99, lxix. 50. 1533 Gau 17/4. Ib. 97/22.
Thay that sellis ony thing to ane oder that thay ma thairfor haiff mair na it wes worth
1531 Bell. Boece I. 42. 1540 Lynd. Sat. 3834. 1549 Compl. 91/3.
To remoue discentione … to that effect that ilk persone may lyf eysylye [etc.]
1562-3 Winȝet I. 136/2.
To the intent that ȝe may [etc.]
1568 Anderson Collect. Mary IV. ii. 71.
To the end that ȝe may tak the best of all [etc.]
1570 Armstrong Hist. Liddesdale I. 53 n.
That noane maie pretend ingnoraunce
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun xi.
Sua it may be writtin [etc.]
c1600 Montg. Suppl. x. 27.
My deir, apeir, that feir my fle
1613 Edinb. Test. XLVII. 300.
Ane sufficient portion of geir that thai maij honestlie leiue
1621 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 341.
To the effect that the worthiest … mey be preferit
(b) 1563 St. A. Kirk S. 186.
Quharby sic tryall may be had as he maw knaw … quhidder the sam appertenis to hym or nocht
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xi. 204.
That thai mycht Heithar our-cum thé in feycht
Ib. xvi. 144. c1400 Troy-bk. i. 23.
To spye [etc.] … So that thay mytht [etc.]
c1420 Wynt. iii. 453, v. 2391. c1450-2 Howlat 285. a1500 Seven S. 1553.
Gedeon … bad hir rys that scho mycht bleid
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 375. 1531 Bell. Boece I. 45.
That the king micht ische more esely … thay devisit [etc.]
Ib. 23. 1533 Boece viii. viii. 267 b.
That the low mycht hide the hoist fra sicht of inemyis
1567–8 Reg. Privy C. I. 614.
That all personis … comperit … that being callit and outred thai mycht depart hame
1570 Leslie 15.
To the effect thay micht the better get thair intent execut
1596 Dalr. I. 1/7. Ib. II. 60/5.
The cause that mouet me … was … that I … mycht sett doun … a certane ernist … affectione of the catholik religione
1597 Misc. Spald. C. I. 136.
To have gane to ane cauld wall, that he micht have gottn watter to have quencit his birning heat
a1650 Row xxxii.
That such a feirfull sine mycht be punished
1644–5 Rec. Kirk Scotl. 416.
To have losed our lives that we might have obtained that which [etc.]
c1650 Spalding II. 281.
Preceislie nottit, to the effect the 4th man micht be lifted
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xli. 373.
Bot, that he mocht do lefully, He went to the Pape in hy & asskit lef [etc.]
1552 Elgin Rec. I. 115.
Ane evident … to the effect that the said George motht be enterit
1555 Coll. Aberd. & B. 383.
To the effect that the said merch cairn … mocht not be knawin as ane of the merches
b. a1400 Leg. S. vii. 664.
Thai bocht A place quhare-in thai delfe tham mocht
Ib. xxxix. 24.
Til a crafte … Quhare-of thai mycht thare liffine get
Ib. xxxv. 127. c1420 Wynt. i. 213 (E). a1500 Seven S. 2314.
Bot euer he studyit to fynd a gyn How he mycht to the lady wyn
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 898. 1602 Dundee Shipping P. 75.
Quharbay the monnay maycht remayn in his hand
c. (a) 1375 Barb. i. 34.
Now God gyff grace that I may swa Tret it
1393 Reg. Morton II. 190.
That tbe fornemyt … hase grantyt … his speciale leife that he may enfef herytably [etc.]
1513 Doug. Æn. Direct. 33. c1536 Lynd. Compl. Bagsche 99.
Ane letter … That I may haue collatioun
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus iii. 140. a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. xcvii. iii. 1585 Acts III. 376/1. 1590 Dundee B. Laws 553.
Bot that they may haue libertie to lit blak cullour with bark
1596 Dalr. I. 177/2.
[The Romans wish] ather that … thay al occasione of seditione may cut away; or that rather thay may occupie Britannie
1622-6 Bisset I. 234/18.
That the Lyoun may direct ane precept of publicatioun thereupoun
1683 Cochran-Patrick Coinage II. 200.
Proposalls: … That the commission for the myns may bee dureing lyf
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xx. 354.
1525 Douglas Corr. 99.
I besek ȝoure grace at I may have perfyct knawlaige thaire in quhat I ma lyppine to do
c 1527 James V in Bk. Old Edinb. C. XI. 117.
That na man sall heir the disputation of the lordis, bot at tha ma spek disput and argw libere
1530 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 344.
Deponit … that … the clan Gregour … keip gud rewle … and that the Kingis liegis ma leif in … pece
1546–7 Elgin Rec. I. 89.
The baillies commandit … that all tha he hed ma cum to the prencepall gramer schoill
(c) 1630 Bk. Carlaverock II. 119.
Which I sall desyer mey be to his honir
(d) 1696 Annandale Corr. 126.
I wisch my leady my recover her helth quickly
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xliii. 616.
That scho had mad purchas To God that scho mycht luf the space That scho mycht thaim til hym commend
?1438 Alex. ii. 458. c1420 Wynt. vi. 1268. c1450-2 Howlat 856.
It was haile his behest … Mycht Dame Natur arrest Of him for to rewe
1481–2 Peebles B. Rec. I. 189.
Rycht humly the said master Archbald proponit … that his land … mycht haf interes in Sant Mychellis wynd
1499 Dunferm. B. Rec. 101. 1513 Doug. iv. iv. 61.
Recontyr he mycht
1520 Fife Sheriff Ct. 199. 1561–2 Dumfries B. Ct. 50 a.
The said Robert procurator protestit that he mych be condempnit in his challance as ordor of court
1570 Leslie 123.
The Duik of Albany … desyrit onely that he mycht haif [etc.]
1590 Reg. Privy C. IV. 545.
The said Patrik Crummy … , haveing choppit at the yett … , cravit that he micht speik … with the said Raulff Ker
c1590 Fowler II. 15/14.
He was desyrous that his fame micht be spred
1596 Dalr. I. 1/19.
I hoped … thay … now at last mychte begin to follow the way of true vertue
1652 Misc. Spald. C. V. 335.
Thomas Burnet … desyrit … that wpoun the probatioun led he micht haue ane bore breiff
(b) 1603 Murray Kilmacolm 35.
And such as suld be found contemners … mocht be delaited to the civil justice

d. In these uses the past tense forms (micht, mocht) were also used with present or future reference, interchangeably with the present (may) and with virtually the same meaning.(a) 1375 Barb. x. 539 (E).
Me think ye wald blythly That men fand yow sum jeperty How ye mycht our the wallis wyn
a1400 Leg. S. vi. 295.
Bot I to God prais fore thé, That thu mycht ryse & luf vith oth[i]re
1487 Acts II. 178/2.
Item it is statut … that the actis made … apone [etc.] … micht be put to dew execucioun
a1500 Bk. Chess 236.
Forsuth a king he suld be set on hicht That all his folk mycht haue of him a sicht
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxii. 54. 1513 Doug. viii. ix. 80.
I ȝow beseik my febill lyfe to respyte That I mycht lyf and endur ȝyt a lyte All pane [etc.]
1515 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 157.
Swa that gif ony inconvenient happinis that thair hoste mycht ansuer for thame as efferis
1540 Lynd. Sat. Procl. 44.
Wald God I had that liberty, That I micht pairt … Withowt the constry law
a1568 Bann. MS. 243 b/62. 1570 Sat. P. xvi. 90. 1573 Ib. xlii. 250. a1578 Pitsc. I. 181/18.
To wse wyse … consall … quhairby iustice myght be ministrat
1638 Dumbarton B. Rec. 55.
Qr into he answerit he wischis he my[ch]t shrive [to] God
(b) 1551 Hamilton Cat. 255.
Geve us grace that Thi name … mocht be knawin, thankit and louit amang us

e. In the past tense forms, expressing a wish (for the present or future).Const. passive or active infin.: Would that (something may come about); may (someone do something), let him (do something).(1) c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 28 (D).
Bot god, he seyd in that stryve, Mytht he be mad sekyr of hys lyve!
1551 Hamilton Cat. 259.
As His will is … fulfillit … in thame [etc.] … sa it moucht be fulfillit also in us that ar dwelland apon the erd
1590–1 Crim. Trials I. ii. 234.
Thow sayis, Lord, lovit mocht ȝe be, That formd and maid mankynd of me
1604-31 Craig ii. 55/3.
More then I am, accursed mought I bee If er'e I did approch my dearest dame
(2) 1583 Sempill Sat. P. xiv. 797.
Ewill mocht he bruik them!
1590 Waus Corr. 455.
As knawis God, quha mi[ch]t preserve your matie
c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxxi. 55.
Of James the sext, our nobill king, quhome Chryst mocht keip

f. In present or past tense forms, expressing a proposal, suggestion, injunction, or request.In principal clauses: for the same application in subordinate clauses, see c above. 1375 Barb. vii. 537 (E).
Scho may ask mete per cheryté And se thar conwyn halily
a1500 Henr. III. 91/43.
Perauenture my scheip ma gang besyd
1490 Irland Mir. I. 15/26.
On the haly day … thi hienes may heir a chepture of it
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 34.
Thow ma rycht weill in thi mynde consydder That [etc.]
1513 Doug. Æn. Direct. 84.
Gyf ony wald inqueir, Ȝe may answer … That [etc.]
1590 Reg. Morton I. 169.
As for the lyfrentis … that may be considerit befoir the turne be endit betuix ȝow

12. In elliptical constructions, in various preceding senses.a. Where the main verb is to be supplied from an adjacent, commonly preceding, clause.The past tense form mocht is appar. commoner than micht in this use.(1) (a) a1400 Leg. S. iii. 743.
Thar-for sped thé, gyff thu may
c1400 Troy-bk. i. 117.
That mytht haf happynnit or ȝhet may To some of ȝhoures
?1438 Alex. ii. 174, 282; etc. c1420 Wynt. vii. 71.
Do this dede … Gyve othir thow may, or dare, or wille
c1420 Bute MS. 172.
Gyf thai wyl lat in a ton of watyr thai may
1455 Edinb. Chart. 80. 1456 Hay I. 174/30. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 281 b.
Quhen ȝe it reid ȝe help it thar ȝe may [: pray]
c1460 Consail Wys Man 110.
Do thi det cum as it may
c1475 Wall. v. 123.
Deyme as yhe lest, ye that best can and may
1512 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 18.
Quhill thai weit geiff thai maye belaw
1513 Ib. 25.
Fensable [pr. sensable] men best abolyeit thai may
15.. Wyf Awcht. 20.
I salbe hussy gif I may [: stray]
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 976. 1562-3 Winȝet I. 67/15. Ib. 78/30.
To impugne ȝour doctrine planelie gif thai may iustlie
1567 G. Ball. 175.
Quha lykis to speid thay may [: day]
? 1570 Sat. P. xx. 19. 1675 Aberd. Council Lett. V. 454.
To cause the money … goe as far ane lynth as it may
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxx. 181.
& be als mery as thu ma [: gud fay]
?1438 Alex. ii. 8809.
Our harme tell all I na will. Na I na ma
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4396.
Now sall I feid ȝow as I mae [: kae]
1583 Wemyss Corr. 100.
And do to the removyng of that qwerrell quhat I ma of ressone
(b) 1375 Barb. i. 112.
Ȝe mycht se he suld occupy Throw slycht, that he ne myght throw maistri
?1438 Alex. ii. 4310.
The archeris … wald be … last at parting, gif thay micht
1513 Doug. ii. xi. 123.
1531 Bell. Boece I. 67. Id. Livy II. 250.
To cum forthwart … als neire as he mycht
a1540 Freiris Berw. 115.
Freir Allane liggis doun as he best micht
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 102.
Bot this ȝoung squyer … Sauit all wemen quhair he micht
1558-66 Knox II. 371. 1562-3 Winȝet I. 4/4.
As we mycht for schortnes of tyme
a1578 Pitsc. II. 263/25.(b) 1375 Barb. vii. 120 (E).
For mete with him giff that thai moucht
Ib. xvi. 371.
Than gaderyt he rycht hastily Thaim that he mowcht ofhis menye
Ib. xix. 439. a1400 Leg. S. iii. 890.
That mycht na man … Sa wel do as he mowcht
Ib. xxxviii. 299.
Scho … Did tham al the ese scho mocht
?1438 Alex. i. 1393, 1968, ii. 4880. c1420 Wynt. vi. 92.
To the Pape inclynyd he noucht As off det he suld and mocht
Ib. ii. 1289.
Ib. vii. 2280.
c1420 Ratis R. 1463.
Syk men thar trespas lewis nocht Bot it lef thaim quhen thai na mocht
Ib. 560. c1460 Consail Vys Man 296.
At wald stell and thai mocht
c1475 Wall. ii. 321. Ib. iv. 106.
a1500 Rauf C. 268. 1513 Doug. v. iv. 50. 1535 Stewart 20395, 32215, 38740. 1562 Aberd. Trades 62.
Fortifeing … thame as he mocht
1571 Inverness Rec. I. 202.
To reparall the samyn sasone as thai mocht
1583 Sempill Sat. P. xlv. 881.(2) a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 98.
Ȝet vald I, & I mycht … Of the twelf appostolis spek now
Ib. xxx. 121. c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1352.
?1438 Alex. ii. 3008.
a1500 Rauf C. 914.
1513 Doug. i. Prol. 314.
And thus I am constrenyt, als neir I may, To hald hys vers
Ib. ii. i. 24.
1617 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 144.
As I may salbe cairful to do that belongis to me to do

b. With ellipsis of a verb of doing, exerting or employing.Cf. sense 1 b.(1) 1424 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 14.
To charge vs nocht alsfer as we aw of det, bot in alsfer as we can & may
a1500 Seven S. 626.
The child was ay Deligent in all that he may
1531 Bell. Boece II. 93.
To invaid the cuntre with all displesouris that thay micht
Id. Livy I. 123/22.
He intertenyit theme with maist humanite and chere that he mycht
1535 Stewart 31954.
With diligence and all the cuir he ma [: da]
1536 Reg. Episc. Brechin II. 318.
Of maist ingyne that he can or ma
1589–90 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 15.
That the sowmes that he is extented … ar als lairge as he may
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 859 (W).
The man that will not quhen he may He sall not quhen he wald
(2) c1420 Wynt. viii. 4662.
Wyth all hy, that evyr thai mycht
c1475 Wall. vi. 350.
In all the haist thai mocht
Ib. viii. 1497.
A harrold went in all the haist he may
1479 Misc. Bann. C. III. 431.
1535 Stewart 9203.
15.. Clar. ii. 230.

c. With ellipsis of verbs of motion. 1375 Barb. vii. 8.
The kyng … said he mycht no forthirmar
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. iii. 61.
Quhen ye leist wein, your baks may to the wall

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