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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Miserabil(l, -able, a. Also: -abile, -abyll, -abell, misarable, myser(r)abill, -able; mes(s)erabill, meserable; measerabill; meiserable. [e.m.E. myserable (Caxton), miserable, -abil, F. misérable, L. miserābilis pitiable.]

1. Of persons: Wretchedly unhappy in condition or feeling; wretched, pitiable; full of misery, sorrowful.(a) 1461 Liber Plusc. I. 384.
And thou will seik to thi saluacioun, Have mynd of miserabile humanite
1513 Doug. ii. x. 167.
As maste wrachit and miserabil catyve Ded I desyrit
1531 Bell. Boece I. 66.
The miserabill moderis and wiffis, knawing thair husbandis and sonnis perist in the sees
1533 Boece viii. xiv. 283.
Myserabill ȝoldin creaturis
a1538 Abell 124 b.
This miserabill man … wes heltirt be the fend his maistir
Arundel MS. 252/404.
I, peruert and misarable synnar
Ib. 281/87.
O Mary … patroun of myserrabill creatouris
1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 345. 1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 152.
The miserable ignorant sterit up in authoritie
1562-3 Winȝet II. 67/3. Ib. I. 50/16.
Quhat sal He do to sillie miserable men?
1567 Sat. P. iv. 50.
Miserabill man and prince infortunat
a1578 Pitsc. I. 104/14.
Clad as he had bene ane miserabill catiue
1599 Rollock Wks. I. 404.
Quha being miserabill hes mister of mercie and craves pitie
Ib. 437. 1629 Justiciary Cases I. 115. 1637 Dumbarton B. Rec. 53. 1676 Douglas Corr. 277.
It is in your power, my dear lord, to make me happie or miserabell
(b) a1578 Pitsc. I. 108/16.
Bot fy on me maist messerabill and wnworthe creatur

2. Wretchedly poor, needy, poverty-stricken.(a) 1456 Hay II. 50/25.
A protectour and ane advocate of all pore, miserable and peceable personis
1565 Instit. Ct. Sess. 27 a.
Widowis, pupillis or siclyke pure or miserable persones
1585 Reg. Privy C. III. 747. 1586 Grey Friars II. 122.
To support him in his miserabill and aigit dayis
1596 Dalr. I. 208/36. 1610 Laing MSS. I. 118.
If ony sic case fall out quhairin the person is miserabill or the debtis desperat
1623 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 211.
Quhairby the haill tennentis salbe maid beggeris and the nobilmen and barronnies become miserabill
1661 Reg. Privy S. 3 Ser. I. 652.
By the decaying of the Lambmes drave … the said brugh of Anstruther Eister … is become verie miserable
1675 Rothesay B. Rec. 340.(b) 1540 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 104.
Ane multitude of vyle vnhonest and meserable creatouris
1623 Aberd. Council Lett. I. 210.
Lykewayes we sal become measerabill for the want of ther forren commodities
1672 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 144.
[They] hes reduced your lordships petitioners lamentably meiserable

3. Pitiably unworthy, contemptible, despicable, worthless, ‘sorry’. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 17/21.
Jhesus … has … cled him with oure miserabile nature
c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxiii. 37.
Ane vthir sort, more miserabill, Thocht thai be nocht sa profitable. Fenȝeouris, fleichouris and flatteraris [etc.]
c1552 Lynd. Mon. i.
Thov lytil quair of mater miserabyll
1561 Q. Kennedy Compend. Ressonyng (ed.) 174/11.
Sum miserable peple, blindit in ignorance, … quhilkis mwrmwris aganis the mes

4. Fraught with or causing misery; lamentable, deplorable; pitiable, pitiful; unhappy, wretched.(a) c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxi. 50.
My lyf hes bene so miserable
1513 Doug. ii. vii. 86.
A miserabil slauchtir thar begouth that nycht
Ib. ix. viii. 26.
A miserabil [Sm. myserable] syght, allace
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Rom. vii. 24 (marg.).
Synn is callit heir the miserabile trawell and laubour in feithting with synn
1531 Bell. Boece I. 45.
Becaus thay saw the maist vailyeant campionis fall to be devorit in this miserabill wise
1533 Boece i. vi. 45.
Ane myserabill and sare bargane
1549 Compl. 35/7.
As this miserabil sensual lyif var perpetual
Ib. 71/13.
Quhen ane person … dechays in miserabil aduersite
1551 Hamilton Cat. 25.
Your awne miserabil state
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 240.
This murnyng mater, mad and miserabyll
Ib. 3625.
Ib. 377, 1259. a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 126/14.
In thir miserabil days
1560 Rolland Seven S. 1238.
Fy on thé, lust insaciabill. Fy on thy myrth maist miserabill
1568 Hosack Mary Q. of Scots 527.
A strait and miserable ward to ane personage of his byrth
1568 Lyndesay Pref. 3. 1563-72 Ferg. Tracts 74. a1578 Pitsc. I. 19/7. 1599 Rollock Wks. I. 438.(b) a1578 Pitsc. I. 108/25.
O meserabill chance to be lamentit

b. Expressing misery or lamentation. 1513 Doug. xi. v. 19.
With gowlyng and with vocis myserabill

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"Miserabil adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Sep 2023 <>



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