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

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Wisp, Wosp(e, n. Also: wispe, visp, wysp(e, woisp, wesp, wasp(e. [ME and e.m.E. wisp, wips (both 14th c.), wesp (1362), wyspe (Trevisa), wispe (1589).]

1. A handful or twist of hay, straw or a similar material, sufficient for use as a stopper, a pad or wisp for rubbing down a horse, etc., kindling, a torch or a sign (see also Ale-wisp n.). Also proverb.Also in fig. context. c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 335.
Tuk I nevir the wosp clene out of my wyde throte Quhill I oucht wantit of my will … Bot quhen I … had … gottin his biggingis [etc.] … Than … stert out the stoppell of my hals
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Flyt. 64.
Wit and woisdome ane wisp fra thé may rub
1531 Bell. Boece I xlvii.
The man that is haldin of maist clene and innocent life layis ane wosp of stra on the alter and when the pepill are gevin maist devotly to thair praers the wosp kindellis in ane bleis
1540 Lynd. Sat. 1921.
Ȝe ladeis that list to pische … gife ȝour quhislecaw cry quhiche Stop in ane wisp of stray
15.. Wyf Awcht. 29.
Ȝeis lay ane soft wisp to thé kill: We haif ane deir ferme on our heid
a1578 Pitsc. I 272/9.
Ane wyspe wpoun ewerie speir heid to be ane signe and witter to thame that ewerie ane of them sould knawe ane wther
1590 Crim. Trials I ii 211.
He tuik ane thing lyke to ane fute-ball, quhilk apperit to the said Johnne lyke a wisp, and caist the same in the see; quhilk causit ane vapour and ane reik to ryis
1604 Dundonald Par. Rec. 59.
Quhen he vald haif lichtit ane visp to haif sein thame Pet Lovri vald not suffer it
1643 Reid Auchterarder 202.
With ane wisp dipped in the said water
proverb. a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 287.
Good wine needs not a wispe

2. Applied to various commodities, expressing a quantity. a. Of steel: An amount ? of steel wire or of steel in some particular form, esp. for re-steeling tools or implements. Also attrib. as wisp steill (in contrast with long and gad (= rod or bar) steill). b. Of glass. c. Of malt or fish. d. Of straw or hay: A (small) bundle. e. Of clasps or fixings.a. 1496 Treas. Acc. I 292.
For vij wosp of steil to pykkis and mattokkis xiiij s.
1514–15 Rentale Dunkeld. (SHS) 236. 1514–15 Rentale Dunkeld. (SHS) 238.
[1] lie wospe [of steel … 3 s. 4 d.]
1542 Treas. Acc. VIII 127.
For v wosp of steill to temper the fylis [etc.] … price of the wosp iiij s.
1616 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 57.
For a wospe of steill
(b) 1511–12 Treas. Acc. IV 273.
And ane wisp of Lambart steile, price iiij s.
1538–9 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 259.
For … ii wispis steill to the masonis irnis for hewing of the allering vi s. viii d.
1547–8 Treas. Acc. IX 149.
For foure wysp of steill deliverit … to the quarreourres wark lumys, price of the wysp vij s.
1558 Treas. Acc. X 400.
For ane wispe and ane half of steill … for grathing of certane culveringis
1561 Treas. Acc. XI 115.
For vj wispis of steill to lay upoun the facis of the saidis chesellis
1608 Hilderstoun Silver Mines I 4.
Four wispis of steill to lay the pickis with
1615 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 356.
For ane wispe of steill xxvi s. viii d.
(c) 1513 Rentale Dunkeld. (SHS) 281.
[Paid for 17 pounds and 2] lie wespis [of steel … 16 s. 9 d.]
1568 Edinb. Test. I 179.
Tuentie wespis of steill
(d) 1617 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 66.
For a woisp of steill to lay maissoun irones
attrib. 1612 Bk. Rates (Halyb.) 330.
Steell: long steill the hundreth weght ix li. wisp steill the wisp x s. gad steill the half barrell lxxii li.
b. 1569 Edinb. Test. I 238b.
William Blak glassinwrycht for nyne wyspis of glas v li. vj s.
15… Aberd. B. Rec. (Jam. s.v. Wosp n.).
Ane wosp of glas
1613 Brechin Test. II 275b.
Ane cradell of glas with sum vispis of glas
1621 Reg. Privy C. XII 439.
[The commissioners] reportit that thay … had seene … the paternis of the braid glasse maid within this kingdome … and that thay fand that the … caissis of the said glasse contenis fyfteene wispis … and thay haveing measourit the saidis tablis, thay fand thame to be of deepnes three quarteris of ane Scottis elne and ane naill [etc.]
c. 1521 Aberd. B. Rec. XI (Jam. s.v. Wosp n.).
Four wospe of malt
1557 Inverness Rec. I 8.
This is the pricis: for the gret wasp [sc. of fish] iij s., the small wasp xxx d., the keltage xxj d.
15… Aberd. B. Rec. (Jam. s.v. Wosp n.).
Ane wospe of malt
d. 1659 Misc. Hist. Soc. VII 34.
Thursday … my horse steru'd for want of strawe … Fryday: … 4 rathere wispes then botles
1679 Urie Baron Ct. 95.
The judge … ordaines the heall tennentis … to lead and carrie … ilke plewch four wyspes [pr. wyises] of strae for thatching of the said mill
1680 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Deeds II 127.
[Disposition … of 60 sheep pasturing … which he has instantly delivered to the said John by] delyvery of ane wispe of hay as ane symbole of the saids goods as use is
e. 1570 Edinb. Test. II 145a.
Fyve wyspes of glaspes price of the wyspe iiij s. iiij d.
1595 Edinb. Test. XXVIII 296b.
Tuelf wisp claspis at v s. the wispe
1621 J. Bell Acc. Bk. in Glasg. Her. (1864) 25 June.
2 clout sek neidills is 8 s. Mair, ane dosone wisp quyt clespis is 10 s.
1646 Edinb. Test. LXII 271b.
Ane dussane and ane half of waspe rufe glaspes estimat all to iij lib.

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"Wisp n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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