A Scots Glossary
The table below lists some Scots legal terms, some Latin that is used in legal documents and some obselete terms that may be encountered by genealogists researching their Scots ancestry.
|ab initio (Latin)
|from the beginning
|abridgments of sasines/seisins
|An abridged extract from the Register of Sasines.
|Originally a private or public school in a burgh.
|ad finem (Latin)
|at the end
|ad infinitum (Latin)
|ad litem (Latin)
|appointed for a lawsuit
|A person appointed by the court to settle the estate of someone who died intestate.
|Gaining title to another's land by exercising the rights of ownership of that land unchallenged for a period of time, typically on the order of five to ten years, and meeting other requirements (as set by each state). See seizin.
|The right of patronage or presentation to a church benefice.
|The right to a yearly payment in money.
|fined or mulcted
|A penalty inflicted.
|A person chosen voluntarily by parties to a dispute to decide the difference between them (In English Law, he is called "arbitrator").
|1 To apprehend;
2 To take the property of a debtor or defender in the hands of a third party.
|The person holding goods arrested.
|bona fide (Latin)
|bona fides (Latin)
|bond of manrent
|A written agreement whereby a fee person becomes a follower of a patron or defender.
|A warrant for the arrest of the effects and person of a man in England for debts owed in Scotland.
|A formal certificate of descent given to a person who had settled, or intended to settle, on the continent, The certificate was granted under the great seal or the seal of a burgh. It secured to holder's social position in their new abode.
|A hut or shelter.
|An ancient land measure
|A burgh or town.
|Inhabitant of a burgh with full legal rights.
|A Scottish town that has been granted a Charter by the monarch (a Royal Burgh) or by a noble (a Burgh of Barony). The status formerly gave the town certain legal rights, such as holding town fairs and to have a town council.
|call (of summons)
|A summons is called by the exhibition, in a list on a wall of the court, of the names of parties and their legal representatives. From this date is estimated the time for entering appearance.
|An ancient land measure: the amount of land that one team of oxen could plough in a season.
|A Scots quarter day (2 February).
|A tangible, movable article of personal property, as opposed to real property.
|Property put up by someone getting a loan. If they fail to repay the loan, the property goes to the person granting the loan.
|Fellow burgess, a member of the same burgh.
|A sibling having the same father but not the same mother.
|Guardian or custodian.
|against; to the contrary
|contra bonos mores (Latin)
|contrary to good morals
|corpus delicti (Latin)
|body of offence
|A small piece of arable land adjoining a dwelling, worked by the occupier and his family. Under late 19th century legislation crofting in Scotland is confined to the Highlands and Islands..
|A person appointed by law as guardian.
|de die in diem (Latin)
|from day to day
|de facto (Latin)
|Resistance to an officer of the law in the execution of his duty.
|de futuro (Latin)
|in the future
|de integro (Latin)
|as regards the whole
|de jure or de iure (Latin)
|A formal document, authenticated by the maker's signature, the signatures of two witnesses, and a proper testing-clause.
|dictum (pl. dicta) (Latin)
|a saying or usually a judicial statement
|Legally made over or conveyed to another.
|Seizure of goods.
|Schoolmaster (from the old term dominus - an inferior member of clergy).
|An official appointed yearly to take notice of the escheats in the county to which he is appointed and to certify them to the Exchequer.
|ex cathedra (Latin)
|with official authority
|ex gratia (Latin)
|freely; without a legal obligation
|ex officio (Latin)
|by virtue of one's office
|ex parte (Latin)
|for proceedings, when the party against whom they are brought is not heard
|ex posto facto (Latin)
|after the event
|an act or deed
|To hire the services of someone, usually a farm-labourer or servant.
|A possession held on payment of a certain annual rent in grain or money.
|One who holds a feu.
|feu-farme (ferme) (Scots)
|A mode of possessing land.
|1. A cuckoo. 2. A fool or stupid person.
|A silver English coin, nominally worth 4 pence, current until 1662.
|heir portioner (Scots)
|On of the co-heirs who inherits part of a divided property.
|A landholder in a parish.
|Wholly written by one person.
|husband land (Scots)
|A division of land containing 26 acres.
|at the same place (used in footnotes for work already cited previously)
|in camera (Latin)
|in loco parentis (Latin)
|in place of the parent
|in modo probationis (Latin)
|in the way of proof
|in omnibus (Latin)
|in every respect
|in rem suam (Latin)
|to one's own advantage
|in situ (Latin)
|in its place
|in toto (Latin)
|in total, in full
|A threatening letter.
|A written agreement. (Originally, the document was written in duplicate, and the two copies placed side by side and 'indented', or cut, with a wavy line so they fit together perfectly. Each party held one copy.) See also deed poll.
|inter alia (Latin)
|among other things
|Having no will. If someone dies intestate, the court appoints an administrator to settle the estate.
|ipso facto (Latin)
|by that very fact; thereby
|Killing in exercise of a public duty (e.g. execution of sentence of death), or of a private right (e.g. of self-defence).
|Scots quarter day (1st August).
|Term used to denote a solicitor or a writer.
|1. written defamation; 2. criminal indictment.
|The right to retain the property of a debtor until he pays (originally an English term).
|locus standi (Latin)
|the right to be heard before a tribunal
|For pleadings and other documents, to leave them in the custody of the Clerk of Court.
|To remove, cancel, or take off e.g. an arrestment.
|Lyon King Of Arms, Lord
|The principal administrative officer (who is also a judge) in Scottish heraldic matters.
|A person of full legal age (opposite minor).
|mala fides (Latin)
|bad faith; used in phrase "mala fide possessor" which refers to one who possesses property upon a title which he knows or should know to be invalid
|Damage done to property out of malice or cruelty.
|An authority given to a man to act (gratuitously) for another.
|a contract between two people married or about to be married, for the purpose of regulating the rights in property of themselves and their children
|mens rea (Latin)
|A dwelling house with its adjacent buildings and lands appropriated to the use of the household.
|The home farm on an estate that is cultivated by or for the land-owner.
|Scots quarter day (11 November).
|modus operandi (Latin)
|way of doing something
|mortis causa (Latin)
|on account of death
|munus publicum (Latin)
|a public office
|mutatis mutandis (Latin)
|(in comparing cases) making the necessary alterations
|non compos mentis (Latin)
|not of sound mind and understanding
|non sequitur (Latin)
|an inconsistent statement, it does not follow
|the replacement, by agreement between the parties involved, of one obligation by another
|obiter dictum (Latin)
|of judicial statements, not essential to the decision of the case and therefore without binding authority (pl. obiter dicta)
|burden of proof
|outside of, beyond, without
|As much land as could be tilled by use of an ox and plough.
|pactum illicitum (Latin)
|par delictum (Latin)
|A rood of land.
|per curiam (Latin)
|in the opinion of the court
|per se (Latin)
|One who attested to the bounds of a land by walking round the boundaries.
|Anything pertaining to land, generally used in the plural.
|To argue a case in court.
|A short legal proposition at the end of a pleading showing exactly the relief sought and the reasons for that.
|One who possesses part of a property that had been originally divided among co-heirs.
|Detention of a thing with the intention to hold it as one's own or for one's own benefit.
|post mortem (Latin)
|An order subscribed by the King or under his signature.
|prepositus (Latin) Provost
|The elected head of local government in a town or burgh. Equivalent to an English Mayor.
|pro rata (Latin)
|pro tempore (Latin)
|for the time being
|The process of proving a decedent's will and settling the estate. The signing of a will was typically witnessed by neighbours, who would later swear in court that they saw the decedent sign the will prior to death. This "proved" that the will was actually that of the decedent.
|A Lawyer or advocate
|A legal official, appointed by the Lord Advocate, who ascertains in criminal cases whether there is sufficient evidence for a prosecution to take place.
|An article produced as evidence in court.
|publici juris, publici iuris (Latin)
|of public right (also of)
|Children up to 12 (girls) and 14 (boys) (n. pupillarity).
|The share of an estate held by co-parceners and allotted to them in partition.
|how much, an amount
|The days on which certain payments, such as rents, were traditionally due and on which tenancies began and ended. Scots quarter days were Candlemas Day (2 February); Whit Sunday (15 May); Lammas Day (1 August) and Martinmas (11 November).
|quid juris ,quid iuris (Latin)
|what is the law? (used often in exam questions)
|quid pro quo (Latin)
|consideration. something for something
|A renunciation of all claim.
|A rent paid in lieu of required feudal services. See fee and socage. The quitrent can be considered a real estate tax.
|in the matter of
|register of sasines (Scots)
|The 900 year archive of the sasines created in Scotland.
|thing; the object of an action; matter, affair
|things in their nature incapable of appropriation, such as light and air
|res gestae (Latin)
|the circumstances of a case
|restitutio in integrum (Latin)
|restoration to the original position or condition
|sasine (seisin, seizin) (Scots)
Seizin was originally not an estate, but a way to gain one, as by adverse possession. This is rooted in the Roman legal concept that whoever worked the land should be its owner.
|seised, seized (Scots)
|Given possession of property by legal authority.
|Clerk, Secretary, Attendant.
|sine die (Latin)
|sine qua non (Latin)
|an indispensable condition
|A form of tenure of agricultural land. Holding of land by a tenant in page for fixed payment or originally for non-military service to the lord.
|status quo (Latin)
|the existing state of affairs
|sub modo (Latin)
|sub nomine (Latin)
|under the name of
|suggestio falsi (Latin)
|the suggestion of something which is untrue
|sui generis (Latin)
|suppressio veri (Latin)
|the suppression of the truth
|talis qualis (Latin)
|such as it is
|tenement (in law)
|That which is held by tenure, the possessor of which is a tenant. Hence the lands, houses etc, leased from another person for a term of years.
|Having a will.
|in due time.
|An individual to whom another's property is entrusted.
|The guardian of children in pupillarity.
|uberrima fides (Latin)
|the utmost good faith
|ultimus haeres (Latin)
|last heir; the Crown inherits as last heir for want of other heirs
|Former, the deceased, late, formerly.
|Of a sibling, to have the same mother but different fathers.
|word by word; exactly
|To become the property of a person.
|An inspection of premises, the subject matter of an action, sometimes allowed to jurors before a jury trial takes place.
|A governmental order authorising some action. An arrest warrant instructs a sheriff to arrest someone. A land warrant instructs a state to issue land to someone.
|A Scots quarter day (15 May).