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

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

Top, Tap, n.1 Also: topp(e, tope, tape. [ME and e.m.E. toppe (Layamon), top (a1225), tope (Chaucer), OE top, ON toppr.]See also For(e)top n.

1. The hair on the crown of a person's or animal's head; the crest of a bird. Also in fig. context.(a) 14.. Quon. Attach. c. 40.
Quhar a man … walde haf lordschip & mantemans the quhilk cumis bodilik in his court & takis him selfyn be the top [Skene Quon. Att. i 91, be the haire of his forehead] & cumis him man
c1450-2 Howlat 835 (B).
The golk … tit the tuquheit be the tope and owirtirwit his heid
a1470 Liber Aberbr. II 108.
The sad smyth callyt hym his [sc. the laird of Meldrum's] man for to manteym hyme in seruice … than this smyth passit to the lard of Meldrum tyl haue his assistens tyl be … haldyn in possessioun of the said officehows, and swa it vas for the said lard tuk the said Ade in mantemyn, and the land be the tope and gart eyr and saw the said land and appropry it tyl hyme
c1500 Barounis Lawis 8b.
He aw to bring with him in preif to the court of the best sa deid the top and the tale
1513 Doug. xii iv 34.
The forrettis of thir bestis toppys baith They clyp and myssour
a1570-86 Arbuthnot in Maitl. F. 60/165.
But all paine ane plesour … In to this warld be no wicht may be fund But dulefull dolour and plesand delyte Ilk ane with vther be the toppe is bund
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. i 4.
Sho [sc. Time] hes no hold, to hold hir by, bot ane; A toppe befor, bot beld behind hir bak
(b) 1581-1623 James VI Poems I 45/56.
Euen sa, had Nature, to decore her [sc. the phoenix] face Geuen her ane tap, for to augment hir grace

b. Top our (over) taill, head over heels, topsy-turvy. Also in fig. context. 1375 Barb. vii 462.
Till top our tale he gert hym ly
1460 Hay Alex. 2177.
Bot one ane man suapperit one the flure, And to the erd he passit, tape oure tale
1513 Doug. vii vii 9.
Fortyll distrubbill the forsaid mariage, And quyte pervert or turnyt top our taill Latynus howshald
a1540 Freiris Berw. 564 (B).
Our the stair the freir in myre hes loppin, And tap our taill he fyld wes woundir ill
1540 Lynd. Sat. 4561 (B).
The pryd of princis withowttin faill Garris all the warld rin top our taill
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 138 (T).
With mankit, manschocht, mankit meitter, Trottand and twmbland top over taill

c. Fra (from) (the) top to (and) ta, from head to foot. Also fig., fully, thoroughly. a1400 Leg. S. xxiii 121.
& tald thame fra tope to ta Quhow Decius thame socht to sla
a1400 Leg. S. xli 342.
Constancia … Of foule lepre wes strikine sa, That nocht wes hale fra tope to ta
?1438 Alex. i 2146.
And he bled fra the top to ta
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2155.
I sall … crose ȝour corps from the top to tay
1572 Sempill in Sat. P. xxxii 91.
The curse thé wareis, but blys, fra top to ta
a1605 Montg. Flyt. 433 (T).
And of deid menis memberis weill schewit in ane schoe Quhilk we have band from top and tae

d. Tap and tayle, the whole thing, the entire area. 1448–9 Ayr B. Ct. 102 (20 Feb.).
John Pettit & Wil Chere balȝeis with Jame Walkar seriand recwrisit al the waist landis in the se gate … in the defalt of the kingis male & of closour of tap & tayle

2. A tuft or portion of fibrous material. 1681 Colvil Whig's Suppl. (1751) 24.
He had … A top of lint for his panash

3. The highest or uppermost part or point (of a thing or place). Also proverb. and attrib. 1488 Treas. Acc. I 80.
Item, in the said box, a thing of gold with a top like a timmele
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 27/68.
Than Bissines the grit gyn bend, Straik doun the top of the foir tour
1513 Doug. i v 5.
Heich in the hevynnys top he [sc. Jupiter] baid hoverand And of Lyby beheld graithly the land
1513 Doug. ii v 76.
Troy from the top down fallys [L. ruit alto a culmine Troia] and all is gane
1513 Doug. ii xi 5.
The top of litill Ascanyus hed
1513 Doug. iii iv 123.
The mysty toppys of Mont Lewcas
1590 Burel Pilgr. i 14.
Thir treis … So schenlie, and menelie, Thair tops thay did dounfald
c1590 Fowler I 311/18.
[The wicked] salbe as the gras which growes Vpon the houses toppes, Which withereth far befoir it ryse For laik of higher croppes
1603 Moysie 70.
To mak beeanefyres on the toppes of hilis
1645 Sc. Hist. Rev. XXX 147.
It. for bigging up faill ground about the ludge to the tope
c1641–54 J. Gordon in Macfarlane's Geog. Coll. II 603.
The hiest top of ground in it is cald Tom na clag
1693 Household Bk. Gr. Baillie 2.
To McKuloch for linning a room in the top of Waristons land
proverb. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 861.
It is neither top taile nor meane
attrib. 1601–2 Ayr B. Acc. 211.
[For] Danskin [iron][to make] ane tap band and ane laych band [for the Tolbooth doors]
1674 Edinb. B. Rec. X 202.
The over or top housses of the saids tenements are to keep the remanent housses of the same waterticht

4. A part that can be fitted or built on to a structure to form an upper part or covering. 1496 Treas. Acc. I 285.
Ane aschin tre, to be toppis to the kingis pailȝounis
1496 Treas. Acc. I 295.
For grathing of the pailȝoune toppis with irne grath
1628–9 Mill Mediæv. Plays 209.
Fyve pund glew to glew the toppis of the tolbuith staige and the Nether Bow staige

5. A platform near the head of the lower mast on a ship. Cf. Top-castell n. Also attrib.See also main-top Main adj. 5. c1420 Wynt. ii 1599.
Eneas and Askaneus … Wp to [the] tope thare sayllys drewe
c1475 Wall. x 832.
Thir thre has tane to kepe the myd schip weill … Syn twa he chesd the top for to defend
c1475 Wall. x 866.
Thai in the top so worthi wrocht with hand, In the south top thar mycht no rewar stand
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 236.
To scip thai went And swyth up saile unto the top thai stent
1512 Treas. Acc. IV 452.
iiijc window naill for the greit top, the jc vi d.
1538 Treas. Acc. VIII 158.
Twelf burdis to be pavesis to the main tope
1549 Compl. 41/23.
The master cryit, boy to the top. Schaik out the flag on the top mast. Tak in ȝour top salis, and thirl them
1571 Crail B. Ct. MS 1 June.
Ylk schippe … to pay for hir ankorage yf sche have ane tope vj s. aucht d. Ane crear with tua tope mastis to pay … v s.
a1578 Pitsc. I 229/14.
Lat the gounnaris … make thame redy, with thair lyme pottis and fyre ballis in our toppis
1588 Ayr Chart. 56.
Everie schip with top at thair incuming within the said harbry, threttene schillingis four pennyis
1600 Aberd. Council Lett. I 90.
Of ilk schipe crear or veschill belonging to the realme ane tol to be tane to wit of ilk schipe of thrie topis ane rosnobill
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 243/390.
The castellis foure of both the galley toppis
attrib. 1539 Treas. Acc. VII 189.
To Alexander Foster for the making of the saidis stramaris, banaris, top claithis and fanikynnis, as his compt beris, and lynyngis of bukrem thairto
1540 Treas. Acc. VII 311.
For the making of vj standartis … xxviij elnis cammes to lyne the top clathis, and to be hosing to the grete standertis
1660 Banff Ann. I 142.
For everie tua tap weshell of anchorage, 10 s. … For everie on tap weshell and jurie mast bark, 6 s. 8 d.

b. Toppe-royall, a topgallant, a platform at the head of the topmast.For a discussion of this and related terms, see B. Sandahl Middle English Sea Terms II 114. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) lxxxviii 30.
[London] Where many a ship doth rest with toppe-royall

6. The uppermost part of the leg of a high boot; the uppermost or gauntlet part of a glove. 1640 Dumbarton B. Rec. 63.
Pryce of buittis with leggis and toppis the quadrupill of the schoone
1615 Edinb. Test. XLVIII 214.
[Gluiffis] … Thretteine pair of wesching orinche topis at sexteine schillingis the pair … fourtie sex pair orenge topis at sex pundis the dosone
1667–9 Home Clothing Acc. MS (Earl of Home) 7.
2 ell 1 quarter of holland for toppes

b. attrib. With heid (Hede n.1 5 a): ? The uppermost part (of hose). 1668 Edinb. Test. LXXIII 147b.
Ane pair of plaiding hois with tapheids

7. transf. and fig. a. The culmination of a process. b. A supremely high position; a peak, pinnacle of a situation or state. Also, top and height. Also attrib. c. To take by the tope, to make the most of, exploit (an occasion or opportunity).a. c1650 Spalding I 341.
Both Abirdeins commandit … to leid peites … without payment; grevous to the people, now [sc. late September] in top of harvest
b. c1590 Fowler I 122/121.
The sun had more enwye at thame … Who by thair knawlege and thair witt … Wer mounted to suche toppe of praise that never semed decay
1611-57 Mure Early Misc. P. xiii 17.
Bewar such schame becum thy suirest hap, Thrawin from the tap of fortoune to defame
1653 Binning Wks. 236.
Now this is the highest top of happiness, to which nothing can be added
a1658 Durham Subtile Self 79.
When men come, as it were, to the very top of duty
1687 Shields Hind Let Loose 178.
In the top and height of their insulting insolency
attrib. 1678 J. Brown Hist. Indulgence 315.
Seeing this supremacy and sacrilegious usurpation of the prerogatives royal of our Lord Jesus … is the top-point of all our defection
c. 1643 Baillie II 88.
To take that occasion by the tope to banish altogether church-buriall from among us

8. In various phrases: a. To be in tops with (a person or thing), to be opposed to, in conflict with. b. To have (a person or thing) upon one's top or in one's topps, to be assailed from or as from above by (etc.).a. 1637 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 459.
This noble King Jesus, with whom the created powers of the world are still in tops
a1652 Dickson Psalms I 204.
It is Satans policy to draw great men and councellors of state in tops with the godly
a1658 Durham Subtile Self 80.
It is always some one selfie end and concern or another, that brings men in tops with the rule of dutie
b. 1638 Baillie I 81.
If he should irritat at this tyme, when so many are in his topps, his ruine seemed to be inevitable
1680 Cloud of Witnesses (1714) 42.
Ye have Kirk and State upon your top; ye get leave to weep a long night, and have none to comfort you

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"Top n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Mar 2024 <>



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