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

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First published 1990 (DOST Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Red(e)-hand, Reid-hand, n. and adj. Also: reide-, reyd-, reed-; read- and -hande; Rid-hand. [Chiefly or only Sc., f. Red(e adj. and Hand n.]As one or two words.

A. noun. (To be taken (apprehendit)) with (without) (a or the) rede (and fresch) hand, also in redehand, (to be caught) in the act of committing a crime (with a crime). Also const. of, in the crime committed or with the thing stolen. 14.. Acts I 8/1.
[Si capiatur cum rubea manu et aliquis eum sequatur statim subeat iudicium
Ib. 287/2.]
Si capiatur cum rubea siue recenti manu homicidii
(1) 14.. Acts I 375/1.
De recenti crimine quod dicitur redhand. Si latro comprehensus fuerit cum fang hoc est hande habande aut homicidia cum redhand
14.. Quon. Attach. c. 27.
Gif he be tane with reide & fresch hande of manis slauchter
c1500 Barounis Lawis fol. 15b.
Gif he be taken with a reid hand freschly or with mannis slauchtir or with reid hand in thift
c1575 Balfour Pract. 548. 1577–8 Reg. Privy C. II 666.
The said Alexander Winsister wes not takin with reidhand in ony cryme
1596 Armstrong Hist. Liddesdale 62.
Executing of any thief by justice or killing him with reed-hand
1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Schireff.
Gif he beis apprehended with reid hand, justice sall be done within that sunne. And gif he be taken and apprehended without read hand, hee salbe put in prison
1602 Kirkcaldy B. Rec. 152.
Geir, with the quhilk he was apprehendit with red hand
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i 84.
Gif he is takin with reid or hait hand of slauchter
Ib. ii 135.
Ane man taken with reid hand with ane sheip
a1639 Spotsw. Hist. (1655) 306.
Unlesse they were taken in the fact, and, as they speak, with the red hand
(2) 1510 Reg. Privy S. I 314/2.
Frely to exers and use all officis … as he had bene unapprehendit and taken in redehand with any crime
1611 Reg. Privy C. IX 210.
[He having lately taken Johnne Williamsone in] reidhand with the fang [in stealing a horse]
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 298.
If they be taken in reid hand, justice should be done that sune

B. adj. 1. a. Of a crime: Committed so recently that evidences of it have been found on the person of, or in the possession of, the criminal. b. Of something stolen: (Found) in possession of the criminal. c. Of a criminal: Red-handed; with evidences of the crime still upon his person.a. 14.. Acts I 375/1 (see A (1) above). 1432 Ib. II 20/2.
Gif he may be ouretakyn he salbe put in sikkir festines quhil the law be done on hym … Ande be it red hand it salbe done within that sonne
b. 1521 Fife Sheriff Ct. 217.
Thomas Wod inditit & accusit for the thyftwis steling fra Allane Ramsay of ane hors and als of ane gyllat … quhilkis hors and gyllat wes tayntyt reydhand wytht the said Thomas
c. 1555 Crim. Trials I i 381.
Resetting of her servants, who had committed the said crimes, red-hand, … immediately after the perpetration thereof
1578 Reg. Privy C. II 682.
Beand found reidhand berand or werand the saidis culveringis, daggis [etc.]
Personis takin reidhand in thift

2. To tak (a criminal) rede-hand, to catch him in the act, or with evidences still on his person. Chiefly passive.Also, once, to tak (the crime committed) rede-hand.(1) 1508 Reg. Privy S. I 234/1.
Trespassouris and thevis … that beis apprehendit within the samyn that ar tane redehand
1510 Ib. 314/2.
Adam Rutherfurd … wes apprehendit and taken redehand committand thift
1535 Stewart 51552.
That samin carle … Come the thrid nycht … To steill his irnes, and wes tane reid hand
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 44. c1575 Balfour Pract. 522.
Manifest thift is quhen the theif … quha … is takin reid hand, that is, in hand havand, or on bak beirand
1578–9 Bk. Carlaverock I 242. 1579 Irvine Mun. I 69.
Eftir the quhilk slauchter he wes takin reidhand
1582–3 Reg. Privy C. III 570.
Trew it is that the said erll tuik thame not reidhand
1588 Burntisland B. Ct. 25 Sept.
Stellinge off the said scheip … quhairwith he was takine reid hand
1610 Reg. Privy C. IX 10.
[Taken] reid hand [in stealing certain sheep]
1615 Old Ross-shire I 83.
Whosoever destroyis green wood if not taken reid hand shall be persewed before the shirreff
1616 Haddington Corr. 132.
Ane vther … takin reidhand with the thift
1618 Elgin Rec. I 236.
The said Thomas Grant wes tane flagranti crimine and reid hand
1663 Dumfries Town Council Min. 12 June.fig. 1629 Boyd Last B. 443.
This soule … is now taken red hand in the path and passage of sin
(2) 1676 Lauder Notices Affairs I 99.
For tho barons … might judge slaughter tane reid hand within 3 suns [etc.]

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"Red-hand n., adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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