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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.

Witnes, n. Also: -ez, -es(s)(e, -as, -ace, -is, witns, vitnes(se, uitnes, whitnesse, witt(e)nes, -ines, vitt(e)nes, vitines, wytnes(se, -as, vytnes, wyttnes, wetne(i)s, -ase, -(a)is, vetnas, wettnes, wetines, wotnes, wotens. [ME and e.m.E. witnesse (c1175), wittness (Orm), wittenesse (c1250), wijtnes, witt(e)nes (all Cursor M.), wytnes (Manning), witnes, whitnes, wetnesse (all c1400), wyttenesse (Prompt. Parv.), OE (ȝe)witnes, MDu. wetenisse.]Also, appar., in a place-name. Cf., however, Wichynbusk n. c1220 Liber Dryburgh 126.
A fine predicte acre … usque ad unum Witnesbusk et inde usque in viam que ducit ad Wenneheued ad quendam Witnesbusg … et ab eodem Witnesbusk versus orientem [etc.]

1. Attestation of a fact, event, etc., testimony, evidence. c1420 Wynt. vi Prol. 38.
Has owre eldrys … bene Be gret wytnes that has bene sene Off thame
14.. Burgh Laws c. 90 (B).
Gyf a man be convict of fals mansweryng in wytnes [A. mane atht or fals witnes] he sal neuermare eftyrward be herd for sweryng of wytnesyng [A. bering of witnes]

b. Of a person, book, document, event, etc.: To bere witnes (to, of something, that, etc. something is the case). Also in legal usage in a court, chiefly without construction. Also attrib. with berar.(1) 1375 Barb. i 560.
Modreyt his syster son him slew … The Broite beris tharoff wytnes
a1400 Leg. S. i 396.
a1400 Leg. S. xii 329.
Men suld nocht wytnes bere Bot of thinge sene & hard with here
1385 Rot. Sc. II 73/1.
This endenture … berrez vitnes that day of redres sal be halden [etc.]
1388 Bamff Chart. 22.
Dene Jon Marsyale for tyl bere witnes to the forsaid contrac made
14.. Burgh Laws c. 22 (A) (see 3 b below). 1436 Coll. Aberd. & B. 393.
Medeful … is to ber witnas to the suthfastnes and namly in the thingis that befor jugis ar done
1456 Hay I 32/31.
The tane has verifyit the tothir … and borne witnes that [etc.]
1473–4 Treas. Acc. I 12.
ijclxxxxvj li. is pait … as the archidene of Sanctandros beris witnes
a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 466.
Nocht is ȝour fairnes bot ane faiding flour [etc.] … Exempill mak of me in ȝour memour Quhilk of sic thingis wofull witnes beiris
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 119/34.
The pepill so wickit ar … The frutles erde all witnes beiris, The ayr infectit [etc.]
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 127/12.
It that Christis avin vordes beres vitnes to
1563 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 193.
And ȝe sall beare witnes unto me … in all Judea
1563–4 Inverness Rec. I 112.
My sourd beiris witnes of the samyn for it is hackit be him
1573-1600 Burne Disput in Cath. Tr. 157/18.
Quha can yit beir vitnes gif I lea or not
attrib. 1558 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 106.
The Apostolis to occupy the place of ane juge to the interpretation of the Worde of God and the Scripture to be as wytnes berar of the wyll … of the Lorde
1558 Misc. Wodrow Soc. 172.
The Scripture, as the trew evident and faithful wytnes berar of the wyll … of the Lorde
(2) 1387 Edinb. Chart. 35.
Jonne Prymros [etc.] … berys wytnes in fourme the qwylk eftir folowys
?1438 Alex. ii 2545.
God him-self, the lele luffar, Beris witnes in lele lufing
c1420 Wynt. i Prol. 38.
Gywe I wryte owthir mare or les Than the storys berys wytnes
14.. Burgh Laws c. 72 (A) (see a above). 1434–5 Reg. St. A. 423.
This endentur … proportis and berys witnes in maner and forme as eftyre folowis
c1460 Consail Vys Man 379.
Bere na wytnes bot thow be cald
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1016.
Let him ga luke … And I sall stand and beir witnes ȝow by
1479 Acta Conc. I 29/2.
The costis of ij persouns that come & bure na witnes
1515 Treas. Acc. V 41.
David Cameroun [etc.] … and to ane servitour to ber witnes with thame for to pas to Jedwart [etc.]
1562-3 Winȝet II 49/7.
Epistolis also beris witness, quhilk he … wrate to Philip
1558-66 Knox II 385.
Note the day, and beare witnesse efter
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 266.
The subtenant might bear wittnes for the tenants master, they not being his immediat tenants
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 265.
Any barrone … summoned to bear wittnes, the lords should modifie his reasonable expenses

c. (To bere, get, etc.) fals witnes, (to produce, etc.) untrue or unfounded testimony, false evidence; the fact of giving such evidence in a court of law. Also attrib.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxxi 390.
Sa gat scho fals witnes Agayne the monk
14.. Burgh Laws c. 72 (A) (see a above). ?c1500 Rathen Manual 27/1.
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 17/53.
Nychtburis to luf, fals witnes for to fle
1533 Gau 10/21.
Thow sal notht beir fals vitnes aganis thy nichtbur
(2) 14.. Burgh Laws c. 72 (A).
Giff ony man be convickit … of mane atht or fals witnes
attrib. 14.. Acts I 12/2.
Quhasa evir is enchessonyt of fals wytnes beryng
14.. Acts I 37/2.
He … that anys is convyct manesuorne or false wytnes berar [L. convictus fuerit de periurio vel de falso testimonio] nevir mare sal he be herde in preyff na in wytnes beryng [L. testimonio]

d. In witnes of (to), in testimony to a fact, event, etc., chiefly in the attestation clause of a document. a1400 Leg. S. xiii Prol. 89.
Al thare sawis are … accordand in witnes To Cristis werke
1388 Bamff Chart. 22.
The qwilke … layd the lande wyth lyne and departit tham ewynly in tua … In the wetnes of the forsayd partysyng
1389 Liber Melros 449.
In wytnes here of … we have put ovr sele
1433 Stirlings of Keir 212.
1437 Reg. Panmure II 231.
In faitht and witnes of the quhilk thing to this my letter my seil is affixit
1440 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV 395.
1462 Douglas Chart. 93.
1507 Oliphants 50.
1513 Doug. i Prol. 350.
Sum tyme of a word I mon mak thre In witnes of this term oppetere [etc.]
1518 Elphinstone Mun. 20.
In wittenes … to this my writtinge singned with myne aune hande
1525 Buccleuch Mun. II 145.
1558 Glasgow Cordiners 251.
In witnes and verificatioune of the sammyn the seile of the … maist reuerend fadir

e. To have witnes of (a person), to obtain the testimony of a person about something. 14.. Acts I 28/2.
Than sall the man ioys all the gudis … sua at that man sall have wytnes [L. testimonium] of tua leil men or of women nychtburis that herde the chylde cryand

f. Of a person: To lede (one) or to stand in witnes, to appear or function as a witness (in a court case, etc.). 14.. Acts I 346/2.
The crownaris … sall haue sustentatioun resonablie for himself … and for twa men led in uitnes
1516 Reg. Privy S. I 422/2.
The king … rehablis the saidis Johne [etc.] … to stand in preif and witnes and use all lefull dedis in jugement and outwyth siclyk in all thingis as … before thai war convict

g. Of a person or seal: To witnes, (to give or function) as testimony as to a fact, etc. Also to take God to witnes. ?1438 Alex. ii 85.
To witnes [F. En tesmoingnage] dar I draw Venus
1416 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 247a.
To the mare wytnas I haff set to my sele to this present wryte
a1500 Bk. Chess 91.
As in this writ sall beir to witnes The worthye famous clerk Diomides
1561 St. A. Kirk S. 133.
Wyth incalling of the name of Crist Jesus … to wytnes wyth our consciences we [etc.]
1568 Anderson Collect. Mary IV i 117.
Quhome, I take God to witnes, I have luiffit [etc.]

h. Letter off wetnes, a letter attesting to something. 1431 Buccleuch Mun. II 29.
We … to thys present letter off wetnes hayfis set our seellis

i. To tak witnes, see Ta(k v.1 17.

2. One who attests to an event, usu. evidenced by the signing and sealing of a document in which the names of those witnessing its signature, etc. are included. Freq. coll. b. specif.One who is present at a baptism in order to testify to its having taken place.coll. c1379 MacRae Early Sc. Texts No. 1.
Thir wytnes sir Macolme of Dromond … & mony vythyr
1385 3rd Rep. Hist. MSS 410/1.
My witnez, Robyn Jonson … and Richard of Pentland [etc.]
1400 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 33.
Witnes schir John the Seyncler [etc.]
1410 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 75.
That the said erle … sal gif … twa hundreth markis worth of land … with chartire witnes and lef of the oure lord
14.. Burgh Laws c. 45 (B).
Than sal be made a recorde be for wytnes of [etc.]
1439–40 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 240.
1450 Reg. Episc. Brechin. I 127.
That ȝou … summond hym to compeir befoir ws … and this ȝe do befoir guyd witnes bryngand thir lettris with ȝe
c1450 Coldingham Priory 140.
And suppose the ewydents war undon … the witnes beand of life sall ber al the effec of the said ewydents, so that the condiscion sal be hall in thes lese aftyr as thai war acordit
c1475 Wall. vii 1261.
With witnes thar be his ayth he him band
1494 Treas. Acc. I 239.
To pas to Bute to bring the witnes of the execucioun of Schir Johne of Ilis summondis xl s. Item, the foure witnes expensis in Edinburgh … xl s.
1497 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 611.
Beand lauchfully warnit … before ane notar & vitnes
1511–2 Wemyss Chart. 140.
The samen to be ingrossit in autentyk and dew forme wnder baitht thar selis … Witnes, the Bischoipe of the Ylis [etc.]
1526 Acts II 302/2 (see Indentourly adv.). 1555 Acts II 496/1.
All notaris … geuand instrumentis and requyrand witnes thairto thay sall requyre the saidis witnes quhair thay dwell … and insert the samin in thair saidis intrumentis
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii 121b.
The direct maner of improbation be the witnes insert in the wreit, quhilk is taken to be improven. Gif all the witnes insert depones that they knaw nathing anent the wreit and that they were not required as witnes thereto the wreit … is declared to be fals
1661 Irvine Deeds 12 Aug.
Johne Dalrymple also wryter thair inserter of the dait and witness
(b) 1512 Selkirk B. Ct. MS 17b.
This was done before thir wotnes Schir William Bryding, noter, … Wollem Bradfut and Wolle Luderdaill
pl. 1481 Fam. Rose 144.
1520 Bk. Islay 37.
Togyddyr with my subscription … befor thir vytnesis
c1575 Balfour Pract. 383 (see Instrumentar adj.). c1575 Balfour Pract. 383 (see In-writtin p.p.). a1633 Hope Major Pract. I 94.
That the consignation of ane mutuall contract … wes relevant to be proven be the wittnesses insert
1688 Fountainhall Decis. I 511 (see *Instrumentary adj.).sing. 1585 Wemyss Chart. 216.
Henry Orrok, vitines
1599 Buccleuch Mun. II 259.
1575–6 Edinb. Skinners in Bk. Old Edinb. C. VI 93.
Johne Freir is wetines
1588–9 Milne-Home MSS 80.
David Nesbet, wetneis
1600 Liber Dryburgh 317.
1603 Red Bk. Grandtully I 108.
1610 Red Bk. Grandtully I 110.
(b) 1574 Maxwell Mem. I 310.
1586 Maxwell Mem. I 319.
1598 Montgomery Mem. II 238-9.
1599 Buccleuch Mun. II 259.
(c) 1683 Melville Chart. 181.
We doe hereby nominat … tutors testamentar to our youngest sone, … David Scrimseour, witnes, Robert Black, wotens
b. 1566 Reg. Privy C. I 485.
That be thair ambassatouris thai may be witnessis and gosseppis at the baptisme of thair majesteis derrest sone
1584 St. A. Kirk S. 533.
The ower great number of witnes or gossoppis to the barnis that ar baptizit in this kirk

3. A person or persons able to attest to (the truth or falsity of) something. b. specif.One who is called to give evidence in court. Freq. coll.See also Lede v. 19. Also transf. and attrib. c. transf.Of a thing as source of evidence, authority or proof.Quot. Henr. in b sing. may rather be coll. a1400 Leg. S. xviii 177.
Thai … vthyre witnes nedit nane Bot God & hyme-self al-ane
1506 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 693.
We … sal kep his … consail & secret schewin to me or him fra all vitnes
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 242.
Moses and Elias … wer twa witnes That He wes Crist
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 426.
Witnes to him condampe thai brocht, Bot thai fand nane … that him hurt moucht
1513 Doug. v xiii 57.
Thi self [sc. Neptune] is witnes quhou … Sa masterful storm … Scho [sc. Juno] rasit
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2348.
Quhair I was now, thair was witnes far ma. My motheris mayd scho … fetchit me Quhilk lyis richt seik
1562-3 Winȝet I 26/5.
Or I condemnit … Hierome and Augustine as leand wytnesses [etc.]
1558-66 Knox II 384.
Your selfis shalbe witnesse, yf that [etc.]
a1578 Pitsc. II 70/5.
Quhat neideth ws ony witnes aganes him hath he nocht opinlie heir spokin blasphemie?
1681 Cloud of Witnesses (1714) 98.
For our Lord will not want witnesses to witness for Him, however few and feckless they be
b. coll. 1397 Acts I 208/2.
Gif … that may be provit before the justice othir with witnes or with assise he sal pay [etc.]
14.. Burgh Laws c. 22 (A).
The witnes sall suer that suth is that thai ber witnes of it
14.. Burgh Laws c. 75 (A).
Seiknes that is pruffyt with witnes
1459–60 Newburgh B. Ct. 1b.
The balȝe perafferit to the forsaid Dauid Anderson xv days to produs his wytnas
1482–3 Acta Conc. II cx.
Letters to summond his witnes … to here thame sworne
1496–7 Acta Conc. II 48.
The saidis persons witnes being lauchfully summond til compeire under the pane of rebellione
1532 Facs. Nat. MSS III xx.
All continuationis of proces … to be callit at the dayis assignit thairto for expeditioun of witnes and eschewing of expens
1551 Perth Guildry 277 (12 July).
Supplicationis tobe direct to Edinburght for exeminyng of sic vitnes as the said Robert will vs
1552–3 Treas. Acc. X 159.
To Thomas Hall … for the expensis of twa fals witnes
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. ii 118b.
Of probation be witnes … the thrid kinde of probation maist commonlie is vsed be witnes … Quhilk forme of probation … sould be receaved after litiscontestation. Except the witnes be speciall command of the lords happin to be receaved, sworne and admitted, ad perpetuam rei memoriam, and the partie warned to that effect … The witnes sould be in number, at the least twa concordand
1622-6 Bisset I 187/9, 10.
Gif he offerris him to prove be witnese he suld nocht be permittit to resyle fra witnes to prove the samin be aith … or utherwyis
1622-6 Bisset I 189/14.
The dewitie of the ground … to be provin be the landis laird, or creditouris and utheris famous witnese
1670 Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct. Processes No. 82 (14 July).
Interrogeators to interrogatt the wittnes upon the merches betuixt the lands
1673 Forbes Baron Ct. 294.
He did prow be famous vitnes … that they saw [etc.]
pl. c1575 Balfour Pract. 373.
Efter that the partie has chosin … witnessis for preiving of his intent, he may not … desire ony ma
1678 Mackenzie Laws & C. i xxv 2 (1699) 126.
The pursuers brothers, or other inhabile witnesses
sing. a1400 Leg. S. xii 322.
Ane … of his vprysinge that may Be wytnes
1456 Hay I 257/22.
It is forbodyn be the lawe, that ony man suld be witnes in his awin cause
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2278, 2290.
Haue ȝe witnes or writ for to schau? … Quhair is ȝour witnes that hard I hecht [etc.]?
1508–9 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I 66.
Thomas Crag … deponit be aitht that he bistud hard and saw and for witnes was tane quhen [etc.]
c1575 Balfour Pract. 373.
Probatioun allanerlie be ane witnes, is not sufficient
transf. a1658 Durham Comm. Rev. 24.
He is leading witnesses and fitting processes and discovering the truth and falsehood of everything
attrib. 1499 Echt-Forbes Chart. 85.
[He] deliueris that be liklines and witnis depositiones and be fatht and consciens [etc.]
c. 1456 Hay I 265/1, 3.
As jugement is done before a juge be a provour and a defendour and witnes sa is the bataill in listis. For the witnes ar the wapnis and armouris and grete strakis quhill ane be doune. And that man provis best his caus for his witnes is approvit be the grete juge
1456 Hay I 268/23.
Armouris ar figurit the witnes … be the moyen of the quhilkis ilk ane … thinkis to prove [etc.]
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2831 (Bann.).
The auld proverb is witnes of this
1533 Gau 42/3.
Thair is mony vitnes of our Lordis passione in the ald testament the quhilk schew that He suld de
1533 Gau 48/6.
Vitnes off the ald testament that … Christ ascendit to the heuine. Dauid vritis thair of in the lxvii psalme
1567 G. Ball. 42.
Of Jesus Christis Passioun, … As witnes is Thy word in write

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"Witnes n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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