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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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Serch(e, Sers(e, v. Also: seirch(e, seyrch, sairche, search(e, sc(h)earch(e, secharch, sersche, sersh, sc(h)erse, serce, serss-, seirce, seirs, seyrs(s, searce, sears(s, (serchyn, -eing), sirce, Cers(e v. [ME and e.m.E. serche(n (c1330), serge, sers (both north., c1440), search(e (1535), MF serch(i)er, scercier (late 14th and 15th c. in Godefroy), late L. circāre to go round.]Also, in various senses, to serch(e and seke. See Sek(e v. 1 (2), 2, 9 (3) and 11 (2) for further examples.

I. 1. tr. To explore, examine, inspect (a place) with a view to finding (a person or thing).(a) 1531 Bell. Boece I 143.
He [sc. Agricola] … dantit the Pichtis. The nixt simer he began to serche all the havinis … of Argyle … with his schippis
1554 Treas. Acc. X 232.
To the lard of Cokpen to pas, serche and seik the hillis of Falkland and the coilheuchis of Linlithqw for coill and mettales
1556–7 Peebles B. Rec. I 235.
To gar gadder stanis to Peblis brig egis, and to serche the walter
(b) 1598 Elgin Rec. II 65.
[Men] to … search the toun anent … the grave neuley maid as it wer for a dead chyld
(c) c1500 Crying of Play 162.
Gar sers baith Louthiane & Fyf And vale to me a mekle wyf
1513 Doug. ii xi 118 (Sm.).
For to serce Troy, every streit and way
1513 Doug. viii i 10.
[Aeneas] sersys turnand to and fra all artis
a1568 Bell. Bann. MS p. 4/65.
The hevin the erd baith sersit vp and doun
a1585 Maitl. Q. 220/100.
The erd for to be holit & so deip doun be sersit
c1590 J. Stewart 47/138.
He scherst the borders round about of Spaine

2. To examine the interior of, to ransack (a building, boat, etc.) in quest of a concealed person or thing. Also fig.(1) 1487 Acts II 178/2.
That na gudis be furit be the master apoun his ourloft … And this to be serchit be the officiaris of the burgh and the hede frauchtismen of the schip
1560 Keith Hist. III 8 n.
My lord … seirchit all his place, and gatt thame not
1563 Digest Justiciary Proc. E 17.
His chalmer being seirchit thair wes dyuers of his iyrens … withe the fals testanes
1570 Reg. Morton I 51.
Quhen the cowfferis ar seyrchit that may awne geir may be deliuerit to my servandis
1573 Reg. Privy C. II 251.
That nane … losse ony maner of gudis or kistis … in the saidis schippis … unto the tyme the same be sene sercheit and visiit be the ordinar sercheour
a1578 Pitsc. I 188/23.
Quhill he had searchit all the place to se gif the Duik of Albanie had bene withtin
1671 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. MS 1 April.
The magistrattis and councill will appoynt some of thair number to sea[r]che the houses of the saids victwalleirs and where any meill can be fund [etc.]
(2) 1513–14 Acta Conc. Publ. Aff. 12.
At the saidis bottis be seirsyt and socht that na victalis be in thame
1564–5 Reg. Privy S. V i 532/1.
Williame Aikman … to serche and seik all Scottis schippis
1572 Canongate Ct. Bk. 380.
They sercit and socht the duelling hous of Johnne Pawtoun … for his guddis and geir

3. a. In witchcraft cases: To examine or inspect the body (for marks, signs, etc.). b. To probe (the area of a wound).a. 1590–1 Crim. Trials I ii 216.
Which marke commonlie is given them under the haire … whereby it may not easily bee founde out or seene, although they be searched
1628 Irving Dumbartonsh. II 37.
[Janet Neill to be] tryit and examinat and serchit gif sche hes the devillis mark on her body
1661 Acts VII App. 31/1.
Severall persones suspect … of witchcraft apprehendit and searched
b. 1513 Doug. xii vii 18.
And tak gude tent To sers the hyrnys quhar that the hed was went

4. To examine (goods, etc.) in order to assess their quality, etc.; to inspect (specimens) for faults. 1475 Edinb. B. Rec. I 31.
That thair be chosin four personis … quhilkis sall serche and se all wirkis at the craftismen wirkis
1536 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 173.
Our bailyeis to seirs and consider aill and breid … that it be sufficient and nychtbourlyk
1551 Glasgow Masons 5.
That two or thre of the worthyest and maist perfite craftsmen … with the deikin or ane officiar of the craft with thame, pas and sersh and vesy all menis wark gif it be sufficient
1567 Lanark B. Rec. 39.
To gang throw the toun … and seirce and seicht the stoupis and furlattis with all uther metlumis and mak thame just
1694 Dundee B. Laws 453.
Anent ill-dyed bonnets … for remead of thes ewil practices … it is statut … that the bonets shall be secharched when they com from the mill and that the seck be not opned till the secherchers com

5. To peruse, study, consult (writings). Also (once), to serche and seik.(1) 1487 Acts II 178/2.
Serchouris … haifand power to execute and serche the actis & rais the pane
c1515 Asl. MS I 153/5.
Julius Cesar … lukit and serchit storyis and bukis of his eldaris
c1520-c1535 Nisbet III 315/13.
This epistill is the maist principall … parte of the New Testament … ande the mare grundly it is searssit [Tyndale serched], the preciouser thingis ar founde in it
1561 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III 502.
Oure attentik Registaris bukis of Armes beand sersit and ryplie auisit with be ws
1562-3 Winȝet II 20/8.
To inquire and serce the sentences of our forefatheris
1571 Lanark B. Rec. 61.
Gef the saming [act] wer in ony of the buikis the provest gaf command that the buikis wer patent to him to serce the samin
1673 Dunblane Synod 100.
I would have every member appointed to search the register [of the presbytery]
(2) 1565 Inverness Rec. I 124.
Thair commound clerk to serce and seik the commoun buikis of the burgh of Innernis

6. To investigate or inquire into, examine (something). Also, to serch(e one's conscience.(1) a1500 Henr. Hasty Credence 38.
Thow sowld … sitt doun sadly in to iugement, And serche the caus weill, or thow gif sentence
(2) 1551 Hamilton Cat. 220.
First … examine, discus, serche and rype weil thi conscience

b. To probe (another's) attitudes or opinions. 1533 Bell. Livy I 102/33.
Terquyne … began to seirch the myndis of the senatouris … towart him

c. To consider, ponder, ? test (an idea, concept or stratagem). 1531 Bell. Boece II 160.
The Scottis war sa irkit with the sege that thay serchit mony inginis to win the town

d. To explore or examine one's thoughts. c1590 J. Stewart 87/280.
He scherst his thochts to think this thocht vntrew

7. To scrutinise carefully, look searchingly at. 1513 Doug. viii v 78.
Eneas … kest his eyn about delyuerly, Thai stedis all to serchyn [Ruddim. sercheing] and espy; Sa fair placis to se

II. 8. To investigate, seek to discover (a secret, the truth, etc.). a1500 Henr. Fab. 1648.
Nane suld presume be ressoun naturall To seirche the secreitis off the Trinitie
a1500 Henr. Orph. 572.
Ilk man … Suld dreid to sers be constillatioun Thingis to fall vndir the firmament … Quhilk nane in erd may knaw bot God allane
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Rom. xi 33 marg.
Quhat haif we ado to scearche the cause quhy God condampned anne mann and nocht another
1531 Bell. Boece I xlix.
Gevand his mind … to serche the verite of thir obscure and misty dowtis
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 6087.
Latt no man sett thare cure To sers the heych diuyne nature
1579, 1617 Despauter (1579) 165.
Secretiora scire laboro, ac investigo, to seirche secreit thingis
1594 Charteris Wall. Pref. 171.
[To] leif everilk mannis judgement fre to him self, to serch the trueth thairof
a1599 Rollock Wks. I 388.
He wil not let thee touche Him, or His priviledgis, that is, to seirche the deipnes of God

9. To look for, seek to discover (a person or thing), freq. to serch(e and se, to serch(e and seke (seke and serch(e), to serch(e (and seke) out.There is some overlap with sense 8.(1) 1531 Bell. Boece I 10.
A banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark, to serche [M. sekand] ane dwelling place
1531 Bell. Boece I 186.
In that season [sc. winter] … the deir ar constranit to discend fra the montanis to the planis to serche thair fude
1559–60 Soc. Ant. XI 524.
The said chenye was takin away as said is, serchit and fund in the said place. That was be help assistance and reveling of his awin seruandis
1568 Lyndesay Pref. (STS) 402.
Quhat oppressioun … hes he not repreuit? Bot thir sall suffice for exempill … the mantening of derth … the importing of greit quantiteis of fals cunȝe, sklenderlie serchit, and lychtliar punischit
1588 Waus Corr. 417.
The theffis to be serchit and apprehendit with reid hand
(b) 1584 Reg. Privy C. III 705.
To seirche and espy the defaultis and elestis in the fortificationis of the said castell
(c) 1558-66 Knox II 372.
To searche mesmongaris
a1633 Hope Major Pract. II 281.
The debitor's moveable goods should be first searchit
1646 Sc. N. & Q. XII 61.
Hendrie Cargill … to go to the camp to trie and searche some news from the malignants
1649 Sc. N. & Q. IV 28.
John Kincade who searcheth the divells mark
a1672 Sel. Biog. I 154.
We … grounded the ship to search some lecks
(d) 1528 Lynd. Dreme 892.
Quho wyll go sers amang sic heirdis scheip May habyll fynd [etc.]
1532 Aberd. B. Rec. I 144.
And to serse and vesy the townis artailyery and se … quhais handis thai ar in and to collect tham togidder
c1530-40 Stewart Bann. MS 216b/19.
Quhen men ar sad at thame solace thai sers
1535–6 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 165.
Ve ordand the rest of this last taxatioun to be serssit and inbrocht be our balyeis [etc.]
1573 Cath. Tr. 25/28.
Ye mon all pas to the desert to serce and inquyre thame
(e) 1513 Doug. x xi 138.
Turnus … Eneas seyrssys throw amyd the stowr
1513 Doug. xii Prol. 154.
Swannys … Seirsand [Sm. Seyrsand, Ruddim. Sersand] by kynd a place quhar thai suld lay
1513 Doug. xii viii 91.
The man he seirsis throw the effrait rowtis
1551 Glasgow Masons 5.
And the faltis thairof to be seirsit and punist
a1570-86 J. Maitland Maitl. F. 287/59.
It is bot slychtis ȝe haue seirsit [Maitl. Q. 135/59 schersit] To cloik the crafte quhairto ȝe ar inclynd
(f) 1562-3 Winȝet I 14/16.
The reularis … ar lyke woulfis rauisching thair pray … gredelie to searce lucre
(g) c1590 J. Stewart 9/33.
To scherse Sum sempill subiect for my bass ingyn
c1590 J. Stewart 267 § 3.
Go scherse sum pregnant spreit perfyt, Quho in ȝour douceur dois delyt
c1590 J. Stewart 17/82.
1615 Denmylne MSS in Highland P. III 293.
Forces … more then sufficient to fallow, schearch and owerthrow thame [sc. rebels]
(2) 1483 Acta Aud. *123/1.
To serch seke ressaue kepe & intermett with the gudis of the said Robert
1492 Acta Conc. I 255/2.
Chargeing the schirref to serch & seik the said Johne
1504 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 100.
Ane or twa persouns … to pas with a baillie to serche seik and se the clengeing of the said infectit guids
1507–8 Reg. Privy S. I 239/2.
With power … to serch and seik all gudis passing away uncustumyt
1538–9 Treas. Acc. VII 185. 1540 Acts II 372/2.
That all schirreffis … do thare diligence to serche and seik all our souerane lordis rebellis
1561 Hossack Kirkwall 227. 1564 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 140.
[The procurator] soicht and serchit the personale presence of the said nobill lord
(b) 1636 Aberd. Council Lett. II 53.
To pass sairche seek follow and persew … the saids brokne and rebellious theiffs and limars
(c) 1644 Acts VI i 107/1.
(d) 1427 Acts II 15/2.
That ilk barone … ger sers & seik the quhelppis of the wolfis & ger sla thaim
1500 Buccleuch Mun. II 100.
1521 Fife Sheriff Ct. 215.
[He] soucht & serceyt the foresaidis personis to hef fand the sammyn at thar habitacionis
1522 Treas. Acc. V 206.
That he … serce, seik and inbring Robert Loret … to underly the law
1528 James V in St. P. Henry VIII IV 546.
Gif we suld be of syk small … knawlege, to serse and seik the wayis to brek the kyndenes betuix ws
1536 Aberd. B. Rec. in Aberd. Trades 99.
The deacons of everie craft to serce, vesy, and seik all faltis of their neighbours of thair ain craftis
1561 Glasgow Chart. I ii 127.
The said prouest … socht and scersit the said bischop
1564 Perth B. Ct. 66 (25 April).
He … knawis that James Beltane wis sersand and seikand the samyn
1566 Anderson Collect. Mary I 53.
That I may haif sufficient tyme to sers and seik trew tryall at all hands
1568–9 Reg. Privy S. VI 106.
And siclyke all … forbiddin gudis passand away furth of this realme to sersche, seik and apprehend
1579 St. A. Kirk S. 442.
(e) 1600–1 State P. (Reg. H.) No. 108/10, 5.
To searce seik and apprehend the said Johne Lamb
(f) 1574 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I 258.
The said Robert sirceand and seikand his said meir
(3) c1552 Lynd. Mon. 4105.
Thay slyt thare bellyis to sers it [sc. gold] oute
1562-3 Winȝet I 51/33.
I seirceit out the titill that our new Caluiniane kingis and princelie preistis culd haif for thair auctoritie
1576 Orkney Oppress. 35.
That the laird gart serse out the grittest bismeyre that was amang the Duchemen
1581 Hamilton Cath. Tr. in Cath. Tr. (STS) 82/30.
Sik a … zelous desire … as he gaif to … Quene Helena … to serche and find out [the cross]
1581 Hamilton Cath. Tr. 62.
He searchis out all golenȝeis & boutgaittis
1596 Dalr. I 120/7.
Quha wil exquisitlie searche and seik out the original beginning of our lawis
a1599 Rollock Wks. I 367.
Thair is wise and heich spreitit men … that will seirche out the deipnes of nature
a1599 Rollock Wks. I 373.
Art thou ane philosopher, and can tel all the starris, and can seirch out all the minerallis

b. With indirect question as object.(1) 1506 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 109.
That ye diligentlie serche and seik be your self … quhair ony … personis … dois incontrair this our proclamatioun
1513 Doug. i vi 5.
Fortil sers [Ruddim. ceirs] and knaw To quhatkyn costis he with the wynd was blaw
1513 Doug. vii ii 57.
We glaidly may Sers and inquir quhat place and land is this
1530 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 15 Nov.
The bailȝes to sers gyf it [sc. bread] keipis the pais
1531 Bell. Boece II 462.
The erle … began to serche [M. sersitt] deligently, be quhat maner he micht maist esaly invade the said town
1544 Aberd. B. Rec. I 199.
To … sers quhar ony irn may be gottin
1562-3 Winȝet II 18/7.
Seirceand at veray mony men … be quhat manere I … micht discerne the treuth of the Catholik fayth
1622 Elgin Rec. II 173.
That ilk elder sears and espy narrowlie in the kirk quhat persones they miss out of the kirk
(2) 1450 Smit Bronnen I 880.
We exhort … that yhe will serch and se quhare the said gudis ar
1500 Dunferm. B. Rec. I 108.
Ane warde of the haill court to sers and se gif at scho wes nerrest and lauchfull air to hir fadir
1510–11 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 11.
Woll Turnbyll … to sers and se gewe thair was ony gudis … strinyeable
1532 Soc. Ant. II 391.
That the baillies sall sers and se gyf thair be ony vacaboundis within the towne
(3) 1512 (c1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I 137.
That the baillies … diligently serche and seik quhair ony persoun beis seik within thair bounds
1546 Lynd. Trag. Card. 363.
Ȝe aucht … Gar sears and seik … The law of God quho best can vnderstande
1560 Rolland Seven S. 3745.
Let vs … Seirche and seik furth … Gif that we can … find [etc.]
1592 St. A. Kirk S. 736.
Patrik Bonkle to sers and seik quhair Issobell Sutherland is
1599 Fraser P. 115.
To serche seik and try quhair ony personis salhappin to forstall the guidis
(4) 1540 Lynd. Sat. 3323 (Ch.).
That ȝe gar search out … Quha can nocht put to executioun Thair office

III. 10. intr. and absol. To make a search; to hold an inquiry, conduct an investigation (anent, into, for something).(1) a1500 Henr. Fab. 304 (A).
The spensar had na laser … To sers, to seike [etc.]
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 643.
Fra tre to tre thay seirching but respite, Quhil ane me fand
1513 Doug. ii xi 123.
Lukand and sersand about me as I myght
1513 Doug. xii viii 71.
Fleand and seirsand swiftly thar and heir
1533 Boece 155.
Diuers Romanis suspecting this menyt sum trane defendit owder to seirs or persew
1535 Wigtown B. Ct. fol. 298b.
To chuse ane of the balȝeis … to cum & sers & seik
1643 S. Leith Rec. 45/1.
Henry Baptie … to search this nixt Saboth day throw the towne efter noone to try who sells … neips … or such lyk
(2) 1588 Prot. Bk. J. Inglis 6 Oct.
Thomas Myll … hes maid … Thomas Leg … his lauchfull assignay to sers seik & persew for ane gray hors of his … quhilk wes stollin
1596 Dalr. I 315/7.
He … causet searce throuch hail Scotland for the maist deuote … bischopis in thir places
a1599 Rollock Wks. I 379.
He will seirche in to the secreitest thingis in the warld
1670 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. MS 3 Dec.
Samwell Cairmount phiscall with Thomas Lyntoune to goe sea[r]che throw the toune anent dunghills and middingis vpon the hie streit
1670 Rothesay B. Rec. 196.
He could not get so many poindabill guids … as wald pay the said debt efter he haid searsit thairfoir

11. To seek or devise means (to do something). 1533 Bell. Livy I 221/11.
The pepill … seirchit to invaid thame self with iniuris at hame
1567 G. Ball. 100.
Thair counsell is to seirche and to inquyre, The innocent with wrang for till accuse

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"Serch v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2022 <>



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