Glossary

This glossary defines archaic words and phrases, mostly Scots law terminology, commonly found in our documents and records. For a larger resource go to the online Dictionary of the Scots Language, which contains Scots words and phrases, including legal terms.

It also includes definitions of archival terminology, although not all these terms have been used in this catalogue

With thanks to the Scottish Archive Network

ranking of creditors
a system of deciding, impartially, which creditors should have prior claim on a debtor's estate; this was why it was so important to  a wife to have an antenuptial marriage contract making provision for her and her children because, if she had, they would be entitled to be "ranked" among any creditors on her husband's estate if he fell into debt.
ratification
confirmation of the correctness of a previous act.
recognition
another feudal casualty, which entailed the return of a vassal's lands to his superior on the grounds that he had sold or granted out the greater part of them without the superior's consent.
 
Reddendo
"by returning".  The name of the clause in a charter which lays down what has to be returned or paid for the grant, to the superior granting the lands.  The precise terms vary depending on which of the four types of charter the clause is in; if the charter is in fee or feu, the return will be a rent paid to the superior, if in free alms the return will be prayers or other spiritual services.  If in ward holding the return will be the performance of service, usually military, and if in blench ferme, the return will be nominal and only required if asked for.
 
redeemable rights
a grant, usually made in security for the repayment of a debt, which contains a clause providing that the granter or another can recover possession of what has been granted, on the payment of a certain sum to the person receiving the grant, constitutes a "redeemable right"; its common form is the wadset.
 
reduction, reduction and improbation
the name of an action in the Court of Session whereby illegal deeds, decrees, acts and so on could be rendered null and void.
 
reif, reiff
theft.  Those who do it are "reiffers" or "reivers".
 
regality
an extensive area of jurisdiction granted by the Crown, the holder of which had similarly extensive powers in criminal cases, the same in effect as those of the king's own justices in ayre. 
 
Regesta Regum Scottorum
"the Registers of the Kings of Scots", the name of a project to trace, edit and publish all the charters, brieves and other written acts of the Scots kings from the earliest times until the accession of James I in 1406. (Sometimes abbreviated to R.R.S).
 
regress, letters of
a written promise by the superior of a vassal who had granted his lands to another as a security for the repayment of a debt under a redeemable right, by which the superior undertook to re-admit the debtor (or reverser as he would be called) as his vassal once the debt had been cleared and the lands returned to him.
 
relaxation, letters of
the antidote to diligence; these were letters under the signet which free a debtor from the consequences of any diligence against him.
 
relict
a widow.
 
relief
a feudal casualty paid to the superior of a property by the heir to that property when he was accepted by (entered with) the superior as his vassal.
 
relocation
takes places when a lease is assumed to have been renewed because a tenant has been allowed to continue in possession of his holding after the expiry of his lease, without any new lease having been agreed between him and the proprietor of the land.
 
remission
the formal pardon for an offence.
 
renunciation
that act of renouncing a right or a title to property.
 
reprisal, letters of
another name for letters of marque.
 
repledge
a power held by certain landholders who had jurisdiction in criminal cases, enabling them to demand the person of an offender who stood accused before another court, for trial and sentence in their own.
 
repone
to restore someone's right to defend a case, even though a decree may have already been given against him.
Repository
A record office, archives unit, library or other institution where archives are held, cared for and made available for researchers and members of the public.
reset, resett
receipt of stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen.
 
resignation
the action by which a vassal restored his lands to his feudal superior. Resignation into the hands of the superior was either for the purpose of a regrant to a third party (resignation in favorem) or, less commonly, to remain in the superior's own hands (resignation ad remanentiam); see novodamus, procuratory of resignation.
respite, letters of
letters granted by the Crown which put a delay or stay on something usually granted for the purpose of delaying any court sentence against the person to whom they were granted, but they could be to stop him being pursued for debt; such letters were usually granted to people abroad on the king's service.
retour
the report of any inquest which had been held to determine who was next heir to the property of a dead vassal who had held his lands of the Crown; it was in effect the reply to a brieve of inquisition.  Once the inquest had made up their minds, the retour would be "retoured" (returned) to the king's Chancery.  A "special retour" established the heir's right to succeed to particular lands.
 
retrocession
a re-conveyance of any right by a person to whom it had been assigned, back to the person from whom he got it.
 
reverser
the proprietor of lands which had been granted by him to another as security for the repayment of a debt, under a redeemable right; he therefore had the right, when the debt was repaid, to resume possession of the lands from the lender, who was called the wadsetter, the deed by which all this was done being the wadset.  The reverser would need letters of regress from his superior undertaking to accept him again as vassal when the lands were restored.
 
reversion, letters of
Reversion was simply the right of redeeming heritable property; letters of reversion were an undertaking by the lender who held lands in security of repayment of a debt (the wadsetter) to restore these lands to the borrower from whom he had got them (the reverser) when the debt was repaid.
 
revocation
a deed, or a clause in a deed, which calls back or revokes some former deed.
 
RMS
the abbreviation for Registrum Magni Sigilli, the Register of the Great Seal (mainly the printed edition), which contains copies of charters and other deeds by the Crown issued under the Great Seal.
 
roup
an auction, governed by conditions called "articles of Roup".
RSS
Registrum Secreti Sigilli, the Registers of the Secret (or privy) Seal, mainly used to refer to the printed edition; these contain copies of royal orders, commissions, minor grants and other documents issued under the king's secret seal.
runrig
lands consisting of alternate ridges in a field, which belong to different proprietors; sometimes the lands consisted of alternative portions each belonging to different people which were bigger than mere ridges, and this might be called rundale or rindal.


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