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

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First published 1937 (DOST Vol. I).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Be, prep. and conj. Also: bee. [ME. (esp. northern) be, OE. be, var. of bi, , (biᵹ). whence ME. bi, by, mod. by. Cf. By prep.]For examples of be in special phrases see the nouns. e.g. case, chance, day, ges, hand, way, ȝere; also far and fer adv.

A. prep. 1. By the action or agency of (a person).1398 Acts I. 212 (be ministeris of halykyrke). 1447 Aberd. B. Rec. 15 (maynetenyt be the maisteres). c1450-2 Howlat 32 (nurist be dame Natur). 1466 Reg. Great S. 214/2 (made be us and our counsale). 1497 Aberd. Univ. Rec. 15 (foundit be James the ferd). 1533 Gau 4/5 (slayne be thair inimis). 1540 Acts II. 374/2 (slaying of flesche be the flescheouris). c1552 Lynd. Mon. 1390 (be God it was deuysit). a1578 Pitsc. I. 1/2 (left onwrettin be the last translature). 1600 Stirling B. Rec. I. 94 (sum dettis awand be him). 1633 Misc. Spald. C. III. 71 (restand be William Stone iim merkis). 1663 Forbes Baron Ct. 236 (molested bee him).

2. By means of, by the use of (a thing).1375 Barb. i. 218 (knychtis thai hangyt be the nek-bane); xii. 35 (knew the king be the croun). a1400 Leg. S. Prol. 63 (be lele witnes); xxxiii. 780 (hang hyre vpe be the hare). 1385 Rotuli Sc. II. 73/2 (thay sall certifie be thair lettres). 1393 Charter T. Dunbar Reg. H. (clathe that gais be schipe). c1420 Wynt. vi. 1133 (be thyft I wan the gud); viii. 110 (be the text thai decerne all thai casis). a1500 Colk. Sow i. 257 (I knaw be thair banar). 1462 Misc. Spald. C. V. 285 (be it kend be thir letters). c1475 Wall. viii. 911 (to wyn it be no slycht). 1490 Irland Mir. I. 5/7 (quhen the kingis are reulit be wisdome). 1512 Reg. Privy S. I. 375/1 (be the decrete of the lordis). 1533 Gau 28/16 (confundit be the halie writ). 1552 Reg. Cupar A. II. 107 (be all poyntis effoir specifeit). c1568 Lauder Minor P. i. 523 (thocht tha come be fortune & be chance). 1596 Dalr. I. 283/3 (be force thay war schott owt). 1611 Crim. Trials III. 170 (be the ordour of this judgement). c1650 Spalding II. 292 (be pluralitie of voices).

b. In the name of; with appeal to.c1420 Wynt. viii. 4671 (be Goddis face); 5193 (be oure Lord, sayd he). ?1438 Alex. ii. 88 (be all the goddis thow hes tald). a1500 Henr. Fab. 2338 (be the Rude, ȝe raif). 1513 Doug. ii. ii. 153 (be the hie goddis abuife). a1568 Scott iii. 39 (be the wy that all the warld wrocht). a1568 Bann. MS. 163 a/21 (the Helandman swere be yon kirk).

3. a. By the number or amount of; to the extent of. (See also Sic a.)1375 Barb. ii. 230 (thar fayis war may then thai be fiften hunder). a1500 Rauf C. 34 (quhair na body was him about be fiue mylis braid). 15.. Christis K. 70 B (be ane akerbraid it come nocht neir him).

b. In accordance with; on the basis of.1375 Barb. i. 65 (be this resoun that part thocht … ); 122 (he is happy that be othir will him chasty). 1400 Melville Chart. 17 (as sicker as I may mak him be reasoun). 1405 Lennox Mun. 57 (to be payd be evynly porcionis). a1500 Bk. Chess 9 (be the ald rewlis of astronomy). 1511 Treas. Acc. IV. 283 (a maissone wirkand be task one the chapele). 1531 Bell. Boece I. 74 (be my opinion). 1591 Lennox Mun. 332 (successour be progres to Lord Darnelie). 1622-6 Bisset II. 249/12 (to pairt the gayne be halfis).

c. On account of; through.1531 Bell. Boece I. 68 (slew himself be disperation). 1559–60 Edinb. Old Acc. I. 306 (be feir of brekin with the Frenchemen).

d. With reference to, as regards; in respect of.1535 Stewart 27616 (this example I verifie ma be the Britis).

e. In addition to; besides, except.c1420 Wynt. viii. 7040 (he wald lat nane wyte [= wit] be hym). a 1595 Celtic Sc. III. 428 (be thir iles foirsaids).

f. In comparison with; in distinction from.1570 Sat. P. xiv. 94 (the trew liege be the rubiature salbe kend). a1578 Pitsc. I. 406/2 (ane knew never ane Inglische man be ane Scottis man). 1595 Orkney & Sh. Rec. 220 (Thomas corn be Georges corn). a1598 Ferg. Prov. 48 (he knowes not the doore be the doore bar).

4. On or upon, beside, along, by (a way, etc.).1375 Barb. iii. 577 (thai rowyt be the Ile of But); 597 (be se thai him soucht). c1420 Wynt. viii. 3824 (bathe be land and be the se); ix. 3193 (be a sid). a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 40 (be the syde of ane fair well); 80 (be ane bright fyre). 1488 Dunferm. B. Rec. (be the land of Iohne Purrok). a1500 Bk. Chess 2001 (thai suld nocht tarye be the waye). 1544 Corr. M. Lorraine 107 (for daunger of tayking be the gait). 1568 Grant Chart. 387 (discendand be the merchis wnderwrittin). a1605 Montg. Flyt. 381 (in a den bee a dyke). 1602 Elgin Rec. II. 101 (be the waye betwix this and Glakmarres). 1654 Jedburgh B. Rec. 26 June (to use violence be the way).

5. Over, throughout (of time).c1515 Asl. MS. I. 177/18 (of tham that be lang tyme travalis). 1548 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 144 (be the space of ane yeir thairefter).

6. Not later than (a specified time).1375 Barb. vii. 48 (he is weill fer be this tyde). c1450-2 Howlat 40 (be pryme of the day). 1462 Aberd. B. Rec. I. 23 (be Pasch cum a ȝere). 1495 Acta Conc. 405/2 (be quhat tyme). 1515 Thanes Cawdor 125 (be the Trinitie day cum ane yer). 15.. Clar. iii. 27 (be the fyveteine day). 1589 Melville Mem. II. 163 (be auchtt houris in the morninge). 1634 Ib. 251 (be that tym). 1689 Siege Castle Edinb. 108 (to-morrow bee ten a clock).

b. Be than, be that (or this), by that (or this) time.(1) 1375 Barb. vii. 236 (it wes weill lat of nycht be then). a1500 Colk. Sow i. 414 (be than wes machit on mold … ). c1475 Wall. v. 125 (sternis be than began for till apper). c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxv. 38 (be than it salbe neir this warldis end). 1513 Doug. v. iv. 34 (be than the auld Meneyt our schipburd slyde).(2) 1375 Barb. x. 668 (be that his men war cummyn). c1475 Wall. i. 409 (be that the layff lychtyt about Wallace). a1500 Rauf C. 38 (be that it drew to the nicht). a1500 Doug. K. Hart 513 (be that wes Age enterit). c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 1381 (be that the Regent come fast rydand). a1540 Freiris Berw. 366 (be that the freir had left his studeing); 557 (be this freir Johine attour the stair is gane). 15.. Clar. i. 1471 (be this Amador fell sound on sleip).

B. conj. By the time that, when, as soon as.a1400 Leg. S. vii. 682 (be this wes done). c1475 Wall. ii. 402 (be he was fallyn). a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 358 (be this was said). a1500 Rauf C. 23 (be it was pryme of the day). a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 600 (be the day dew). c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxvi. 112 (be he the correnoch had done schout). c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 1253 (be he had endit this word). 1542 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 30 (soun be the sone rais). a1568 Scott ii. 97 (be thay had dynd). a1578 Pitsc. I. 394/15 (be he come thair). 1596 Dalr. II. 59/16 (be day was lycht). 1600-1610 Melvill 121 (be the printing of his Cornicle was endit).1618 Lithgow Poet. Rem. 17 (be wee are borne).

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"Be prep., conj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Apr 2024 <>



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