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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WRITER, n. Also Sc. forms wryther, writter (Per. 1736 J. Meikle Hist. Alyth Ch. (1933) 177; Abd. 1852 A. Robb Poems 53), wreeter, wreater; werit(t)er (Ork. 1713 P. Ork. A.S. XI. 36); werraeter (Ags. 1853 W. Blair Aberbrothock 9); vriter (m.Lth. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 37), vrater (Slg. 1862 W. Drysdale Old Stirling 248), vreeter (Abd. 1922 Weekly Free Press (11 Feb.) 2). [′rəitər; Abd. †′vritər, Ags. ‡retər] Sc. usage: a lawyer, notary, solicitor, attorney (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 224, 1808 Jam., ‡1946 A. D. Gibb Law Terms 95). Now obs. or arch. exc. in phr. below. Also attrib. as in writer-body, -chiel, -lad, -words (Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xviii.).Lnk. 1707 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 1:
The rollis being called be James Carmichaell, wrytter in Lanark.
Sc. 1717 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 20:
The Writer Lads fow wel may mind her.
Ayr. 1785 Burns To W. Simpson iii.:
Fergusson, the writer-chiel.
Bwk. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 III. 118:
There are very few law-pleas or disputes in this parish, because we have only one writer.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxii.:
Ane o' thae writer chields that buys a' thing.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption xxviii.:
Ane o' them cam' in the forenoon wi' a writer body they ca' McCheatrie.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xvii.:
His man o' business in St Andrews, a wreater o' the name o' Penman.
Crm. 1869 H. Miller Tales and Sk. 229:
He was a toun writer, an' had made a sort o' living, afore he got the factorship, just as toun writers do in ordinar'.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxvi.:
“Did you ever hear of Mr Rankeillor of the Ferry?” “Rankeillor the writer?”
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs of Angus 17:
Said Jeemsie, “Cousins, gie's a pen, Awa' an' bring the writer ben.”

Phr. writer to the Signet (formally abbreviated to W.S.), a member of a society of law agents in Edinburgh, orig. clerks to the Secretary of State, who have the exclusive privilege of signing all signet writs and drawing up crown writs. See further under Signet.Sc. 1702 T. Morer Account Scot. 148:
To His Majesty's Wreaters . . £50.
Sc. 1707 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 405:
Robert Campbell, writer to the signet, the touns agent.
Sc. 1734 J. Spotiswood Hope's Practicks 286:
All Precepts directed to the Keeper of the Privy-seal, all these being written by Direction of a Writer to the Signet (called Clerks to the Signet).
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xcviii.:
An Embrough Writer to the Signet.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 168:
The duty of the clerks, or writers to the signet, now is, to prepare the warrants of all charters of lands flowing from the Crown; to sign all summonses for citing parties to appear in the Court of Session; and almost all diligences of the law for affecting the person or estate of a debtor, or for compelling implement of the decrees of the Supreme Court. The writers to the Signet have the further privilege of acting as agents or attorneys in conducting causes before the Court of Session.
Sc. 1890 Hist. Society W.S. xxxix.:
Sir Walter Scott, who was the son of a writer to the signet, and himself an apprentice.
Sc. 1930 Encycl. Laws Scot. IX. 46:
The Writers to the Signet have formed the principal and most numerous body of solicitors in Scotland, and have held the highest rank in the profession.
Sc. 1966 A. J. Youngson Making of Classical Edb. xv.:
Writer to the Signet was originally in the fifteenth century a Clerk in the Office of the Secretary of State who was the Keeper of the King's Seal or Signet. Writers to the Signet became members of the College of Justice and by 1600 a Society had been formed of those few Writers who received Commission from the Royal Secretary and who combined Government Service with private clerical and legal practice.

[O.Sc. writar to the Singnet, 1488, writtar, an attorney, 1540, orig. from his duties as a scrivener or notary.]

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"Writer n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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