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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.

ELDER, n. In the Presbyterian church, “one who is elected and ordained to the exercise of government in ecclesiastical courts, without having authority to teach, hence, for the sake of distinction, often called a ruling elder” (Sc. 1808 Jam.) in contradistinction to the minister or teaching elder. Gen.Sc. Also elyer; eller; el'er (Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 49); eyler (Bch. 1929 P. Giles in Abd. Univ. Review (March) 127); ailyer (Bnff. 1872 W. Philip It 'ill a' come right 34); eiler (Bnff. 1887 G. C. Green Gordonhaven 89). [′ɛl(d)ər, ‡′ɛljər Sc., but ‡ne.Sc. + ′eljər, ′əiljər, ′eiljər]Sc. 1705 Overt. Discip. Ch. Scot. 36:
This Judicatory [General Assembly] is constitute of Ministers and Elders, delegate from each Presbytery within the Church.
n.Sc. 1726 in D. Sage Memorabilia Domestica (1889) 7:
The presbytery met . . . sederunt, Mr Aeneas Sage, moderator; Mr Murdo Macleod . . . and John Paip . . . ruling elder.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Robin Shure in Hairst ii.:
Was na Robin bauld, Tho' I was a cottar? Play'd me sic a trick, An' me the Eller's dochter!
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxi.:
“Make room for the ruling elder,” said yet another; “he comes to see a precious sister glorify God in the Grassmarket!”
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ann. Parish, Intro.:
As I left the pulpit, all the elders stood on the steps to hand me down, and the tear was in every eye.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxvii.:
Fegs an' I hed kent, I sud 'a latt'n some ither ane be rowlin' el'yer, I can tell ye.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Underwoods 92:
The solemn elders at the plate Stand drinkin' deep the pride o' state.
Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet xlii.:
Ye maun sit amang us this day and help to vote for a teachin' elder, first among his equals, to be set solemly apairt.

Hence eldership, (1) the office of elder; Gen.Sc.; (2) the body of elders, the Kirk Session (Sc. 1808 Jam.); Gen.Sc.(1) Sc. 1719 J. Stirton Glamis (1913) 91:
The following persons, being at last after much pain and application prevailed upon to undertake the office of eldership.
Sc. 1803 G. Hill Theolog. Institutes 176:
If a clergyman is able to prevail upon persons to take part in the office of eldership whose situation gives them some influence in . . . the parish.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xiii.:
It was a great mistak' in you, Mr Sleekaboot . . . to keep Gushets an' the Souter oot o' the el'ership.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick v.:
There's mair expeckit o' them that's set apairt to the eldership, an' it behoves them to be extra carefu' no' to offend.
Sc. 1935 G. D. Henderson Sc. Ruling Elder 300:
It is well to emphasise the spiritual nature of the Eldership.
(2) Sc. 1721 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) II. 568:
Do you not lay in one scale the minister against the whole eldership in the other.
Sc. 1803 G. Hill Theolog. Institutes 174:
The presence of a respectable eldership in the parochial consistory has a tendency to vindicate the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline from the charge of partiality.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
Mr Gowlanthump an' the eldership — they bein' meantime i' the Session hoose coontin' ower the offerin' — micht put in appearance.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb iv.:
The eldership in the parish . . . had worn down to two members, whereof one was much incapacitated by old age and deafness, and the other was but an unstable pillar at the best.

Phrs.: 1. elders' hours, respectable hours, gen. considered to be about 10 p.m.; Gen.Sc.; a reference to the strict supervision of the conduct of the parishioners formerly exercised by the elders who patrolled streets late at night to preserve good behaviour; 2. elders o' Cowend, cormorants (Kcb.9 1943); see also Cowe'en Elders.1. Gsw. 1865 J. Young Homely Pictures 149:
Sae lang's wi' decent chiels they' re seen, An' keep to elders' hours at e'en.
Sc. 1885 A. Edgar Old Church Life I. 242:
Elders' hours is a phrase that has long been in use to designate ten o'clock at night, and the most probable way of accounting for the phrase is that ten o'clock was the hour at which people were sent home by the elders from the ale-house.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick iv.:
He bude to keep elders' hoors — though what they micht be I've ne'er been able to mak oot, for I'm suir I've gaen awa frae a frien's hoose on the chap o' twal, an' left Archie Howden sittin wi' a fu' tumbler afore him.
Dmf. 1932 A. J. Cronin Three Loves i. ii.:
“I'll be moving too,” he said. “Elders' hours for me”.
2. Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov.Encycl. 422:
They [cormorants] are called Elders o' Cowend, from their black, grave, and greedy appearance and being common on Colvend shores.

[A literal rendering of Gr. πρεσβυτερος, older, elder, the name used in the early Christian church; see esp. Acts xx. 17–28; 1 Tim. v. 17. Used in Scottish Presbyterian churches since the Reformation (1560).]

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"Elder n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Sep 2022 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/elder>

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