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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 since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Sister, Syster, n.1 Also: sistere, -ir(e, -yr, -ar, systir, -yr(e, -ar, scister, -ir, schister, sester, seister, serster, suster, soster, cister(e, -ir, cystire. Pl. also systirres, sistarres. [ME and e.m.E. sister (c1250), syster (c1400), also suster (1154), soster (Layamon), cystyr (Prompt. Parv.), OE sweoster, swuster, etc.]In Irland Mir., as in other works, -er and -ir freq. represent editorial expansions.See also Brigseister n., Fader sister, Father sister n., Gud(e)sister n., Half-sister n., Moder n.1 2 (4) and Mother n.1 1 (6).

1. A person's, etc., sister.(a) 1375 Barb. i 51.
He wes cummyn off the offspryng Off hyr that eldest syster was
1408 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 68.
c1420 Wynt. viii 728.
Gyff brethyr na systyr nane have he
c1420 Wynt. ii 1012.
14.. Burgh Laws c. 17 (B).
Systris on the fadyrhalf or of modyr half
a1500 Henr. Fab. 177.
Scho [sc. the town mouse] tuke in mynd hir sister vpon land
a1500 Colk. Sow iii 100.
Chantecleir … And his lady Partlot, sister and wyfe
1515 Douglas Corr. 68.
1543 Douglas Corr. 353.
Vryten at Dwnde, … Your louffeng systar
1547–8 Corr. M. Lorraine 219.
Gyff credence to this berair quhilk is my sisteris sowne
1600-1610 Melvill 28.
My deirest sistar … died … in whom I lossit my naturall mother the second tyme
1625 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. IV 24.
1645 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. III 41.
Elspet and Christane Crombies sisteres and coaires
(b) a1400 Leg. S. vi 514.
His vif … That ves ful cister to the quen
a1400 Leg. S. vi 541.
a1400 Leg. S. xxxi 137.
a1400 Leg. S. xliv 309.
1545–6 Corr. M. Lorraine 157.
Jhon Otirburn quha mariit the erle Athollis cister
(c) 1490 Irland Mir. I 37/4.
Fadere, moder, brudir, scistir
(d) 1527 Sutherland Bk. III 79.
(e) 1524 Douglas Corr. 333.
There is displeasure conceyved by the kinges derest suster
1589 James VI in Reg. Privy C. IV 427.
Without fader or moder, bruthir or suster
1613 Misc. Maitl. C. III 30.
The eldest of the suster of McClayne The youngest of the suster of the Capitane of Clanrannald
(f) 1568 Grant Chart. 285.
I am contentit … to tochir the said Laird of Grant witht my said soster
(g) 1580 Hay in Cath. Tr. 58/21.
Ane of Jacobs vyfues was ane brigseister till hir seister
(h) 1567–8 Q. Mary Facs. Nat. MSS III lvii.
Comend mi to your bruder that merid your serster

b. transf. c1520-c1535 Nisbet Matth. xii 50.
For quha euir dois the will of my fader that is in heuenis, he is my bruthere, sistire, and modere
c1520-c1535 Nisbet I 8.
The bruthir, sistyr and mothir of Christ
c1520-c1535 Nisbet I 133 marg.
Lik as thai ar callit sum tyme systeris also that ar of anne kynred
Arundel MS 288/300.
Haill Mary, the farest sester of all angellis

2. As a mode of address, in lit. and transf. senses. 1375 Barb. iv 487 (C).
That is eneuch, my sister fair
a1400 Leg. S. xx 266.
Haf ȝe na dred, myn cisteris dere
?1438 Alex. ii 2213.
And thow, fare sister, … Hes thow lemman or droury?
a1500 Henr. Fab. 186.
Cum furth to me, my awin sueit sister deir
1490 Irland Mir. I 110/1.
Therfor, deire scistir, ȝe suld nocht be wraithe
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 145.
Fra sic a syre God ȝow saif, my sueit sisteris deir
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 251.
I schaw ȝow sisteris in schrift I wes a schrew evir
1513 Doug. iv xii 77.
Sistir, allace! with my counsell haue I … thi fayr cite Distroyt
1540 Lynd. Sat. 298.
Cum on, sister Dangeir

b. The mode of address used by a king to a fellow-monarch, specif. to the Queen of England. 1575 Reg. Privy C. II 459.
Our Soverane Lord and his dearest suster and cousignace, the Quene of England
1579 James VI in Laing MSS 29.
Louking alwayes, dearest suster, for that correspondence on youre part quhilk the neirnes of oure blude … deservis
1580 Acts III 189/1, etc.
1595–6 Reg. Privy C. V 284.
Be ressoun of sum hie speicheis … betuix sum of his said darrest susteris officiaris of estate and the said Leirmonth
1596 Crim. Trials I II 364.

3. a. A female member of a religious order, a nun. 1513 Treas. Acc. IV 439.
To the Gray Sisteris in almous, v li.
1526–7 Treas. Acc. V 306.
To the sisteris of the Senys
1532 Exch. R. XVI 552.
To the Systeris of the Mwr for ane barrell of sallmont iij li.
1567 G. Ball. 205.
The Sisteris gray, befoir this day, Did crune within thair cloister
1575 Reg. Privy S. VII 31/1.
That he … distribute … sowmeis of money … to the pure wemen now on lyve quhilkis war sisteris and convent of the place foirsaid

b. A female fellow-member of the Christian Church. 1567 G. Ball. 71.
Brether and sisteris, that will resort Till Christ

c. A member of a coven of female witches.See also  Weird sisteris. 1590–1 Crim. Trials I ii 236.
Marioun Lenchop, ȝe sall warne the rest of the sisteris, to raise the wind this day

4. fig. Of a quality or virtue: Related, belonging to the same class or group. Also (once) of a month of the year.Chiefly with instances of personification. c1420 Ratis R. 273.
The four vertuous principall, To-gidder with thar sistiris thre
c1420 Ratis R. 603.
The ȝongest sistir of thai thre … is dem Cheryte the meik
1490 Irland Mir. I 112/8.
Gif my scistir mercy wil perseuere
1490 Irland Mir. III 105/11.
Lady Justice … without hyr scisteris Pece Mercy and Verite
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 83.
May of myrthfull monethis quene Betuix Aprile and June hir sistir schene
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 147/19.
The drerie damiesall Distres And eik hir sorie sister Hivines
1528 Lynd. Dreme 948.
My syster, Justice, almaist haith tynt hir sycht

b. Of mythological beings, specif., of the Muses and the Furies.(1) c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 19.
To ȝow Cleo and … Polymye, With Thesiphone, goddis and sistris all
(2) a1500 Henr. Orph. 262.
Sisteris thre … Alecto, Megera, and Thesiphonee
a1500 Henr. Orph. 505.
Scho send hym doun vnto the sisteris thre, Apon thair quhele ay turnyt for tobe

c. One of a set of identical, or closely-related, objects. a1578 Pitsc. I 259/24.
Sewin cannonis that he tuik fourtht of the castell of Edinburgh, quhilk was callit the sewin sisteris

5. comb. a. Sister-dochter, -son, a sister's daughter or son, a niece or nephew. Also (once) sister-children. b. (In Orkney or Shetland) Sister-part, a daughter's portion of heritable property, equiv. to only one half of a son's share (see quot. 1610 Peterkin below).Cf. also Sister-barne n.Sister-, in these combinations, is a survival of the uninflected OE genitive case sweostor (cf. OE sweostor sunu), also ON systur(-barn, -dóttir, -sonr).a. (1) c1420 Wynt. vii 971.
Hys systyr dowchtyr [Dame] Mald … wes cald
1482–3 Acta Conc. II ciii.
The … folowar of the said breve … had mariit the schireffis sister dochter
1570 Leslie 178.
Lady Margaret Douglas the kingis sister dochtir
a1578 Pitsc. I 354/17. 1591 Edinb. Test. XXIII 66.
My haill weiring claythtis quhilk I leif to … my sister dochter
1612 Orkney & Shetl. Ct. Bk. 25.
[He] wes indyttit … for geving his bodie to the … vice of incest with … his wyffis sister dochter
1614 Fraserburgh Kirk S. 35 (3 July).
Ane baibe of alevin ȝeir ald servand to William Innes and sister dochter to his wyiff
1662 Decis. Lords G. 23.
Dame Jean Skeen … having nominat Jean Coupar, her sister-daughter, her executrix
(2) 1375 Barb. i 557.
Modreyt his syster son him slew
?1438 Alex. ii 7181, etc. 14.. Acts I 380/2.
[There] may nocht stande in assise … sister sone na bruther sone na cusing na nane of the cousinage
c1475 Wall. v 872.
Sib sister sone he wes to gud Wallace
1549 Compl. 136/11. 1549 Lamb Resonyng 27/14.
To caus his sistir-sone of Scotland … be declarit apperand air of Ingland
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 18.
Hamilton, sister sone to the scherreffe of Linlithgow
(b) 1609 Reg. Privy C. VIII 340.
To intrude a suster sone of his awne in the said place of regencie
(c) a1400 Leg. S. iii 98.
Scho … till hyr cister sone hym brocht
(3) 1667 Edinb. Test. LXXIII 68.
Quhilk John & Androw Howats ar sister childreene to the said vmquhill Androw Carmichaell
b. 1514 Orkney & Shetl. Rec. 255.
And the said Schir William to louse a sistyr part of the forsaid laundis and heretage
1522–3 Orkney & Shetl. Rec. I 103.
Money [etc.] … to the full worth and awaile of all our sistir part of heretage pertenyng to the said Cristiane, our moder
1529 Rec. Earld. Orkney 210, etc. 1610 Peterkin Orkney & Zetl. App. 96.
Thair has bene ane ancient law … within … Ȝetland … that quhan ony landitman … depairtit this mortall lyffe, the haill lands … war … divydit amangis his haill bairnis … comptand alwayis twa sistars partis for ane brotheris pairt

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"Sister n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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