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

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First published 2001 (DOST Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Sing, v.1 Also: singe, syng(e, (syngen), signe. P.t. sang, song. P.p. sung, swng, songe, soung(e, soong(e, sungin, -yn, songin, -yn, -yng, sangin(g. [ME singe(n (c1175), syng (c1350), p.t. songe (1297), song, soong (Chaucer), sang (Gower), p.p. songen (Manning), sunge (Gower), songe (Malory), sung (1593), OE singan, p.t. sang, song, p.p. sungon.] To sing.Freq., in various of the following senses, to sing and (also, nor) say.

1. intr. To perform the action of singing. Also const. to (someone).(1) pres. a1400 Leg. S. i 241.
Ymagis … That … as semyt, gert hedis singe
a1400 Leg. S. xxx 79.
To karole wel & syng
a1400 Leg. S. xxx 123.
He lewit to play & syng
1456 Hay I 287/1. a1500 Henr. Fab. 503 (H).
Quhen we ar sad, quha sall vnto ws sing?
a1500 Henr. Fab. 240 (Bann.). c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) lvii 7.
Sum singis sum dancis sum tellis storeis Sum lait at evin bringis in the moreis
1529 Edinb. B. Rec. II 14.
[An] Irichman that singis with the las and beggis throu the toune
1591 Newes from Scotland in Crim. Trials I ii 217.
[The witches] daunced this reill or short daunce, singing all with one voice
1604 Elgin Rec. II 124.
Williame Innes delaited ane Cowie singand on the calsay on Sonday last at iwining
p.t. 1501 Treas. Acc. II 126.
To the madinnis of Forres that com to Ternway and sang, be the Kingis command
a1508 Kennedy Pass. Christ 226.
Thoucht … all my iuntis sang with angellis stewin
15.. Clar. v 947.
As the madinis song upon this wayes
1658 Sc. Ant. IX 51.
And scho being asked quhat meetingis scho had with the diwell, … scho ansuered … at the cuningar quhair they danced and sang
(2) 1505 Treas. Acc. III 146.
To the tua blind madinnis sang to the King in Air
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Matth. xi 17.
We haue sungin to you, and ye haue nocht daunsit
(3) transf. c1420 Wynt. vi 176.
‘Quhen he doys myrakylis or swylk thyng Than oysys myn ers’, scho sayd, ‘to syng’

b. To sing, as an expression of joy; ? to express joy, generally. Also fig., with non-personal subject. 1540 Lynd. Sat. 34 (B).
Faithfull folk now may sing; For quhy it is the bidding Off … the king That na man be wrangit
a1585 Maitl. Q. 27/26.
In this new ȝeir I sie but weir Na caus thair is to sing
fig. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 4/49.
Syng hevin imperiall most of hicht, Regions of air mak armony

c. fig. ? To tell the truth; ? to relate something pleasing to the hearer. c1420 Wynt. viii 915.
Quhen Schyr Anton the Bek had dwne Hys spek the kyng hym awnsweryd swne … Par le sang Dew vos avese chawnte Be Goddis blud (he sayd) yhe sang

d. To sing dumb, to be or remain silent, to hold one's tongue.Also in the later and modern dialects. 1637 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 219.
Free grace might go to play, and a Saviour sing dumb, and Christ go to sleep
1637 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 253.
Men think it wisdom to stand beside Christ till His head be broken, and sing dumb
1690 D. Williamson Sermon Preached before Commissioner 20.
There may be some … who will hing their heads and sing dumb that day

2. To tell of (a person, thing, country, etc.) in song. Also used of birds.(1) a1400 Leg. S. vi 70.
Than can scho synge Of his cuntre in-to the lede
?1438 Alex. ii 7427.
Singand and carraland iolely Of Alexanderis cheualry
a1585 Maitl. Q. 222/146.
Of auld Sir Richard … We have hard sing & say
(2) c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xlvi 114.
Thane flaw thir birdis our the bewis schene Singing of lufe
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 205.
Ȝe speik of berdis one bewch; of blise may thai sing

3. In the pre-Reformation church: To perform the offices of the Church, mass, etc., ? chiefly or ? only in a sung form; to chant or intone as part of a performance of a religious service.(1) 1399 Slater Early Sc. Texts No. 42.
& a chanon singand perpetuali at the altare of Sante Nicholas in the said abbay [sc. of Holyrood]
c1420 Wynt. v 2008.
A chapell … Qwhare Crystyn men … syngand were And the psalme … wes In Exitu Israelle
c1420 Wynt. v 5452.
Off the Pask candill the halowyng he Dytyd and syne gert songyn be
1490 Acta Conc. I 153/2.
Ane prest to signe in the kirk of Arth for the space of twa ȝeris
a1500 Seven S. 1488.
Scho sayd, he syngis sweit in the kirk
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 3/29.
Ensence his altar, reid and sing In haly kirk with mynd degest
1530 Lennox Mun. 238.
Thre of thaim to synge continuall in the Collage Kirk of Hammyltoun
1535 Stewart 37251.
Ouir all Scotland he hes gart sing and sa, In euirilk kirk onto the auchtane da
1558 Q. Kennedy Tractive 151.
Quhen thai have gottin the benefice, gyf thay have ane brother or ane sone, ȝe suppose he can nolder sing nor say … fra hand he sal be montit on ane mule with ane syde gown and ane round bonett
(2) 1456 Misc. Bann. C. III 96.
Till a prest to sing perpetualy for my saul in the said College Kyrk
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 651.
Set segis for thair saullis to syng and to reid
a1500 Henr. Fab. 836 (Bann.).
Haue he thy gude, he takis small entent To sing or say for thy saluatioun
1495 Acta Conc. I 418/1.
A perpetuale preist to sing for the saule of the said vmquhile Androw
1502 Treas. Acc. II 333.
Schir Thomas Marschael, chapellane, that singis for the King and Quene in Cambuskinneth
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) vi 105 (M).
I will na preistis for me sing
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 117/69.
For menis saulis thai say thai sing

b. To sing or chant (prayers), more generally. c1490 Irland Asl. MS 42/26.
It sufficis nocht that the personis think it [sc. a prayer] … bot thai suld speik & syng as the haly kirk has ordanit thaim

4. Of birds: To twitter or warble tunefully. 1375 Barb. v 5.
Byrdis smale … Begouth rycht sariely to syng
?1438 Alex. ii Prol. 2.
Quhen … foullis in the forestis singis
c1450-2 Howlat 768 (A).
Quhen thai had songyn [B. sangin] & said softly & schoure
a1500 Henr. Fab. 258 (Asl.).
In the mornyng or the laverok sang
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1716 (Ch.). c1475 Wall. viii 1192. a1500 Seven S. 2571.
Ane nychtingale … sang sa werray dulce & sweit That [etc.]
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 245. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xlvi 119 (B).
Me to reconfort most it dois awaill … To think how song this merle and nychtingaill
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 129. a1568 Kennedy Bann. MS 268a/21.
Rycht as the swan for sorrow singis Befoir hir deid ane littill space
1580-92 James VI Lusus Reg. 24.
As mauuisis of kynde are geuin to sing
1630 Dundonald Par. Rec. 304.
The lavroks were singing before they shed

b. Of a cock: To crow. a1500 Henr. Fab. 479 (Bann.).
Or he had sung [Bass., Ch., H. crawin] ane note The fox was war and hynt him be the throte
c1500 Fyve Bestes 225.
Ȝour hour is gone, quhy syng ȝe nocht?

c. Of a raven: To croak or caw. c1450-2 Howlat 812 (A).
How corby messingere … with sorowe now syngis

d. In transf. context: Of a magpie: To speak. a1500 Seven S. 1970.
Sa fowlely thai thé begyle That I [sc. the pyot (= magpie)] may nother syng nor smyle

5. tr. To sing a particular song, psalm, verse, etc. (also, of or to a person). Also used of birds. Also fig.(1) pres. c1420 Wynt. v 2012.
Thai ware syngand than this wers, ‘Deus autem noster in cœlo [etc.]'
a1500 Colk. Sow i 19.
For in old prouerbe we sing,'Cumis littill gud of gaddering Quhair wrechit awerice birnis'
c1500 Rowll Cursing 104 (B).
All thir about the beir salbe Singand ane dolorus dergie
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 795.
Plesand ladyis … Singand softlie full sweit on thair maneir … all diuers versis
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 118/115.
To fle the fendis than hardely sing De terra [etc.]
1513 Doug. vi x 40.
To syng ballatis, and go in karalyng
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 610.
Thir nunnis & systeris … Syngand and sayand psalmes and orisoun
a1568 Bann. MS I p. 8/63.
Remeid me that am … soir opprest, And I sall sing thy prayis
a1568 Bann. MS 107b/36.
In Ȝule quhen ilk man singis his carrell
c1600 Johnie Armstrang in Ramsay Evergreen (1761) II 190.
Of a gentleman I sing a sang, Sumtyme calld laird of Gilnockie
1611-57 Mure Psalmes cxlix 2, 3.
Sing halelujah to the Lord. Sing ane wnvswall song; A new one signe yea of his prayse [etc.]
1661 Soc. Ant. XXII 253.
That the said Isabell Shyrrie did sing her song called ‘tinkletum tankletum’
p.t. a1400 Leg. S. xxvi 668.
Of Sancte Nicholas the solempnite Quhen al the cunctre dewotly Sad or sang his new story
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2083 (Ch.).
The cadgear sang, ‘Huntis vp, vp, vpoun hie’
c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 102.
To dame Venus … Thay sang ballettis
p.p. a1500 Henr. Robene & M. 90.
Thow hes hard soung and say, … ‘The man that will nocht quhen he may Sall haif nocht quhen he wald’
1494 Loutfut MS fol. 51a.
Be the angell was songin ‘Gloria in excelsis [etc.]’
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xli 19.
Be nocht sa lerge vnto thir sawis sung
c1520-c1535 Nisbet Ep. Ald Test. xv.
Worthie loving be sungin onto the creatour of al creaturis
1567 G. Ball. 1.
Quhen thay heir it [sc. the word of God] sung into thair vulgar toung
a1585 Maitl. Q. 112 title.
Ane ballat to be songe with the tuine of ‘Luifer come to luifeiris dore’
1608 Crim. Trials II 261.
He desirit libertie to sing the sext psalme … whiche being grantit, … the same wes tane vp and soung be him self, with a very loud and myghtie voce
1619 Misc. Bann. C. I 241.
1653 Argyll Synod II 36.
That the psalmes be turned to Irish mitre so as they may be soonge with the comon toones
c1635-80 Edwards Commonpl. Bk. 55b.
Certaine Italian songs … sounge in thrie pairts cantus tenor and bassus
(2) 1513 Doug. xii xiii 171.
A litil howlet … That … Sittand by nycht syngis a sorowfull toyn
1549 Compl. 37/21.
Mony smal birdis … singand melodius reportis of natural music
1549 Compl. 39/16.
The titlene follouit the goilk, ande gart hyr sing ‘guk guk’
fig. 1550 Knox III 66.
But the masse singeth ane other song, whilk is, that everie day … is sin purgeit

b. With object denoting the type of voice, or the actual note sung. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (STS) xxii 17.
The pyet … Fenȝeis to sing the nychtingalis not
a1570-86 Maitland in Maitl. F. 61/14.
The tribbill wantis that sould be swng abwne
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. iii 13.
Sing sho tua notis, the one is out of tone, As B acre lau and B moll far abone

e. transf. To sing (from) a particular psalter. a1568 Scott i 122.
Sum ar sene at sermonis seme sa halye Singand Sanct Dauidis psalter on thair bukis

6. To chant or intone mass, or some other part of the liturgy of the pre-Reformation church. Also fig., of birds.pres. a1400 Leg. S. xviii 137.
Singand, … Of the todyr nocturne the fyrst verse
1402 MacRae Early Sc. Texts No. 9.
A preste chanoun or secular … singand in the saide kirk Goddis service lachfully for evirmar
1491 Cart. S. Nich. Aberd. I 256.
Ane choristar … that can singe … ewangilis and messis and legendis
1531 Bell. Boece (M) I 288.
Throw quhilk the kirkis syngis ȝerelye divyne cerymonis in thair gloir and lovyng
1532 Ecclesia Antiqua 314.
And quhen that thai syng mattynis that he sal kep thaim
1537 Reg. Episc. Aberd. I 412.
Sex bernis … sall syng … Aue gloriosa … immediatlie eftir the lade mes
a1578 Pitsc. I 310/6.
Arratick thow sayis all is in waine … quhene we singe saull mese paslmes [sic] and deriegies
p.t. c1420 Wynt. v 366.
Thare he sang the fyrst mes That in the warld evyre sungyn wes
1573 Davidson in Sat. P. xlii 518.
The commentaris tunde ouir perqueir, Syne soung into the pepillis eir
fig. c1500-c1512 Dunb. G. Targe 10.
Full angellike thir birdis sang thair houris
p.p. c1420 Wynt. v 4030.
Swngyn [W. sanging]
1454 Glasgow Chart. I ii 44.
With Placebo and Dirige tyll be songin in the quer
1490 Misc. Spald. C. II 327.
1490 Irland Mir. II 62/30.
The gret creid … at is songin at the mes
(b) 1562-3 Winȝet I 117/8.
That godly forme wes only commandit to be soung in that place be the Pape Damasus

7. To describe, recount, recite, in song or verse. Also (in Rolland) of a bird. Also const. clause object.(1) a1500 Seven S. 2584.
This certanly scho syngis & sayis That ȝe sall me basyng hald
1513 Doug. iv viii 129.
On theatreis, in farcis mony one [is] Rowpyt and sung how he [sc. Orestes] his moder fled
1513 Doug. xiii Prol. 105.
The tother twelf [sc. books of the Æneid] … may be red and song [Ruddim. soung] Our Albyon ile into ȝour wlgar leid
1513 Doug. viii v 20. 1531 Bell. Boece II 354.
Robert Hode, … of quhom ar mony … mery sportis soung
c1530-40 Stewart in Bann. MS 96a/31.
Now lerges of my lordis all … My self sall euir sing and say
1587-99 Hume 16/144.
On my iolie lute, … I sall … Thy glorie gladlie sing
1581-1623 James VI Poems I 33/272.
[To] Sing Noes rather then Deucalions floode
1658 R. Moray Lett. fol. 180.
For they sing all they say like mauises
(2) 1560 Rolland Seven S. 8393.
Weil war he all his dayis That vnderstude quhat ȝone bird singis or sayis
1560 Rolland Seven S. 8399.
Quhat the bird singis mak interpretatioun

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"Sing v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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