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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MAISTER, n.1, v. Also mester, maester, measter (Sc. 1834 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) IV. 150). Gen.Sc. forms and usages of Eng. master. See P.L.D. § 48.1. (1). Derivs.: maistership, -skep, mastery, upper hand, control (s.Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 291; m.Lth. 1878 R. Cuddie Corstorphine Lyrics 16); maist(e)ry, mastery (Mry. 1898 J. Slater Seaside Idylls 93, Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 237), in prov. phr. maistry maws the meadows down, power and wealth can achieve much in a short time (Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 251). [′mestər, ′mɛs-]

Sc. forms of Eng. master.wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 4:
Ah cry it a dampt disgrace
That a naebody should tak the maister's place!
To breenge in here, a raggity bare-fit tink,
Wi' the bareface to tell us whit to think.
wm.Sc. 1989 Anna Blair The Goose Girl of Eriska 123:
She had also a wide, shy smile and no idea at all that she was beautiful ... 'a corn marigold' the mester had thought a time or two when he had turned sadly from looking at his own white, ailing wife.
Sc. 1999 Herald 6 Sep 21:
And the surprising thing is that the Maister, who is normally so canny with anything he buys and sells, has let some of it be uplifted by the merchants without having a clue what price he is going to get for it.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 9:
Kings an maisters syne will rise,
But haunless, wersh, their strenth bygane;
An aw thae fowk that they ruled ower
Will ken them nane.

Sc. usages:

1. As a title of dignity given to men in certain social positions or responsible employments, usu. with the def. art.: (i) to a landlord by a tenant (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1903 E.D.D.); (ii) to the man supervising the work in a room of a coal-mine.(i) Fif. 1761 Session Papers, Earl of Balcarres v. Scot (7 Dec.) 32:
The Master gives the Tenant in Steelbow the Fodder of 40 Bolls Oats, etc.
Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 17:
In harvest the farmer must, if a fair day offer, assist when called out in cutting down his landlord's (or as here termed his master's) crop, though he leave his own entirely neglected, and exposed to bad weather.
(ii) e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie 126:
Safely esconced in the “shearin'-nook” I found . . . a pick in good working order, just as it had been left, by the master of the room.

2. Usu. with def. art., a schoolmaster, esp. the only or principal teacher in a small rural community, the headmaster, the Dominie (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 336). Gen.Sc. Now only dial. in Eng.Lnk. 1838 J. Morrison McIlwham Papers 14:
He'll get the maister to men' the grammer i' the morn.
n.Sc. 1891 A. Gordon Carglen 165:
There is but one other garden to equal it in Carglen (let alone, of course, the minister's or the “maister's”).
Fif. 1895 S. Tytler Kincaid's Widow ii.:
The Maister, our dominie, a by-common, clever, learned man.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 8:
For the maister brunt the whistle that the wee herd made.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 69:
I was sent to be under “the Maister” at the public schule through the Gill.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 16:
He might hae been the maister at the schule
Heid stecht wi lear
His twa feet ticht in God's grat muckle boots.

3. In phr. Master of —, a courtesy title given to the heir-apparent to many Scottish viscounts or barons. The designation is that of the title to be inherited. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1738 J. Chamberlayne Present State Scot. 152:
The Eldest Sons of Viscounts and Lords are called Masters by their Father's Titles, as the Master of Stormont, the Master of Forbes, etc.
Sc. 1798 Monthly Mag. VI. 437:
The Viscount of Arbuthnott's eldest son is stiled Master of Arbuthnott. This, however, is getting into desuetude.
Sc. 1818 Scott Bride of Lamm. ix.:
The Master of Ravenswood led the way.
Sc. 1924 R. S. Rait Parliament Scot. 286:
Applied to the eldest sons of Scottish peers who were known as “Masters”, a courtesy description still in use where a Scottish peerage has no second title.
Sc. 1936 Sources Sc. Law (Stair Soc.) 433:
In the fifteenth century, probably the only certain index that a barony was of peerage quality is in this designation “Master” being applied to such a baron's heir. . . . Whilst the heir-apparent of a feudal baron is invariably styled “younger of”, the heir, whether apparent or presumptive, of an earl or peerage-lord is “Master”.
Sc. 1946 N. Tranter Man's Estate 10:
Viscount Thriepwood, whose own only son, the Master of Thriepwood, died in distressing circumstances.

4. = Eng. Mr. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. The reduced form mister, now in gen. use, is not native to Sc., though the abbreviated spelling is found in the 16th c. In Sc. usages applied: (1) to a Master of Arts of a University, and consequently to clergymen and schoolmasters who held that degree. The usage of Rev(erend) before a clergyman's name is an importation from Eng. in mid. 18th c.  See also Mes n.Sc. 1861 J. Brown Horae Subsecivae 272:
Mr Stuart called, and left a message that some gentleman wished to see him. The answer was that “Maister” Brown saw nobody before divine worship.
Abd. 1880 W. Robbie Yonderton iv.:
Maister Dronwearie was an auld man at that time.
Sc. 1903 J. H. Millar Liter. Hist. Scot. 163:
“Mr” . . . This, the technical designation of the Scots clergy, has, I fear, been almost wholly superseded by the commonplace and insipid “Reverend”, except, perhaps, in the official documents of the Church Courts.

(2) By a university teacher in formally designating a male student.Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes xxv.:
The professor left his chair, and Alec . . . swept the snow from the ceiling . . . “Thank you, Mr Forbes”, he stammered.
Abd. 1874 N. MacLean Northern University 142:
The professor, when he came to his name, would call it out slowly and then say, “I find, Mr Fender, there are four marks against your name”.
Ayr. 1901 G. Douglas Green Shutters xxiii.:
Ere the roar could swell, the lecturer had leapt to the front of the rostrum with flaming eyes, “Mr Gourlay”, he screamed furiously, “you there, sir; you will apologise humbly to me for this outrage”.
Sc. 1931 J. Bridie Anatomist 7:
Well, Mr Anderson, you tear yourself from your studies to sport with Amaryllis in the shade.
Abd. 1960 Abd. Univ. Review XXXVIII. 374:
Professor to one of his staff next day: “I am afraid I proved too much for Mr S — ”.

(3) As in Eng., in formal usage, to a man in any social class below the rank of knighthood; the designation “Mr.”Dmf. 1836 J. Mayne Siller Gun 140:
Syne, wi' the Deacons, scour'd awa, By Maister Wylie's.
Gsw. 1838 A. Rodger Poems & Songs 53:
Nainsel pe Maister Shon M'Nab.
Sc. 1893 Stevenson Catriona xvi.:
Maister Dauvit Balfour is informed a friend was speiring for him.
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. 162:
Ay, Sandy, an' they gya ye maister at the pairty.
Fif. 1900 S. Tytler Jean Keir xx.:
It's wha but Maister Lumsden that has been a' but killed, by a fa' o' stanes in the upper quarry.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (12 April) 4:
“Hout, man, hout” — interrupted the host — “Haud yer tongue. Nane o' your maisters. Gie me plain Andrie”.

5. Mastery.Rxb. 1783–1817 Memoirs of S. Sibbald (1926) 201:
Ye maun ha' a wee bit flighting noo and then, jist to show them [collies] ye ha' the master o'er them.

6. Phrs. and Combs.: (1) maister and mair, see Mair; (2) maister cupple, the roof-tree. See Couple; (3) maister graith, the chain which fastens the harrow to the yoke (Sc. 1808 Jam. s.v. Rigwiddie); (4) master household, (i) an official under the Steward of the royal household, now called, as in Eng., Master of the King's Household; (ii) the master of ceremonies at a wedding (Ork. 1962). See also Housal, n.; (5) maisterman, an employer of labour, used attrib., e.g. a maisterman tailyer (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); a foreman or overseer of labour (Ib.); †(6) master of craft, an inspector of the quality of work produced by members of a Trade Incorporation in a Scottish burgh; (7) master of mortifications, see Mortify; (8) master of wark, an official, gen. of a municipality, in charge of building operations. Cf. Eng. master of works. See Wark; (9) mester-pen, the largest wing-feather of a bird (Sh. 1962); one of the long feathers in a cock's tail (Ork. 1962). See also Pen; (10) master's timber, a sum of money payable by the tenant of a farm on timber provided by the proprietor for the purpose of building the farm house; (11) master-tree, the main swingle-tree or yoke immediately attached to the plough which has subsidiary trees attached to it enabling a number of animals to be yoked (Ork. 1814 J. Shirreff Agric. Ork. 51; I.Sc. 1866 Edm. Gl.); (12) maister wood, -wud, the principal beams of wood in a house roof (Cai. 1825 Jam., Cai. 1962) on which the burden of master's-timber was assessed. See (10); (13) maister-work, the work to be performed by a tenant farmer on the home farm of his landlord, as part of the rent of his own holding. See 1. (i).(2) Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 37:
Draw oot the maister-cupple, and doon the roof maun fa.
(4) (i) Sc. 1703 London Gaz. (13–17 May):
His Grace sat alone, and was served at Table by his Grace the Duke of Argyle, as Master Household, who gave the first Glass kneeling.
(ii) Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 120:
There was a master of ceremonies for the occasion [penny wedding], commonly some facetious tailor, who, under the name of Master Household, took care to see everything in good order, and every person properly accommodated.
Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 57:
At the door the people were welcomed by the bride's father, or by some highly respected elderly relation or neighbour, who for the time received the title of “mester-hoosal”.
(5) m.Lth. 1794 G. Robertson Har'st Rig (1801) 38:
How there was a great affray: Some master-man Was soundly swing'd.
Uls. a.1886 W. G. Lyttle Paddy McQuillan 28:
A saw the big fellow lauchin' when the mesterman ca'd me “gentleman”.
(6) Gsw. 1725 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1909) 240:
The said oversman after he is elected shall have liberty to make choice of two of their number to be his masters of craft.
(8) Sc. 1700 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 302:
William Barclay, master of wark, gave in ane supplicatione.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost ix.:
A scaffold was erected . . . by Thomas Gimblet, the Master-of-work.
(9) Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 8:
Or brukkled da mesterpen o di wing Whan du raise again wi sikkan a spring.
(10) Bnff. 1794 J. Donaldson Agric. Bnff. 21:
On the expiry of his lease, the houses were given over to the next entering tenant; he, on the one hand, receiving from his predecessor any such sum, as the persons mutually chosen had determined, as the extent of damage, which the timber had sustained during the former lease; and on the other, becoming bound to leave it at his removal equal in value to the original cost. By these means there is a certain extent, of what is here called masters's timber, on every farm in the country, which becomes a burden on the incoming tenant.
(11) Slg. 1843–5 Trans. Highl. Soc. 105:
The great master-tree, which is immediately yoked to the plough, and to this again is attached the greater and lesser main and common trees, by which ten or twelve horses may be yoked.
(12) Cai. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evid. III. 2362:
Should, as frequently happens, the landlord have wood in the roof — “master's wood”, as it is called — it must retain its value, however long the roof is maintained, which value is always a first charge on the sum at which the timber is appraised.
Cai. 1907 County of Cai. (Horne) 68:
The incoming tenant pays the amount of the “comprizement” except so much of it as may be “maister wud”, i.e. wood originally paid for by the proprietor.
(13) Cai. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 17:
These oppressive and impolitic services are here very properly called master-work, but they are rapidly wearing out; and it is to be hoped will soon be entirely abolished.

[O.Sc. master of werk, 1441, maister of the craft, 1473, master houshaldis, 1488, Master of —, 1489.]

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



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