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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 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 3 Jun 2023 <>



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