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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.

Slanis, Slains, n. Also: slanys, -es, slaines, slaynis, -es, slaynnis, slaynies, sclaynes, slaanys, (aslaanes) ; sleins, sleans, sleance, slayance, slayan(e)s. [EIr. slán indemnity, compensation, surety, security, guarantee, cf. also sláinte, in specif. legal sense, exemption from liability. Also, rarely, ellipt. or absol.]The appar. plural form probably derives from the EIr. plural slána, common in this usage, translated into the Sc. plural morpheme -is.

Letter(s of slanis, (a) document(s) issued by the kin of a murdered person stating that no (further) liability for the crime existed.This chiefly as a result of acceptable satisfaction or reparation (Assithment n.) having been made by the murderer.An excellent account of the social and legal background is to be found in J. Wormald Bloodfeud, Kindred and Government in Early Modern Scotland (Past and Present No. 87 (1980)). Cf. also the entry s.v. Law, Celtic survival in Companion to Gaelic Scotland ed. D. Thomson.(a) 1473–4 Treas. Acc. I 4.
Item componit wytht Will Scot for a remissione for the slachter of Johnne Crossate, for the quhilk he schew a lettre of slanys of the partj
1486 Bk. Carlaverock II 447.
This indenture maid at Edinburghe … beris witnes that the said lord sall gif a sufficiant lettre of slanis of vmquhile Jhone Maxwell; and for all the laif of the personis that was slain with him to the said Cuthbert and his frendis committaris of the said slauchter
1523 Montgomery Mem. 97.
[We] ordanis the saidis lordis ilkane of thaim to assith thair avne men kyn frendis seruandis adherentis of all slauchteris and mutilatiounis committit vpoun thaim … and ilkane of the partiis to gif to vtheris sufficient letteris of slanys
1530 Montgomery Mem. 111.
[He] sall giff the said Erle his letteris in deu forme of slanis or assythment
1569 Reg. Privy C. I 673.
Apud Invernes … in presens of my Lord Regentis Grace and lordis of Secreit Counsale Coline McKenze of Kintaill promittit … [to] obtene, ane sufficient lettre of slanis, of the maister wyff bairnis and principall kin and freindis, of umquhile Johnne McAnemoir; and the said lettre of slanis being gottin, Robert Monro … obleist him to deliver to the said … Coline the sowme of twa hundrith markis … as for the assyithment of the slauchteris committit at Lochcarron
1573 Warrender P. (SHS) I 125.
And samony as he … sall specialie name sall gif particular discharge thairof and lettre of slanis and renunciatioun of all actioun etc. in the law or by the law as he sall require
c1575 Balfour Pract. 517.
Gif ony man that is kinnisman to him that is slane, persew, at his awin instance allanerlie, for assythment … he his alane has na powar to persew for the said assythment, notwithstanding that he … offer ane sufficient letter of slanes for all the kin and freindis
c1575 Balfour Pract. 518.
Ane decrete … for assythment … sould have na executioun untill the obtenar thairof deliver … ane sufficient letter of slanes for the slauchter to the commitar thairof, or ane sufficient letter of reconciliatioun for the mutilatioun … and … that ane letter of slanes or reconciliatioun is not sufficient except the samin be subscrivit be the four principal parties and branches of him that is slane or mutilat
1576 Reg. Privy C. II 571. 1585 Acts III 426/1. 1592 Acts III 575/2. 1601 Misc. Spald. C. II 280.
I haiffing … consideration of the fre remitt and lettre of slanes past and grantit to me be … Francis Erle of Erroll Lord Hay … as cheiff and principall of the surname of Hay of the slauchter of vmquhile James Hay son to wmquhile Williame Hay of Gourdie … Thairfoir of my awne accorde … becumis seruand to the said noble lord [etc.]
1609 Stewart Mem. 121.
Thatt … the lettre of slanes … be delyuerit to the said Johne Stewart McGillichallum and the same lettre of slanes … stand in effect vnbrokin or violat in ony syd
1628 Justiciary Cases I 85.
That the … cryme … could nawayis pas to the tryell of ane assyse becaus satisfactioun is maid be him for the said cryme to the haill kyn and freindis of the said umquhile Johnne Philp viz. [etc.] … And for verificatioun thairof producet ane letter of slanes subscryuit uith all thair handis daitit at Aberdene … beirand thair ressait of the sowme of tua hundreth merkis … also producet ane uther lettre of slanes … ane thrid letter of slanes … And thairwith … ane remissioun under the great seall
1631 Justiciary Cases I 169.
Ane letter of slanes uith ane discharge of all actioun ather criminall or ciuill
1647 Elgin Rec. II 258.
Alexander Nucoll having committed slaughter and haweing gotten a letter of slanes is ordained to stand thrie dayes in sakcloath
1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. ii xxvii § 4 (1699) 275.
If the party doth willingly grant a discharge of all grudge, or revenge, in the crime of murder, this discharge is called a letter of slanes, and is called by the Doctors, litera pacis
(b) 1532 Lamont P. 40.
At Perth … we … jugis arbitratouris and amicable compositouris … decret [etc.] … and than deliuerand to the said Johnne ane sufficient letter of slains of the four branchis of the said umquill Donald
1558 Red Bk. Menteith II 438.
That I am oblist be vertew of ane contract to gif the said noble lord my band of manrent as the saidis contract and lettir of slains … mair fullelie proportis
1546 Reg. Privy C. I 34.
Apud Dunbertane … in presens of my lord governour and Lordis of Secrete Counsale comperit Johne Simple … and hes dischargeit for him self his sonnis and tennentis the Capitane of Dunbertane and all his of all maner of reiffis spulȝeis oppressionis slaughteris … and sall gif ane plane letter of discharg … and oblissis him never … to persew the saidis spulȝeis oppressionis or skaithis in tyme to cum; and als to gif ane plane letter of slains to the said capitane for the slauchteris committit
1565–6 Reg. Privy C. I 418. 1575 Old Dundee I 276. 1582 Buccleuch Mun. II 238. 1629 Stirling's Royal Lett. I 343.
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 300. 1673 Moray Synod 156.
The said Donald [is to] be ordained to purchase letters of slaines wherby he may be ‘in tuto’ to satisfie the discipline of the church wherin if he feall … he be summarlie excommunicated
1676 Aberd. Journal N. & Q. III 58.
That some persons doe continue to give in informations … to put him to a great deale more of trouble … in clearing himself of these false aspersions notwithstanding that he hath obtained letters of slaines and a full discharge … from the nearest of kinne to the defunct on the mother side for themselves and taking burden on them for the rest of all their kinne friends and allies both on the father's side and mother's side of the deceased
1686 Mackenzie Observ. (1687) 55.
From the same Act [James II, 74] exception is made of remissions granted, for quieting the Highlands or Borders, which may be valid without assythment … which we call a letter of slains
1689 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII 525.
Anent a petitione given in … be Richard Patton prisoner … Alexander Carney … father to the defunct and his other freinds haveing after ane full inquyrie anent the maner of his death found that the same was altogither casuall and without precogitat malice, they have granted the petitioner letters of slaines with a consent to his liberatione … His Majesties High Commissioner and Lords of Privy Councill … ordaine the petitioner to be sett at libertie
(c) 1536 Montgomery Mem. 125.
Be it kennd … be thir present letteris [sc. of discharge] me Wylliam Cwnynyhame … grantis me till haue … resauit … ane sufficient lettar of slaynnys … for the slauchtyr [etc.] … of the quhilk lettar of slaynnis … I hald me weil countennt and the said Hew … his airis [etc] … for me my airis [etc.] … of the forsaid letter of slaynis quitclamis and dischargis foreuir [etc.]
1593 Acts IV 19/1. 1597 Elgin Rec. II 65.
1630 Reg. Great. S. 553/2.
1641 Acts V 325/1.
Ane command … that no remissione nor respite be past to these men who slewe hir husband without ane letter of slaynes
1613 Reg. Great S. 305/1.
Rex dedit literas remissionis Patricio Middiltoun … pro interfectione Davidis Spens … subito et in mero accidente commissa;—quoniam dictus Pat. literam lie letter of slaynies Alexandri S. filii legit.
(d) 1550 Lochwinnoch Par. 25.
1563 Edinb. B. Deeds 83b.
The said … ratifyis and admittis this present in maner of ane lettre of aslaanes
(e) 1609 Bk. Dunvegan I 48.
1641 Baillie I 368.
He obtained easilie a letter of sleans from the partie; bot we think the constable will cause execute him
(f) 1560 Montgomery Mem. 159.
1560 Paterson Ayr & Wigton III 443.
1574 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 37.
And sall cause [his] barnis … to ratefie and approve the said letter of slayance at thair cuming to perfyit age
1575 Glasgow B. Rec. I 44.
Ane sufficient lettir of slayanes, in dew and competent forme
1661 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. I 9-10.
ellipt. or absol. 1557 Reg. Privy S. V i 49/2.
Literis satisfactionis lie slanis
1573 Bruces of Airth App. lxxiv.
And to deliver a slains thereupon to the said Robert Livingston

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



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