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

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Policie, -icy, -ecie, n. Also: poll- and -ici, -icé, -ic(e)y(e, -isy, -isé, -yci(e, -ycy, -ycé, -ysie; -ecy(e, -ecey, -esie, -esy(e, -eysie, -iecie; -acie, -acy, -acey; -ocie; (polcie, p[o]leci-). [ME and e.m.E. policye (1387–8), -ycy(e, -ecy, polleci, -esi (all 15th c.), etc., government, administration, prudence, cunning, course of action, MF policie (1370 in Wartburg), public administration, government, L. polītīa, from the Gk. Cf. Police n. Only Sc. in senses 5–7, with which cf. L. polītus refined, p.p. of polīre polish, adorn, cultivate, Polit(e adj., and late L. polities, policies, polish, elegancy, also med. L. (Eng.) politica urbanity (1220). Cf. the later Sc. dial. sense of ‘the park of an estate; pleasure grounds’ (SND).] Some examples entered under Police may have been intended for this word, viz. as policé etc. And, since in many MSS c and t are easily confused or are quite indistinguishable, it is conceivable that some spellings in c (though not of course those in s) might properly belong rather to Politie. Conversely, two of the examples entered there may perhaps belong here. But in view of the histories of both forms, and the confirmation of this one by spellings in s, it seems reasonably certain that the earlier and very much the commoner word is this one.

1. Government, administration, regulation of public affairs, organisation of a public institution; esp. good or strong government. It is unclear whether the Bell. Boece and Boece quots. belong here or in 5. How the haly kirk … and the commoun proffit may be kepit in gude policy and gude governance; Hay I 70/32.
And quhare thare is nocht syk ane ordynaunce, the realme is misordanyt, efter gude custumes of policy; Ib. 297/36.
Office of knychtis is to manetene and governe landis and policy, and to defend thame; Ib. II 23/34.
Quhen Rome was regit … In justice and in public polesy [M. politey]; Regim. Princ. 142 (Marchm.).
That suld caus iustice polise [v.rr. polacy, polecy] & pes And all gud reull in to the realme to rys; Contempl. Sinn. 102 (Asl.).
Throw quhilk … iustice [might] ryng with pece & polise [v.rr. polacy, policie; rh. be, securite, chevalrie]; Ib. 123.
That distroyis all law all policy all punycioun [etc.]; Irland Mir. II 8/16.
Polycy; Ib. 123/15.
Now it is sufferit for a maner of estait and pollesy at thair entrais in barrieris to ask leiff & haue leif for to be seruit; Loutfut MS. 111 a.
Quharfore, as this our rationable and simpil desyris and petition is conform to equitie, and ar consonant to honore and pollecy, according to the usis and consuetudis of great antiquitie in vther realmys and provincis; 1500 Edinb. B. Rec. I 83.
Pollesy; 1509–10 Ib. 125.
He beyng or remanyng in Scotland suld put no goode ordour of justice nor pollecy apperandlie thairin; c 1522 Doug. in Doug. (Sm.) I p. cix.
Quhill Vespasian was gevin on this maner to polesy and vane religion of gentilis [L. vrbanis gentilitatisque religiosis rebus; sc. introducing Roman law and civility of manners and temple-building]; Bell. Boece I 104.
Be glore of ciuile polecie and religios actis [L. vrbanarvm ac religiosarum rerum] he was in grete extimacioun to all the pepill; Boece 274 b.
Stewart 8314.
And in thair precheing not to mell sa mekle with civill policie and publict governance; 1559 Q. Mary in Knox I 399.
Fals dissimulatioun … Off polecey plane alteratioun; Maitland Maitl. F. xxii 39.
Lowthiane quhair sum tyme hes bene Maist polcie, tranquillite [etc.]; Id.
Ib. civ 6.
Polacie; Id.
Ib. clxxiv 74.
We are now left as a flocke without a pastor in civill policie; 1570 Knox in Calderwood II 514.
Sa that no man micht weill see a lyff for thame that socht quietnes and rest and policie thairin; 1572 Sc. Ch. Hist. Soc. Rec. VI 230.
All abbaceis vacand … sall remane undisponit quhill ordour be takin anent the policie of the kirk; 1574–5 Reg. Privy S. VII 15/1.
To be curious anuich obserueris of al externe policie; Dalr. I 105/10.
In that part where I speake of policie; James VI Basil. Doron 15/14.

2. An organised form of administration; an established system of law and order; a constitution or polity. Sic … ordinances as sall be meitt … for … the … pollicie of the said craft [etc.]; 1483 E. Loth. Antiq. Soc. II 103.
At sic justice and policie for-thy King Edward haid … invy … als knew he … Thair policie sould euir eik and grow; Stewart 51618.
Thir mortall weris, Quhilk … euere polesye doun thrawis; Lynd. Mon. 1893.
Quhasaeuer gangis about to tak away … the haill state of ciuile policeis now lang establischit [etc.]; 1560 Acts II 534/1.
Aswell anent the civille pollicye, as uniformetye of religione; 1560 Cal. Sc. P. I 433.
In these and such like must everie particular churche … appoint thair awin polecie; Bk. Disc. in Knox II 238.
To subuert the haill ordour, policie, and religioun of Christindome; Q. Kennedy Compendious Ressonyng (ed.) 171/30.
Polecey; Maitland Maitl. F. xxii 39.
Quhat vther is this bot to dissolue the haill polecy [ed. polety] … to mak the prince obey and the subiectis to command; 1565 Facs. Nat. MSS. III xlix.
The personis appointit to treat upoun materis of the policie; 1579–80 Reg. Privy C. III 264.
Of the kirk and polecie therof, in generall; and wherin it is different from the civill polecie; 1581 Melvill 87 h. of ch.
For reformatioun of sindrie abussis croppin … in the policie of the kirk; 1584 Glasgow B. Rec. I 108.
This confusion of kirk and policie; R. Bruce Serm. 210.
Others, that likes better of the single forme of policie in our churche; James VI Basil. Doron 16/34.
The haill subiectis … be the auncient & fundamentall policie [1599 pollicie] of oure kingdome are deuydit in three estaites; Ib. 72/10.
Suffer thaime not to medle uith the policie … in the pulpitte; Ib. 145/3.
The Buik of the Polecie; Melvill 87.
1606 Ib. 628.
Concerning the policie and governament in pace and quyetude of the neightbouris and inhabitantis of the said burgh; 1606 Dunferm. B. Rec. II 16.
And this auncient policie wee perceiue practised in the ouldest of our owne countrey kirkes; Birnie Kirk-b. xvi.
Polacie; Bisset II 276/21.
The true church … in her … presbyteries, sessions, policie [ed. politie], discipline; 1638 Nat. Covenant in
Facs. Nat. MSS. III xcvii.
For reformatioun of kirk and pollicie; Spalding I 255.

3. The quality of prudence; discretion in dealing with affairs; shrewdness. b. An instance of this. c. In a bad sense: Expediency; cunning; dissimulation. (1) Peas is away … Prudence and policy ar banyst our al brinkis; Henr. III 171/38.
That carnall wisdome, and worldly pollicye, to which both ye are bruted to be moche inclined; 1559 Knox VI 17.
Ye are so open in your doings … which is more than wisedom and polycie doth requyre; 1559 Knox 92.
Now warldlie wisdome is desait And falsate haldin polecey; Maitland Maitl. F. ci 10.
Is thy heid full of policie and hes thou manie plattis … in it and hes thou not this wisdome; Rollock I 373.
The contriver of the late historie of Queen Marie wanted policie here to convoy a lee; 1644 Knox II 550.
Bot heirin wes deip policie, as efter do appeir; Spalding II 427.
(2) He … was a man of gret polisy and wisdome; Asl. MS. I 269/14.
Besyde hys innatyve pollecy, Humanyte [etc.]; Doug. i Prol. 97.
Policie; Stewart 44859.
Policie; 1571 Sat. P. xxvi 5.
I lyke well the mannis policie Bot [etc.]; Buch. Detect. (1727) 79.
Pollacie; Pitsc. I 408/21.
Quhilk was sa wittie in warldlie effeares and polecie; Melvill 117.
b. And this ve did for favoris and his honest pollecy maid in our burgh; 1535 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 153.
Gif ane haue slane a man [etc.] … nouther can his lyfe suffice for imposing, nor his body for beiring, nor the judges policie for inventing, pane aneuch for him; Buch. Detect. (1727) 86.
After my commen judgment and polysie; 1583 Cal. Sc. P. VI 377.
c. Thai weyit sa hevilie to be skornit be the dissimulit polecye of Pichtis; Boece 358 b.
Thir Machiwellistes … that will circumvein you with thair policie; 1570 Misc. Bann. C. I 47*.
With policeye and deceate; Fowler II 121/10.
A young foolishe boy, not capable of ony greate fraude or policie; 1607 Reg. Privy C. VII 515.
Compassion [is] dead, Faith turn'd to pollicye; 1618 Soc. Ant. IV 237.

4. a. Politic, prudent or expedient course of action. b. A course of action proposed as advantageous or expedient; a plan, expedient, contrivance or stratagem. c. A crafty device, a trick; trickery. d. Be policie, by trickery. (Out) of policie, by a pre-arranged plan, deliberately as part of a plan, intentionally. a. And eftyr … thai becam for the nanys briggantis … and by a maner pollycy or practyk convenyt that the tayn of thaim suld tak his brother and all his complicis; Doug. Comm. i v 81.
Thai maid be slicht and craft of polecy to fle; Bell. Boece (M) I 134.
Thir barbouris … hes no … wisdome into weir No policie nor prattik wirth ane peir; Stewart 4876.
b., c. Of ane polacy & proposicioun maid be King Kenneth for danting of lymmaris; Boece fol. 20.
And that his polecy suld be occult, feneȝeing him desirous of pece [etc.]; Ib. 258 b.
How Hengist deuisit ane polecye to haue his son Occa … brocht in Britan; Ib. 267 b.
[Bruce] levit ay into ane gude beleif, Thinkand it wes ane policie to preif Trubill [etc.]; Stewart 49242.
Pollyces; 1582 Cal. Sc. P. VI 215.
Or quhat thame selfes haue inuented of ane ingenious policie to dryue a pray and say thair prayeris; Dalr. I 102/3.
Of that intentioune quyetlie to occupie the toune with sum prattick or policie; Ib. II 316/21.
His depositioun is rather a policie then any verittie; 1600 Misc. Bann. C. I 151.
Out of ane malicious polecie and designe tending to the sawing of discoird … betuixt his maiestie and his maist loyell subjectis; 1631 Justiciary Cases I 188.
d. (1) To haf that byschep rendyrryt to hymm othyr be pollycy or other wayes; 1515 Douglas Corr. 69.
And thair, be craft and policie, tuik in the said castell; 1615 Crim. Trials III 364.
(2) About the beginning of the battel … the cry rais of policie [L. de industria] as we trow mair than ony vtherwyse be sum traytouris … and [etc.]; Dalr. II 300/19.
Eftir the said Mr. David … had apprehendit the said money with light candles, he out of policie caused blow out the candles; 1669 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 37.

5. Improvement or development (of a country, estate, town, property or the like) by the erection of buildings, by plantation or enclosure, or by addition to or embellishment of an existing building; provision of amenity; amenity. (1) Bot wild and waist the land than wes And like bot a blynd hethynnes For scho maid all the polesy That vsit is till now trewly; Wynt. vii 957 (W).
And for reparatioun beilding and polecy to be maid in honour of the said sanct of Sanct Jhone; 1475 Edinb. B. Rec. I 30.
Ȝour foirstair makis ȝour hous mirk … Think ȝe not schame Sa litill polesie to work; Dunb. lxxxii 20.
Till mak ony polesy utouth the said chalmer for eisment of the said land; 1527 Prot. Bk. J. Foular II 264.
Thai creatt ane king … and began to mak pollecy in bigging of municiouns, townis & castellis; Bell. Boece (M) I 31.
Owtlandis men of grete clannis, nocht habill … to use marchandice nor mak daylie residence nor policie nor na maner of biging within the said burgh; 1545 Inverness Statute in
Reg. Great S. 757/1.
The inhabitantis of … Dunde ar reparand the samin, and makand sum polecy for the … honesty of oure realme; 1550 Dundee Chart. 38.
1553–4 Reg. Privy S. IV 412/2.
The pure dar mak na policie … in cace thai big thame selfis out; Lyndesay Pref. (S.T.S.) 402.
To gratifie the personis havaris of the few landis thairof thairabout to gif thame occasioun to mak policie thairupoun; 1568 Reg. Privy S. VI 88.
1585 Reg. Morton II 312.
(2) Tharatour the sade Wilȝam sal put the sad landis to al policy efter his powar in byggyn, hanyng and defens and plantatioun of treys that is to say eysses, osaris and sauch and hauthorn for defens; 1472 Reg. Cupar A. I 163.
Polyci, polici; Ib. 165; etc.
Togidder with the Ile of Sanct Jhone in the college kirk of Sanct Gele to beild and put to polesy in honour of the said sanct; 1474 Edinb. B. Rec. I 31.
And the saidis Richard [etc.] … sal put the saidis akaris and toft til al possibil policy witht biggin of gud ȝerdis houssis sufficiand chawmeris and stabilis; 1505 Chart. Coupar A. II 116.
Pollecy; 1539 Reg. Cupar A. II 11.
Sall putt our … landis till all possible pollecye and honestie thai may; 1542 Ib. 19.
Pollecie; 1550 Ib. 97.
(3) For polecy to be had within the realme, in planting of woddis, making of edgeis, orchartis, ȝardis, and sawing of browme, it is statute … that [etc.]; 1535 Acts II 343/1.
Havand consideratioun of the polecie and dyueris vtheris actis necessar to be done within the tovne at our souerane lordis … hame cumming; 1536–7 (c 1580) Edinb. B. Rec. II 84.
Quhartrocht he maye wse sum pollecie in his yard in respect now is the tyme of yeir of herbis … sawing [etc.]; 1585 Inverness Rec. I 302.
(4) Gef thow cowatis to byg … The mar thow art applyit to polisy The mare encreseis thi mynde in fantasy; Bernardus 265.
Scho knew the mind of Kenneth gevin to magnificent biging and polesy [L. magnifica ædium structura atque ornatus delectaret]; Bell. Boece II 227.
Polecy; Ib. (M) I 88.
Commendit was King Fynnane … for civilite and polecie, be quhilkis mervelluslie he decorit his realme; Boece 77 b.
Becaus sik ordoure … as is deuisit for polecy may failȝe be falling of landis in to ward; 1535 Acts II 344/2.
Sum geuin to plant and big in policie; Rolland Ct. Venus Prol. 172.
For decoring of the toun in bigging and pollecie; 1577 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. I 34.
For he … delytit mair in musik and polliecie of beging nor he did in the goverment of his realme; Pitsc. I 163/3.
(5) That thai mycht honour and repair the said ile to the honour of God … and polecy of our said kirk; 1518 Edinb. B. Rec. I 181.
Woddis … parkis, orchardis, yardis, gardingis, eischis and uthiris treis growand about the said place to the polecy tharof; 1530–1 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 352.
To … teill yeirlie 1000 acris of thair commoun landis of oure said burgh … for polecy, strenthing and bigging of the samyn; 1536 (1538) Reg. Great S. 394/2.
To the effect that … the land pertenyng to James Prestoun … mycht be bocht for the weill and policie of the kirk; 1540 Cart. S. Giles civ.
That the said profit be putt to the … decoratioun and policie of the said burgh; 1546 Reg. Great S. 758/1.
Gif the wod of Falkland was … decayit in the grouth thairof … to be parkit hanit and keipit of new for policie thairof; 1555 Acts II 497/1.
And nychtbouris can nocht get to thair biggynnis na keynd of tymmer for policie of this burcht; 1573 Inverness Rec. I 228.
Policie; 1578 Reg. Privy S. VII 253/2.
That the … erectioun of … Brint Iland in ane frie burgh regall is not onlie very commodious and convenient for the policie and decoirment of this realme bot also [etc.]; 1587 Acts III 506/2.
(6) Tarquyne … began to do werkis of policy [L. pacis opera] in Rome; Bell. Livy I 88/4.
(7) Set into few ȝour temporall lands To men that labours with thair hands … Quhair throch the policy may incresse; Lynd. Sat. 2689 (Ch.).
[The above lands] may be sett in few ferme for augmentation of the rentall and increas of polacy; Hope Major Pract. I 58.
That as it sall happin thair said colledge in policie and leirning to incres, that the said Mr. Robert … salbe advancit to the maist honorable roume that sall vaik thairin; 1583 Edinb. Univ. Chart. 91.

6. Passing into: The buildings, plantations etc. with which a country, estate, town, etc. is improved or developed; improvements, adornments or amenities of this sort. a. collect. sing. b. plur. a. Than tuk I in detestacione … al the werkis and polesy that I had gart mak wndir the sone with grete deligens; Wisd. Sol. (S.T.S.) 126.
A cornar of a cuntre … Quhich he plenyssit with peple and polesy; Colk. Sow ii 121.
The ciete of Alba quhilk stude iiijc ȝeris in grete magnificence and policy; Bell. Livy I 69/24.
All our souerane lordis burrowis are … waistit and distroyit in thair gudis and polecy and almaist ruynous; 1535 Acts II 349/1.
Our Lady Werk Stair … gif it war biggit and repairit war to the honour and decoreing of the policie of the town; 1550 Old Dundee II 118.
Sum paste in to the orient [etc.] … And so, thare poleysie left west; Lynd. Mon. 1804.
Certane personis … hes interpryssit … to distroy kirks, religious places and the ornaments and polacie of the same; 1559 Aberd. B. Rec. I 323.
The pulling doun of policie reprufe; Scott i 45.
The wyld sangleris … quha … trampis down the heuinlie incres and all decent policie of the samyn winȝarde, drest and deckit be the former workmen, vnfenȝeit policiaris of the samin; Winȝet I 45/18.
1564 Reg. Privy C. I 279.
In the said kirkȝardis quhairin the deid was buryit of befoir mair decent polecie may be had to the honor of oure realme; 1564 Dundee Chart. 40.
The peir hawin schoir and bulwark … quhilkis ar the principal partis of the policie and common weill of this burch ar grytlie decayit; 1567 Dundee Council Rec. in Mylne Master Masons 64.
In the mene tyme grit polecie And gud townis distroyit be; Maitland Maitl. F. xcvii 88.
Ib. xxvi 25.
Polecey; Id.
Ib. ci 7.
Trocht the … dertht and heing of pricis of tymmer the policie of this burcht dekeis; 1573 Inverness Rec. I 228.
Wha … pulled doun … the houssis, biggingis, and polycie, the ornamentis of this toun, and cuntrey lykwayis; 1573 Bann. Memor. 303.
Aganis the destroyeris of planting, haning and policie; Balfour Pract. 132.
Diurn. Occurr. 206.
Ib. 301.
And had distroyit the antient placeis and pollocie off the south; Pitsc. II 238/15.
It wer to be lamentit to sie sic gorgeous policie to decay; 1587 Acts III 505/2.
Persones quhilkis … within oure forrest of Glenartnay … distroyis the growand treis and policie thairof; 1588 Glenartney Doc.
Ane man … to owersee … the comoun werkis & deceyit policie off the samin; 1589 St. A. B. Ct. 6 May.
1594 Acts IV 71/1.
Polacie; Bisset II 38/14.
Haveing power to open thair grounds destroy thair policie woods houses and orchards; 1649 Mining Rec. 172.
In breaking and abuseing his tries and polacie both fruit and baren; 1672 Argaty Baron Ct. 13 July.
John Diksone [etc.] … hes … cutted [etc.] … the haill grouane timber and polacie within … the fruitt yairds; 1674 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 195.
b. The Pichtis spred fast in Athole and maid sindry strenthis and polecyis [M. sindry municionis and pollecyis] in it; Bell. Boece I 260.
Eftir thai had vesyit the situacioun wallis and policyis [v.r. p[o]lecijs] of this new toun; Id. Livy I 29/4.
To eik the commoun weill with thir and siclike policyis [v.r. polecijs]; Ib. 84/3.
The biggingis, woddis, yardis, hegeis, gardingis, stankis, dykis and conyngharis and uthiris policyis of the place; 1541 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 507.
Quhy hef ȝe wappit doun the monasteriis, and principal policeis of this realme; Winȝet I 128/17.
Quhat distructioun of polyceis in casting doun cathedrall kirkis; 1568 Cal. Sc. P. II 532.
Policeis; 1573 Sempill Sat. P. xxxix 17.
Poleceyis; 1574 Cal. Sc. P. V 48.
Ane sufficient mansioun with hall chalmer kitching douckat & uther policies necessar correspondent to the ground; 1655 Bruces of Airth App. cxi.

c. An amenity or improvement of a town. Edinburgh … is destitute of such ane usefull pollicie as ane exchange; 1680 Edinb. B. Rec. X 418.

7. a. Polish of manners, refinement, cultivation, civilisation. b. Polishing or refining of manners. a. With ane kynd of men … Quhilkis nowder maneris had nor polecy [L. neque mos neque cultus]; Doug. viii vi 11.
In this north parte [of Scotland] ar sum prouinces sa plentifull and of gretter ingines, that throuch thair policie thay … excel mony in the south; Dalr. I 9/19.
His people … alluttirlie rude and without all policie and ornat maneris [L. rudes, nullaque morum elegantia politos]; Ib. 131/8.
And his majestie being movit … with ane earnest love of incres of policie and having thairwith ane speciall regaird to … educatioun; 1633 Acts V 73/2.
b. Plutarchie sa artificiouslie quha could illustir histories and was sa notable in the policie dekking and outset of maneris and honestie; Dalr. I 160/10.

8. Personified and fig. It is deficill ryches tyll incres, Quhare polycie makith no residence; Lynd. Dreme 863.
Als, in the oute ylis and in Argyle, Unthrift, sweirnes, falset, pouertie, and stryfe Pat polacey in dainger of hir lyfe; Ib. 966.
My [Scotland's] bodie was weill cled with policie; 1572 Sat. P. xxxiii 19.
Particular weill hes spulȝeit policie; Ib. 82.
Fair virgynnis … callit … Justice and Policie; Diurn. Occurr. 68.
Thrie fair virgines callit Luiff, Iustice and Policie; Johnston in Mill Mediæv. Plays 190 n.

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"Policie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Dec 2021 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/policie>



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