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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

DEAN, n. Used in Scotland in phrs.:

1. dean of Guild (gild), Lord Dean of Guild (Dundee and Edb.), the titular head of the guild or merchant-company in a royal burgh, and, since the Burgh Reform Act of 1833, a constituent member of the Town Council. Now chosen by the Councillors from among their own number, except in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth, where he is still elected by the Guildry. Also dinagild (Bnff. 1724 Annals Bnff. (S.C.) I. 196). The corrupt form Dinygell is also found (Abd. 1895 J. Davidson Old Abdsh. Ministers 125).

Hence (1) Dean of Guild Court, a court which, where it exists (there has been none in Aberdeen for many years), exercises jurisdiction over the buildings in a burgh. In Perth, the Dean of Guild does not now sit as a member of this court. Prior to the Act of 1824, which introduced the Imperial Standard Measures, some of the Dean of Guild Courts (e.g. in Edinburgh and Glasgow) had jurisdiction over weights and measures; (2) to dean o' guil(d), to test and stamp weights officially; also variant forms dinnigill, dinnygill (Abd.4 1931, dinnygill); also in the gen. sense of “investigate, examine thoroughly” (Abd.27 1946); 2. Dean of (the) Faculty, (1) the head of a Faculty (q.v.) in a Scottish University; (2) “the elected leader of the Bar, whether of the Faculty of Advocates or of a local Bar of solicitors” (Sc. 1946 A. D. Gibb Legal Terms 26).1. Bnff. 1702 W. Cramond in Trans. Bnffsh. Field Club (1903) 48:
Mr. Robert Sharp, present dean of gild of the Burgh of Cullen.
Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour 1769 13:
At Inverness, and I believe at other towns in Scotland, is an officer, called Dean of the Guild, who, assisted by a council, superintends the markets, regulates the price of provisions; and if any house falls down, and the owner lets it lie in ruins for three years, the Dean can absolutely dispose of the ground to the best bidder.
(1) Sc. 1890 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 283:
In Edinburgh, the dean of guild court consists of the dean of guild, the old dean of guild, and a council of merchants and tradesmen annually chosen. . . . The jurisdiction of the court is confined to the regulation of buildings within the royalty; to the prevention of obstructions in the streets; to the removal of old and ruinous tenements; and, in general, to such matters of police as have any connection with buildings.
Abd. 1940 Town Clerk Depute in Letter (20 March):
The Dean of Guild Court ceased to function after the Burgh Reform Act, 1833. The only matter now dealt with by the Dean and his Assessors is the distribution of the Guildry Funds. . . . In some instances where a Dean of Guild Court was appointed, power was given to deal with ruinous buildings and the erection of new houses within the Royalty. In Aberdeen no such jurisdiction was ever exercised.
Edb. 1917 Scotsman (6 Nov.) 3/4:
Lord Dean of Guild Macintyre Henry, in presenting his annual statement, said the total value of the work passed through the Dean of Guild Court during the past year was only about £40,000.
(2) Abd. 1940 (per Abd.9):
My brother-in-law, who was a merchant, used to say when he sent his weights to be tested by the Inspector of weights and measures, who visited his district periodically, that he was getting his weights dean-o'-guilt.
2. (1) Sc. 1701 Fasti Aberdonenses (S.C. 1854) 440:
The deane of the faculty of theology in the said university is likewise impowered to vote.
(2) Sc. 1826 Scott Journal (1890) II. 206:
7 June: I went to the Dean of Faculty's to a consultation about Constable.
Sc. 1890 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 283:
The corporation of advocates or barristers in Edinburgh is called the Faculty of Advocates, and the Dean of Faculty is one of their number elected annually to preside at their meetings, and to sign the acts of the Faculty.

[Dene of (the) gild is found in O.Sc. from 1423, and in sense 2. from 1509. The word is ultimately from Lat. decanus, one set over ten persons; cf. Deacon, n.1]

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"Dean n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Mar 2024 <>



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