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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Beltane, n. Also: Beltan, -ain(e, -ayne, -ene, -ein, -en, -yn, Beiltyne. See also Beltyme. [Gael. bealltainn, -tuinn, Ir. bealltaine, OIr. belltaine, beltene, -tine, of obscure origin.]

1. The first or third day of May.Clearly identified with May 1 only in quot. 1511. 1424 Acts II. 6/1.
Quhar it beis tayntyt that … the birdis be flowin and the nestis be fundyn in the treis at beltane
1484 Acta Aud. 134*/2.
Vmfra sall deliuer & pay to the said Johne ix tidy ky … at beltan nixt tocum
1511 Lennox Mun. 191.
The fest of Beltene, callit Philip and Iacob
1535 Stewart 10426.
About Beltane quhen grene leuis began To spring and spreid
a1500 Peblis to Play i.
At beltane quhen ilk bodie bownis To Peblis to the play
1559 Prestwick B. Rec. 10.
The town & fredom to be red betuix and beltane next to com
1571 Lanark B. Rec. 64.
Betuex Beltan and Sant James day
1581 Ib. 81.
Befoir Beltein las[t] wes … the said Hew pindit my kow
1594 Paisley B. Rec. 158.
Ane yow scheip put to him … with uther scheip at Beltane wes ane yeir
a1598 Ferg. Prov. 112.
Ye will get war bods or Belten
1615 Highland P. III. 195.
Aucht dayis befoir beltane last
1677 Corshill Baron-Ct. 140.
For awaytakeing of ane foredoor frae the house … at beltane last

b. Identified with the church-festival of the Invention of the Cross, May 3.Frequent in documents of the 16th century. 1456 5th Rep. Hist. MSS. App. 625/1.
Gilbert the Haia … is nocht yheit of lauchfull age, bot he sall be … at the fest of the Inuencion of the Halicroice, callit Beltane
1489 Acta Aud. 142/1.
The … arbitouris sall … deliuer on the samyn [matter] betuix this and the fest of the cors callit beltane nixt to cum
1509 Reg. Privy S. I. 285/1.
The entre of the said David beginnand at the fest of S. Elene callit Beltane
1539 Reg. Cupar A. II. 5.
For … nynetene ȝeris, nixt and immediatlye following the termes of Beltane, the Inventioun of the Haly Croce, and Lames callit ad vincula Sancti Petri
1551 Prot. Bk. W. Corbet 16.
Sanct Helyn daye callit belten or the inuentione of the hali cros
1588 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II. 349.
Quhilk entres in and to the vicarage … began at the Feist of Rudeday callit the Inventioun of the Cross alias Beltyn

c. Mentioned as a term-day or quarter-day without exact specification of date.Examples belonging to the previous section indicate May 3 as the usual date. When mentioned with other terms or quarterdays, Beltane takes the place of Whitsunday, but there is no evidence that it was actually identical with this. 1456 Peebles B. Rec. 113.
Thom Fyldar … sal pay for his fredome x s. at thwa termis, that is to say Beltain the ta half and Bartylmes the tothir half
1457 Ib. 125.
Willi Red … sal pay … at Beltan v s. and at Mechelmes other v s.
1508 Glasgow Dioc. Reg. II. 271.
Removere se et sua inter hinc et proximum vsualem terminum, viz. le Beltan, de dictis terris
1541 Crim. Trials I. i. 257.
Payand ȝerlie thre thovsand merkis, at Beltane and Lammes, be equal portionis
1562 Bk. Univ. Kirk I. 27.
The entrie of these [ministers, etc.] that ar presented, to be at Allhallowmes, Lambmes, Candlemes or Beltan
1582 Conv. Burghs I. 160.
Att four termes in the ȝeir, viz. Alhalowmes, Candilmes, Beltan, and Lambmes
1604 Liber Dryburgh 320.
Payand … four bollis beir … at Candilmes and Beltane
1659 Irvine Mun. II. 83.
To be payit … at Candilmes, Beltan, Lambmes, and Allhallowday proportionalie
1670 Glasgow Weavers 80.
Item for quarter comptis at Beltane

2. pl. (See quotation.) 1721 Kelly Proverbs 376.
You have Skill of Man and Beast, you was born between the Beltans [note. The first and eighth of May]

3. Attrib. with buke, compt, court, day, fair(-day).Beltane buke, a book of accounts in which the reckoning was made at Beltane in each year. 1575 Edinb. Test. III. 257 b.
As to my movabill gudis & geir … I refer to my beltane buke
1593 Ib. XXVI. 29.
He referris the inventar of his guidis & geir to his beltane buikis
1605 Ib. XL. 278.
My guidis & geir … according to my beltane & compt buik
1542 Treas. Acc. VIII. 91.
Remanyng upone the clipping of the scheip, and making of the beltane compts thairof
1457 Exch. R. VI. 372.
Pro expensis domini cancellarii ibidem [sc. apud Newuarche] existentis in curia que vocatur Beltanecourt
1481 Ib. IX. 134.
Exitus unius curie dicte Beltanecourt
1531 Bell. Boece II. 499.
On Beltane Day, in the yeir nixt following, callit the Inventioun of the Haly Croce
1616 Orkney & Zetl. Sheriff Ct. 73.
On beltane day last
1641 Acts V. 500/2.
The thrid day of Maij callit Beltane day
1656 Peebles B. Rec. II. 34.
The fair day commonlie called Beltane day, falles this year upon the Satterday
1624 Peebles B. Rec. I. 364.
To attend the magistrattis. . at the tyme of the Beltane fair and hors race vpone the morne thairefter
1656 Ib. II. 34.
The said fair called Beltane fair-day shalbe kept … this year upon the first Weddensday of Maii
1696 Ib. 154.

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"Beltane n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Dec 2022 <>



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