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

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First published 1986 (DOST Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Probabil(l, -able, adj. [ME (Trevisa) and e.m.E., also probabyl (1538), F. probable (14th c. in Littré), L. probābilis that may be proved, probable, credible, also, worthy of approval or acceptable.]

1. Capable of being proved, demonstrable, provable.Also, ellipt., of a person: Capable of being proved (guilty or innocent).(1) 1596 Dalr. I 3/24.
Be this lykwyse is probable onlie Scotland to be called Albion, because [etc.]
Ib. 61/8.
To quhilkes we thocht gude to ioyne sume vthir things na les probable
1622-6 Bisset II 326/18.
That the accusatioun … suld nocht be … admitted … gif he had nocht bene culpabill of befoir, or ellis sum notorious probabill fault fund in him
1656 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. III 64.
That no officiar sumond any persone … out of malice … bot upon probable grounds of clearing the matter
1664 Decis. Lords G. 73.
This decreet was craved to be reduced upon this reason that the promise was not probable by witnesses, especially after 17 or 18 years time both parties being now dead
(2) 1624 Perth Kirk S. MS 26 July.
Scho is giltye and ȝit nocht probabill

b. That it is legally allowable to prove, subject to being proved. a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 173.
Any man may poynd goods found amongst his corne … and the samen is probable be wittnesses
Ib. 264. 1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. i v 3 (1699) 19.
This crime is probable with us by oath
Ib. ii xiii 2.

2. That may be reasonably expected to prove true or to be realized; likely, probable. 1490 Irland Mir. II 81/22.
That logic natural and probable ressouns ekis and defendis the faith in sempil persouns
1549 Compl. 36/31.
This veil considrit maye be ane probabil rason that the varld is neir ane ende
Ib. 97/22.
This exempil is vondir probabil that Inglismen vil vse this samyn crualte on ȝou al
1597 Misc. Spald. C. I 105.
The dittay off Helen Fraser, a parte quherof is evident and manifeist, ane vther parte lycklie and probable
1670 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds I 229.
It being probable lyke that the said William McBratnie my spous sall survive me
1681 Stair Inst. (1693) iv xlv §11.
The other kind of probation is when the very point in question is much more probable to be true than to be false

b. (The doctrine of) probabil opinions, probabilism, the 16th c. casuistic doctrine ‘that in cases of disagreement among authorities on matters of conscience it is lawful to follow any course in support of which the authority of a recognised doctor of the Church can be cited’ (OED). 1682 Lauder Observes App. iv 309.
Take … a douson of well-conceived equivocations [etc.], … boil all these in a Jesuit's brainpan, and add thirto of the doctrine of probable opinions

c. Of an assertion or a person making an assertion: Worthy of acceptance or belief, plausible. 1562–3 Reg. Privy C. I 230.
And in sa fer as the said Thomas wald excuse himself be allegit ignorance thairof, his excuse is not probabill, quia ignorantia juris non [etc.]
a1585 Polwart Flyt. 697 (T).
To prive my speikin [H. speeches] probabill & plane
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI (1825) 8.
The parciall jure … acquit him … of murther … becaus nather was it provin be witnessis, nather notefeit be probabill accusatioun
1691 Kirk Secr. Commonw. (1964) 354.
The reporters hooted at as inventers of ridiculous Utopias; or the first probable asserters punished as inventers of new … worlds

3. Of persons or actions: Worthy of approval, acceptable. 1533 Bell. Livy I 153/24.
Quhilk doing was richt commendabill to the virginite of goddis and als richt probabil [L. probabile] be consent of the remanent plegeis
1596 Dalr. II 264/18.
Sum probable and verie notable persounes [L. probati viri] ar elected … to quhais creddit and faithfulnes … the quene is commendet

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"Probabil adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Oct 2023 <>



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