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

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First published 1951 (DOST Vol. II).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Fair, Fayr, Fare, a. Also: faire, fayre, far, fear. Comp. fairer(e, fayrer, -are, farer, -are, farrare. Superl. fairrest, fayrest(e, farest, -ast, farrest(e. [ME. fair(e, fayr(e, feire, early fæir, faiȝer, etc., OE. fæᵹer.]

1. Beautiful, handsome, of pleasing form or appearance: a. Of persons.(a) 1375 Barb. i. 381.
He wes nocht sa fayr, that we Suld spek gretly off his beaute
a1400 Leg. S. xviii. 793.
Thu art fayrer than sone or mone
c1420 Wynt. iv. 512.
The Qwenys swn … That yhong and avinnand was, and fayre
Ib. v. 1653.
This Philipe had a douchtyr fayre; etc.
a1500 Doug. K. Hart 933.
That fayr sweit thing, bening in everie bour
a1540 Freiris Berw. 133.
Turne agane I will To this fayr wyf
1596 Dalr. II. 22/30.
A woman beutiful and fayr
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxviii. 99.
Ȝet wes scho al-out fairare Thru treutht scho had in Cristis layre
1456 Hay I. 65/9.
Sampson the wicht, Absolon the faire
1461 Liber Plusc. 325.
Ipsa domina vocata est The Fair Madin of Niddisdale
a1500 Bk. Chess 1194.
I present ȝow thir childer fair & ȝung
c1500-c1512 Dunb. i. 7.
Ane fairer knycht … On ground may nother ryd nor gang
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 1053.
Fair ladyis thare chene may not eschape
c1590 J. Stewart 33/114.
As Jupiter fair Europa did tak Throch bullering strems
(c) a1400 Leg. S. xxv. 704.
A laydy far & auenand
Ib. xxvii. 59.
He saw angelis fare & brycht
c1420 Wynt. iii. 315.
Thare tyll a woman yhung and fare, He oysyd mekyll his repayre
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 19.
We ar … Farar be fer than ever wes Absalon
1533 Boece ii. iii. 61.
Fferleig … is ane plesand fare man
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlii. 2 (B).
Sen that I am a presoneir Till hir that farest is and best

b. Const. of (face, form, hue, etc.). a1400 Leg. S. xvii. 7.
Scho was far of fax and face
c1420 Wynt. iv. 207.
A knycht … Fayr off fassowne and fetys
Ib. v. 252.
Twelff maydynnys, yhong, … and fayre off hew
a1500 Henr. Orph. 72.
Of statur large, and frely fair of face
c1515 Asl. MS. I. 155/19.
Europia bringis furth … men strangar and farer of schap than Affrica
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 768.
Ane woman … Fairar of forme wes never none

c. Used in courteous or complimentary address. ?1438 Alex. ii. 2674.
Clarus said, ‘Fare, sueit cousing’
1456 Hay I. 223/2.
Than ansueris … the knycht sayand, Faire schir [etc.]
Ib. II. 9/18.
Then said the squyer, Faire fader [etc.]
c1475 Wall. v. 330.
Fayr deyme', he said
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xl. 11.
‘My fair, sweit cummer’, quod the tuder
a1500 Doug. K. Hart. 609.
Ȝe did greit mis, fayr Conscience

d. Of the face or limbs. 1375 Barb. x. 282.
With braid visage, plesand and fair
a1400 Leg. S. xxviii. 276.
Wikit men … with schorgis … Hvr far flesch raf
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xiii. 44.
Religious men … Cumis thair to wow and se fair facis
1513 Doug. iii. vii. 39.
Syk eyn had he, and syk fair handis tway
a1585 Maitl. Q. lxiv. 10.
Fair forme and face angelicall

e. Of animals: Beautiful in form or colour. 1375 Barb. xi. 518.
Men that wicht war … On fair courseris
c1420 Wynt. i. 218.
The brukyd bestys and the wayre He gert depart fra quhyt and fayre
a1500 Rauf C. 523.
Oft fair foullis ar fundin faynt
c1500 Fyve Bestis 60.
A cok The gudliest & farest of the floke
1531 Bell. Boece II. 298.
The farest hart that evir wes sene
1567 Bamff Chart. 70.
Ane fair hors with aparelling of sadill and bridell

2. a. Of inanimate things: Beautiful or fine in form, appearance, or make.(a) 1375 Barb. x. 199 (E).
He … a fothyr [of hay] in suld bryng, Fayrer and gretar … Than he broucht ony that ȝer befor
a1400 Leg. S. vi. 126.
A branche … Of a palme tre, … The fayreste ves euir sene thare
c1420 Wynt. ii. 1334.
Dedalus … maid twa Feytheramys fayre thare flycht to ta
Ib. v. 1303.
In Athenys he ordanyd hade Off fayre werk a gret lybrare
1513 Doug. ii. xi. 29.
A fayr bricht starn, rynnand with bemys cleir
1584 Gray Lett. & P. 4.
He hadd a very fayer cupboard of plate
1596 Dalr. I. 276/28.
Thay … erected a fayre stane brig
(b) a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii. 942.
Thai saw apere A knycht in armys faire and clere
c1420 Wynt. ix. 2203.
A faire brycht stern and a clere
1456 Hay II. 35/30.
Nocht be his harnais, … na othir faire habilliamentis
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 257.
The prent Of … fair or foule ymag[e]rie
a1500 Seven S. 302.
The pyne grewe fair at all devys
1513 Doug. ii. ix. 11.
Amyd the clos … Stude thar that tyme a mekil fair altare
c1550 Rolland C. Venus i. 113.
With iacinth fine and topazion sa fair
1582 Treas. Acc. MS. 42.
Tua stand chasmen of the fairest sort
(c) a1400 Leg. S. v. 604.
A ringe, Far, and worth mekil thinge
Ib. xii. 146.
He saw fare appolis in a ȝarde
c1420 Wynt. viii. 2042.
Thow suld noucht bere sa fare a knyff
c1460 Thewis Gud Women 10.
As farest ros takis sonest faidinge
1488 Treas. Acc. I. 80.
Four perlis and a fare ruby
1533 Gau 67/8.
As ane sterne is farer na ane oder in brichtnes
1535 Stewart 44440.
Ane sword wes send, nane farar on the mold
1600-1610 Melvill 418.
I … haid in my hand, a quare of peiper of calumnies, in fear wraitt

b. Of places, landscapes, buildings, etc.: Forming a beautiful scene or sight.(a) 1375 Barb. i. 286.
Hys land, that is fayr inewch, Thai the lord off Clyffurd gave
c1420 Wynt. i. 1338.
Quhare flowrys are fele on feldys fayre
Ib. iv. 1334.
A fayre cyte, nane till it lyk
?a1500 Steel Roy Robert 54.
Thocht Iohne Balȝoun maid ane band Contrair the richt of fayr Scotland
1513 Doug. iii. ii. 117.
We slyde throu fludis endlang feil costis fayr
1596 Dalr. I. 302/17.
Malcolme dedicatis the bischoprie of Murthlic to S. Moloch, agmenting it with mony fayre feildes
(b) 1375 Barb. xiv. 338.
In a richt fair place, that was Lawch by a brym
a1400 Leg. S. xl. 540.
A wel fair & fyne Of watere, clere as cristel
1456 Hay I. 64/21.
Thai … gert mak a toumbe … in the fairest place of Rome
c1450-2 Howlat 15.
Ane forest on fold, that farly was fair
Ib. 23.
Content of the fair firth
a1540 Freiris Berw. 20.
The castell is … Moist fair, most gudly, most plesand to be sene
a1578 Pitsc. I. 336/3.
Ane faire palice of greene tymmer
(c) a1400 Leg. S. xxvii. 527.
A fare sted … enhournyt with treis sere
c1400 Troy-bk. i. 257.
Fresche wellis fare & suet spryngande
1533 Boece i. iii. 37 b.
The realme was ane plesand thing & fare
Ib. vi. xii. 210.
It is haldin this is the samyn fare kirk ȝit standing in the convent ȝarde

c. Presenting a fine spectacle. 1375 Barb. xi. 528 (E).
Thai war the fayrest [C. farast] cumpany That men mycht find
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 24.
Ane fair battell on breid Merkit our ane fair meid

d. Plain, even; easy to traverse. a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 556.
Ane faire feild can thai fang, On stedis stalwart and strang
c1500 Fyves Bestis 210.
Ȝe haue bot nyne myle of the farest way

e. Clean; free from mud or filth. c1515 Asl. MS. I. 199/18.
He knelit down on his kne quhiddere the gait was faire or foule

3. Bright, clear; not dull or cloudy. a1400 Leg. S. ii. 273.
In the ayr Wes clernes sene grete and fare
c1420 Wynt. iv. 415.
At the evin … Men prysis ay the fayr day
?1438 Alex. ii. 31.
The lift he saw baith fare and pure
a1500 Rauf C. 289.
I se the firmament fair vpon ather syde
a1500 Seven S. 2040.
A farer nycht my self saw nane
a1500 Peblis to Play 51.
The wedder is fair and smolt
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 1018.
The morning wes sa fair
1597 Edinb. B. Rec. V. 200.
Upon Trinity Fair evin, gif it be ane fair day, and failyeing thairof the nixt fair wedders

b. Of daylight: Complete, ‘broad’. 1535 Stewart 21770.
Ilkone … stark watches maid that nicht, Quhill on the morne that it wes fair da licht
1553 Reg. Privy C. I. 148.
Upon fair day lycht, at x houris afore none
1560 Rolland S. Sages 1674.
On the morne ȝe may Do ȝour intent, quhen it is fair licht day

4. In various non-material applications as a term of commendation or approval: a. Of language or diction. 1375 Barb. xx. 412.
Quhen he to thame … Had maid ane fair amonestyng Till do weill
a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 496.
Scho gluterit hyme rycht ofte With wysing fare & wordis softe
c1420 Wynt. i. 490.
Quha lukys the Bybille … Off this may fynd a fayr story
Ib. iv. 3.
Fourme of dyte and fayre spekyng
1456 Hay II. 35/26.
Nocht in fair wordis, bot in worthy werkis
Ib. 154/25.
His fayre subtile langage
c1475 Wall. x. 131.
‘Be thé I tell a taill.’ ‘Say furth … off the farrest ye can’
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 111.
Fairar Inglis … and mair parfyte Than thou can blabbir
a1578 Pitsc. II. 19/3.
They gaif this ȝoung earle ffair defferent answeris

b. Of usual manners, general bearing, or personal qualities. 1375 Barb. i. 361.
He wes off full fayr effer, Wys, curtais, and deboner
a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 659.
Of fairere thewis … Na halyare mycht na man be
c1420 Wynt. iv. 1955.
Off fayre affere and thewys gud
Ib. ix. 2785.
Wertuous aporte, fare having
1456 Hay I. 299/27.
A king … suld be wis, faire and curageus
c1420 Ratis R. 534.
Off treuth the tothir qualytee I call baith gud and fair lawte
a1500 Henr. III. 103/25.
Hir hat suld be of fair having
(a1570-86 Dunb.) Maitl. F. lxix. 75.
The fair four vertewis cardinale

c. Of behaviour towards others. c1400 Troy-bk. ii. 2884.
His sone … Maid him richt faire cheire
c1420 Wynt. ii. 1000.
Quhen tyll hys gestis he maid gud chere, And welcummyd thame on fare manere
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. i. 435.
Sho … with dalyance sa fair Hir knicht him cleipis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlv. 3.
Luve … in quhais fair dissimvlance May none assure
a1500 Doug. K. Hart 305.
Fayr calling is grit garitour on hicht
1535 Stewart 21514.
Ressauyng thame … With fair calling and homelie cheresing
a1570-86 Maitl. F. cxxx. 73.
That fre anserit with fair afeir

d. In miscellaneous contexts. a1400 Leg. S. iv. 61.
At hym-self had sene hym do Myraculis fare
Ib. xxx. 157.
Fra he herde the karling mak Sa fare hicht, he can confort tak
c1420 Wynt. v. 933.
Off his brothyr the fayr fame Wes delete all halyly
?1438 Alex. ii. 1348.
Sa fare defence thare couth thay mak
1456 Hay I. 41/22.
Quhilk of thame that befell … the fairest aventure, he suld be king
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 460.
Faith has a fair name, bot falsheid faris bettir
a1500 Doug. K. Hart 341.
Sum farar way ȝe micht ȝour harmes wreik
a1598 Ferg. Prov. (1641) 7.
Freedome is a faire thing

e. Fairer, better, preferable, more honourable. The fairer, the best (of a fight). 1375 Barb. x. 78 (E).
Quhen thai … saw weill that thar enemys Had all the fayrer [E. farer] off the fycht
Ib. xvii. 837.
To se quhethir fayr [C. farar] war him till To ly about the toun … , Or than in England for to fayr
1405 James of Douglas Letter to Henry IV in Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 59.
It hade bene fayrar for him to haffe sende me that querell in to wryt
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 1035.
Me think farar to dee Than schamyt be
1535 Stewart 4517.
Far farar is ane thousand fald to de Or leif with thame in sic meseritie

5. Of encounters: Well fought; equal, even. c1420 Wynt. viii. 6586 (E.2).
Thair fell of weir ane fair poinȝe Betuix Frenche and Inglismen
1456 Hay I. 42/24.
Romulus discomfyte thame in fair felde with bataill
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2556.
Quhether call ȝe this fair play, or nocht?
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI 101.
Any of the horsemen … , or soldiors that war takin in the feyld at fayre weares
1621-40 Melville Commonpl. Bk. 19.
Its a fair foghin feild quhair nane escapis onkillit

6. Of wind: Favourable, following. Also of a good passage. 1513 Doug. iii. vii. 22.
This fair wynd blawing evyn befor
1587 Waus Corr. II. 396.
Ve … twik saill … vyth fayr vynd
1600-1610 Melvill 280.
We tuk the sie, and gat verie fear passage

7. Used absolutely: a. Fair words or treatment. a1400 Leg. S. xxxii. 416.
Bot scho ne wald consent thartil, For fayre na lath, gud na il

b. One who is fair; a woman. Usu. with that or my. c1420 Ratis R. 1290.
Thir women kind … spendis mekle gud in waist, To have loving of hir that faire
a1500 Henr. Orph. 172.
Len me thi licht … , To fynd the faire in fame that neuir was fyld
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxxix. 1.
Now fayre, fayrest off every fayre
a1570-86 Maitl. F. liv. 19.
Fair sweit wourdis he spak to that fair
Ib. 25.
My fair, quhair haue ȝe ee?

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"Fair adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



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