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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).

LIBEL, n.1, v. Also libell, lybell; li(a)ble; libelt, leibult (s.Sc.). Sc. usages:

I. n. †1. A formal document, a written statement. Obs. in Eng.Sc. 1706 Foulis Acct. Bk. (S.H.S.) 440:
When wee wer drawing the lybell for dividing the comontie of paintland hills.

2. Any piece of writing, formal or informal (Slk. 1825 Jam., libelt), in 1777 quot. phs. confused with label, as occas. in 17th c. Eng. and still in parts of Scot. (Kcd., m.Lth.1, Lnk. 1960). See Label; often implying a tedious story, a long screed (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Sc. 1777 Dundee Weekly Mag. (23 May):
They are to stand on the pillory for one hour … with each a libel on their breast, and a hank of silk about their necks.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. iv.:
I trow there winna be mony syllables in some o' the names if a' the wardens hae signed your libelt.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 15:
A merk o the respeck o the wreiter o this leibult.

3. Transf. to speech: a conversation, discourse, talk; a rigmarole, harangue (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).Arg. 1914 J. M. Hay Gillespie i. ix.:
Effie was wonderin' whatna libel you an' her had.

4. Sc. Law: the formal statement of the complaint or ground of the charge in a civil or criminal prosecution, an indictment (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 219, 1946 A. D. Gibb Legal Terms 51), see 1823 quot. Comb. libel-summons.Lnk. 1717 Minutes J. P.s (S.H.S.) 224:
The pursuer had not proven his lybell as to the said riot lybelled.
Sc. 1741 S.C. Misc. II. 17:
To compear within sixty days in answer of that liable, before the Lords of Justiciary.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 125:
Your libel I'll impugn verbatim.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
The pursuer is bound to understand his own libel, and his own statute that he founds upon.
Sc. 1823 Report Commissioners on Forms of Process, Scotland 4:
Actions, in general, begin in Scotland by a summons, which differs essentially from the English writ. It is not intended merely for calling the defendant into court, but contains, in what is called the libel, a statement of the nature and facts of the case, and of the demand made against the defendant; together with conclusions drawn from the facts stated, and from the law assumed, by the pursuer or plaintiff.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 289:
I had a libel summons chargin' me wi' every conceivable way of killing game on my neighbour's grun.
Sc. 1927 Gloag & Henderson Intro. Law Scot. 595:
All libels must be special, setting forth the particular facts inferring the guilt, and the particular place where these facts were done.

5. Similarly, in Sc. Church Law, of a charge against a clergyman or other church member in an ecclesiastical court.Sc. 1716 Acts Gen. Assembly 15:
All these Errors contained in Mr Webster's Libel, that are contrair to the Scriptures.
Sc. 1757 A. Carlyle Autobiog. (1860) 319:
Cuming, Webster, and Hyndman, and a fiery man at Leith, whose name I forget, were the committee who drew up the libel.
Bwk. 1912 J. Burleigh Ednam 114:
He was “a frequenter of taverns and ale houses, by night as well as by day,” said the libel, and was guilty of “drunkenness, fraud, and forgery.”
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood xx.:
We have your written libel … It is your right to implement it with witnesses.
Sc. 1948 Scotsman (9 Dec.):
To submit himself to Trial by Libel in preference to having his case dealt with under the General Assembly's Act of 1933.

II. v. 1. To specify in or by means of a libel or indictment. Gen.Sc.; to draw up in the form of a libel. Also with on.Sc. 1700 S.C. Misc. III. 176:
The Act of Parliament libelled is opponed, where it sayes that the Sherriffs and other judges … be called before his Highness Secret Councile.
Ags. 1722 Kirriemuir Court Bk. MS. (10 March):
Depones that he never received house meal or rent for the back houses lybelled.
Abd. 1752 Aberdeen Jnl. (10 Oct.):
Certifying that the Defender was lawfully summoned by virtue of a Libelled Precept.
Sc. 1801 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (11 Feb.) 46:
Guilty of fraudulently and feloniously uttering, vending, and using certain of the notes libelled on, knowing them to be forged.
Sc. 1834 G. R. Gleig Allan Breck III. xv.:
Time and place libelled, the deceased Alister MacAlpine of Duart was murdered.
Sc. 1904 A. M. Anderson Crim. Law 258:
The usual practice now is to libel one date.
Sc. 1939 St. Andrews Citizen (21 Dec.) 3:
The theft of four hens was libelled in the first charge.

2. To make a formal charge against one in a court by means of a libel. Also of Church courts. Gen.Sc., obsol. Hence libeller, n.Sc. 1715 Acts Gen. Assembly 14:
Any Ministers and Elders of this Church, who are not either libellers, or libelled in this Process.
Sc. 1861 C. Rogers Sc. Character 12:
The moderator of a presbytery to the parishioner of a libelled clergyman.
Sc. 1890 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 126:
They ought to libel the man for that and not for heresy!

[O.Sc. libel(l), = I. 1., from c.1470, = 4., from c.1575, = II. 1., 1500, = 2., 1564. In sense I. 4., the usage derives from the Civil Law term libelli accusatorii.]

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"Libel n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Aug 2022 <>



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