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

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First published 1983 (DOST Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Pley, Ple(e, n. Also: pleye, plei(e; plie; play, pllay, plai-; plea, pleay; ply; Plew. [ME. and e.m.E. plai, play (c 1290), ple (c 1320), plee (c 1380), pley (c 1440), plea (a 1531), also plait, plaid (a 1250), pleet (c 1400), plete (1510–20), plur. also place (1463–4), OF. plai (c 1170), play law-suit, action, earlier plaid (842 in Strasbourg oath) agreement, decision, law-court, suit, etc., L. placitum that which pleases or is agreed upon, decision, decree, also in plur. (as placita habēre or tenēre) = assembly of state, subst. use of p.p. neut. of L. placēre to please. Cf. Plede n.] A plea, in various usual senses.There is possible ambiguity between senses 6 and 7.

1. An action at law (concerning, apon, of a crime specified, or thing in dispute); a law-suit; the presentation of an action in a court of law; litigation. Also transf.To move pley, to institute legal proceedings. See also Move v. 6.To obtene a pley, to gain the decision in a law-suit.In plur., ? sometimes with sing. sense; or ? perh. a coll. use of the plur. of 3 below.See also Lawpley n.(1) 1454 Douglas Chart. 384.
Gif … euir … ony stryfe pley questioun or demand be movit thar vpoun
1474 Reg. Morton II. 222.
I no nane wther … sal move no ger lat pley be movit
1475 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 453.
Or thai agane qhwom the pley hapinis to be movit
1495 Contract (Mey H.) MS. 13 June.
Neuer to … mow pley to the said Alexander
The said Alexander bindis … him … neuer … to mow pley of the said landis
1532 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 127.
Anentis thair ple movit betuex thaim
1538 Reg. Privy S. II. 402/2. 1543–4 Treas. Acc. VIII. 269.
In the pley and caus of divors movit betuyx his grace and his spous
1562 Dumfries B. Ct. fol. 126 b.
1565 Curle Coll. MS. (Reg. H.).
Occupijt the samyn befor peciable without ony trouble or plee movit
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 17.plur. 1527 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 89.
The pleys movit be Jhone Smaill and James Murray anent the said Johnnes hors and the said James kow
(2) sing. a1500 Henr. Fab. 1240 (Ch.).
Lowrence the actis and the proces wrait And thus the pley vnto the end thay speid
1496 Acta Conc. II. 7.
The costis [etc.] … sustenit in the persewt … of the sade pley
1498–9 Acta Conc. II. 323.
Tweching the debait pley and controversy depending betuex the sadis partiis apone the … possession of ane tenement of land
c1420 Bute MS. 70.
Gif ony war adiournat to a certan day & pley
1513 Doug. xii. xiv. 32.
A marche … Of twa feildis forto decern tharby The ald debait of pley or contrauersy
1515 Fife Sheriff Ct. 19 (see Decisioun n.). 1522–3 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 212.
And als gif ony pley sald happin to rys thairupoune for ony gudis tane [etc.]
1533 Ib. II. 63.
Gif ony personis … withhaldis the gudis … and sustenis pley thairintill [etc.]
1535 Stewart 13045.
For rycht thairof he raisit hes greit pley
1539 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 14 Apr. 1552–3 Lanark B. Rec. 23. 1564 Perth B. Ct. 57 (12 Apr.). c1575 Balfour Pract. 240 (see Ploy n.1 a). 1586 Reg. Privy C. IV. 107.
Having litle substance … [he] can hardlie entir ane langsum pley … or abyde the … determinatioun thairof
1591 Montg. Suppl. 309.
That all questioun and pley may be removit and takin away
1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Recordum.
Quhen ane pley or cause is advocate from ane inferiour judge to ane superiour
1600-1610 Melvill 5.
Be … dyvers actions of pley befor the Lords of Sessioun and Exchacker
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 13 (see Mute n. 2 b (1)). 1615 Highland P. III. 174 (see Actioun n. 1). 1680 Conv. Burghs IV. 19.
The Duke of Hamiltoun … commenced a litigious pley against the toun of Lithgow
1699 Foulis Acc. Bk. 268.(b) 1530 Soc. Ant. II. 398.
The sys delivers that Thom Synclar sall haif xx s. of the common guid to debait the pleye
1597 Skipper's Acc. (Morton) 18 b.
The friemoneye that leifes our the pleye
1640 Lithgow Poet. Remains 216.
The judge was pleader, he discuss'd the pleye
(c) 1525 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 78.
1527–8 Ib. 93.
The ple dependand betueix Thomas Ker and James Trumbull
1574–5 Haddington Treas. Acc. 6.
In defens of the ple betuix the toun and freir Allane
(d) 1531–2 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 53.
The exceptiones proponit … ar declinatouris quhilkis suld hef beyne proponit in the begynnyng of the play befoyr litis contestatione
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 46.
[He] socht to mak ane other change of court and set vp new play agane
(e) a1568 Bann. MS. 261 b/24.
Or ellis the ply will not be endit
1657 Glasgow B. Rec. II. 386.
Anent the charge given be Dumbartaine to the toune anent the old ply
(f) a1585 Maitl. Q. li. 9.
Thay rew To found ane plie [F. pleye] that euer thay pretendit
a1605 Montg. Son. xix. 2.
My Lords hou long will ȝe delay To put the poets pensione out of plie?
1584-9 Maxwall Commonpl. Bk. fol. a.
Pryde makis plie … Plie makis powertie
1694 Stirling B. Rec. II. 71.
The expenses of the said plie
(g) 1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. i. xxv. 3. (1699) 127.
The judge who judges unskilfully … is punishable by a fine beside that he pays the expences of the plea
plur. (a) 1483 Acts II. 166/1.
Be having of mone fnrth of the realme be prelatis … for promocions and pleis in the court of Rome
1493 Ib. 233/1 (see Persecutio(u)n(e n. 2 d). 1488 Rep. Sir Rob. Menzies MSS. 704.
In all … his actions caussis querellis and pleyis … lefull and honest
1498 Acta Conc. II. 189.
Considerand the pleyis had ymangis the sadis partiis in … Rome and in … Scotland
1505 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II. 404.
Decreit on the pleyis with the Laird of Inuerugy
1523 Carnwath Baron Ct. (S.H.S.) 22.
Anentis the pleis betuix hir & Elesabeth Levinston
1526–7 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 84.
For certane pleis betuex the saidis parteis
1529 Ib. MS. 140 a.
Procuratour and interlocutour for hyme in to his pleis
1535 Stewart 1372.
For to execute Iustice and law and pleyis for to mute
1540 Lynd. Sat. 2881 (Ch.). 1545 Prot. Bk. Hew Rig. 16 a.
He abstenes fra the said pleyis
1550 Cupar B. Rec. 3 Dec.
The … perfurnesing of certane pleyis concernyng the comone veil of the town
1545 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 116.
All maner of persouns that hes ony pleyis to persew or defend
1600-1610 Melvill 63.
The collage haid monie pleyes in law depending that yeir
a1650 Row 174 (W).
The Session charged with buying of pleyes [etc.]
(b) 1614 Misc. Abbotsf. C. 201.
By longsome pleas in law
1623 Ancram & Loth. Corr. I. 30.
Because I saw it was a sea of pleas
1691 Acts Sederunt ii. 192.]
[The ignorance and informallity of nottars which occasiones many pleas
(3) c 1500 Halyb. xxii.
Throw na galangȝe or yit haterand … I … sal continew thys pleye of curt and debait betuix [etc.]
1676 Old Ross-shire I. 300.
To enter in pleyes of lawe
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii. 92.
Pley … is criminall … Or civill … Generally criminall pleyes perteines to the justitiar
1628 Justiciary Cases I. 83.
As in the criminall ples daitit [etc.]
(4) 1503 Acts II. 245/1.
Ane breve of pley … for the eschewin of sic friuole exceptiouns
1600-1610 Melvill 5.
Actions of pley
(5) 1558 Admir. Ct. Bk. (St. S.) 84.
The said Patrik protestit for coistis … in cais he obtenit the pley
(6) 1585 Wemyss Chart. 216.
With all … expenssis of plei they sall happin sustein thairthrow
1596 Paisley B. Rec. 174.
In expenssis of pley in obtaining this decreit
1602 Inverness Rec. II. 2. 1612 Orkney & Shetl. Ct. Bk. (ed.) 57.
Four pundis money as for expenssis of pley
1678 Stitchill Baron Ct. 83.
The judge decerned in manner forsaid with 12 sh. of expenses of pley
1659 Writers Signet 283.
Creaving soumes of pley outt of the box for furnishng him with cloths
(7) a1500 Bk. Chess 1419.
Gret pleyis baith of lyf & land
1500 Acta Conc. II. 437.
That he requirit my Lord Chawmerlane til take the pley apone him of the lands [etc.]
1501 Treas. Acc. II. 117.
In Faukland at the pley of Glenbervy to ane notair for the taking of ane instrument
1520 Fife Sheriff Ct. 171.
The disputacioun of the richt of the pley of the landis of Petgorno betuix him & James Ramsay
1526 Carnwath Baron Ct. (S.H.S.) 56.
The pley betuix Thomas Ur & Jhon of Twodell of the birnyng of his hous
1539 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 199.
Remittis all clame and pley and rycht of mareage geyr … allegit aucht to hyme
1541 Treas. Acc. VII. 480.
For ourgeving of the pley of the vicarage of Panbryde
1562–3 St. A. Kirk S. 178.
Of the impediment and pleye of mariaige depending
1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Melletvm.(8) 1581–2 Misc. Stair Soc. I. 107.
The pretendit richt quhilk the … Erle of Huntlie pretendit to the saidis landis and thairby wald cummer him with pley

b. On pley, ? engaged in litigation. But perh. properly belonging to 2 or 3 below. 1505 Treas. Acc. III. 134.
To ane pur wedo … quhilk taryit heir lang on pley

c. A particular kind of legal action or proceeding. 1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 6, etc.
The mute or pley of breaking of the kings peace [etc.]
Ib. ii. 92.
Pleyes of the crowne are foure in number: murther, burning, reif, revising of women
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II. 10.
The pley about debts of laique men perteins to the kings court

d. transf. The cost of litigation. — a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 180 (Harl.).
Aduocatis … be thare practik the sentence sa resplatis Quhill that the pley oft pas the principall

2. In (in to) pley.

a. Of a person: To enter, also cum, fall, stand, etc., in pley, to engage in, or be engaged in, litigation.To have or hald (a person) in pley, to subject to litigation.To be in plie with (a thing), to be engaged in a law-suit about.To have (an action) in or into pley, to be engaged in litigation.(1) c1420 Wynt. viii. 346 (W).
Quhare thar cumis in pley twa men Askand the croune of a kinrik
1501 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 91.
Declarand … thai wald stand in pley with him thairinto bot in contentacioun
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. xiv. 12.
Fall nocht in plie for thing that lytill valis
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1190 (H).
It is richt perrillous Till enter in pley before ane iuge suspect
1491–2 Acta Conc. I. 222/2. 1520 Fife Sheriff Ct. 181.
Because thai … enterit in to pley be litiscontestacion maid ore [= before] that thai askit thar warandar
c1575 Balfour Pract. 333.
Ane minor may be compellit to enter in pley in ony actioun … concerning his heritage [etc.]
1600-1610 Melvill 351.
That sum ministers hes to enter in pley of law
1611 Reg. Panmure I. xxxvi.
He … vald rather suffer los of gudis then enter in pley withe his nychtbouris
(2) 1540 Edinb. Chart. 212.
And thairfor hes the said provest … in pley before the Lordis of Counsale
1560 Cal. Sc. P. I. 561.
[Merchants] being of lang tyme haldyn in pley [for recovery of their ship]
(3) 1564–75 Hamilton & Campsie Test. I. 45.
Ten bollis of meill that I and my sone wes in plie with
(4) c1500-c1512 Dunb. xliii. 26.
Gif ȝe haif pleid Or mater in to pley
1565 Instit. Ct. Sess. 4 a.
Quha hes thair causis actuale in pley

b. Of the thing in dispute: To be in pley, to be the subject of litigation. 1479 Acta Conc. I. 34/1.
Quhilk benefice … is in pley and debate betuix Sir Dauid … and Sir George & as ȝit vndecidit
1490–1 Dundee B. Ct. I. 166 b (14 Jan.).
Of the poyk of maddyr that wes in pley
1503 Ch. in Orkney 309.
And sa thair is in pley … bot 7 sts. allannerlie
1521 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 61.
This gud in pleye betuix [etc.]
1531 Bell. Boece I. 12.
Als oft as the croun of Pichtis come in pley
1535 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 163.
The tenement of Peter Portuis in ple be the ayris of Jhone Brydin
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun 18.
Quhen the crowne was desolat and in pley betuix the Bruce and the Balioll
1596 Dalr. II. 65/32. 1622-6 Bisset I. 291/13.
The landis that ar in pley

c. Of an action at law: To depend in pley, to be pending. — 1555 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 223.
The act … twicheing thair actionis dependand in pley

3. A pleading; a plea by or on behalf of a litigant; an allegation (of wrong-doing), made formally to a law-court; a statement in answer to or in rebuttal of an allegation.To mak pley, to plead.Also, spec., the pleading of an ecclesiastical case at Rome.See also the note to 1 above.(1) a1500 Henr. Fab. 1177 (Ch.).
As aduocatis … The doggis pley [Bann. ply] … tuke on hand
Ib. 2309 (Ch.).
Baith proponit thair pley to him compleit
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 180 (Harl.).
Aduocatis … be thare practik the sentence sa resplatis Quhill that the pley oft pas the principall
1556 Facs. Nat. MSS. III. xxviii.
In the begyning of hir pley thair wes ane exceptioun producit befoir yow
a1568 Bann. MS. 144 b/30.
Is nane so wyis can him defar Quhen he proponis furth ane ple
Ib. 239 a/8.
Gif ȝe … with ane ney me quyt … It is ȝour pley perfyte
c1575 Balfour Pract. 275.
Suppois he mak not gude record of ony pley or clame proponit be ony partie in court
1634 Cochran-Patrick Coinage I. xxxvi.
In all pleyis and complaintis quhilk concernis thame
1500 Acta Conc. II. 429.
In the defence of the pley of bastardry proponit aganis him
(b) a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 42.
Obey and ceis the play that thow pretendis
1533 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 97.
He is contentit to ansuer … be ane summondis or ane sempill bill and the saidis persones plais
(2) 1442 (1444) Reg. Great S. 64/1.
To aganecall revok or to mak pley agane thir oure condiciones
1510 Reg. Privy S. I. 317/1.
The tedious and costly pleyis that has bene maid anent the rycht of the said abbay
1537 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. V. 22.
I … never herd pleye of na man quhill … Maitland off Leidinton … maikis a pleye
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 5532.
Sum afore iugis makand pley
1566 Prot. Bk. J. Scott 42.
For expens of play maid be the said … principall

b. ? The right to object or appeal. — 1490 Fam. Rose 153.
That the said Huchone haue nother ple na tarie jn the forsaidis sommys

4. But (without) (ony) pley, without litigation or objection; not liable to plea or counter-plea. b. Also, in weakened sense: Indisputably.Cf. 1 and 3 above. 1463 Lennox Mun. 148.
Thir landis … witht thar pertinentis fre but ple
1478 Peebles B. Rec. I. 183 (see Demand n. 2). 1481 Ib. 189 (see Adversité n. 2). 1486 Oliphants 26.
But ony ple, stop or impediment of me and all otheris
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 676.
Submittand me but ony langer pley Venus' … plesure to obey
1515 Douglas Corr. 68.
Promovyt to that seyt quhilk now is vacand and but pley and ane gud byschepry of [? rent]
1526 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 81.
The said Jhone sal be enterit without ple and alligatioun quhatsumever
1531 Bell. Boece I. 33.
The Kingis son sal succeid to the crown but pley
1535 Stewart 1314. Ib. 44816 (see Plede n. 1 (2)).
All the land … Ay for till bruke but contrapleid or pley
1536 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 20. 1554–5 Stirling B. Rec. I. 62.
That he may bruik the samyn [sc. his property] peceablie without pley
1596 Bk. Dunvegan I. 72.
And dimitt the same [lands] frelie … withoute onye controversie or pley of the lawis
1602 Dundee Shipping P. 74.
The quhilk he meicht hawe haid first withowt pllay
b. a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 456 (Harl.).
Presumpcioun rysis off the auld serpentyne Quhilk is but pley ane periious pestilence

5. Contention, strife. b. An instance of this; a quarrel or squabble; a breach of the peace; open conflict, brawl.See also Controversy n., Cummer n.; etc.(1) 1514–5 Fife Sheriff Ct. 9.
Because it wes impetrat … for inamite pley & discord betuix thame of heretaige
1531 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 55.
For stancheing of pley betuix the fermoraris and baxsteris
1535 Stewart 24142. Ib. 457.
The Scottis then and the Pechtis … war withoutin pley or pleid Haiffand na dreid of ony Britis feid
1546–7 Perth Hammermen 59.
That quhat servand or prenteis … that makis ony pley amangis them [etc.]
1551 Hamilton Cat. 106.
Nocht to raise pley nor to do uther men skaith
1566 Old Ross-shire I. 15.
For eschewing of cummers, extinctioun of pley, amitie and concord to be had betwix thame in tyme cuming
1595 Cal. Sc. P. XII. 78.
[Ministers of each presbytery to] compone the grunds of pley
1600 Crim. Trials II. 206.
That thair was ane tumult of pley at the Erle of Gowryis ludgeing
(b) c1578 Reid Swire 153.
Who did invent that day of play We need not fear to find him soon
(c) 1596 Dalr. II. 442/5.
Nouther suirlie euir … [was] fund onie plie or dissentioune betuene her and her nobelis
(2) 1535 Stewart 31669.
He said agane, ‘Quhat makis that to thé?’ And suddantlie thai fell into ane pley
Ib. 40186.
Than suddantlie thair wald ryiss sic ane pley That [etc.]
1593 Bk. Univ. Kirk III. 815.
Quher ony pley or contraversie arrysis betuix tua of … diuerse Presbitereis
1612 Prot. Bk. W. Leslie 23 b.
Anent the … mitilitatione [sic] of the said James Ogilvie of tua of his fingeris … done in redding ane pley
1632 Brechin Kirk S. 7 Aug.
Iff he make any pley or tuillie within the bounds of Brechin
c1650 Spalding I. 297.
By ane pley fell out betuixt sum soldiouris and Alexr Merser
1658 Dumfries Kirk S. 13 May.
Charged with … drunkennes … and that he maid a tumult and pley as he was going home
1668 Cramond Ch. Deskford 25 Sept.
By reason off ane scandalous pley & horrid murther had fallen out among his people
1673 Kirkintilloch B. Ct. 50.
All the foirnamed pairties wes provine in a mutuall pley
(b) 1524–5 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 74.
Depones that he hard Thome Keyne and James Marityne at ane plee for that hyd
(c) 1643 Baillie II. 88.
In a drunken plie
(d) 1654 Cullen Kirk S. 19 Feb.
That Jhone Phaine … made ane plea upon the saboth
(3) 15[31] Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 113.
And thai pleit about the geir and I left thaim sa wyth the ple
1531 Bell. Boece (M) II. 355.
Ane of thir clannis wantit ane man to perfurneis furth the pleye
Id. Livy I. 54/5.
Ane resonabill way was found … to discus this pley
1563–4 Inverness Rec. I. 112.
Quhilk was the ground of all the haill pley
a1578 Pitsc. I. 350/17.
It is heir that makis all this ple and commer in the hollie kirk
1603 Philotus cxxxv.
It cummis to cuffis the man Ile end the play that thow began
1638 Baillie I. 63. 1668 Justiciary Ct. Rec. I. 276.
The pley was so mixed that it was hard to judge who was the provoker
1671 Rothesay B. Rec. 217.
That the first aryse of the pley … was of sume speiches past betuix thame
1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. i. xi. 12. (1699) 64.
When the murder was … committed in … tuilȝie the author of the pley is … punishable by death
(b) 1619 Symson in Sel. Biog. I. 77.
He … going betwixt them … frayed the plea
(4) 1513 Doug. iii. iii. 77.
Lat ws obey Phebus and wend awa … but pleys
1533 Gau 15/27.
Thay that wil notht agre … and stop striff pleis and crabitnes … sine aganis this command
1551 Hamilton Cat. 270.
Delivir us fra all dangears … of … seditioun and battel of pleyis and cummar
1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Sequester, a reddar of plaies
1596 Dalr. II. 445/30.
Tha … plyes monie had slokned
1649 Conv. Burghs III. 348.
For the … avoyding the many questiones pleaes and abusses and dissorderis … at thair staple port
1679 Kirkintilloch B. Ct. 100.

6. A verbal dispute; a controversy; an argument or debate. 1562-3 Winȝet II. 8/6.
Without al dout sa doing thai had win the cause and al our pley hald an end
1558-66 Knox I. 265.
Long have ye and I bein in pley for purgatory
1606 Birnie Kirk-b. xiii.
If any historie … did euer mention buriall at altar or tabernacle … I will giue ouer the pleay
1699 Conv. Burghs IV. 294.
That not soe much as the seed of pley may remain to foster keep up or maintain the seed of stryff

7. proverb. in sense 1. a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 660.
Na plie is best
a1598 Ferg. Prov. MS. No. 966.
Let alon your bauch pleyes
Ib. No. 1304.
The les pley the better

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



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