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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).

IRREGULAR MARRIAGE, n.phr. A marriage contracted without a religious ceremony or formal civil procedure, held to be valid formerly by exchange of consent, promise subsequente copula, or (and since 1939 only) by cohabitation by habit and repute.Sc. 1707 Hist. MSS. Comm. Report (Mar & Kellie MSS.) 413:
My Lord Duke of Montrose proposed that Mr John Blair, agent for the Kirk, might be ordained to prosecut the Advocat for an irregular marriage.
Dmf. 1754 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1898–9) 85:
Mr Arnot and Janet Knox had been rebuked before the Session for their Irregular Marriage.
Sc. 1776 Weekly Mag. (6 June) 348:
George Haig, indweller in Falkirk, indicted for celebrating clandestine or irregular marriages, not being a minister of the established church, nor authorised by law to perform the ceremony of marriage.
Ayr. 1788 A. Edgar Old Church Life II. 199:
Compeared Robert Burns with Jean Armour his alleged spouse. They both acknowledged their irregular marriage, and their sorrow for that irregularity.
Bwk. 1869 P. Landreth Fastern's E'en 13:
There would be no more of genuine anger against an irregular than against a regular marriage.
Sc. 1890 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 690:
By 19 & 20 Vict. c. 96 § 1, no irregular marriage contracted in Scotland by declaration, acknowledgment, or ceremony is valid, unless one of the parties had at the date thereof his or her usual place of residence there, or had lived in Scotland for twenty-one days next preceding such marriage.
Sc. 1941 Session Cases 464:
Passing through Gretna the parties went through an irregular marriage there on 11th June 1939.

[This meaning of irregular derives from the O.Sc. sense, from 1456, of “disobedient to the rule of the Church”.]

Irregular Marriage n. phr.

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"Irregular Marriage n. phr.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Oct 2022 <>



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