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

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First published 1983 (DOST Vol. V).
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Play, n. Also: playe; pla; pley(e. [ME. and e.m.E. pleȝe, pleie, pley(e, play(e, plai, OE. pleᵹa (WSax.) and plæᵹa (Angl.), f. the root of pleᵹ(e)an, -ian, plæᵹian Play v.1 Cf. ME. plaȝe (c 1250), plahe (a 1225), plawe (a 1290), plau (14th c.), f. OE. plaᵹa (Mercian; f. plaᵹian v.); also ME. ploȝe, plohe, pleowe, pleoi (all 13th c.), ‘which appear to mix the two types ple(o)ȝe and plawe’ (OED.).] Play, or a play, in various senses.The majority of the rhymes suggest that the vowel is that of away, day, lay p.t. of Ly v., May n.2, may pres.t. of May v.1, pray, say, etc.

1. Brisk or vigorous movement.a. Violent physical exercise in the arts of war. ?1438 Alex. ii. 372.
Grete cumpany he can thame bere In gamming play in peax and were
c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 240. 1490 Irland Mir. MS. fol. 339 b.
The ȝoung noblis … suld tak thar play … in iusting and vthire sic thingis
1494 Loutfut MS. 130 b.
Thair is gret difference betuix … the sueit play and the hard batell
1555 Peebles B. Rec. I. 214.
In takyn of Matho Bell quhingare quhen thai wer cumit fra thair play

b. Fighting. — c1460 Alex. (Taym.) (ed.) 1911.
And he haid hit him … He thocht till haue made ane end of all the pley [: away]
1614 Lett. Eccl. Affairs II. 370.
My Lord … hes begunne this dayes playe agane and hes hitt the castell uith ane schotte

c. To give (ingredients) a play (in a pan), to cause to move about briskly, by stirring, bringing to the boil or simmering. Cf. Play v. 2 and 3. — 1650 Brechin Presb. 37.
To tak som plumb damouses and sugar and give them a play in a pan together with som drink

2. Exercise or activity done for the sake of recreation; sport, diversion, amusement.At play, while engaged in recreation or diversion.(1) a1400 Leg. S. xxxvi. 427.
Bot als of play & wantones that he fled ay & of menis conuersacione
?1438 Alex. ii. 2173.
Amang thame made thay play and gamyn To solace and to sport thame samyn
c1420 Wynt. v. 2085.
The Romanys … apon thare wys … held thare solace and thare play [: day]
Ib. viii. 3405.
The Scottis men made myrth and play [: say]
a1500 Colk. Sow i. 384.
All thair dansis and play Thay movit in thair mad muting
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxix. .
Halking hunting … Ar chengit all in wrangus wynnyng, Thair is no play bot cartis and dyce
1508 Treas. Acc. IV. 125.
To the bancat and for the play and dans of the samyn
1513 Doug. v. iii. heading.
Of the gemmys proclamyng and the play [: assay]
a1538 Abell 27 b.
The King tuik him to quyet playe & plesure & principalie in harp [etc.]
1535 Stewart 5621.
Manlie he wes … Aufull in weir and plesand into pla [: ma (= maiden)]
1599 Aberd. Eccl. Rec. 169.
That thair be na play Sondayes heireftir onder all hiast pane that eftir may follow
(2) 1584 Melvill 184.
Giff … at meat, play or elswhare a gentilman sall nam the devill [etc.]

b. Enjoyment, pleasure, delight. c. Applied to a person viewed as a source of this.b. 1375 Barb. v. 73 (E).
It is gud that we samyn ta Dissese or ese or payne or play
a1400 Leg. S. vi. 462.
Quhen men venis beste that thai Sal lyfe in lykine & in play [etc.]
c1420 Ratis R. (S.T.S.) 1674. c1500 Crying of Play 132.
In Edinburgh quhar is meriast cheir Plesans disport and play [: aray]
1513 Doug. v. Prol. 34.
Now wa now play
a1568 Bann. MS. 44 a/27.
Sum to pane and sum to pley [: day]
1570 Sat. P. xi. i.
Adew all glaidnes sport and play
c. c1500-c1512 Dunb. xlviii. 181.
Our peax our play our plane felicite
(b) ? a 1510 Mod. Lang. Notes XXIV. 111/1.
Hayle patryarkes pleye

d. Sexual indulgence, esp. illicit copulation. Also Venus play.(1) c1420 Wynt. ii. 67 (C), 1352 (see Chawmer n. 3). a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 319.
I change … thy play and wantones To greit diseis
1513 Doug. iv. v. 38.
The wyntir sesson … Thai spend in lang reffell lust and play [: tway]
Ib. xii. Prol. 225.
This schamefull play [: May]
a1568 Scott xxxiv. 53.
Ȝour play [is] sone peruertit Fra that thair belly rys
1618-60 Lithgow Poet. Remains 94.(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 399.
He that wantes … valȝeandnes in Venus play is ful vile haldin
a1570-86 Maitland Maitl. F. cix. 26.
Off Venus play past is the heit

3. Jest, fun (as opposed to earnest); a matter for laughter, a joke.(1) ?1438 Alex. ii. 616.
Ȝe may weill wit he dois bot playes
c1420 Wynt. v. 2250.
That men mycht newyre for play na bowryd … Ger hym … smyle
c1420 Ratis R. 1663.
This eild … lovis ernyst mar than play [: alway]
a1500 Henr. III. 93/109.
For of my pane thow maid it play
c1500-c1512 Dunb. xxxiii. 27.
To sum man thair it was no play The preving of his sciens
a1568 Scott xxi. 20.
It wes hir play to se me pynd
a1570-86 Arbuthnot Maitl. F. xxix. 116.
All men thinkis a play me till iniure
(2) ?1438 Alex. ii. 3876.
Ȝe ar our wilfull for to say Ȝour will in ernest or in play
a1500 Henr. Fab. 770 (Bann.).
No man may speke a word in play [: welloway] Bot now on dayis in ernist it is tane
1540 Lynd. Sat. 1502.
Quhat ever wee say I pray ȝow tak it all in play
a1568 Bann. MS. 250 b/19.
I will it tak in sport and pleay [: wey, say, nay]
a1500 Seven S. 413.
And gentill iornais wndertak Baith of ernist and of play [: away]

4. A particular diversion or amusement; a game or sport.sing. and plur.(1) sing. ?1438 Alex. ii. 3925.
Eftir the play [F. le jeu d'eschez] the knychtis rais
c1420 Wynt. viii. 5192.
Wyth plate scheldis … As it afferis to this play [jousting]
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2860 (Bann.).
I sall thé leir to swyme … To preif that play it wer our perrellous
c1550 Lynd. Meldrum 241.
In euerilk play he wan the pryse
1605-6 Welsh Forty-eight Serm. 289.
Pray and ye have gained the play
1669 Edinb. B. Rec. X. 70.
Ane play or game within this citie called the pricking book loterie of plate [etc.]
plur. c1420 Wynt. iv. 78.
Thare playis [: dayis], As to dans pype or syng Or to wresstyl and mak justyng
c1420 Ratis R. 1259. 1490 Irland Mir. I. 29/24.
Oft tymez men thinkis on the playis and the thingis that thar hert lufis
Id. Asl. MS. I. 68/12.
Gangand to placis vnhonest … and to vnlefull playis
1513 Doug. v. Prol. 46.
Myrthis and myrry plays [: ways] Endyte by Virgil
Ib. i. Prol. 174 (see Palestral(l a.1). a1538 Abell 64 b.
He gaif him to drinkin and jwgin & wanton plais
1560 Rolland Seven S. 10299.
Al kin mirth with blythnes sports & playis [: dayis]
1565 Aberd. B. Rec. MS. XXVI (J). 1574 Acts III. 87/2.
Subtile crafty and vnlauchfull playis as iuglerie, fast and lowis [etc.]
1579 Stirling Kirk S. in Rogers Social Life I. 108.
[That] they … abstain fra all publict dansein and playeis in the gaitts of the burgh on the day of the marriage
1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Apollinares, plaies in praise of Apollo
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 689.(b) 1545 Prot. Bk. Hew Rig 17.
And ever I happen to pley at carts dise tabblis or yet lay by hand at the saidis pleyis with ony persone [etc.]
(2) 1456 Hay II. 31/35.
At playes of dice and of tables and othir licht playis
1494 Loutfut MS. 37 b.
The play of the ches

b. Applied to love play. — c1500-c1512 Dunb. lxxv. 59.
Ane play … Quhilk men dois call the dery-dan
a1570-86 Balnavis Maitl. F. cxxix. 29.
For in that play [: say, may, away] … Gud will is not allowit

5. A martial skill or accomplishment; also, a trick or dodge, more generally; a crafty or underhand trick. 1375 Barb. xix. 364 (C).
The Lord Dowglas that will Sum of his playis ken ȝow till
?1438 Alex. i. 1465.
Lansand he leris thame of his play [: day]
1572 Sat. P. xxx. 53.
Gif I spak of culuering bow and speir He was not borne was better of sic playis
1572 Sat. P. xxx. 183.
Ȝit was the pepill puneist for sic playis [: dayis, sayis]

6. The action of carrying on a game; playing.Barnis (bairns) play, child's play, a simple or easy matter.(1) ?1438 Alex. ii. 1588.
In his play is more dyuers thing Than in the chace
Ib. 3870.
Amendis ȝour chek … We think our lyttill on our play
1529 Lynd. Complaynt 95.
Fra play thow leit me neuer rest
(2) 1535 Stewart 56549.
To byde thair baid it wes na barnes pla [: awa]
1637 Rutherford Lett. (1862) I. 226.
To make it a matter of bairn's play

7. The playing of a game for money or other stakes; gambling, gaming. a1578 Pitsc. I. 267/23.
Quho wald … go to the dyce witht ane commone haschatur and thair to ieopardie in the play on ane cast aganis a glied half penney
1637 Rutherford Lett. (1891) 401.
God keeping the stakes and moderating the play

8. Only Sc.: A pleasure-fair or festival, appar. containing inter alia games, pageantry, interludes, etc.Freq. plur.See also Farce n. and May-play n.For some discussion see Mill Mediæv. Plays, esp. chaps. I and IV.sing. a1500 Peblis to Play 2.
At Beltane, quhen ilk bodie bownis To Peblis to the play [: say, gay, day]
c1500 Crying of Play heading.
Heir followis the maner of the crying of ane playe
1503–4 Mill Mediæv. Plays 118, 119. c1500 Interl. Droich heading.
Ane littill interlud of the droichis pairt of the play
a1570-86 Clapperton Maitl. F. lxxix. 2.
In Bowdoun on blak Monunday Quhen all was gadderit to the play
1600 Elgin Rec. II. 81.
For … incyting … utheris … to cum to seik licence to haif ane abbot play … the said George … to be put in the stockis
(b) 1507 Lanark B. Rec. 18.
Ane quar of paper to bill the pla withaw
plur. c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 71.
I suld … be found … At playis and preichingis and pilgrimages greit … quhair preis was of folk
1546–7 Ayr B. Acc. 100.
For the Franchemennis lawingis in Robert Hudis playis
1553 Mill Mediæv. Plays 150.
The … gud institutioun … quhilk wes in halding of the guid toun in glaidnes … with farsis playis & gamis
To be had and maid ȝeirly to generall plais or ane at the lest with dansis & gammes
1574 St. A. Kirk S. 406.
To violat the Sabbat day be using of playis and gemmis … contrafating the playis of Robein Huid [etc.]
c1575 Balfour Pract. 541.
The playis of abbot of unreasoun Robin Hude Lytill Johne and Quenis of Maij
a1578 Pitsc. I. 365/25.
Pairtieis bankcating deliecat and costlie trieumph and playis and feistis
1604 Brown Paisley I. 81.
That James, Andrew etc. usit superstitious playis a little before Yuill

9. A dramatic performance.See also Clerk-play n., Comed n. and Farce n. c1460 Alex. (Taym.) 4293.
And as … barnis vsis Till were myterris in clerk playis and gysis
1479 Mill Mediæv. Plays 117.
To mak the expens & costis of the common gude apon the … necessaris of the play to be plait in the fest of Corpus Christi
1489 Treas. Acc. I. 118.
To Patrick Johnson and his fallowis that playt a play to the King in Lythqow [£3. 12]
1503 Lanark B. Rec. 14.
For the futyn off the cros to Corpus Christi play
1504 Treas. Acc. II. 438. 1511 Ib. IV. 313. 1533 Bell. Livy I. 191/19.
This last play was na thing plesand to him becaus the first padȝeane thareof … was dolorus
1553–4 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 283.
The day of the playing of the play at the trone with the convoy of the moris; payit for graithing of the quenis luging foiranent the samyn … and beiring of furmes and trestis thairto
1572 Buch. Detect. (1727) 28.
Or the stage wer prepairit and … fand … the candillis not ȝit lichtit and all the prouisioun for the play out of ordour
1582 Mill Mediæv. Plays 169.
As tuiching his play as playit in the castell of Dalkeyth without licence of the elderschip
1595–6 St. A. Kirk S. 814.
For … playing of ane part of the comode and play in St. Leonardis College
1599 Mill Mediæv. Plays 304.
The presbyterie all in ane voce findis thir playis made be the Inglischmen come in the countrej unlauchtfull and sclanderous
1600 Elgin Rec. II. 80 (see Comed n.). 1601 Mill Mediæv. Plays 305.
To the Kingis servandis … quha playes comedies and staige playes
c1650 Spalding II. 292.
Stage playis
1668 Edinb. B. Rec. X. 51.
To use the motione or play called Poor Robin within the citie

b. The (written) text of a play; a dramatic composition. — 1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 41.
Quho can say more than Schir James Inglis says In ballatts farses and in plesand playis
1554 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 206.
That the litill farsche and play maid be William Lauder be playit afoir the Quenis grace

c. In extended sense: A piece of action in real life; a proceeding. Ere all the play be played, before the affair may be brought to a conclusion. See also Play v. 20. — a1605 Montg. Ch. & Slae 1108 (WR.).
I pledge ere all the play bee plaid [: said] That some shall lose a laike
1661–5 Guthrie in Sel. Biog. II. 76.
Ye wot not what may overtake yourselves ere all the play be played
1681 Cloud of Witnesses 97.
And when it comes to that part of the play, do ye not think that it was our part to contend for truth?

10. Only Sc.: The play, time off school for recreation; playtime; holiday from school or college.To take the play, to take time off; to be idle.Cf. med. L. (Latham) ludus sword-play etc., also a holiday from the routine life of a monastery (1391 in Latham), also 17th c. Eng. play = cessation of work (once, 1601). 1630 Rutherford Christ & Doves 12.
But they are like trowands that takes the play … but Gods schollars may not take the play
1649 Sel. Biog. I. 387.
My Lord said ‘I have taken the play very long; God Hath given me five and thirty years to repent’
a1646 Wedderburn Voc. (1709) 3.
Quis nobis ludendi facultatem impetravit? Who hath gotten the play to us?
1649 Peebles B. Rec. I. 387.
It shall not be lesum to him to give the bairnes … the play in any dayes of the weik except vpon Tuysday and Thursday betuixt tuo and foure houres after noone
c1650 Spalding I. 375.
The gramariaris not theles had 20 dayis play and the colliginaris 8 dayis play
1665 Beale Fife Schools 180.
That … the schoolers … attend the school when they are at the play
1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 442.
Mr. Alexander Fraser, schoolmaster at Invernes, haveing given his scholars the play, he waited uppon them himselfe in the links
1674 Dundee B. Laws 61.
That the play be seldom granted in noctim

11. In special phrases.Quhen (the) play is best, when the situation is most favourable.Fair play, honest dealing.The play (is) done (ended), the matter is concluded.To be put owt of play, to be done away with, to be brought to an end.To put in play, ? to put into action.(1) a1400 Leg. S. ii. 885.
For-thi quhen the play best is Best is to lefe than I-wyse
a1568 Balnavis Bann. MS. 139 b/111.
Quhen best is play pas hame away Or dreid war eftir cum
(2) a1500 Henr. Fab. 2564 (Ch.).
Quhether call ȝe this fair play or nocht? To set ȝour maister in sa fell effray
(3) ?1438 Alex. ii. 5478.
Or all the play be done
1649 Sel. Biog. I. 387.
I hope you will tell another tale of death ere all the play be ended
c 1676 Welsh Fourty-eight Serm. 554.
But stay till the play be ended and he will make a clean land
(4) 1513 Doug. viii. Prol. 10.
Peax is put owt of play [: tway]
(5) a1568 Balnavis Bann. MS. 138 b/22.
Fra tyme ȝe stank in to the bank And drypoynt puttis in [M. puttis] play [: away] [etc.]

12. Attrib. and comb., chiefly in senses 1–4 and senses 8 and 9.See also Play-cairt, -club, -cote, -day and -feld(e.Play-fere, a play-mate, companion at play; also, a jester. Play-fule a jester; one's ‘butt’. Play-mear, a ‘play-mare’ or hobby-horse.(1) 1513 Doug. xi. xi. 22.
To be his fallow in exill and play feir
1540 Lynd. Sat. 176.
I am ane sportour and playfeir To that ȝung king
1576 Bann. Trans. 491.
That the Lord Gordoun was not broght incontinent to be his play feir and servant
a1658 Durham Commandments 244.
All idle vagabonds, playfairs, sporters, minstrellers, stageplayers and such like
a1650 Row 259.
He said to his play-fellows after he had … cast away his play-instruments [etc.]
a1538 Abell 113 b.
In his hall wes nocht admittit … fenȝeit fulis bot ane certane of pure barnis callit his saulis & ane of thame wes his play fule
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2231.
Thow art … Plutois playfule in plane
1595 Duncan App. Etym.
Morio, a pleasand, a play foole
a1605 Montg. Son. lxx. 12.
A plane playmear for vanitie devysit
(2) 1522 Perth Hammermen 18.
For the mending of the dewillis cot and play claythis
1535 Treas. Acc. VI. 255.
To be certane play gounis to the Kingis grace to pas in maskrie
1554 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 198.
To Walter Bynnyng … v li. for the making of the play graith … providand alwys that the said Walter mak the play geir vnderwrittin furthcumand to the town quhen thai haif ado thairwith … viz. viij play hattis, ane kingis crowne [etc.]
1558 Ib. III. 26.
The wrychtis quhilkis wrocht the play grayth in the play maid at the tryumphe of our souerane ladyis mariage
1574 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 12 May.
& the play claythis to be deliverit to the toun at the end of the play
1580 Treas. Acc. MS. 36 (2).
Stiff buckram to lyne the heidis of the saidis play claithis
1604 Edinb. B. Rec. VI. 2.
To gif to the maisters of the hospitall the play claythis to be jowppis for the pure
(3) 1606 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 11 June.
The thesr to big twa play buittes the ane for men the vther for bairnis
(4) 1539–40 Misc. Hist. Soc. X. 31.
Resavit … out of the Kingis graice playe purs and put in to the purs of expensis
(5) 1636 Rutherford Lett. (1891) 151.
Let him be Christ's and yours betwixt you but let Christ be whole play-maker

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"Play n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Nov 2022 <>



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