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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 since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Mister, n. Also: mistere, -erre, -eir(e, -re, -ar(e, -aire, -ir, -yr, myster, -ere, -eir, -ar(e, -air, -ir, -yr(e; mester, -are, -our; maisteir; (mysir). [North. and midl. ME. mister(e (Cursor M.), myster, -re, mester (14th c.), -ire, maistur (c 1400), need, necessity, but after the 15th c. appar. only Sc., ME. and e.m.E. mister, mystere, mestier, early ME. mester (Ancr. R.), craft, employment, art, OF. mestier, mester (F. métier), (1) service, office, occupation, (2) instrument, made-up article, (3) need, necessity.]

I. 1. Craft, trade; occupation, employment; skill or competence in an employment, art.To use (such) misteris, to be so employed. 1375 Barb. xii. 415 (E).
Thai maid knychtis, as it afferis To men that wsys thai mysteris
Ib. xvii. 435 (E).
Ane engynouir thar haif thai tane That wes sleast of that myster [: ner; v.r. mysteir]
Ib. 542 (C).
Archeris, burges, with ȝhemenry, Prestis [etc.] … , Husbandis, and men of all mysteris
Ib. 938 (E). ?1438 Alex. ii. 2481.
Quhat tua thingis dois ȝow to dre Sorrow … In the mister of lufing?
Ib. 3588.
Bot wit … kend him with ane souerane slycht For to knaw the points all That euer may to that mister fall
Ib. 2529. a1500 Rauf C. 444.
I haue na myster to matche with maisterfull men

II. 2. ? An instrument, tool.But perh. merely another instance of sense 6. c1450-2 Howlat 207.
He couth wryte wounder fair With his neb for mistar [B. mestare] Apon the se sand

III. Need, necessity. 3. Exigency, pressure of circumstances.Chiefly in phrases with to be or to have or the prep. at. It (thare) is (maist, grete, na etc.) mister, (na etc.) mister is, it is (most, un-)necessary, needful, imperative. Gif mister be, quhen mister is, if need be, when necessity arises. To have mister, to be obliged or constrained, to need or require (to do something), = must, should. At mister(is, at need, in case of necessity.(1) 1375 Barb. xvii. 753.
To releve quhar he saw mister
?1438 Alex. i. 2197. 1535 Stewart 537.
Quhairfoir thair mister wes the moir to mene
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 617.
Mister makes men of craft
(2) 1375 Barb. vii. 442 (E).
Schyr, it is na myster To trow in ws ony ill
Ib. xiv. 530.
To seik thame fer was na myster
Ib. xvii. 388 (E).
For to se quhar That for to help mast myster war
?1438 Alex. ii. 3893.
Now draw wysly for mister is
1456 Hay II. 130/17.
And kepe thé than … fra baithing and blude latting bot thare be rycht grete mister
a1500 Sir Eger 82.
Ye grieve you more than mister were
1543 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 191.
That the portis be mendytt … and reformit as mister is
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 231.
Besekand yowr grace … to sopport me or my departyng … for trewly, madame, ther is myster
1551 Hamilton Cat. 161. 1559 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 267.
Albeit my answeris be not swa perfyte as mystar war
1569-73 Bann. Memor. 361.
We pray ȝow to expeid the money for payment of the men of weir … for swa is mister
a1585 Maitl. Q. lxx. 99.
Thay snyte thoght thair na mister be That ȝe may thair trim naipkin se
1600 Crim. Trials II. 286.(3) a1400 Leg. S. xxxvii. 134.
In quhais name blythare we are To thole the dede gif mystare ware
?1438 Alex. ii. 1741. 1416 Maxwell Mem. II. 149.
Gef mister be, the saiddis Jamys and Esabel sal resyng the said lordschipe
14.. Reg. Maj. c. 67.
1512 Lennox Mun. 204. 1535 Stewart 32547.
Gif mister so suld be
1569 St. A. Kirk S. 321. 1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 30. 1596 Dalr. I. 91/8. Ib. II. 268/3. 1612 Marischal Coll. Rec. I. 126.
And imploy all their moyen if mister be
(b) 1508–9 Stirling B. Rec. I. 74.
To repley, duply, triply and gif mester be quadruply
(4) ?1438 Alex. ii. 1733.
Hald in ȝour hartis, I pray ȝow, this, And shaw it furth quhen mister is [F. quant il sera mestier]
14.. Acts I. 333/2.
Be the quhilkis mesuris the pepill may be seruit quhen mister is
c 1489 Liber Aberbr. II. 262.
Ande off this fisch quhen mister is in wyntir to be spendit vc
1520 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 200.
To supple thame with thar mortclaith … quhen myster is
1528 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 298. 1550 Breadalbane Coll. No. 73.
The defence of me and the cunthreth quhen mister beis
1596 Dalr. I. 103/29.(5) c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 2117.
Thai seand thai mistere had For to defend thame, faucht agayne
?1438 Alex. i. 2541.
The furriouris … had na mister … To gang to fechting mare that day
Ib. ii. 1871.
Now haue thay mister for to be Sturdy, stout [etc.]
14.. Acts I. 111/2.
The defendour … sal nocht haf myster to ansuer befor [etc.]
1456 Hay II. 124/7.
The ker side is kindely caldare na the rycht and has myster to be helpit with sum chaufing
a1500 Sir Eger 1018.
To make the sadle fast on stand; … It had gret mister to be fast
a1500 Rauf C. 751. 1549 Compl. 36/26.
Ther for ve haue mistir to be vigilant ande reddy
Ib. 125/15.
Thir potestatis … that dois extorsions … thai hef mistir to be verra var [etc.]
Ib. 161/34. 1551 Hamilton Cat. 158. 1599 Rollock Wks. I. 301.
We haue the mair mister to tak tent to thir thingis
absol. 1400 Douglas Corr. 60.
Graunt me … yhour saufconduyt … fore trauaillyng … within yhour land gif I hafe myster
(6) c1490 Porteous Noblenes 178/21.
His frendis he suld luf and at mistere releif help and succour tham
1665 Lauder Jrnl. 42.
Which works the church had in its treasury to sell at mister
plur. c 1400 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 53.
Gif it hapnis that ony of the said partis sustene … scathe in defaute of getting of ony lettris at mystris of the tother parte
14.. Acts I. 29/2.
Thai sall fynd til hym at mysteris to sell mete and clathis suilk as beis necesare

4. A situation of difficulty or distress in which help is required, an emergency, crisis, plight. 1375 Barb. xi. 346 (E).
And the king … Suld se quhar thar war mast myster, And releve thar
a1400 Leg. S. l. 248.
Gret mystere Gert me assemble ȝou & call
?1438 Alex. ii. 1464.
Lo heir the mister
Ib. 7937.
I thank ȝow of ȝour lele seruyce, Bot now is doubled the mystere
1535 Stewart 12019.
To keip ane mister gif thair had bene neid
1547–8 Stirling B. Rec. I. 51.
That na manir of man depart of the touin … now in tyme of mistir
1632 Ancram & Loth. Corr. I. 66.
Leave it [sc. a tower] as strong as yow can, to keepe in a mister for a sure staying house
1639 Fugitive Poetry II. xiv. 2/24.
Argyle keipt logick for a mister

b. To have mister, to be in difficulty or distress, be in straits. (Appar. only in early verse.) 1375 Barb. iv. 143 (E).
Bot thai with in that mystir had … gret defence … mad
Ib. xvii. 483 (E). a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 721.
Thane is he fule … That trewis it his god suld be Or helpe hyme quhen he myster hade That is of stok ore stane made
?1438 Alex. i. 2240.
Qvhan the king come, without weir The furriouris hes full great mister
Ib. ii. 2924.
Quhair is the man That suld cum for to help vs here In fecht quhan that we haue mistere
Ib. i. 1698, 1993; etc. a1500 Prestis of Peblis 1152.
Now is ouer lait to preif my freind in deid, Quhan that I haue sik mister and sik neid

c. In one's mister(is, in or at ane, this etc. mister, in or at mister, when one is in difficulty or straits, in or at (this) need.(1) 1375 Barb. x. 305 (E).
And syne he sped him to the wer, Till help his eyme in his myster
a1400 Leg. S. xvi. 716.
Thu … in al myn myster me relewit
c1450-2 Howlat 440.
As his tenderest and deire In his maist misteire
1490 Irland Mir. I. 51/11.
We … suld … help thame in thar myster and necessite
1551–2 Reg. Privy C. I. 120.
In suppleying of this realm in thair greit mister aganis the greit forces of Ingland
1562-3 Winȝet I. 106/8. 1567 G. Ball. 110.
God … Thy protector in to thy myster maist
a 1700 J. Maidment New Bk. Old Ballads (1844) 14.
And fatt although my minny baik A bannock in here mister
(b) 1560 Dundee B. Laws 22.
That na ship … lay her anchors in the principell passage without the bulwarkes but that it be in great mester [pr. niester]
plur. 1551 Hamilton Cat. 127.
His help … in all our necessiteis, perellis, dangeris, mistaris, infirmiteis
(2) a1400 Leg. S. i. 96.
The heyre That sall thé helpe in this mystere
Ib. xxi. 72.
To confort hyme in sic mystere
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 3503. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 146/14.
In danger, jn ony maner of mystere
1494 Loutfut MS. 2 b.
Na neid call Him to my help in feild of battalȝhe and othir mystir that I haue
?a1500 Obsecro 78.
In all mister, Thou me speid
1662 Sel. Biog. I. 208.
You spake but never in a mister
(3) a1400 Leg. S. ix. 44.
Ȝowre goddis all Quham-one ȝe suld in mystere call
a1500 Seven S. 2666.
Scho him left in mast mistaire In nest nakit redy to de
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 25.
Saying that thai had enterit thame in dangeare and not supportit in mister
1596 Dalr. I. 217/25.
He I say, nevir was absent in mister
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 815.
There is no friend to a friend in mister
(4) ?1438 Alex. ii. 2803.
Ane king … sone disconfit is, fra his Quhen he is left at grit mistere
Ib. 3660.
For quha is gude freind in laute, At ane myster men may se
1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 33.
To mak hir maikles of hir man at myster myscheif is

5. Needy circumstances, lack of means, destitution, poverty.Also plur.Also to have (gret, maist) mister and (to be) in mister, to be in (most) needy circumstances, impoverished, destitute.(1) 1427 Indenture Crown Office Wr. No. 40 (Reg. H.).
Alslang tym has the said John is lefand or may be of pouare to bete his mystare
14.. Burgh Laws c. 18 (B).
The fewfermar streignyt thrw mystar
Ib. c. 100 (A).
Giff … a mekill nedful mistar cumis to the fader … the fader may sell … all the landis … for his mistar
1455 Ecclesia Antiqua 152.
At I sal not sell … ony pairt of the graith of the said altare for na mistere may happyn me in ony tyme to cum
c1460 Regim. Princ. 94.
Na king suld of thair small comptis know … That micht his hart to dreid of mister draw
a1487 Gud Wyf & D. 281.
And kep thame fra neyd and mystair, That pouerte gar thame nocht mysfair
a1500 Seven S. 842.
This large knycht fell so in det That dedly mister with him met
1513 Dunferm. B. Rec. I. 298.
The said James … for greit indigens, falt & mistir he wald resigne all his … tenement
1515 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 35.
He borowit of the said mony in thank and mister
1551 Hamilton Cat. 96. 1558 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 17.
I sell ressaue the said Robert in to my howissis … in his tyme of neid and mister
1611 Glasgow B. Rec. I. 317.
Scallis and bardis quha can nocht be pwnist in thair gudis throw thair mister and povertie
1661 Edinb. B. Rec. IX. 272.
Some distressed widows in Edinburgh … ar under great want and mister
plur. a1487 Gud Wyf & D. 288.
For oft tymes … Sic mysteris haldis madynnis in That thai ar pynit with pouerte
(2) c1420 Ratis R. 636.
To thaim that are in mistyr grete Gyf of thi met and of thi drink
c1460 Dietary 46.
Of all in myster haf ay compassioune
1494 Dunferm. B. Rec. I. 53.
Morys Thomson … offeryt his land to sel to the nerest of the kyn quhar it stud hym in myster
a1500 Seven S. 846.
Better chos war for to de Than evire in det and mister be
(3) a1400 Leg. S. xv. 104.
Gret gold … he … Gafe to the powre that mister had
Ib. xxii. 151.
As thai that mast myster had
14.. Burgh Laws c. 89 (A).
Leff is to him that mistar has to be doand with his land quhar that he may best speide
c1420 Wynt. v. 5404.
For the tresore gyvyn thare Wes delt to thaim that had mystare
c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 37/7. a1500 Seven S. 866.
He said, Na, son, God will ws saif, Becaus that we sic mister haif
1522 Cart. S. Giles 215.
Honest pure personis that hes maist myster
1548 Corr. M. Lorraine 281.
I wald ye gef it [sc. support] to my dochter to send me for I haf gret mister
1567 G. Ball. 97.
Bot he will gif and len his gude at large Till thame that myster hes
(4) 1407 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 65.
Fore his thankfull deide tyll vs done in oure grete myster
1413 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 364.
For a sowme of sylure before hand in my mykyle mistre to me payit
1416 Red Bk. Menteith I. 287.
Gif ye can not find to refresh us in this mister
1418 Liber Melros 502. 1422 Stirlings of Keir 208.
In my mekyl mystare
1424 Douglas Chart. 58. 1433 Reg. Great S. 38.
In my strenyeand myster
1461 Coll. Aberd. & B. 364. 1480 Rec. Earld. Orkney 331. 1482 Reg. Morton II. 246.
In my grete necessite & myster
1506 Lennox Mun. 181. 1515 Montgomery Mem. 85.
We … haif borowit fra our ant … ane chenȝe of gold … to lay in wed in our mister
1520 Rec. Earld. Orkney 204.
In my grete neid and mistar
1533 Gau 17/2. 1563 Prot. Bk. G. Grote 62.
[In his] gret indigence and mister
1570 Ib. 79.
[To help him in his] mister and extreme nessissitie and aduercite
1588–9 Lanark B. Rec. 94.
To Johnne Stewart for twa laiddis of lyme in the townis myster to the croce
(b) 1456 Peebles Chart. I. 115.
Becaus he layd don viij pond be for hand in thar mestour

6. Requirement, want, lack (of necessities or of something needful implied or specified in the context). Also plur.Also quasi-adj. in to be mister, = needful, necessary. In mister, in need of something implied or specified in the context.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxii. 253.
& al thare mystere he can bet
c1420 Wynt. ii. 96.
Scho … kowth weylle se for hyr mystyre
Ib. iv. 1624.
Layand stanys … Thame to defend in tyme off were, Eftyr as thai saw thare mystere
Ib. vi. 2436.
Till mystare or till thare profyt
14.. Acts I. 41/2.
He sall … ask gif ony suylk [sc. livestock] be thar to sell to the kyngis myster
c1460 Wisd. Sol. 460.
That mekil multiplicacione of wordis may nocht be but syne, and thar is oft-tymis neid & mister
a1500 Henr. Fab. 730 (Bann.).
For grit mister I gife thé leif to dude Twys in the owlk for neid may haif no law
a1500 Lanc. 2320.
And yhow, sir, richt hartly I exort In to this ned my myster to support
Ib. 2413.
And euery thyng that in yhour myster lyis I sall gar ordan
a1500 Seven S. 1699.
Than sperit he sone of thar mistare
1513 Doug. v. xiv. 102.
To beit thar mystir … Sum to this turn, sum, to that, start atanys
a1568 Jok & Jynny 63.
I haif … for mister … Fyive hundreth fleis now in a flok
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI 100.
He was preventit be men of greater mister nor he had for that tyme
(b) c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 498.
He send to him to speir Gif sic ane hors mycht serve till maisteir
(2) 13.. Facs. Nat. MSS. II. No. xix.
In moris et mareseis pro focali percipiendo cum indiguerint [gl. thay haf mister]
1375 Barb. iii. 357.
His hors all haile he gaiff To the ladyis that mystir had
a1400 Leg. S. i. 70.
Jhesus … worde to preche To quham that myster had
Ib. xxxix. 34.
Bot frely thar crafte thai gefe Til al thai saw mystere hafe
Ib. xxvii. 782. 1456 Hay II. 50/21.
So that all mysterfull and peceable personis that had myster suld, throu him, have reconfourt and refuge at nede
Ib. 81/18.
Gift gevyn to thame that na myster has requiris nocht thank na loving of vertewe
1535 Stewart 26380.
So grit mister [sc. of revenge] had he Agane the Britis sic wrang that had him wrocht
1584 Glasgow B. Rec. I. 115.
To geif four new gownes to four of thame quha hes maist mister
(3) 1375 Barb. iv. 631 (E).
And ber to se baith ayr and ster And othyr thingis that mystir wer
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 3331.
Wther thing that to thame was mystere Thay tuk with thame
1536 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 17 Nov.
The said Robert sall wyn and lay to the werk, all stanis and hewn stanis that misters is
(4) 1570 Boyd Fam. P. No. 59 (14 March).
I leif tuenty punds to be gevin to Jonet Gram my dochter at sindre tymis in hir neidfull misteris
1598 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 235.
That thai are many wayes evill staikit and servit in thair grittest misters and neids be the said sclaters
(5) 1580–90 M. Napier Mem. J. Napier 149.
Yit becaus he is presently in mister, gef ye think guid to send your precept of twa bollis [etc.]

b. Freq., const. of the person or thing required.(1) 1375 Barb. xi. 452 (C).
[They] gud tent suld ta Quhilk of thame had of help mister
Ib. viii. 398. ?1438 Alex. ii. 9590.
He hes na mister of medecyne
Ib. 2653, 6138. c1420 Wynt. i. 100.
Kennand that thai nakid ware, And [had] of clethyng gret mystare
Ib. v. 1723, 2403, 3965. ?14.. Ship Laws c. 19 (B).
The maystyr may nocht sel the schip … bot gyf he hafe mystar of despens he may lay in wed som of the takyl
1456 Hay II. 81/17. c1475 Wall. ix. 236.
Scotland had mystir off mony sic as he
1490 Irland Mir. fol. 235 b.
In perell for mister of mete
Id. Asl. MS. I. 75/10. 1513 Doug. ii. ix. 25.
Of na sik beld Haue we now mystir
1533 Bell. Livy I. 227/10. Ib. II. 160/20. 1540 Lynd. Sat. 3520.
Gif [etc.] … The sprituall men hes mister of ane gyde
15.. Clar. v. 2180.
The mirrie knightis mister had of rest
c 1550 Exch. R. XVIII. 502.
I hav … had gret myster of wittale to the barnys
a1568 Bann. MS. 288 a/85.
Thow hes mair mistir of ane dowbill cap Nor of the farest lady in to France
1558-66 Knox I. 288. 1565 Prot. Bk. G. Grote 69.
Ten merkis to be at his awin disposisione quhan he hes mister of
1567 G. Ball. 17.
Sinnaris … Quhilk myster hes of my mercie
1567 Sat. P. vii. 175. 1571 Cal. Sc. P. III. 674.
1570 Breadalbane Lett. 22 July.
Quhosomevir wald haif my veillfair done I haif mister of him
1573 Tyrie in Cath. Tr. (S.T.S.) 10/7. a1578 Pitsc. I. 349/8. 1581 Burne Disput. 36.
That is … ane thing sua esie of it self that na man hes mister of gret faith to beleue it
1581 Id. in Cath. Tr. (S.T.S.) 138/9.
Nocht that God hes mister of onie sic thing
1590-1 R. Bruce Serm. 18.
Quhat mister had I of the bread?
1597 Warrender P. II. 328.
Quhairby he has maist mister of gud counsale
1603 Philotus § xv. 1615 Crim. Trials III. 296.
For my lord hes more than mistare of it
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 746.
He that hes an evil tong hes mister of gude hands
(2) 1533 Boece viii. xi. 275.
Of sic ane chiftane was myster in this trublos state
15.. Misc. Spald. C. II. 191.
Smal artailyerye [etc.] … quhairof thair is mair than mister
a1651 Calderwood III. 570.
For now, indeid, is greatest mister of confort
(3) 1692 Presb. Eloq. 96.
In England, that stands muckle in mister of a reformation

7. plur. a. Articles required, necessaries. 1477 Peebles B. Rec. I. 182.
Gyff thai wald … fynd hym his mysteris qwhylk that stud hym in gret necessite and fawt of his lewyng
1499–1500 Acta Conc. II. 395.
[The said Marion] til kep it [the wood] unwastit … scho takand hir ressonable mysteris therof
1513 Doug. i. viii. 105.
Gyf ws war … grantit eik wod leif to hew and take Tymmyr to beit ayrris and other mysteris
Ib. ix. iii. 27.
Hattyr gestis stowt Quhilk glaidly I haue gevin … Strang Eneas … Fortill support the mysteris of hys navy
1513 Treas. Acc. IV. 481.
For ½c Swetyn burdis … for misteris in the schippis iij li. x s.
15.. Clar. iv. 497.
Scho … gart be gevine unto them also ane thowsand pund … To by thair misteris
a1586 Lindsay MS. 38.
He wes ay weill purwayit of all misteris
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii. 29.
Reseruand to the tutours their reasonable misterres and necessare expenses

b. Things of any kind of which a need or want is felt; requirements, needs, wants.Also applied to sexual desires.See also Bete v. 1 for further examples.(1) c1490 Irland Asl. MS. I. 45/4.
He sendis and gevis ws all our misteris
Ib. 56/25.
To helpe all that misteris askis & desyris with gud mynd
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 362.
I leit him be my lumbart to lous me all misteris
1532 Wigtown B. Ct. 271 b.
[They] wald nocht paye thare Martymes maill to the mysterris & honore of the tovne
1551 Hamilton Cat. 247.
As thocht God miskend our misters
1561–2 Reg. Privy S. V. i. 263/1.
Beit mend and repair all faltis and misteris thairof
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 128 (see Bete v. 1). a1568 Bann. MS. 72 b/54.
For that haldis all kyndly hete & seindill misteris till haif beit
a1585 Maitland Maitl. Q. xx. 27.
Of Venus play past is the heit for I may not the misteris beit Of Meg nor Maid
1638 Adamson Muses Thr. 159.
Elcho nunrie, where the holy sisters Suppli'd were by the fratres in their misters

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