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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Sir(e, Syr(e, Schir(e, Schyr(e, n. Also: syir, syer, shir, scir, scyr, ser, scher(e, sure. Abbrev. Sr. Pl. also syrrys, schirris, etc. [ME and e.m.E sire (Layamon), sir (1297), sere (Cursor M.), sure (a1400), sur (?a1400), sore (c1410), ser (1451), syr (1509), Sr (1575), OF sire (oblique case sieur) (980 in Larousse) < pop. L. *seiōr < L. seniōr older.In many cases the word is abbreviated in the original, and the choice of sir, ser, schir, scher, etc. is purely editorial.The preponderance of forms in sch- and lacking a final -e in II may be due in part to editorial choice in expanding an abbreviation or to an alteration in the vowel caused by absence of stress before a following name.For many further instances see Lord n., esp. III.

I. 1. One who exercises dominion or rule, in various senses of Lord n. I.Freq. coupled with Lord n., sometimes in such a way that together they operate almost as a quasi-compound.

a. A prince or sovereign; the ruler or governor of a realm or people; a chief or leader. Cf. Lord n. 3, 4.(1) c1420 Wynt. iv 2565.
And Cesare August, lord and syre, Aucht all the warld in ane empyre
c1420 Wynt. vi 211.
Charlys gud, that lord and syre That tyme ras to [the] empyre
1456 Hay I 42/3.
Sa was Romulus all hale lord and syre
1460 Hay Alex. 2647.
Or that tyme he suld be lord and syre And all this warld haue vnder his impyre
1494 Loutfut MS 4a.
Be the command of the king our syre & my lordis the counstable [etc.]
1535 Stewart 56103.
Ane sone … of Sathnes, And twys war, … No him awin self Sathan that awfull syre
1535 Stewart 56289.
That samin tyme that wickit awfull syre [sc. King Richard of England], Thre fair abbais he brynt all in ane fyre
1596 Dalr. I 273 marg.
Kennethie succeidis to baith the realmes lawful syre
(b) a1400 Leg. S. ii 816.
It wes the farrest fyre That euir he [sc. Nero] saw, sene he wes syr
(c) a1500 Prestis Peblis 261.
Excelling, hie richt mychti prince & sure, Ay at ȝour call we ar wnder ȝour cure
(2) ?1438 Alex. i 18.
Bot Balas, that thairof was syre, Defendit it
?1438 Alex. ii 3352.
Gaudefere … That lord and sire of Calde is
c1420 Wynt. iii 808.
[Arbates] Lord and syre off Medys wes, And regnyd twa and twenty yhere
c1420 Wynt. v Prol. 32.
The warld is halyly Now redact in a monarchy … And a man off it lorde and syre
1460 Hay Alex. 2087.
The landis … of quhilk King Nicolas was syre
1535 Stewart 19584.
Of Argatill the lord and syre wes he
1535 Stewart 26636.
For his reward … Of tha landis tha maid him lord and syre
(b) 1504 Orkney Antiq. Soc. III 19.
Jhon Flet ser of Randell

b. The feudal lord or proprietor of a territory. = Lord n. 21. 1375 Barb. i 283.
Amang other off Dowglas … Schir Wilȝam … That off Dowglas was lord and syr [: martyr]
1375 Barb. iii 659.
Angus off Ile that tyme wes syr And lord and ledar off Kyntyr

c. A prince or magnate; a great man, more generally; a nobleman. = Lord n. 6. 1384 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 5.
This ententure made … be twix noble lardes and meghty siris Henry Percy Erle of Northumbr … and Archibald of Douglas lord of Galway, … and than it fell in spech be twix the forsayd lordes [etc.]
c1450-2 Howlat 655 (A).
Thus assemblit thir segis syris senȝeourable
a1500 Rauf C. 714.
Thair was seruit in that saill seigis semelie, Mony senȝeorabill syre on ilk syde seir
c1475 Wall. x 664.
The Lennox men set thar lugyng in fyr; Then ferdly fled full mony Sotheroun syr
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 196 (C).
Perilouse Presence that mony syre [M. syr] has slayn
1513 Doug. viii iv 184.
Hercules the gret syre [Sm. syr]
1513 Doug. xi i 107.
That lordly syre Vs monyst tobe war and avyse
1513 Doug. xiii xi 28.
Abuf the polys brycht to rays that syre [: requyr]
1535 Stewart 363.
To Gathelus sone haif tha send ane syer, The quhilk to him hes schawin thair desyir

d. A master of an establishment. Cf. Lord n. 1. 1456 Hay I 294/19.
That he suld be lord and syre of all the houshalde

e. Man and syre, syre and seruand, men of every rank; everyone. 1513 Doug. ix iv 58.
Sowpyt in wyne and sleip [are] baith man and syre
1535 Stewart 35988.
Ilk syre and seruand Rycht bisselie for to obey thé till

2. Of God, also Christ, viewed as the ruler of all things. a1400 Leg. S. ii 111.
Jhesu, Criste of Nazaree, Of all this warld lord a[nd] syre
1456 Hay I 101/16.
God is lord, syre and governoure of bataillis
1456 Hay II 20/25.
There is a lord and syre abone all knychtis for the honour of quham thai ar all maid knychtis … to … serve Him fyrst and syne thair temporale lordis
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 4.
Hym to seik our the sey … The syre that sendis all seill
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 1005.
As thow art souerane God, sickerly, and syre

3. In weakened sense: A man, fellow.(a) a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 86.
With that come girdand in greif ane woundir grym sire
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 145.
Fra sic a syre God ȝow saif, my sueit sisteris deir
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 337.
Bot quhen I severit had that syre of substance in erd [etc.]
1513 Doug. vi v 159.
Palynurus, … thou sary syre, Quhiddir is becummyn sik ondantyt desyre To thé
1513 Doug. x iii 3.
Forto down bet the Troianys, euery syre
1528 Lynd. Dreme 305.
We beheld quhare mony … Comoun peple laye … Off euerilk stait thare was ane bailfull band. Thare mycht be sene mony sorrowfull syre
c1600 Montg. Suppl. xxvi 9.
Hes thow nocht hard of mony leirant schyre
(b) c1475 Wall. v 207.
Him thocht he saw Faudoun that hugly syr

4. A father. Also fig. a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi 635.
For his syre & his dame Ware of gret kine & of gud fame
c1420 Wynt. iii 249.
His wyff and hyr syre [C. syir, W. syre] at anys Thai gert bryn wp
a1500 Henr. Fab. 216.
I keip the ryte and custome off my dame And off my syre
1513 Doug. vii xi 32.
Worthy he was … tobe cummyn of sum mar happy syre [: empyre; Sm. syr]
1606 Birnie Kirk-b. xv.
His syres [sc. Abraham's] death
1611-57 Mure Early Misc. P. xx 2.
Machles Montgomery … In former tymes to thy [sc. Prince of Wales] great syre hath sung
fig. ?1438 Alex. ii 1575.
The King of Grece and Damas That father and syre of wourschip is

b. attrib. Schyre smith, see the quot. below. Sire naig, a stallion. 1625 Ellon Presb. 121.
A Smyth … callit ane Schyre Smyth, that is to say ane Smyth whais father, guidsire and grandsire wes Smyths
1667 Kirkcudbr. Test. (Reg. H.) 15 April.
Ane reid sire naig worth £10

II. 5. Prefixed to the name of a king, lord or magnate as a title.(a) 1375 Barb. i 73.
Schyr Eduuard off Yngland king
1375 Barb. ii 32.
Schyr Jhone the Cumyn
1375 Barb. iv 73.
A ȝoung bacheler … Schyr Eduuard callyt off Carnauerane … Prynce off Walys that tyme wes he
1375 Barb. xvii 494.
To schyr Robert the douchty king
1375 Barb. xx 597.
The lord of Douglas … That wes ded … Schyr Archebald his sone gert syn [: fyne] … Ordane a tumbe
1395 MacRae Early Sc. Texts No. 4.
Schyr Robert Stewart Erl of Fyfe
1420 (1429–30) Reg. Great S. 29/2.
A hee and a mychty lord schir Archebald Eryle of Douglase
1441–2 Foulis Chart. (Reg. H.) 18.
My lorde Sir Alexander of Ila erle of Ros and lorde of the ilis
(b) 1396 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 31.
Scher Henry Synclar Erle of Orkynnay

b. Also, ? rarely, put before the name of a prelate or (once) a pope. c1420 Wynt. vii 1405.
The pape Schyr Adryane
c1420 Wynt. vii 3252, 3254.
Off Sayntandrewis Byschape syne … [wes] Schyr Gamelyne: And blessyd wes … Off the Byschape off Glasgw Schyr Willame
1446 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 244.
Ane reuerende fader in Crist and Lord Sir Ingerame … bischop of Aberdone

6. Applied to persons of comparable rank or status. a. In another country or of an earlier period. b. Of antiquity.a. c1420 Wynt. vi 231.
This empryowre Schyr Charlys wes gud Crystyne man
c1420 Wynt. vi 1711.
Schyr Knowt that wes a wyly knycht, As he saw lykly in the fycht, Dowtyd to be supprysyd sone
(b) c1420 Wynt. v 1412.
Efftyre that Schyre [C., W. Schir] Adriane Fayr deyt … Antone … Stud empryoure
b. c1400 Troy-bk. i 215.
Jasone … With hys falow, schyr Hercules
1456 Hay I 47/22.
[They] askit help at the King of Grece, schir Peris [= Pyrrhus]
a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 536.
Schir Troylus it is
a1500 Henr. Orph. 45.
Caliope, … moder to the king, sir Orpheus
a1500 Henr. Orph. 82.
Scho … Said, ‘Welcome, lord and luf, schir Orpheus’
1513 Doug. vii iv 110.
Schir Dardanus born of this cuntre eik
(b) c1420 Wynt. ii 140.
That Jupyter gat on Electra Sere [W. Schire, c. Schir] Dardane lorde off Fregya

7. As the distinctive title of a knight, prefixed to the Christian name, with or without following surname.(1) 1375 Barb. xvii 150.
A new-mad knycht That till his name schyr Wilȝam hycht, Off Keyth and off Gallistoun He hycht throw difference of sournoune
1385 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 7.
The forsayde Syr Robart and John
1400 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 48.
The forsayd Schyr Jon the fader
a1500 Rauf C. 326.
Schir Rolland and Oliuer come rydand
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 337, 338.
Shir Gauane the gay … And Shir Lancelot de Lake
1478 Acta Aud. 63/1.
Schir Johne his grantschir
1478 Acts II 115/1 (see (2) below). 1520 Peebles Chart. 50. 15.. Clar. iii 1779.
Sir Thomas … was … damnit to be drawin ilke lith from uther
(b) 1427 Melville Chart. 245.
The said Schire Jone of Wemys and his ayris
(c) 1396 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 31.
The sayd lorde erle sal gif to the sayd Scher Jone [etc.]
1446 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III 404.
We … determynise the said Alexander lachfull and full ayer til his fadir Ser Williame
(2) 1389 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 16.
The son & the ayre of qwhyllom Scyr Dauy of the Wemys
1438 Lennox Mun. 69.
Schyr Robert Sympyll, knycht, schyrraff off Renfrew
1443 Highland P. II 178.
Sr Duncan Cambell lorde of Lochow knycht on the ta parte and Sr John Skrymgeour constabil of Dunde knycht on the tothir parte
1445 Athole Chart. I No. 26.
My gude fader in law schir Dauid Mvref
1478 Acts II 115/1.
Barones: Cancellarius, Comes angusie, … Dominus Hamiltoun, … Schir Alexander Dunbar, Schir James of Crechton de Carnis
c1475 Wall. i 23.
Schir Ranald Crawfurd, rycht schirreff of Ayr
1492 Reg. Episc. Morav. 248.
Schir James Ogiluy of Deskfurd knycht
1531 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 44.
Schir Thomas Kilgour Chalmerlane of Dunfermling
1550 Reg. Privy C. I 84.
Schir George Douglas of Pettindreicht, Knycht
c1552 Lynd. Mon. title.
Compylit be Schir Dauid Lyndesay of the Mont Knycht alias Lyone Kyng of Armes
a1578 Pitsc. I 2/6.
Schir William Scot of Balwirrie knicht
1629 Justiciary Cases I 121.
Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall, knycht barronet
1631 Breadalbane Lett. No. 468.
To the rycht honorabill and hir loweing eam Schir Collein Campbell off Glenvrquhye
(b) c1420 Wynt. vii 2993.
Off that brynnyn Schyre [c. Schire, W. Schir] Willame The Besat bare than gret defame
1473 Treas. Acc. I 68.
To the Justice Schire Dauid Guthere of that Ilk, knycht
1496 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III 304.
Schire Alexander Frasar of Philortht knicht
(c) 1427 Highland P. II 153.
The lands of Glastir the quhilks ar dobitabil betwix the lorde Kambal and scher John Skrymgeour knycht
1437 Reg. Panmure II 230.
That dam Jehan Berclay … was ful systir til the last scher Dauid Berclay
(d) c1446 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 249.
Ser Jone Broun knycht

8. Prefixed to the name of an ordinary priest in the pre-Reformation church.? Usu. respectfully, but also in derisive personifications. For some discussion of the theory that the title schir was given to priests who had not achieved the status of ‘master of arts’ (see Maister n. 17 b and 19) see Knox I 555 ff.(1) 1384 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 6.
Schir Thomas of Kingorn vicar of Innirkethyng
1473–4 Treas. Acc. I 1.
Master Alexander of Murray … and Schir Dauid Luthirdale channounis of Murray … and Dunblane
1474 Cart. S. Nich. Aberd. II 331.
Sir Andro Wryt, maister of the kirk wark of Aberdene
a1500 Prestis of Peblis 39.
Than spak the thrid to name hecht Schir Willam
1495 Contract (Mey P.) MS 13 June.
Thir witnes Shirris Wilȝeame Spyne Wicar of Tayne [etc.]
1516 Fife Sheriff Ct. 29.
Ane instrument of schir Johnne Ramsayis hand notar
1516 Fife Sheriff Ct. 30.
Indorsit with the hand of Schir Johnne Ferrye chapellane curate of the parroch kirk of Couper
1547 Perth Guildry p. 250 (17 June).
Our … commoun clerk schir Henry Eldar
1549–50 Reg. Soltre 113.
Be it kend … ws Scyr George Clappertoun provest of the Trinite College … Scir Alexander Henrison Chaplen Maister of the hospitale … to have set [etc.]
1552 St. A. Baxter Bks. 7.
Befor thir vytnes … siris Thomas Currur, Thomas Vemys
1561 Q. Kennedy Compendious Ressonyng (ed.) 151/26.
Schir Johne Knox (quia est sacerdos Dei altissimi secundum ordinem Caluini)
1562-3 Winȝet I 15/22.
Sen ȝe … estemis that ordinatioun null, or erar wickit, be the quhilk sumtyme ȝe ware callit Schir Johne
1563 St. A. Kirk S. 188.
Schir James Stanis sumtym Papist preist and recanted
1570 Boyd Fam. P. No. 59 (14 March).
I Sir Patrik McQuhe chaplen and notar publict
1562-92 Wode's Psalter (ed.) 178.
Composit be Shir Jhone Futhy, bayth letter & not
(b) 1473 Treas. Acc. I 64.
To Schire Johnne of Rende to pay for a pres kist to the chapell to keip the graith
1476 Fam. Innes 83.
Master James Stewert persone of Strowane schire Henry Knoys [etc.]
(c) 1420 Reg. Episc. Morav. App. 475.
Scher Willȝame Fayrhar dene of Rosse
1509 Reg. Episc. Glasg. II 522.
Scher Archiebald Cadderwood vicar of Cadder
(d) 1446 Reg. Episc. Brechin. I 105.
Schere William Henrysoun chapellan of the kyrk of Brechin
(2) c1540 Lynd. Kitteis Conf. 76.
And with ane plak to by ane messe Fra drounkin schir Johne Latynelesse
1540 Lynd. Sat. 2044 (B).
I am schir Robert Rome Raker Ane publict perfyte pardonar

b. Prefixed to a surname with omission of Christian name. 1546–7 Perth Guildry p. 237 (8 March).
And allowit to the said Adam vij li. x s. gevin to Schir Ȝong for his pensioun of Witsomday and Mertynes termis
1546–7 Perth Guildry p. 240 (8 March).
Schir Eldar maister of werk for the tyme

9. To call (a person) schir in senses 5 or 7 above, indicating respect or subservience. 1535 Stewart 37775.
The best of thame durst skantlie tell his taill To the leist loun that wes in all the land, Bot gif he held his heid into his hand, And call him schir, bekkand with bayth his kneis
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 4667.
The pure preist thynkis he gettis no rycht, Be he nocht stylit lyke ane knycht, And callit schir affore his name, As … schir Wilȝame

10. Prefixed to a common noun to form with it a mode of address. 1375 Barb. i 426.
The king … said, ‘Schyr Byschop [etc.]
1375 Barb. v 49.
Schyr king
?1438 Alex. ii 235.
Cum furth … Schir duke of Archade, Emynedus
c1420 Wynt. v 1120.
Schir empryoure
c1420 Wynt. v 1137.
Schyre Empryoure Thow art off laucht to me dettoure
1456 Hay I 166/31.
The knycht ansueris … , Certane, schir baroun [etc.]
a1500 Rauf C. 890.
Becum Cristin, Schir Knicht, and on Christ call
1503 Prot. Bk. J. Foular 198.
Hereupon, schir notar, I aske at you ane instrument
1520 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 56.
This inquest ordanis yow, sir alderman and balyeis [etc.]
1535 Stewart 38303.
Bekkand to him and calland him schir lord
a1582 Sir Colling 44.
Win wp sir gud knycht

b. Applied to a female.See the note in the Denton Fox edition.a1500 Henr. Fab. 2790.
Gude morne, schir mous, quhat is ȝour erand heir?

11. Used fancifully, humorously or satirically in senses 7, 8 or, more commonly, 10 above. ?1438 Alex. ii 4581.
Certis, said he, shir harrot hare [F. viellart]
a1500 Henr. Fab. 469.
Quod schir Lowrence, Weill said
a1500 Henr. Fab. 751.
Ga doun, schir kid, cum vp, schir salmond, agane
a1500 Bernardus 305.
Schir Drunkyines that syre doys no thing rych[t]
a1500 K. Hart 429.
Schir Lyking and schir Loue
a1570-86 Dunb. Maitl. F. II 46/26 (R).
Quhareuir schir Gold maid his regres
a1570-86 Maitl. F. 399/2.
Rycht fane wald I my quentance mak Withe Sir Penny
1570 Sat. P. x 6.
Schir Morpheus … assailȝeit me

12. Used as a term of address, chiefly respectfully to a superior, also courteously to an equal or inferior. b. pl. Used when addressing a number, or assembly, of people, sometimes on formal occasions: Lords; gentlemen; people.(a) 1375 Barb. iv 493.
Schir her I saw the men That yhe sper efter mak logyng
1375 Barb. xiii 534.
‘Welcum schyr Marmeduk,’ said he, … ‘And I ressave thé, schyr'
1375 Barb. v 596, 598. c1400 Troy-bk. i 369.
[The king] said [to Jason]: ‘Schyr, sene [etc.]’
1460 Hay Alex. 2178. a1500 Henr. Fab. 436. c1475 Wall. v 244.
‘Quhat art thow walkis that gait?’ ‘A trew man, Schyr’
a1500 Peblis to Play 173. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 97/1.
Schir, I complane of injuris
1540 Lynd. Sat. 845 (B).
Quhat is your name, schir, with the clippit croun?
1549 Compl. 88/4.
He said to the prouest of Kyng Darius, ‘Schir, ȝe [etc.]
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 148.
Now, schir, I haue brokin my promeis, becaus ȝe commandit me nouther to wryte nor send unto ȝow
a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 907 (W).
Quod dreid: ‘schir, tak heid schir’
a1605 Montg. Sonn. vii 1.
Shir, clenge ȝour cuntrie of thir cruell crymis
1600 Dundee Shipping P. 68.
Shir y howp … that y sall do may dewtei
a1651 Calderwood VII 364.
Ye are but a gouke, sir
(b) 1375 Barb. v 596 (C).
A! syre [: a vyre; E. schyr] How-gat will ȝhe than that I do?
a1400 Leg. S. xxvii 1231.
For-thi, sire, graunt me ȝour gud will
?1438 Alex. ii 2065.
Quhat think ȝe, syre [: ire]?
(c) a1400 Leg. S. iii 1015.
Scho sad: ‘schere, me think [etc.]’
b. c1420 Wynt. viii 5193.
‘A syrrys,’ … sayd he [etc.]
c1420 Wynt. viii 5209.
The erle sayde mekilly, ‘Schyris, nay’
1461 Liber Plusc. 336.
Schirris, I thank God and yow al, bath spirituale and temporale, … and dois yow to wyt that [etc.]
a1500 K. Hart 484.
Delyuernes Said, ‘Schirris, I pray ȝow [etc.]'
1529 Yester Wr. 140.
Scirris, baronis and gudmen of inquest, this is the claime [etc.]
1535 Stewart 169.
Schirris tak tent, for heir begynnis the storie
1540 Lynd. Sat. Proclam. 249.
Quhat sicht is ȝone, schiris, that I see
1554 Duncan Laideus Test. 155.
‘Quhat tydingis, schirris,’ quod I, ‘fra the hoist?’
1560 Rolland Seven S. Prol. 70. 1568 Peebles Chart. 73.
Off the quhilk supplicatioun the tennour followis: Schirris baillies counsale and communite of the burgh of Peblis
1573 Davidson Sat. P. xlii 6.
I said, ‘Schirs, is thair ony heir Quhais jornay lyes unto Dundie?’
1689 Memorial for Prince of Orange, In Relation to the Affairs of Scotland 21.
Oh, sirs, sirs, but ye are … a lucken-handed and fast griping people

c. Preceded by a complimentary addition (gude, fair, etc.). Also thus in the salutation of a letter.See also Beauschir n.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xli 102.
Certis, gud sir, maryt ame I
1456 Hay I 223/2.
Than ansueris … the knycht sayand, Faire schir [etc.]
1460 Hay Alex. 3502.
Fare schir, Quhat think ȝe best be done in this myster?
a1470 Liber Aberbr. II 105.
Querela domini Malcomi abbatis in parliamento … Nobille … lordis and honorabile and virschypful schyris. We [etc.]
c1475 Wall. viii 1428.
‘Der schyr’, scho said [etc.]
1549 Lamb Resonyng 13/2.
Guid schirris, quhat be ȝour names?
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 2123.
Sweit schir
1560 St. A. Kirk S. 30.
Honorabill sirs … of the Christiane congregatioun of this cietie [etc.]
1560 Rolland Seven S. 5124.
Gude schirs I wil ȝow prufe
1562-3 Winȝet I 32/4.
Honorable schiris
1570 Sat. P. x 37.
‘Gude Schir,’ quod I, ‘and ȝe also, Madame'
1581-1623 James VI Poems II 139/53.
Goode sirris
(2) 1468 Smit Bronnen I ii 1019.
Worchypfull siris, I comand me to ȝow with all my hart
1525 Douglas Corr. 98.
Wyrschipfull ser, I recommend me to ȝow one my maist hartly maner

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