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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LAW, n.1, v. Also la(u)-; †lauch, laugh, †laft; †llauve (Gregor). [lǫ:, lɑ:, ne.Sc. †ljɑ:v]

I. n. 1. As in Eng.: law, custom, legal institutions. The form lauch survived only in proverb in quots. Hence (a) lawfu, †lauchfull, lawful. Phr. lawful day, morning, etc., a day on which it is lawful or permissible to transact business, i.e. any day but a Sunday or legal holiday, and so a week-day (Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scotticisms 52). Gen.Sc.; ¶(b) lawsome, law-abiding.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 92:
Every Land hath its own Laugh, and every Corn its own Caff.
Ayr. 1835 Galt in Tait's Mag. (Sept.) 605:
I, for my ain share, am for letting every land keep its ain lauch.
(a) Abd. 1700 Burgh Rec. Abd. (B.R.S.) 331:
The first three lawfull dayes of Januarie be allowed to the schollars for play dayes, instead of the Yooll vaicance.
Ags. 1704 R. Finlayson Arbroath Documents (1923) 19:
Do in the sincerity of my heart assert, acknowledge and declare that her Majestie, Queen Anne, is the only lauchfull and undoubted Soveraigne of this Realm.
Wgt. 1723 Wigtown Session Rec. (1934) 323:
He offered his bill for twenty eight pund and sixteen shilling Scots, payable the first lawfull day of May next.
Gsw. 1750 J. Strang Gsw. Clubs (1856) 15:
A week day, or what has been more curiously designated a lawful day.
Sc. 1768 Edb. Advertiser (5 Aug.):
There is to be sold, by John Watson, Jun. at his Stand at the Poultry, Edinburgh, all lawfull days in the week, wind and weather serving, good and fresh Solan Geese.
e.Lth. 1811 P. McNeill Tranent (1884) 174:
Each coalier having a full hook, is to put out as aforesaid, daily and every lawful day, at least 4 tubs of panwood, measuring 2 bolls for each tub.
Dmb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VIII. 12:
In summer, a coach starts every lawful morning at nine o'clock for Balloch.
(b) Sc.(E) 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah i. 19:
It's ay, an ye will an' be lawsome, ye sal pree o' the gude o' the lan'.

Phrs. and Combs.: (1) law agent, a solicitor, one who practises law in the lower courts. As a formal term law agent was established by the Law Agents Act of 1873 and replaced the earlier Writer but has itself been superseded by solicitor in the Solicitors Act, 1933. See Agent, which is still in popular usage. Gen.Sc.; (2) law-cairn, llauve-karn (Gregor), a cairn or mound where a court used to meet. Gregor explains as a beacon-hill, a purpose for which these places may also have been used. Cf. (4); (3) law-folk, the legal profession, lawyers; (4) law-hill(ock), = (2); (5) law-lord, one of the judges in the Court of Session to whom the courtesy title of Lord is given. Gen.Sc. See Lord; (6) lawman, orig. the chief law officer of the Norwegian Crown in Sh. and Ork. whose office disappeared or was merged with that of the Foud into that of Sheriff under Scottish administration in the mid 16th c. Now only hist. The Norw. form lagman [O.N. lǫgmaðr] is also found; (7) law-paper, a legal document (Ork., Ayr. 1960); (8) law-plea, a lawsuit, process of litigation (Sc. 1787 J. Elphinston Propriety II. 211; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 256; em.Sc. 1960). Vbl.n. law-pleain, litigation. See Plea; (9) lawrightman, a Sc. form of Norw. lagrettman [O.N. lǫgréttumaðr], which is also found, the name of an official of the old Norse administration of Sh. and Ork., whose duties appear to have been to supervise weights and measures and to be assessors in courts on points of law in each parish, but came later, esp. in Ork., to be confused with those of Ranselman, q.v. Hist.; (10) law-sermon, a sermon on the Mosaic law or in the vein of a moral homily rather than a gospel exhortation. Cf. (12); (11) law-ting, the chief annual assembly of the free-holders or udallers of Sh. and Ork., at which legal disputes esp. were settled. Now hist. See Thing; (12) law-wark, theology based on the Mosaic law and dispensation, implying formal morality rather than evangelical religion. Cf. (10); (13) to gie in to the law, to take (a case) to law, to commence a process of litigation; (14) to lay the law upon, to go to law with, prosecute at law.(1) Sc. 1838 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 35:
The responsibilities, duties and privileges of law agents in the conduct of the business of their clients.
Sc. 1947 Scotland (Meikle) 101:
The law agents, a term applied to all those, other than members of the Faculty of Advocates, entitled to practise in a court of law.
(2) Abd. 1952 W. M. Alexander Place-Names 81:
Law cairns, or court cairns, of which examples can also be seen at Fintray and Kincardine O'Neil, are the traditional sites of baronial courts of justice.
(3) m.Lth. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 26:
Dreeping (as rising rent, bewitches) Fast, fast! into our Law folk's pouches.
(4) Bnff. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XIII 67:
There was, till lately, a conical artificial eminence, called the Law Hillock, and supposed to have been at one time the seat from which justice was distributed.
(5)Sc. 1769 D. Hume in Life (Burton 1846) II. 423: 
The pleadings of the two law lords.
Sc. 1851 J. Heiton Castes Edb. 40: 
The Law Lords or Judges in the Court of Session.
(6) Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Descr. Sh. 103:
The Prefect or Lagman of Shetland, in presiding at the great Legislative Assemblies which were held in the country, … was assisted by counsellors.
Sh. 1904 G. Goudie Antiq. Sh. 230:
The “Lawman” held the important office of legal adviser and judge of assize, and had generally the superintendence of the framing and interpretation of the law.
(7) Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail lvi.:
On the express condition, that he was not to be obliged to sign any law-papers.
Sc. 1899 E. F. Heddle Marget at the Manse 152:
He told me he had left “a bit law-paper aboot his siller.”
(8) Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 III. 118:
There are very few law-pleas or disputes in this parish, because we have only one writer.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary ix.:
The grand law-plea between us and the feuars at the Mussel-craig.
Lnk. 1844 J. Lemon St Mungo 63:
But what wi' his leein', an' rogueish law pleain', An' Sessi'bonorum, he's now weel secured.
Per. 1883 R. Cleland Inchbracken xix.:
Ye'll ken whether a law plea or a waddin' taks maist siller.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle iii.:
He has seen this place more bien than it is to-day in my father's time, and in my own too before the law-pleas ate us up.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 317:
Twa feuly ald Orkna billies … he'd a laa plea ower 'id i' the Coort o' Session.
(9) Sh. 1733 T. Gifford Hist. Descr. (1879) 42:
There is also in each parish a law-right man, that is, an honest man, appointed judicially by the bailiff, as the rancelmen are. His business is to weigh and measure the rent-butter and oil.
Ork. 1805 G. Barry Hist. Ork. 225:
Members denominated Lagraetmen or Lawrightmen, who were a kind of constables for the execution of justice in their respective islands.
Sh. 1904 G. Goudie Antiq. Sh. 240:
While the Lawrightmen were the first of the local functionaries to be set aside by the new alien authorities from Scotland, they seem to have lingered on, though it may have been little more than in name, till well into the eighteenth century.
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. ii. 70:
The term lawrightmen in Orkney was an alternative one for rancellors … The single parochial lawrightman in Orkney had vanished altogether [by 1700].
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
After 1611, when Norse law was abolished, the lawrightmen were appointed so many for each district, or “urisland” of a parish; they were responsible, under the bailie, for law and order in their bounds, exercised the duty of ranselling for stolen goods, and still formed the bulk of the head-court assizemen. At this period they were usually identical with the elders of the Kirk session.
(10) Sc. 1730 T. Boston Memoirs (1852) 122:
At the exercise, I got so little satisfaction of my people, that I scarcely got a word of the law-sermon, and very little of the gospel-sermon.
(11) Sh. 1805 Scots Mag. (June) 434:
On a small green island in the fresh-water lake near the church [of Tingwall], there is a mound surrounded by large stones, on which tradition reports that justice was once administered, and which still retains, among the natives, the name of the lawting.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate xviii.:
But I have nothing to do, to do justice betwixt man and man, like a Fowd or a Lawrightman at a lawting lang syne.
Sh. 1904 G. Goudie Antiq. Sh. 95:
Latterly the Lawting Court (Norse Logthing), a Court of Law, became the better known name for the great annual assembly, as the occasion for a meeting of freemen for political and general purposes grew less.
(12) Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 32:
His wife fell in great exercise, and under very severe degrees of the lau-work.
Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xx.:
There's but cauldrife law-wark gaun on yonder — carnal morality, as dow'd and as fusionless as rue leaves at Yule.
Per. 1894 I. Maclaren Bonnie Brier Bush 127:
Ye will maybe tell the Session what hass been your “law work” and how long ye hef been at Sinai.
(13) Rnf. 1861 J. Barr Poems 112:
The case is gien in to the law.
(14) Sc. 1858 Scotch Haggis 62:
“That you are not,” quoth the sergeant, “unless you give me the tother twa shillings for laying the law upon you.”

2. Appar., by extension, = proper conduct or condition, fitness, appropriateness, of soil in regard to sowing of seed. But this may be a different word.Lth. 1825 Jam.:
That land's in fine laft for aits.

3. Loud, disputatious talk (Cai. 1902 E.D.D.).

II. v. 1. As in Eng. (rare or dial.): intr. to go to law, to litigate (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ork., Abd., Gall. 1960); tr. to take to law, to pursue in court, to sue (Cai., Gall. 1960).Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xxii.:
I hae known my father law for seven years.
Sc. 1825 Jam.:
I'm resolv'd I'll law him weel for't, I will take every advantage that law can give in this business.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 98:
Aye threat'nin', by jingo! tae “law” me.

2. To lay down the law to, to control, rule, determine.Ayr. 1785 Burns Women's Minds iii.:
But for how lang the flie may stang, Let inclination law that.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 199:
Each lordly dame who dares to claim Her tenant's vote, and law that.
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 141:
When a lilt he fell till't, as if nature he law'd.

[The form lauch derives from the stem laȝ-, used in combs., of O.E. laȝu, the oblique cases of which give law. O.Sc. lauch, from 1357, law from c.1400, law-man, 1438, laurycht man, 1488 (Sh.), 1644 (Ork.), lawting, 1496.]

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"Law n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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