Scottish Genealogy

Monday, 9 July 2012

Old Scots Words - Duniwassal

Today's letter is 'd' and we go to a word that has gone from Gaelic across to Scots:

John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee'Duniwassal' (or 'Duniwastle')

There are actually a lot of different ways of spelling this one, but it is essentially made up of two Gaelic words 'duine' [man] and 'uasal' [noble] - so it just means a gentleman.  It is often applied to Highlanders, but not always restricted to them.

It might be most familiar to folk of a certain generation (in which I am included) who remember the songs of the Scottish folk group/duo The Corries.  In their rendition of Sir Walter Scott's poem 'Bonnie Dundee' appears the line:

'There are brave duniwassals, three thousand times three, Will cry "Hoy!" for the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee'

The Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) quotes the term being used in 1872 by J. G. Michie in his Deeside Tales:

The occupant of the principal house . . . was a duine-wasal, of the name of Cattanach.

But also notes that it can be applied to the lower class of farmers - and that it is often used contemptuously.  So if you see it used, much will depend on the context in which it is being applied.  I think it's a great sounding word though. 

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