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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.

Wit, Wyt, n. Also: vit(t, witt(e, wite, wiht, vyt, wytt(e, wyte, wyite, wycht, wet, wot(t, wat(t. [ME and e.m.E. wit (c1175), witt (Orm), witte, wiit, wijt (all Cursor M.), wytte (Ayenbite), wite (14th c.), wyt (a1400), wytt (c1450), weet (1633), OE wit, ᵹewit, MLG wit, ON vit. See also Quyt n.]There is considerable ambiguity between the senses.

1. The mind as the seat or source of consciousness, thought, knowledge or memory. b. Consciousness. a1400 Leg. S. xxvii 338.
Mocumba … that abil was & ȝyng … wald consawe ful sutelly Quhat-euire he taucht … & in his hart wele held it, Ay retentywe he had a wyt
a1400 Leg. S. xxvii 1130.
Quha is Goddis wit ma knaw Or ȝet his consall?
c1420 Wynt. v 3603.
Dowbyll wyt
1456 Hay II 127/7.
Gude degestioun … haldis the corps in … hele … and that makis gude blude and blythe hert and clere witt and faire membris
a1499 Contempl. Sinn. 242 (Harl.).
O vale of teris, … How wichis thow the witt of thi wageouris, Syling thare sicht
1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 127.
Thow barrant wit ouirset with fantasyis Schaw now the craft that in thy memor lyis
1513 Doug. xii i 67.
Thoill me … Thir wordis … to thé till say; And sammyn prent thir sawys in thy wyt
b. c1530-40 Stewart in Bann. MS 356/47.
Forbled and blaknit quhill I wes blak & bla Be my manheid in wit I mycht nocht byd

2. a. sing.The part of the mind concerned with thinking, the faculty of thinking or intellect, the mental faculties collectively. Also attrib.Also the wit of man, mannis (manly, erdly) wit, the capacity to think or discern as a defining characteristic of man; also with reference to the gaining of this faculty, the mind of an adult.Also, once, as a count noun, one of the mental faculties. Cf. c below.(1) 1456 Hay II 19/29.
His will discordis with his witt and ledis it the way of mystreuth
c1460 Wisd. Sol. (STS) 490.
That all men suld fleme ire fra thaim fore it lattis the wyt to determe trewly betuex gud and ill
c1460 Wisd. Sol. (STS) 368, 370.
He assait al thingis … that manis mynd mycht have in knawlege with wisdome and said till hyme-self, now sal I be wys and knaw al thingis … and ay the mar that I presyt to wysdome the farere it fled fra me fore thare is na wyt in this erd that may knaw the hicht and the depnes of it quhilk pasis al menis wyt
c1475 Wall. iv 391.
Son he consawyt in his witt prewalye In to that land quha was of maist party
c1475 Wall. iv 747.
O feble mynd to do so foull a mys O waryit witt … That me has brocht in to this myschefull chance
c1475 Wall. vi 879.
In ir he grew … Witt reullyt him, that he did no owtrage
a1500 K. Hart 542.
Folie and Vyce in to thair wit thay wounder Quhow [etc.]
c1490 Irland Asl. MS 9/18.
That all person havand wit & discressioun is oblist to confessioun anys in the ȝeire
?a1500 Remembr. Passion 601.
Wer all gadderit that thou hes thouch[t], spokin, and wrocht sen thou had wit and ressoun, thai wald mak a gret buke
1549 Compl. 30/29.
Sanct Paul vritis to the Corinthiens that var pepil in perfect aige … my bredir, be ȝe nocht in ȝour vit lyik childir bot ȝe sal be … of profond knaulage
a1568 Scott xxxiv 23.
Fra vertew be contrynd To follow vyce considdir That ressoun wit and mynd Ar all ago togiddir
attrib. c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 154/131 (M).
The tailȝour … Convoyit wes on to the feild With mony lymmer lown With seymbyttaris … With stomak steilaris and wit clipparis [B. clayth takkaris] Ane gracles garysoun
(2) 1456 Hay I 200/34.
Mannis law maid be mannis wit
1456 Hay II 146/2.
As wit of man, throu his discrecioun, discernis betuix all causis and jugis the rycht, sa suld a rychtwys king
c1460 Wisd. Sol. (STS) 370 (see (1) above). c1475 Wall. viii 542.
With manly wytt rycht thus he [sc. Wallace] said thaim till … Be caus I am a natyff Scottis man It is my dett to do [etc.]
c1475 Wall. xi 481.
Ȝoldin I am to bettir, I can pruff; … euir ilk day, sen I had wit off man
1533 Bell. Livy I 4/20.
Syne how of goddis the cruell violence Be erdly wit couth neuer be pecifyit
1533 Gau 55/11.
Desir notht to vit or seik quhow thair is thre parsons in ane … for na mannis vit cane that perfitlie think or onderstande
1557 Knox IV 280.
The matter … can not be expressit be the wit or ingyn of man
(3) 1501 Doug. Pal. Hon. 98.
Comfort ȝour man that in this fanton steruis With spreit arraisit and euerie wit away

b. pl.Applied to a number of persons: Simple plural of a above or further examples of c below. Also proverb. 1424 Dumbarton B. Rec. App. ii 1, 2.
The qwhilks xii … sal determyt al playnts … lelily and treuly as in thair wyttis and powers extend and as the cause requiris … alswa … giff ony thyngis happynis that lies nocht in the said partis power to be determyt … thai sal pas … to that place qwhar thai trow that sunnest remede … sal be gottyn … and ather partis sal gife til uther the lelest and the treuest consale bi thair wytting
1533 Gau 87/30.
Quhen our hart and vittis are ful of sorow … help ws that we may … honour ye in al our varkis and thochtis and speking
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 146/17.
The pestilent preacheouris … barkand … aganis the blesset sacrament: bot all there vittes and ingynis ar one defendit be scriptoure
proverb. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1149.
Manie wits better nor ane

c. pl.Of one person: The mental faculties. = 3 b below. c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 18.
The prolixitee Off doubilnesse that doith my wittis pall
c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 19.
Cleo … and … Polymye … my … wittis gye And with ȝour bryght lanternis wele conuoye My pen
c1490 Porteous Noblenes 183/12 (A).
Sobirnes is … helpe of the wittis wache of the hele [etc.]
?a1500 Remembr. Passion 419.
He maid thé ane ressonabill creatour … Think, than, how mekill thow art behaldin till him that hes grantit thé thy richt wittis
a1500 K. Hart 919.
Myn wittis hes he waistit oft with wyne
1561 Cal. Sc. P. I 535.
Yff we fallou God, He wilbe faythfull, yff we leyn to much to our awin wyttis it shalbe ane feible fondement
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 48.
He bendit all his wittis to the said erllis eversioun
c1590 Fowler II 149/17.
Ane servant … suld … give his wits & thogtis hollilie to the … advantage of his maister
1604-31 Craig i 15.
Thy witt's the weird's with great promotion tryes For woonder few are happy both and wise
1615 Crim. Trials III 355.
The said Robert Grahame, being ane fraudulent and fals man … imploying his witis … how be craft … to suborne [etc.]
1639 Fugitive Poetry II xvi 7 § 18.
I leave not much unto my witts Nor wilfull am in my opinions

d. specif.With reference to retention or loss of one's mental faculties, chiefly in relation to insanity but also to drunkenness or anger or with reference to lack of mental faculties in imbecility. Freq. to be in or (out) of (fra) one's (richt) wit.Also proverb. and pl.sing. (1) 1456 Hay I 229/34.
Quhen he [sc. a madman] war cummyn agayn till his witt and gude knaulage
a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 450.
Quhill I may my wit wald, I think my fredome to hald
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 63/93.
In fals vane glory thai so drunkin ar Thair wit is went
1516 Reg. Privy S. I 431/2.
Becaus the said Johne is … dum and defe and unnaturale … all … thingis to do … that to the office of curatory … pertene or that the said Johne mycht do hymself an he war of perfite wit, naturalite, age and knawlege
1539–40 Reg. Privy S. II 487/2.
Patrik Neilsoun … is daft and hes na witt to gyde himself
1549 Compl. 14/1.
I hef seen mony ald men tyne ther vyt, bot I sau neuyr sa grite ane fule amang them al as [etc.]
1580 Edinb. Test. VIII 166b.
The said Andro being seik & imbecill of body ȝit … haill of wit
1630 S. Leith Rec. 19/2.
John Hunter distracted of his wytte to be put in a darke howse
1644 Petrie Chiliasto-Mastix 5.
Who being richt in his witt [etc.]
1672 Kirkcudbr. Test. (Kirkcudbr. Sheriff Ct.) 4 June.
Jannet McCoull … is infirme as to her naturall wit and judgement
(2) 1568 Buch. Indict. 36.
Sche, … as ane rathar enragit then in hir rycht wyt, poistet fordwart to Melros
1583 Crail B. Ct. 23 April.
He … is nocht in his rycht wite
(3) 1375 Barb. ii 199.
Owt off his wyt he went weill ner
1375 Barb. xiii 143.
Thay layid on as men out of wit
a1400 Leg. S. x 474.
a1400 Leg. S. xxxiii 109.
He wes nere fra his wit
a1400 Leg. S. xl 801.
c1400 Troy-bk. ii 2129.
As wod out of his wit
14.. Acts I 380/2 (see Lunatik adj. (n.) 2). 1460 Hay Alex. 2324.
King Philip neir of his wit is gane
a1500 Henr. Test. Cress. 46.
How Troilus neir out of wit abraid, And weipit soir
1590–1 Crim. Trials I ii 233.
Sche wes twyis, in xxiiij houris, extreme wod and out of hir wit
proverb. a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1298.
Quhen wyne is in wit is out
pl. 1595 Edinb. B. Rec. V 147.
To George Hay, quha is outt of his richt witts for the present
1600-1610 Melvill 65.
The schollars war out of thair wittes, and fean wald haiff put hands in him
1609 Crim. Trials III 68.
Bewitching of Margaret Wicht … and taking fra hir of hir wittis
1620 Perth Kirk S. MS 25 May.
Margaret Alschounder now depryueit of richt wittis
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. 426.
Ambition is blind and many times transporteth men beyond their witts
1633 Coll. Witchcraft 117.
She answered, ‘Witches take the wit and the grace from you;’ and that same night, he was bereft of his wits
1665–7 Lauder Jrnl. 57.
The vertue of recovering madmen or those that are besydes themselfes to their right wites
1692 Pitcairne Assembly ii iii (1752) 29.
Sir William Littlelaw had nae a's wits about him fan that claim was drawn

3. a. (One of) the faculties of perception, sight, hearing, etc., the five senses. Chiefly pl. as the five wittis, also the bodely, outvard, or sensative wittis.Passing into b. pl.The mental faculties more generally. Chiefly retaining collocation with five, also, quasi-fig. in collocation with blindit.= 2 c above.a. sing. a1400 Leg. S. xvi 136.
With the wattire of hyr ene, That oft vnleiful sichtis had sene, Scho wesche His fet, & punyse it As scho that synnyt in that wyt
a1568 Scott xxxi 17.
No wit salbe degest, To heir, se, smell, nor test
pl. a1400 Leg. S. x 63.
Thai tuk fra men the sycht & for to here to haf na mycht & sere men get the fyfe vittis tyne
a1400 Leg. S. x 84.
He gef … to defe men the herynge & to blynd men the seynge & quham that thai had euir marryte In thare wittis … Sancte Mathew gaf the heile
c1420 Wynt. v 2114.
It is bot a lumpe, but lyve It has nane off the wyttys fyve, Bot is bath dum and deffe, and daft, Off metall made
c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 41.
My wittis all Were so ouercom with plesance and delyte
1456 Hay II 121/37.
It [sc. blood-letting] … confortis the v wittis and the memoir and intelligence
1490 Irland Mir. I 64/14.
The bodely wittis of man, … as the sycht, heryne, memore, fantasy, ymaginacioune, estymacioune and the laif
1490 Irland Mir. III 36/14.
That our wittis sensatiue and natural wnderstanding may nocht knaw na comprehend
a1497, 15.. Gray MS iv 95.
Thou has v wittis & resoune
1533 Gau 19/33.
Sinnis quhilk ar committit with the v wtuert wittis thay ar aganis the v and vi command
c1552 Lynd. Mon. 6129.
In all thare wyttis fyue, Thay sall haue sensuall plesouris delectabyll
a1561 Q. Kennedy Breif Tract. (ed.) 127/4.
Than they thouch: ‘quhow cane this man be God … quhilk is in sik … pouerte … Swa doise men in thir dais quha doise mesure the profunde mistery of the sacrament be thair outvard vittes and senses, lenand to the jugement of the flesche
1570 Sat. P. x 10.
Maister Slumber … softly said: … 'tak from him his speiche and wittis fiue'
b. a1568 Scott ix 5.
Ȝour scedull is so excellent, It passis far my wyttis fyve
a1568 Scott xxxiv 144.
Thairfoir fle fra suspek Or than … Ȝour natouris ȝe neglek, And wantis ȝour wittis fyve
1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 33.
Quhen thai bendit all thair fyve wittis to stop the regent
a1570-86 Maitl. F. lxxii 25.
Invy is gydar of thy wittis fyve
(2) 1563-1570 Buch. Wr. 35.
Seing that God hes swa blindit ȝour ennemeis wittis [etc.]

4. a. The intellect with particular regard to its functioning well (or badly) in thinking, learning, etc.; mental capacity of a particular order; great (also, small) intellectual ability; the ability to do something; sense. Also heads-of-wit, a wiseacre. Also proverb.Passing into b. Talent, cleverness, ability in carrying out practical, artistic, etc. tasks; skill. Also const. in or on (= with respect to) or to do something. Quot. Hay Alex. in (2) below may belong elsewhere.There is considerable overlap with 5 below.a. (1) a1400 Leg. S. vi 395, 396.
In til a man visdome is & of that ane thare procedis Vndirstandynge, memore & wite For wyt is that gerris the fynd ite That thu lerit [nocht] & memore syne Is that thu laris, thu nocht tyne & Vndirstandynge is the aucht That may be schawit or ellis tacht
1456 Hay II 26/26.
That mon be reuglit with witt ande resoun, and nocht be foly na ignoraunce
a1500 Colk. Sow i 428.
Multitud in negligence He seldin palme of victory Bot God & gud wit gy And all this grit brawling … Wes for a pig
1490 Irland Mir. I 12/5.
Sene I speik … of wisdome, thi hienes may spere at me quhat thing it is and how thi ȝoutheid and nobill wyt may grow and incres tharto
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 288.
I had sic wit that for wo weipit I litill, Bot leit the sueit ay the sour to gud sesone bring
1535 Stewart 576.
O ȝe my sonis sall I ȝow neuir se? Quhair wes my wit that leit ȝow fra me fair
1535 Stewart 1517 (see (2) below). 1560 Rolland Seven S. 2635.
For all his [sc. Solomon's] wit … Thay [sc. women] causit him be ane greit idolatour
1560 Rolland Seven S. 2642 (see Natural(l adj. 5 a.)
Arestotill, quhilk was the A per sie Of naturall wit and greit philosophie
1562-3 Winȝet II 55/33.
Quha is (says sche) the maist fulesche amangis ȝow … scho callis the puir of witt
1571 J. Maitland in Sat. P. xxvii 12.
Schaw thyselff both scharpe, sauge, and sinceir, Endewit with wertew, witt, and wirthines
a1578 Pitsc. I 133/5.
Debarrit the thrid sone … fre the croun … albeit he was ane man of goode witt and singular ingyne
a1585 Maitl. Q. 200/45.
Hir native giftes … Sua bonteouslie declairis indeid As waill and wit of womanheid
1599–1600 Paterson Ayr & Wigton II 61.
Gif he had tyme to had experiance to his witt, he had bein by his marrowis
1666-74 Fraser Polichron. 107.
This Margret … was … a woman of great witt
1684 Law Memor. 65.
He was … truely the honour of our Scots nation for witt and parts
16… Bentinck Dornoch 160.
A rasonable good scholar, and of a quick and reddie wiht
(2) a1400 Leg. S. xxvii 1064.
Sanct Machor than set all his wit To cun … parfitly haly writ
c1420 Ratis R. 29.
Thar is a makar of al thinge, … That gewys to mankynd wyt & skill Fore to depart the gud fra ill
1456 Hay I 66/28.
He gave to man wit and resoun, knaulage and discrecioun to governe him resonably
1460 Hay Alex. 3495.
Ȝour witte is no thing to commend To send away na man that micht avaleȝe
1535 Stewart 1515.
Ane barne withoutin ressone wit or skill For till decerne betuix the gude and ill Quhilk hes his wit in vthir mennis heid Is nocht ganand ane kinrik for to leid
1560 Rolland Seven S. 5532.
All his ingine and wit he did apply To leir phisick
(3) 1637 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 463.
God esteemeth such men to be but state fools and court gowks, whatever they, or other heads-of-wit like to them, think of themselves
(4) proverb. a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 149.
An ounce of mothers wit is worth a pound of clergie
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 389.
He hes wit at will, that with angrie heart can hold him stil
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 569.
Little wit makes meikle travell
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 632.
Meikle head, little wit
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1153.
Meikle wit in a flock of yows
a1628 Carmichael Prov. No. 1633.
Wit in a pure manni[s] breist dois na gude
a1663 Pappity Stampoy 12.
Better a wit coft nor two for nought
b. (1) 1375 Barb. xvii 913.
Berwik wes on this maner Reskewyt … Throw manheid and throw sutelte He wes worthi a prynce to be That couth with wit sa hey a thing But gret tynsaill bring till ending
c1400 Troy-bk. ii 381 (D).
The fame … That Wlixes hath thruth hys wyte [L. sagacitate]
c1400 Troy-bk. ii 1279 (C).
?1438 Alex. ii 4370.
Heir helpis na discomfort … Bot wirship hardement and vigour Throw wit [F. sens] I can se na succour. Do ȝour deuore … And keip ȝour honour
c1409-1436 Kingis Q. § 18.
In enditing of this … trety small The bote I clepe the mater … My wit vnto the saile that now I wynd, To seke connyng though I bot lytill fynd
14.. Quon. Attach. c. 47.
Be na maner the land … to the hand of the ourlord may cum … throu craft or wyt agane the forme of the statut
c1450-2 Howlat 993 (A).
War my wit as my will, than suld I wele wryte
1456 Hay I 64/24.
Ane ymage … curiously corvin in marbre the maist honourably that mannis wit coud devis
a1500 Colk. Sow ii 33.
Manly resoun and wit of Godis gift Fyndis menis the money to vplift And multeply
1534 St. P. Henry VIII V 14.
As to my part, I sall nevir fail, safar as my wit and industre may extend
1535 Stewart 22748.
All instrument … Or ȝit ingyne in warld that micht be wrocht With mannis wit
1614 Crim. Trials III 292.
For he that wald rewle heir hes both neid of wit and manneheid
(2) 1460 Hay Alex. 11011.
[Quhen] men cummys in-to sa gret melle Thare may na tent till vther takin be Bot everie man to haue watt on his spere
1586 Warrender P. (SHS) I 214.
[Maitland implores Walsingham to use his] wit and credit in this behalf
(3) 1375 Barb. i 12.
Giff my wyt mycht suffice thartill To put in wryt a suthfast story
1375 Barb. x 339.
Thai maid ane constable thaim to lede Bath wys & war … And he set wyt & strenth & slycht To kep the castell
1531 Bell. Boece (M) I 16.
I … has translatit ‘The History of Scotland’ … quhilk has impeschitt my febill ingyne, havand na crafty witt nor pregnant eloquence to decoir the samyn
1535 Stewart 2481.
My dullie wit dow[is] nocht till indyte, Nor ȝit my pen with patiens for till writ Of Scotland, … the greit meseritie
(b) a1578 Pitsc. II 2/23.
This nobill king sett his wott [I. intent] for to labour … for to bring the tuo realmes togither in wnioun and allayance

5. a. Wisdom, esp. as a moral quality; (right) understanding; good judgment. Passing into b. Knowledge, learning, comprehension. c. Man (men) of wit, one endowed with wisdom, knowledge or judgment.There is considerable overlap with 2 and 4 above.a., b. 1375 Barb. iv 737.
Men kyndly till iwill gewyn Throw thar gret wit away has drewyn Thar ill
1375 Barb. vi 336.
May na man haiff worthyhed Bot he haiff wyt to ster his deid & se quhat ys to leve or ta
c1400 Troy-bk. ii 465 (C).
The counsale thai asked … Of Cassandra … That in hyr witt [D. wyte] was wondre wyse
?1438 Alex. ii 2546.
Quhilk thre thingis are maist sufficiand To lele lufe … I sall say as sayes the autoures That of all wit war gouernoures That philosophers and dyuinours war; … Wit [F. Science] suld be first … That kennis thame sua thare work
c1420 Wynt. v 226.
In to the tempyll … He … mad sic argument That all that herd … Off Hys wyt had gret ferly
?a1450 Florimond 1.
Quha ȝarnis to win wit and wirschip Till eldren deidis suld tak keip
1456 Hay II 151/5.
Thare the barne become amang wis men, and drew him … to lare of wit and wisdome
1460 Hay Alex. 2535.
The ȝoung … ar haistie, thair wit is in thair nois And betuix wit and folie mais na chois
c1460 Wisd. Sol. (STS) 294.
The vismanis wyt is in his mouth, and thinkis that he has neuir yneuch of it and euir is techand and lerand
c1460 Thewis Wysmen 343.
Wysmen delitis thaim euir in wyt
a1500 Henr. Fab. 1623.
The profound wit off God omnipotent … Is sa perfyte … Excellent far all mannis iugement
c1475 Wall. ii 291.
The peple demyt of witt mekill he [sc. Thomas Rymour] can
c1475 Wall. viii 1430.
Your hye witt and gud consaill
a1508 Want of Wyse Men 6 (Ch. & M.).
Welth is away, and wit is worthin wrynkis
a1508 Kennedy Flyt. 354.
Ignorant fule! in to thy mowis and mokis It may be verifyit that thy wit is thin
c1500-c1512 Dunb. Tua Mar. W. 257.
Unto my lesson ȝe lyth and leir at me wit
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus iii 893.
I wait ȝe all in science sa dois schine, In profound wit, and eminent ingine, That all obscure probleme … Ȝe can … detirmine
a1568 Scott xxx 27.
Sum … Saying that luve with witt inclusit Ȝit is nocht worth a buttoun. Sic vane opinioun is confusit That man but ressoun may be rusit
a1570-86 Maitland in Maitl. F. 40/79.
Quhair is the wyt quha can schaw ws Quha [Maitl. Q. Quha is the wyite quha can schaw ws Quhat] bot our nobillis that suld knaw ws And till honorabill deidis draw ws
1623 Perth Kirk S. MS 14 May.
Quha hed leirneit hir all the witt scho hed
1638 Rutherford Lett. (1894) 547.
Till eternity cause a sun to arise in our souls that shall give us wit
1682 Peden Lords Trumpet 28.
I trow Peter got the breed of his back to learn him more wit
c. ?1438 Alex. ii 117.
For thow resembillis ane man of wit
c1475 Wall. viii 961.
At men off wit this questioun her I as Amang noblis gyff euyr ony that was So lang throw force in Ingland lay on cas Sen Brudus deid but battaill bot Wallace
1562-3 Winȝet I 132/21.
Men of leirning and witt
a1568 Weddirburn in Bann. MS 279a/37.
Quhilk Solone said that prudent man of witt

6. An act or example of intelligence, wisdom, sense or thought; a piece of intelligent behaviour; an inspired action. b. At one's wittis end, at the point at which one is no longer able or permitted to think. Also proverb.c. A result of thought, a choice or decision. d. ? Something laid down by wisdom or knowledge, a tenet. 1375 Barb. i 344.
To fenyhe foly quhile is wyt
?1438 Alex. ii 2825.
Quhether I say foly or wit I will … answer to it
1456 Hay I 248/17.
Trewis, … quhat wit war it to the king of Fraunce, suppos the king of Ingland war manesuorne, that he suld brek his lautee?
a1500 Colk. Sow ii 168, 183, 211.
My sone be this … taill thow sall Lerne fyve wittis, And the first … Is [etc.] Thairfoir … fra sic fulich foly … keip thé, for the first wit, The secund is … Presome nevir [etc.] … The thrid wit is my sone … Quhair evir [etc.]
c1500-c1512 Dunb. (OUP) 207/44.
To fecht with fortoun is no wit
a1538 Abell 90b.
He [sc. St. Francis] prosternit him self nakit on the bair erd … he said to the brethir ‘I haif done … at I suld do … Do ȝe at God inspiris ȝow.' The brethir gret and for pete ane of thame … rais wp. He knew his wot be Goddis inspiratioun & tuke ane habet with the cord & femoraill and offerit to Christis pure man
b. 1615 Cranna Fraserburgh 186.
Jhone Forbes … being poissit giff he was yit mindit to mary the said Jenatt … he takes that matter to adwyssment [etc.] … quhairfoir the Session ordainis hime to be at his wittis end and report the next day
proverb. a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 395.
Of wilfull persons. He is at his wits end
c. 1448–9 Aberd. B. Rec. MS V i 29 (8 Feb.) (see Stevin n.3 a). 1482–3 Acts XII 32/1.
Becaus thar is a sclandir … that … the duc of Albany wes posonit in oure souerane lordis presens … the said … duc … sal … declare … that he wes neuire posonit nore his deid be na maner of way imaginit be oure said souerane lord nor be nane vther persone … be counsaile command wit or consent of his hienez
1574 Edinb. Kirk S. 7 Oct.
It is concludit be wot of kirk and with the consent of the auld kirk being convenit for this effect following that [etc.]
d. a1538 Abell 83a.
Quhen he [sc. a monk] knawis … at the rewll is nocht kepit … he suld laubir to cum quhare it is kepit … and gife he or sche can nocht cum quhare obseruance is kepit keip the 3 principall watis of religioun desire reformatioun & keip the accidentis cermonical sa far as thai may & I traist thai stand in the stait of grace

7. personified.In senses 4 or 5 above. a1500 K. Hart 578.
Reassoun and Wit richt at the ȝet thay rang … Bad lat thame in for thai had standing lang

8. a. The fact of knowing, knowledge, awareness. Also to have wit of, to know. b. Learned or communicated knowledge, ‘intelligence’. Chiefly to get wit (of, etc.), to find out, discover. Also proverb.c. In correspondence: To get word or send intimations or regards.a. c1400 Troy-bk. ii 2489.
The hole oure-coverit was With thornes … That he of it had no-kyn wit
c1420 Wynt. v 1950.
God has till hym reservyd all The wyt off that that is to fall
c1420 Wynt. vii 2759.
He … sayd, thare-off had he had wyte He suld but scathe hawe lettyt it
a1487 Gud Wyf & D. 296.
Thus of thar ill thai haf the vit … haill of thar syn [Thewis Gud Women 258, Thus, do thai mys, thai have the wyt … of thare syne]
1564–5 Prot. Bk. Thomas Johnsoun 142.
The said John had wit nor wyit nor art nor part of his hurting
1609 Crim. Trials III 47.
Maxwell … thocht thatt the Laird of Johnestoun had the wyt of all his trubill
(b) 1603 Moysie 9.
The erle Mortoun … obteanit all maiteris ordourit at his desyre … be moyoune of certane commissioneris … that wer vpone the counsell and had wat thairin
b. (1) 1375 Barb. xiv 480.
Thai think … To sek ȝow … Giff thai may get wit quhar ȝe be
1445 Charter (Reg. H.) No. 311.
Fra tyme thai may get wyt that sic thingis be ymaginit or … to be done
c1475 Wall. i 252.
Mar witt of him … get couth thai nocht
1504–5 Treas. Acc. II 474.
To the men that cersit … and gat wit of the silver disch that wes stollin
1524 Douglas Corr. 89.
Als sone as I git wit ȝour Grace salbe advertist
c1550 Rolland Ct. Venus ii 482.
Of thame wit nor knawledge gat he nane
1559 M. Napier Mem. J. Napier 64.
I pray you … be labourand to put off cumeris off me … or at least get me wit thairoff
1561–6 Book of Assumptions in Orig. Par. II ii 569.
The rentall of the bishoprik of Ros as it payis now … sua far as I can gett witt presentlie
1596 Edinb. Surgeons 23.
That gif the said Johne can gett wit quha hes stollin the said money
1596 Dalr. II 395/24.
The king of France had gottin suir wit and maist certane, that Marie Quene of Ingland was deid
1600 Facs. Nat. MSS III lxxvi.
Qhill all be done that ve vald haw done and then I cair nocht qha get vit that lufis vs
(b) 1544 Corr. M. Lorraine 73.
Qwayr fra schow com fra I can not gat wet at the wrayten of thes
(c) a1578 Pitsc. I 188/29.
On nowayis could they gett wott of him
(d) 15… Prot. Bk. Gilbert Grote 78.
[To] speir and get wycht [if (etc.)]
(2) c1475 Wall. xi 1032.
Quhill witt tharoff is in till Ingland gane
1560 Rolland Seven S. 9383.
In my steid ȝe sall mary my bryde [etc.] … This being done Alexander tuik gude nicht, Latting na wit vnto his ladie bricht
a1605 Montg. Misc. P. xlii 20.
Thoght ȝe hearken, let no wit ȝe heir, Bot look auay, and len thame ay ȝour eir For folou love they say and it will flie
1672 Inverness Rec. II 254.
Lest he act on thing or wyt to the burghes prejudice
(3) proverb. 1584-9 Maxwall Commonpl. Bk. Prov. No. 187.
Wit is the bettir gif it be the deerar bocht
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 833.
They that speirs meikle, wil get wot of part
c. 1575–6 Waus Corr. 116.
I haif nocht gottin wit, nouder in word nor wrette, fra my dochtter sen Gilbert McAlexander brocht me it
1660 Aberd. Council Lett. IV 26.
I am in great haist mean tyme. Lett my humblest witt be remembered to the wholl comissioners of burrowes; … Your lordships most humble servant [etc.]

9. a. A person of knowledge, wisdom or experience, hence, an important person, a dignitary. Chiefly coll. the chief persons of a place. Also sing. and pl. b. Someone capable of clever (but wicked) actions, someone too clever by half. Cf. heads-of-wit in 4 above.a. coll. 1424 Dumbarton B. Rec. App. ii 1.
That the balȝeis and the wyt of the said town … sal chese [etc.]
a1500 Seven S. 111.
The wit of Rome … Come to the empriour with awys Sayand: ‘Lord [etc.]’
1573–4 Rec. Earld. Orkney 290.
Ther is ane decreet pronuncit befoir the wit of the cuntrie
1578 Rec. Earld. Orkney 143.
Becaues the said land lay under the haid bwile or howis and thair wes na owtlandis to outred the sister, except the wit off the cuntre brak the samin
sing. a1500 Gol. & Gaw. 1137.
Now is the Round Tabill rebutit … Quhen wourschipfull Wawane, the wit of our were, Is led to ane presoune
a1585 Maitland in Maitl. Q. 18/79 (see Maitl. F. in 5 a above).
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. xii.
Which labour of mine, … may afterward incourage some other singular witt to handle this mater better
pl. 1567 Sat. P. vii 185.
And sould the nobill barronis of this land In hoilis lurk, … Quhair is the wittis wont to reule Scotland?
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. xii.
Such worthie witts, as will … relate all things as they shall happen
b. 1570 Sat. P. xi 37.
Wa worth thé! wretche! wa worth thy clan! Wa worth the wit that first began This deir debait for to vpsteir
a1570-86 J. Maitland in Maitl. F. 285/2.
Gif bissie branit bodeis ȝow bakbyte And of sum wickit wittis ȝe ar invyit Quha wald deprave ȝour doingis for dispyte

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"Wit n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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