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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

UNREASON, n. For Sc. forms see Unrizzonable. Sc. usage in phr. the Abbot of Unreason, the chief personage and leader of the revels in a Christmas festival in the medieval burghs, a local offshoot of the Feast of Fools or Saturnalia, in which dramatic performances were held gen. burlesquing religious institutions and the ecclesiastical establishment, hence the name. The practice was suppressed at the Reformation in 1560. Hist.Sc. 1820 Scott Abbot Note v.:
Enacting the Abbot of Unreason, a species of high-jinks, in which a mimic prelate was elected, who, like the Lord of Misrule in England, turned all sort of lawful authority, and particularly the church ritual, into ridicule.
Sc. 1905 G. M. Fraser Historical Aberdeen 129:
The Master of the Revels, in Aberdeen, went by the name of Abbot, or Prior, of Bon-Accord — sometimes by the more widely known title of the Abbot of Unreason.
Sc. 1927 A. J. Mill Medieval Plays 25:
As the [16th] century wore on, the popularity of Robin Hood increased at the expense of the Abbot of Unreason.

[O.Sc. Abbot of Unreasoun, id., 1496.]

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"Unreason n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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