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

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First published 2000 (DOST Vol. VIII).
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Scarmis(c)h(e, Skirmis(c)h(e, n. Also: skar- and -mis, -mys(che; mus(c)h(e, -mwsch, -mouche, -mus; -meis(h, -mes; sharmes; scremouche; scirmish; sky(i)r- and -mise, -mist, -me(i)s, -mish, -mysshe, -musche; skirmage; scrymishe; scrymmage; skyrmyng. [ME and e.m.E. skarmoch (14th c.), skarmyssh, -much (both Chaucer), skarmich (c1400), skrimishe (1505), skyrmosh (1514), scrymage (1549), scresmys (1557), skyrmush, skermyche (both 1560), scaramoche, screamishe, scrimishe (all 1562), scirmage (1567), scirmige (1581), OF, MF escremie (12th c. in Larousse), eschermie, escarmie (12th-15th c. in Wartburg), MF escarmuche (14th c. in Wartburg); Scarmische v. See also Carmusche n. and Escharmousch n.]

1. A skirmish, or skirmishing, an irregular encounter or minor conflict, esp. between small groups of opposing forces.(1) 1531 Bell. Boece II 287.
Ane wond that he gatt at ane scarmus
Ib. 447.
At the first skarmusche, Schir Johne Claremont, merschal of France, was slane
Id. Livy I 22/6.
Thir brethir rais ilk day in grete haterent, persewing vthir with maist cruelte and slauchter. At last thai mett togiddir at ane skarmusche in quhilk Remus alwayis was slane
1570 Leslie 48.
Thair wes dayly raidis, skarmisheis and invasionis
Ib. 186.
Thair was mony scarmushis and invasionis
1571 Misc. Bann. C. III 126.
A skarmish in Skotland, betwix Edinburgh and Leith, betuix Huntly … against Morton
1558-66 Knox I 221.
Some skarmessis thare war betuix the one and the other
a1586 Maitland Ho. Seytoun 22.
At ane scarmische Williame Seytoun … followit sa fast that he was takin prisonare
a1595 Cullen Chron. Aberd. 38.
Thair was ane skarmys betuix my Lord Lyndsay and the Lard Wyrmyston
a1597-1617 Hist. Jas. VI (1825) 139.
He assalyeit thame in the nyght. The scarmish was great on both sydis dyvers slayne sindrie hurt and many preasoners tayne
c1615 Chron. Kings 152.
In the quhilkis carmeissis, McLeane … sleyis the Erlle of Huntlyis fader brother, … thar being ane gritt skarmeis
(b) 1569-73 Bann. Memor. 237.
Thei wold go furth to draw on a skyrmise
1572–3 Ib. 303.
At all skirmishes and vther tymes of pursuite of the king and his faithfull subjectis
Ib. 177.
Id. Trans. 177.
This skyrmis conteanewed fra 7 houris … till 5 houris at ewin
1572-5 Diurn. Occurr. 219.
In this haill skyirmis, thair wes ane suddart slane
Ib. 58.
Ib. 246.
a1578 Pitsc. I 283/29.
Lang tyme efterwart this skirmische was callit be the commons … ‘clenȝe calsay'
1596 Dalr. I 75/17.
And making freindship with sa rude a people thay thocht that eftir sum lycht skirmishes thay mycht grow into ane people
1604 Hist. Clan Gregor I 378.
At the fecht or skirmisch of Bintoiche
c1615 Chron. Kings 34.
1654 Nicoll Diary 121.
Skirmesis betuix the Englisches and Scottis
16.. Macfarlane's Geog. Coll. II 199.
Glenfroon famous for the scirmish betwixt the McGregors who ravadged this countrey in 1603 where the Colquhouns … were defeat and many of the gentry … killed
15.. Clar. iii 321.
Everilke skirmage and new debait Of Cyprianis and of Saraseinis
(c) c1475 Wall. iii 359.
Ane Inglisman, on the gait, saw he play At the scrymmagis [McD. scrymmage], a bukler on his hand
Ib. ix 458.
Then Longaweill … With Wallace past, as ane to that scrymmage. Thir four hundreth rycht wondyr weyll arayit Befor the toun [etc.]
(2) 1535 Stewart 18907.
With skirmische and conteryng ilk da
Ib. 10278.
1547–8 Cal. Sc. P. I 82.
That they shuld burne the barnes about the house ande giff scrymishe thereunto
1571 Ib. III 595.
[The earl … sent for his horses, and pursued them] in skyrmysshe [to Craigmyller]

b. A raid or incursion.(a) 1533 Bell. Livy I 86/27.
Thai come aganis the Romanis with ane haisty skarmusch
1533 Boece 147b.
Be licht iupertyis and skarmwschis all the somer thai suld impesch Romanis
1559 Cal. Sc. P. I 282.
[The inhabitants provoked by] sum lycht scarmysche [rashly] mellit [with the enemy]
(b) a1578 Pitsc. II 119/23.
Thay wald nocht pas in Ingland at that tyme to invaid it with na sharmes

c. A sudden assault on or gainst a person or an enemy force. c1475 Wall. viii 814.
Quhen that thai trowyt the Scottis was all at rest … With v thowsand welle garnest and sawage Apon the Scottis thai thocht to mak scrymmage [1570 skirmage] And at [the] ȝet wschyt owt
1549 Compl. 114/13.
To mak ane scarmouche on the Romans
1554 Corr. M. Lorraine 384.
Thair is ane slauchter committit in the scremouche wpoun George Drummond
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 147/308.
For to yokke a skarmushe hotte … Gainst Adamis head

d. A series of raids intended to engage enemy forces over a wide area; skirmishing as a strategy. Ib. 262b.
Congall … aduertist the king of Pichtis he suld be of conforte and with … skarmusch suld defend his landis quhil his cuming
1533 Boece 449.
King Malcolme … contracting ane armye passit aganis inemyis devising be skarmusch alanerlie refrene thare audacite

e. fig. A quick darting movement (? forward then back again). 1581-1623 James VI Poems I 133/170.
The iugler fyne … can no uayes makke to dance Makke skarmushes rinn & retyre & syne againe auance His littill marmousettis

2. A mock battle. See also Scarmis(c)hing vbl. n. b. 1570-3 Bann. Trans. 98 (see Scarmische v. 2.).
1578 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 79.
It is the kyngis maiesteis will that the young men … mak his hienes ane scarmeish their, quhairfor thei ordane James Ros to send tham … fourtie pound wycht of pulder
(b) 1569-73 Bann. Memor. 91 (see Scarmische v. 2.).

3. ? Some sort of firelock. 1589 Wedderb. Compt Bk. 182.
A hackbuit with a snap, … a hackbuit with a skarmische
1627 Whitelaw Sc. Arms Makers 198.
[His say viz.] ane skarmisch of ane hagbute
[David Fender gunmaker … his sey] ane scarmisch work to be made

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"Scarmish n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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