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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.

MES, n. Also mess; mas(s). Abbreviated forms of Maister, n., 4. (1), applied to a Master of Arts of a University, specif. to a clergyman holding that degree. [The word was unstressed, the emphasis being placed on the personal name following, hence məs′, mɪs′. Cf. J. Black Falls of Clyde 239.]Abd. 1759 F. Douglas Rural Love 8:
Mess James affronted, drew his pass. And swore the carl was an ass.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 20:
At last Mess John Hill hears of the horrid action, and sends the elder . . . to summon Jockey and Jenny to the session.
Sc. 1800 A. Carlyle Autobiography (1860) 22:
They took along with them a Mess John Allan, a minister who lay in their route.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel vii.:
I ken no spirit that would have faced the right down hammer-blow of Mess John Knox. . . . But yon divine has another airt from powerful Master Rollock, and Mess David Black, of North Leith, and sic like.
Sc. 1852 N. & Q. (Ser. 1) V. 322:
Cameronian preachers were so styled, . . . as Mas David Williamson, Mas John King.
Gall. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer 117:
Never a chiel has been fit to be the minister o' Balmaghie since auld Mess Hairry died!

Comb. Mes John, used generically and freq. jocularly of a Presbyterian minister. Erron. in a.1779 quot. applied to a Roman Catholic priest through confusion with Mess, n.Sc. 1702 Familie of Innes (S.C.) 190:
If you bring Mes-John with you to be fool in the familie.
Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 9:
This winsome couple straked hands, Mess John ty'd up the marriage bands.
Sc. 1746 Culloden Papers (Warrand 1930) IV. 36:
The Church of Scotland as they call it that is the Mess Johns.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 193:
Nae dominie, or wise mess John, Was better lear'd in Solomon.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 134:
They were braw markets on the Sundays i' the time o' Paepery. We had nae ministers than but priests, Mess Johns, Black Friers and White Friers.
Slk. 1820 Hogg Bridal of Polmood x.:
The king answered, “That he was only warning Mess John and the weddingers to be ready to receive them.”
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals i.:
The bairns, when they saw me coming, ran crying to their mothers, “Here's the feckless Mess-John”.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Wigtown 347:
The would-be Benedict went to Mess John to acquaint him with his matrimonial intentions.
e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 108:
Up the poopit stairs the vratch did slink: The door was open, “Mess John” waitin'.

[Eng. has Mas in sim. senses from 1575.]

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"Mes n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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