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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.

MAIL, n.1, v.1 Also maill; meal(l); mal(e). [mel]

I. n. ‡1. Rent, payment in money or kind made under a lease (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 254; Wgt. 1962).Ayr. 1710 Arch. & Hist. Coll. Ayr. & Wgt. IV. 244:
The said Baillie decerned and decerns the haill tennentis . . . to make payment . . . of ther respective rentis, maleis, ferms, kains, customes and casuallitys.
Peb. 1715 A. Pennecuik Tweeddale 4:
It is certainly as well payed Rent as any in the Kingdom, the Mails for the most part being received in Money.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xxxix.:
I hear that store-farms are to be set at an easy mail in Northumberland.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders xxxvi.:
They're after the auld wife's rents an' mails.
Wgt. 1912 A.O.W.B. Fables frae French 15:
Wife, weans, to feed an' clead, an' mail to pay, An' whiles oor farin' scant; nae rest for me!

Phrs. and Combs.: (1) black mail, see Black Mail; (2) booth-mail, see Booth-mail; (3) borrow-mail, see Burgh, n.1, 3. (5); (4) buttock-mail, see Buttock, n., 2. (2) (a); (5) chamber mail, rent paid for a room in lodgings, cf. (12); (6) cow's mail, the rent paid for the grazing of one cow (Rxb. 1801 J. Leyden Complaynt 353); (7) dock maill, a due payable by a ship unloading in a dock which is not its home port; (8) grass-mail, see Girse, n., 4. (19); (9) house-mail, see House, n., 2. (19); (10) King's mails, see also King, 3. (31); (11) land-mail(l), see Land, n., 1. (21); (12) lodging maill, payment for lodgings; (13) maill book, a book in which records of rentals were kept; (14) mail-duties, rent, = (20); (15) meall-fish, fish paid as rental in kind; (16) mail-free, rent-free; (17) mail garden, a market garden (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Hence mail-gardener, a market gardener; (18) mail-mart, an ox paid as part of rent. See Mart, n.2; (19) mail payer, one liable to pay rent, a tenant; (20) maills and duties, the rents of an estate (see 1838 quot.); (21) manse maill, a sum, representing rent, to which a parish minister is entitled while a manse is being rebuilt; (22) moss mail, see Moss; (23) seat mail, the rent paid for the use of a seat in a church; (24) tent-mail, rent paid to the owner of the land on which a fair or market is held, by those who erect tents or stalls; (25) to pay the mail, fig.: to get one's deserts, to suffer for the wrongs one has done, pay the penalty (Sc. 1825 Jam.).(3) Sc. 1936 Sources & Liter. Sc. Law (Stair Soc.) 95:
The burgh mails or rents payable for lands belonging to Royal burghs and held of the King.
(5) Gsw. 1704 Munimenta Univ. Gsw. (M.C.) II. 368:
The faculty appoints Thomas Young bedellus to collect the chamber mails from the students.
(7) Gsw. 1700 Charters Gsw. (1906) II. 283:
Dock maill, cockets, and other dues whatsomever, payable to the burgh of Dumbartoun by all strangers ships unloading within the said river of Clide.
(10) Sc. 1905 M. Livingstone Guide Public Rec. 48:
The “Common Good” . . . was liable, after payment of the King's mails or rents, to the support of the general police and administration of the burgh.
(12) Sc. 1802 Kinmont Willie in Child Ballads No. 186. xxxviii.:
I'll pay you for my lodging-maill When first we meet on the border-side.
(13) Bte. 1723 Rothesay T. C. Rec. (1935) II. 678:
Payed to John Hamilton Clerk £8 quherof £4 for wryting the comon Maill Book.
(14) Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian viii.:
Regular payment of mail-duties, kain, arriage, carriage, dry multure, lock, gowpen, and knaveship, and all the various exactions now commuted for money, and summed up in the emphatic word Rent.
(15) Bnff. 1702 W. Cramond Ann. Bnff. (S.C.) II. 272:
That the meall fish or twentieth fish of all salmond taken of the water of Diverne holden of the brugh be oblidged to be sold at the merkat croce at curent raits.
(16) Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. xv.:
Meg, to her dying day, held a cow's-grass mail-free for that night's wark.
(17) Ayr. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 184:
A mail-gardener is much wanted: greens and roots are brought on Saturdays from Kilmarnock, at the distance of 12 miles.
Cld. 1798 J. Naismith Agric. Cld. 101:
The mail gardens around the city of Glasgow, from which that populous place is supplied with all the variety of culinary vegetables produced in this country.
Sc. 1820 Scott Abbot xxxv.:
The candle shines from the house of Blinkhoolie, the mail-gardener.
m.Lth. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 290:
There is a considerable extent of ground in the immediate vicinity of the town, occupied as mail-gardens, as they are called, the produce of which is sold in the Edinburgh and Glasgow markets.
(18) Arg. 1757 Session PapersMacneil v. MacNeil (9 Feb.) 5: 
The Mail-mart, as Part of the Rent 1756, was seized, carried off, and slaughtered.
(19)Sc. 1724 Ramsay Ever Green I. 217:
Mailpayers wiss it to the devil.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 293:
The bucht, and the byre, and the stable, Shaw'd plenty and thrift to be there; And there was few mail-payers able To shine sae at kirk or at fair.
(20) Mry. 1711 Lord Elchies Letters (MacWilliam) 5:
To Alexander Ross, messenger, ffor executing a summonds of mailes and duties against Captain John Grant of Easter Elchies.
Sh. 1739 Diary J. Mill (S.H.S.) 147:
Three years' land mails and duties of the said glebe, manse and pertinents.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute iv. i. § 49:
The action of mails and duties, or for the payment of the rents and profits of a land estate, is sometimes petitory and sometimes possessory.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Let. xi.:
The rental-book . . . bore evidence against the Goodman of Primrose-Knowe, as behind the hand with his mails and duties.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 616:
Maills and duties are the rents of an estate, whether in money or grain; hence, an action for the rents of an estate, competent either to a proprietor or to one claiming right under a conveyance, legal or voluntary, or even an assignation to the rents, is termed an action of maills and duties.
(21) Sc. 1905 T. Burns Church Property 84:
When a minister cannot occupy his manse on account of these necessary repairs or additions, he is entitled to receive from the heritors manse rent, which is termed manse “maill”.
Sc. 1948 J. T. Cox Practice Ch. Scot. 458:
Where in any parish manse maill is at the passing of this Act payable in lieu of a manse.
(23) Ags. 1729 W. M. Inglis Angus Par. (1904) 107:
This day intimation was made that all who have taken new seats, should attend on Thursday next by 10 o'clock to pay the seat meall.
Sc. 18th c. Scots Mag. (Aug. 1932) 367:
The Society's main source of revenue was its “annual rents”, which was interest on money advanced to persons of substance, but these were supplemented by its “seat maills”, that is, its income from its own pew in Cellardyke Parish Kirk.
(24) Ags. 1780 Caled. Mercury (4 Nov.):
The markets of Kirriemuir stand there; tent-meal is drawn by the proprietor, and his tenants pay no custom.
(25) Slk. 1807 Hogg Mountain Bard 146:
By Elliot basely was betray'd: And roundly has he paid the mail.

2. Fig. Duties, devoirs, services, compliments.Ork. 1713 in P. Ork. A.S. XI. 36:
My blising and mals to you and yours.

II. v. To rent, take (land) on lease. Most freq. in 1. agent ns. (1) mailander, malender, mellander, = (2). For form cf. followander s.v. Follow, v.; (2) mail(l)er, meal(l)er, one who rents land as a farmer (Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 197; Per. 1847 J. P. Lawson Bk. Perth 216); specif. a cotter, one who rents a rough piece of arable ground with a house attached and hires out his services to surrounding farmers. Hence mailer house; 2. vbl.n. mail(l)in(g), -en, m(e)(a)l(l)in(g), ma(e)lin, (1) a piece of arable ground held on lease by a mailer, a tenancy of land, a kind of smallholding; also used in a more gen. sense for a farm (Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; Bnff., w.Lth., Kcb. 1962) and fig; rarely, any property which is leased at a rent; ‡(2) the rent paid for such (Kcb. 1962).1. (1) Mry. 1714 W. Cramond Grant Court Bk. (1897) 22:
Ilk 1/18th part of land to pay 13s. 4d., and ilk mellander 6s. 8d. as a fund.
Bnff. 1752 V. Gaffney Lordship Strathavon (S.C.) 226:
He has some mailanders on the town that pay him nothing being near relations.
(2) Inv. 1746 More Culloden Papers (Warrand 1930) V. 213:
To a ewe taken from Margaret Macculoch a mailler of mine. . . . £0. 3. 4.
Abd. 1760 Invercauld Rec. (S.C.) 143:
He complained of a Tack, which had been lately granted to a Mailler or Cottar, of the Name of Calder, of an Opening, consisting of a very few Acres of Moor-ground, in the very Heart of his largest and best Fir-woods.
Rs. 1768 N. Macrae Romance Royal Burgh 226:
The Clerk instructed to write Mr McKenzie of Fairburn complaining of an Incroachment on the bounds of the Town's property by building a mailler house at the west end of Lochussie.
Mry. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 75:
This country abounds with mealers, or people who have houses but no farm. They have generally a few sheep, that are kept with their master's stock; and some are allowed grass for a cow or a horse.
Rs. 1873 Trans. Highl. Soc. 298:
At a later period, the mailers of Ross-shire, as described by Sir John Sinclair, were tradesmen who built their huts on the edge of a moor or common, and reclaimed an acre or two of land, sufficient to keep a cow and a horse, and for which they paid no rent during the first seven or ten years of the lease.
Sc. 1894 Liberal (1 Dec.) 69:
His farm stock was better cared for than those of any other mailer in Netherclugh.
2. (1)  Sc. 1705 Observator (11 June) 44:
Scotland only to be Outfield Ground belonging to the great Maillen of great Britain.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 116:
God help you to a Hutch, for you will never win to a Mealing. A disdainful Repartee of a Maid, to an unworthy Courtier; meaning that he may be content with a meaner Match.
Lnk. 1723 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 216:
They statute and ordain that all their tennants plant woods and trees and make hedges and sow broom, after the faculties of their maillings.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 84:
Ye saw yoursell how weel his mailin thrave, Ay better faugh'd an' snodit than the lave.
Ayr. 1790 Burns There's a youth iv.:
There's Meg wi' the mailen, that fain wad a haen him, And Susie, wha's daddie was laird of the Ha'.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie iv.:
At the distance of a mile from Stoneyholm lay the small estate of Woodside, a mailing, as it was called, with a house somewhat better than the common farm-steadings.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Siege Rxb. (1874) iv.:
We're but poor yeomen, an' haud our mailin for hard service.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet xx.:
I had twa or three bonnie bits of mailings amang the closes and wynds.
Bnff. 1853 Banffshire Jnl. (3 May):
He has gowd and siller plenty, Gweed kailyard and mailen dainty.
Fif. 1881 Recent Sc. Poets (Murdoch) 177:
A weel-plenished mailin', an' gowd, a' my ain.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xlvi.:
The farm sits four square on a knowe-tap, compact with office-houses and mailings.
ne.Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 20:
O, it's Willie's sae fair! they wad a' gledly tak him, The liefer because o' his mailin an' kye.
†(2) Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. i.:
To raise Our Mailens, when we pat on Sunday's Claiths.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 20:
Our house is happed, an' our mailen paid.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian viii.:
Let the creatures stay at a moderate mailing, and hae bite and soup.
Sc.(E) 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's 172:
She taks thocht o' an acre or twa, peys the mailin.

[O.Sc. male, 1386, maling, from 1390, = v. 2., from O.E. māl, O.N. mál, speech, agreement; O.N. máli, contract, stipulation.]

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"Mail n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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