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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FENCIBLE, adj., n. Also †fensable, †fensible. The usages are mostly Sc.

I. adj. 1. Of men: capable of bearing arms for the (home) defence of the country; liable for such military service. Now hist.Sc. 1704 Acts Parl. Scot. XI. 137:
The whole Protestant Heretors and all the Burghs shall furthwith provide themselves with fire arms for all the fencible men who are Protestants within their respective bounds.
Sc. 1704 George Lockhart Letters (1989) 7:
Wee'r very busy in the upper part of Clidsdale reviewing our fensible men.
Gsw. 1715 Gsw. Burgh Rec. (B.R.S.) 546:
Many inhabitants in the city who are fencible men wanted arms.
Sc. 1830 Scott Tales of a Grandfather (3rd Series) I. viii.:
The Lord Lieutenant and his deputies collected the fencible men of the county.
Sc. 1912 H. W. Meikle Scot. and Fr. Revolution 182:
In the past the Govermnent had not kept faith with the fencible corps raised especially in the Highlands.

2. Of things: (a) capable of being defended or used for defence: (b) capable of serving as a fence or enclosure.(a) Sc. 1726 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 237:
It is a strong fencible house and hath a large heath hill.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery ix.:
This old tower of thine is fencible enough.
(b) Gsw. 1717 Gsw. Burgh Rec. (B.R.S.) 609:
[They] impower the dean of guild to cause repair and mend the said dyck and make it fencible where it hes failed.
Ags. 1752 Tack (MS. per Fif.1):
To uphold all the fences or dyckes and ditches and leave the same fencible and in good condition.
m.Lth. 1793 G. Robertson Agric. m.Lth. 35:
Thorn hedges, which make the most pleasant and the warmest fences of any, are not so generally used as could be wished, from the long time they require to be attended to before they become sufficiently fencible.
Per. 1807 Farmer's Mag. (Nov.) 444:
A considerable part, perhaps half, of the arable land of Perthshire is unenclosed, and the far greater part of what is enclosed is not fencible.
Sc. 1823 Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) VIII. 4:
The thorn hedges are nearly all fencible.

II. n. A soldier called up for home defence. Freq. used attrib. Also, though less freq., in Eng. Now only hist. Combs.: Crochallan Fencibles, see 1911 quot.; †fireside Fencible, a stay-at-home soldier (Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.).Sh. 1783 J. Mill Diary (S.H.S.) 68:
The Sutherland Fencibles at Lerwick were succeeded by a like number of Gordons.
Sc. 1822 D. Stewart Sk. Highlander II. 302:
In the year 1759 the Earl of Sutherland received proposals from Mr Pitt to raise a Fencible regiment on his estate.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 149:
In the gloamins o' spring ye wad seen twa'r threescore O' laddies and chiels, ca't the Fencible core.
Sc. 1911 Merry Muses (ed. McNaught) Intro. viii.:
A short time before Burns's introduction to Edinburgh society, William Smellie, Lord Newton, and a few more wits of the Parliament House, had founded a convivial club called “The Crochallan Fencibles” (a mock allusion to the Volunteer movement), which met in a tavern kept by a genial old Highlandman named “Daunie Douglas,” whose favourite song, “Cro Chalien” [sic], suggested the dual designation of the club. Smellie introduced Burns as a member in January, 1787.
Sc. 1912 G. Calder Gael. Songs D. MacIntyre Intro. xxxv.:
When the Breadalbane Fencibles were raised during the Revolution scare in 1793, he joined the ranks and remained in them till the Battalion was disbanded six years later.
Sc. 1914 I. H. M. Scobie Old Highl. Fencible Corps 3:
In Scotland there was no such body [as a Militia], and accordingly what were termed Fencible Regiments, both of cavalry and infantry, were raised at various times, some for service in Scotland only, others for the defence of the three Kingdoms.
Sc. 1934 H. B. Mackintosh Grant Fencible Regt. 14:
The hasty levies raised in 1715 and 1745 were styled in official documents “Fencible or Militia” (a confusion of terms which continued until the passing of the General Militia Act of Scotland in 1802).

[O.Sc. fensabill, adj., = 1., from c.1475, = 2. (a), from 1513, an aphetic form of Eng. defensible.]

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"Fencible adj., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2023 <>



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