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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1937 (DOST Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Abill, Able, adj. Also: abil(e, abille, aibill; abyl, abyll(e; abell, abel, abl, eabell. Comp. abillar, abellar, ablar. Superl. abillist, ablist. [ME. abill, abyll, etc. (15th c.), able (14th c.), OF. able, L. habilis. The form with -ill is the most usual spelling. A frequent variant is Habill.]

1. Possessed of ability.c1420 Wynt. v. 1275 (awenand and abylle); vii. 1156 (abill, of gud condityowne). c1450-2 Howlat 229 (ane hospitular full able). c1460 Thewis Gud W. 226 (worthi wemen, wys and able). 1476 Peebles B. Rec. (the mast abyl chaplan). c1500-c1512 Dunb. vii. 4 (most anterous and abill); lxxvii. 12 (ȝoung, abill, and lustie). a1578 Pitsc. I. 98/6 (the abillist of the airmie). 1656 Conv. Burghs III. 422 (two abl and weall qualified men).

b. Possessed of means; well-off. 1567 G. Ball. 130.
Sa will the Lord mak the abill, And fill thy hous with honestie

2. Having ability or qualifications for, to, or unto some function, etc.c1475 Wall. iii. 217 (abill to wer). c1460 Thewis Wysmen 190 (able to clergy, craft, or lawbourage). c1515 Asl. MS. I. 190/18 (neuer able to ane crovne). c1500-c1512 Dunb. Th. & Rose 131 (able for the weiris). 1531 Bell. Boece I. 225 (abillar for the ministration of the realme). c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 894 (he to euery game was abill). 15.. Clar. iv. 2367 (heares abill unto the croune). c1550 Rolland C. Venus Prol. 191 (for sum craft not abill). 1596 Dalr. I. 145/24 (abiller to al auentouris).

3. Having ability or power to do something.(a) c1420 Wynt. v. 4209 (abyll till say his Mes). 1461 Liber Plusc. 387 (abille to depart resoun … ). a1500 Henr. Fab. 1711 (to resaif all seidis abill). c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 20 (abill remissioun for to get). 1533 Gau 48/14 (abil to prech the wangel). 1562 Inverness B. Rec. I. 73 (abellar to serue the Quenis leigis). a1578 Pitsc. I. 10/20 (abill to reule a regioun). 1634 Maxwell Mem. II. 252 (aibill to mak syrvice).(b) c1420 Ratis R. 20 (able to grow as tre). a1500 Seven S. 622 (able all craft to con). a1578 Pitsc. I. 316/1 (ablist to deliuer the king); II. 157/18 (ablar to defait ȝow). 1581 Acts III. 262/2 (maist able to succede to him). 1662 Conv. Burghs III. 557 (abl to briing n wynes).(c) 1614 Highland P. III. 169 (eabell to giue a reasoine). 1615 Melros P. 212 (not eabell to do any thing be land).

b. With ellipse of the verb. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 66.
Quhill thow art abill … , Repent thé
1567 G. Ball. 169.
Do all that thow art abill, ȝit thow art unproffitabill
a1568 Scott xxxiv. 40 (M).
Ȝe traist to find thame trew That never was able forrow

c. Ready, prepared; on the point of. c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxi. 51.
My lyf hes bene so miserabill, My hyd to offer I am abill
1513 Doug. ii. xii. 71.
Thai sa mony weir Of … ȝong pepil to pas in exile abill
1560 Rolland Seven S. 291/6.
Lodwik … To fall in swoun quhair that he stude was abil

d. Fit, deserving. 1560 Rolland Seven S. 40/22.
We think all verralie Ȝour present Sone war abill for to die

4. Of things: In fit, proper, or sound condition; capable of serving the desired or natural purpose.a1400 Leg. S. xxvii. 522 (to duel in gud & abile). c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 1576 (so awenand place & able). 1461 Liber Plusc. 384 (vyt and knawlige abille). c1475 Wall. vi. 10 (the abill grounde). 1513 Doug. ii. Prol. 10 gif my wit war abill). 1602 Conv. Burghs II. 142 (the schip … bett and maid abill agane).

b. Possible. 1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 121.
Utherwayis it wes nocht abyll to the Apostolis … to have perswadit the doctryne
1560 Rolland Seven S. 309/11.
It was ane seiknes vncurabill, And to remeid to mortall man not abill
a1605 Montg. Son. iii. 12.
Thou sees hou Satan shaips for to dissave, If it were able, euen thyn auin elect

5. Subject, liable, or likely to undergo something. Common in 16th c.) c1500-c1512 Dunb. xc. 61.
That man is abill to fall ane gret mischance
1531 Bell. Boece I. ii.
Becaus thay knew al pepil but successioun abill to perische
1558 Waus Corr. I. ii.
Our pape is rycht able to die, considering his aige and infirmite
1570 Leslie 38.
Gife he landit he was bill to lose his life
1587 Reg. Privy C. IV. 207.
Quhairthrow the same mercatt is able to decay
1614 Crim. Trials III. 303.
I beand aged and depauperat, able to die of hungar

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



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