Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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UDAL, n. Also udall, uddall (Ork. 1905 E.D.D.), udel(l); odal. An allodium, land held by natural possession, freq. attested by a Shuynd Bill, according to a system of freehold tenure found in Scandinavia, Shetland and Orkney, and subject to the payment of Skatt, q.v., but not to any form of feudal service, ownership being established by unbroken possession for thirty years or by three generations and being alienable only with the consent of the owner's family. In the consequent constant subdivision, much of the orig. udal land has gradually been alienated and feudalised by charter under the Crown of Scotland; also landholding under this system, allodial tenure, freq. attrib. and in combs. udal-born, -land, -man, etc. Now chiefly hist. [′udəl, now more gen. ′judəl] Ork. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Ork. 41:
Udall right, a Possession which the Natives successively have without either Charter or Seasin; All their Lands being either such Udall Lands, or Kings Lands, or Fewed Lands.
Sh. 1733 T. Gifford Hist. Descr. (1879) 33:
A verbal title called Udell succession, whereby all the children, male and female, succeed equally to the father in his estate, heritable and moveable.
Sh. 1752 Session Papers, Galloway v. Morton (9 July) 4:
The Udals of the Islands, we have shewn, are truly the allodial Property of the Udal-men they belong to, holden of no Mortal as Superior.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute II. iii. § 18:
The udal rights of the stewartry of Orkney and Shetland is of the same nature. When these islands were first transferred from the crown of Denmark to that of Scotland, the right of their lands was held by natural possession, and might be proved by witnesses, without any title in writing.
Sh. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 V. 196:
Some of the common people possess lands upon what is called udal tenure.
Ork. 1805 G. Barry Hist. Ork. 219:
The laws by which this udal property was inherited, sold, redeemed, or transmitted from one person to another.
Sh. 1814 Lockhart Scott xxviii.:
The Udal proprietors have ceased to exist, yet proper feudal tenures seem ill understood.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 186:
The corn that was inclosed within the udal fence . . . the law by which estates could be alienated from the udal-born.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 10:
A' to' he wus only a bowman, dan, he wus o' udal bleud.
Sh. 1904 G. Goudie Antiq. Shetland 134:
A heritage must first be offered to the Udal-born before it could be alienated to a stranger.
Sc. 1933 Encycl. Laws Scot. xv. 323:
The odal is the hereditary estate derived from primitive occupation, for which the odaller owes no vassalage, homage, or service to King, earl, landman, or hofding, except the personal obligation to appear in the host or Thing.
Sc. 1950 Viking Congress (Simpson) 101:
Among members of the udal family, male heirs were preferred to women. . . . The disadvantages of the udal system were the numerous tenants on yearly and uncertain leases, the lack of any incentive to improve the land, the excessive subdivision of land and constant disputes.
Sh. 1962 Scotsman (13 June):
The land is declared to be “udal” (land without a feudal superior).

Derivs.: (1) udal(l)er, udel(l)ar, -er, odaller, a holder of udal property (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork. 1973); (2) udally, according to the udal system of tenure. (1) Sh. 1733 T. Gifford Hist. Descr. (1879) 27:
They had but little arable ground, and that was for the most part the property of the possessors thereof, who were all little heritors. or udellers.
Ork. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XX. 269:
There are six udelars in Deerness, persons whose property, in some part of Orkney, is so small, as, if let to a tenant, would scarcely draw above a tub of bear, that is, about a firlot, of yearly rent.
Sc. 1822 Scott Pirate i.:
The udallers are the allodial possessors of Zetland, who hold their possessions under the old Norwegian law, instead of the feudal tenures introduced among them from Scotland.
Ork. 1832 D. Vedder Sketches 19:
“Sae thrive I, sir,” replies the prudent uddaler.
I.Sc. 1883 J. R. Tudor Ork. and Sh. 18:
An Odaller's real estate, on his decease, became equally divisible amongst all his family.
Sh. 1934 W. Moffatt Shetland 125:
Skat is a land tax, paid by the Odallers, freemen owners of land to the Crown.
Sh. 1957 J. Stewart Shet. Archaeology 47:
Every scattald had its church or chapel, which might be in the care of the chief udaller.
(2) Ork. 1909 J. Gunn Orkney Bk. 111:
It must not be supposed that all the land in Orkney was held udally.

[Norw. odal, id., O.N. óðal, nature, inborn quality, property, esp. that held allodially, hence óðalsborinn, born with allodial rights, óðalsmaðr, an allodial owner.]

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"Udal n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Oct 2021 <>



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