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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

RATT, n. Also rat; rot. A file of soldiers, a company; in hist. phr. the Town Rat(t)s, the name given to the soldiers of the City Guard in Edinburgh (Edb. 1808 Jam.). See also s.v. Ratton.Sc. 1821 Blackwood's Mag. (Oct.) 306:
The Lord Provost presided, a band of music attended and the worthy town-rots (soldiers of the City-Guard) attended outside the door, and at every toast fired a volley.
Edb. 1825 R. Chambers Traditions II. 151:
The Town Rats, who might peep forth like old cautious snails, on hearing his drum, would draw in their horns with a Gaelic execration, and shut their door as he approached.
Sc. 1859 J. Maidment Sc. Ballads 220:
A party of the City Guard, commonly called the Town Rats, accompanied the Magistrates when they went to proclaim the Fair.

[O.Sc. rate, 1640, ratt, 1646, id., a variant of rot, 1637, prob. ad. Du. rot, from O.Fr. rot(t)e, route, a band or troop, Eng. rout. No doubt the word was later thought of as an opprobrious use of rat, the animal.]

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"Ratt n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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