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

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First published 2000 (DOST Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Savage, adj. (n.). Also: savadge, savaige, sawage, sauvage, sawwage, saffage; sov-, sowage. [ME and e.m.E. sauuage (a1300), sauage (a1330), salvage (1542), OF salvage, sauvage (late 11th c. and c1175 in Larousse).]Forms in -o- may represent an editorial misreading.

A. adj. 1. Of persons, their behaviour, etc. a. Fierce, cruel, ferocious.(a) c1420 Wynt. ii 567 (W).
Thus that king that wes sawage Held this folkis in hard thirlage
1513 Doug. iii v 95.
Bot Orestes cachit in furyus rage For cryme of his moderis slauchtir and savage In lufe hait byrnyng for his spows byreft … Set on this Pirrus … And … Smate of his hed
1610 Crim. Trials III 103.
Contempnand all humane societie and honest forme of traid … ; takand ȝour selffes to ane maist wyld, barbarous, savage, inhumane and crowell form of lyff [sc. piracy]
(b) 1615 Denmylne MSS in Highland P. III 189.
The pairtis of ȝour majesties kingdome committed to my spirituall oursicht being so barbarous that without seuer animaduersione thay can not be cohibite from thair wonted souage behauiour

b. Of fighting men: Fierce, bold, indomitable, valiant.There is some overlap with a above; however, this sense expresses approval not evident in a. c1475 Wall. ix 457 may belong in a.
c1475 Wall. i 339.
Ȝonge he was and to Sothroun rycht sauage
Ib. ii 2.
Ȝong Wallace fulfillit of hie curage; In prys of armys desirous and sauage
Ib. v 534.
Gude expensis till him thai maid to pas Maister Jhone Blayr was offt in that message A worthy clerk, bath wys and rycht sawage
Ib. viii 813.
Schyr Wilȝham off Leis graithit thaim that nycht With v thowsand welle garnest and sawage Apon the Scottis thai thocht to mak scrymmage
Ib. ix 457.
Than Longaweill that ay was full sawage With Wallace past as ane to that scrymmage

c. Expressing disapproval: Reckless, ungovernable. a1500 Bernardus 300.
A mane … of wyne that has vsage Ande habundance and syne is nocht saffage Throw mychtines and confort of the wyne At temperance bydis and sobyr syne

2. Of animals: Wild, untamed, hence, fierce, ferocious. 1549 Compl. 2/17.
The rauand sauuage volffis of strait montanis ande vyild forrestis that deuoris nolt ande scheip for ther pray
1622-6 Bisset I 28/34.
Wylderines quhairby the wyld beistis sik as hart hynd dois rais wolfis toddis foxes beiris bairis sangleiris wyld swyne with uthir savaige and distroying bestiall incressed and multiplied

3. Untouched by civilisation, ‘natural’. a. Savage man: The conventional naked male figure of heraldry. b. Pertaining to or characteristic of uncivilised persons, their dress, etc.a. 1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. xiv.
The tuo rough sauadge men (with a batton or club in either of their hands) who doe support and uphold the armes are peculiar to the house of Southerland
b. 1590 Burel Queen's Entry 216 (see B noun 1 below).

4. a. Of a place: Wild, uncultivated. b. Of the inhabitants of a place: Uncivilised, untamed, barbaric.a. 1590 Burel Pilgr. i 1.
I went throw ane wood sauage
b. 1530 Lynd. Test. Pap. 494.
Duryng his tyme so justice did preuaill The sauage [Pitsc. I 277/9, sawwage] Iles trymblit for terrour; Eskdale, Euisdale, Liddisdale and Annerdale Durste nocht rebell
1570 Sat. P. xix 29.
The souage daillis he dantonit and maid thrall To serue thair king he gart thame gif thair band
1571 Old Ross-shire I 365.
To repair … our said fortalice … the west pairt of Sutherland in trobollis tyme beand ane barbare and sowage rowme

B. noun. 1. A wild or uncivilised person; passing into one who behaves in a fierce, cruel or barbarous fashion. 1590 Burel Queen's Entry 235.
Hir grace past to ane vther pairt Quhair sche beheld sum … Acoutert in an sauadge sort … Thir are the Moirs … Quha dois inhabit in the Ynds … Thir savagis I you assure Wer well decord
1632 Lithgow Trav. v 228.
There are two kings in Arabia … beeing vntamed sauages and mis-regarders of ciuility who … corroborate the malignity of their dispositions with bloody and inhumane interprises
Ib. vi 292.
Some scattering Arabs sold vs water … two of which sauages our captayne hyred to guide vs
1680 Dunferm. Ann. 350.
Most Christians like to savadges go eat

2. A ‘savage man’, as in A 3 a above. 1673 Grant Chart. 248.
For his crest a burning hill supported be two savadges or naked men, proper

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



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