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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SIGNET, n., v. Sc. usages:

I. n. One of the Crown seals of the Kingdom of Scotland, orig. appended to the private letters or orders of the Sovereign regarding summonses and executions of the law and later to writs and warrants of the Court of Session issued in the Sovereign's name (see Letter, n., 2.). Hence Keeper and Deputy Keeper of the Signet, the titular and actual custodian of the Signet seal, the latter being the head of the †Clerks or Writers to the Signet, orig. the clerks by whom Signet writs were prepared in the office of the Secretary of State, now members of a society of law agents in Edinburgh having special functions in regard to Court of Session proceedings, and denoted by the letters W. S. after the name of each member. See further under quots. and Writer.Sc. 1709 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 87:
By the same pretence they may ingross the signet, etc., through which these signatures pass.
Sc. 1722 W. Forbes Institute I. iv. 187:
The publick Seals in Scotland are the Signet, the Great Seal, the Quarter Seal, and the Privy Seal. Summons for citing Persons before the Lords of Session, Letters of Horning, Caption, Inhibition, Arrestment, and other personal or real Diligence, Signatures and Precepts pass the King's Signet.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute i. iii. § 39:
When the signet is mentioned indefinitely, that of the Session is commonly understood; which is also called the king's signet, because all the writs issuing from thence are made out in the King's name. . . . It is the signet, when stamped on these, which gives them authority.
Sc. 1786 Session Papers, Lord Advocate v. Mitchelson (23 Sept.) 4:
Though the proper business of Clerks to the Signet, was to prepare signatures, and other writs passing under the Signet, yet upon or soon after the institution of the College of Justice, another privilege has been superadded, and they have been long held as intitled, in their characters of Writers to the Signet, to conduct processes before the Court of Session, though they were at no period ever admitted, inrolled, or sworn, as Agents or Solicitors before this Court.
Sc. 1798 Monthly Mag. (Sept.) 176:
Signet Letters — Writs under his Majesty's Signet. Writers to the Signet — The Officers who prepare these writs and sign them; and who form the most respectable class of Attorneys.
m.Lth. 1811 H. MacNeill Bygane Times 30:
The chiel gat on . . . Frae thrippeny pages, scrawl'd till dark, Through time became a Signet Clark.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 99:
The Royal Signet in Scotland is placed under the direction and control of the Judges of the Court of Session; and it is in the form of letters passing under it, that all ordinary civil actions are instituted, or legal execution either against person or property authorised.
Sc. 1879 Acts 42 & 43 Vict. c.44 § 3:
The Lord Clerk Register shall as heretofore be Keeper of the Signet in the Signet Office.
Sc. 1896 W. K. Morton Manual 458:
Upon this Summons [for an action in the Court of Session], signed by a Writer to the Signet, being produced at the Signet office, the sovereign's signet is impressed upon it by the keeper, and it becomes a legal warrant to Messengers-at-Arms to cite the defender to appear.
Sc. 1936 Sources Sc. Law (Stair Soc.) 404:
By the beginning of the sixteenth century, when Session was a customary department of conciliar action, the signet had become its characteristic seal.
Sc. 1969 Sc. Law Directory A 10:
Signet Office, 2 Parliament Square. Keeper — His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Deputy Keeper — P. J. Oliphant, W.S.

II. v. Sc. Law: to stamp (a document) with the signet seal as the symbol of the authority of the Court of Session. Pa.p. signet(t)ed, †signet. Also more gen. to sign, seal or mark as with a seal.Sc. 1752 J. Louthian Form of Process 71:
These Letters are signet with the seal of Court.
Sc. 1829 Scott Anne of Geierstein xxxiv.:
The citation was written, as was the form, upon parchment, signeted with three crosses, and stuck to the table with a knife.
Sc. 1848 Aberdeen Jnl. (3 May):
A “Summons of Declarator” against the Duke of Athole, was duly “signetted.” It was forthwith placed in the hands of a messenger, and on Friday, or Saturday, would be served upon his Grace.
Sc. 1968 Parliament Ho. Bk. A. 48:
The extra hours, during which the officers of the Signet are allowed to signet any writ.

[O.Sc. writer of the signet, 1488.]

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"Signet n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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