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Alternative forms[edit]


There are two etymologies suggested for this word, each peculiar to a different suggested meaning. One is that it is from an English or Scottish form of Medieval Latin abthania or Gaelic abdhaiiie, meaning abbacy, hence an officer of the abbot. The other is that it is derived from Latin abbās (father) and Middle English thane, hence an overlord of regional thanes.



abthane (plural abthanes)

  1. A title used in medieval Scotland.
    • 1751, George Buchanan, History of Scotland, page 265:
      But now a-days the English Speech getting the better of our Country Language, the Thanes of Counties are in many Places called Stewards ; and he which was antiently called Abthane, is now the Lord High Steward of Scotland ; though in some few Places the Name of Thane doth yet remain.
    • 1789, Archaeologia, page 331:
      Crinan was the last Abthane of Scotland; for his son, Duncan the First, appointed Bancho thane of Lochaber, as his dapifer or senescallus.
    • 1834, The Bishoprick Garland, page 83:
      A legendary tale resting solely on oral tradition, states, that a raven flew from the North, and, perching on the turrets of a tower seated on the Wear, received the embraces of a Saxon lady, whom her father, a powerful abthane, had there confined to protect her from the approaches of a Danish nobleman, by which may possibly be adumbrated the origin of the family springing from a mixture of Danish and Saxon blood.
    • 1837, John Ross Dix, The life of Thomas Chatterton, page 73:
      Herchaughtrie was yn esteem amongste them take yee these Saxon Acheumentes. Heofmas un oecced-fet was ybore of Leof, an abthane of Somertonne.
    • 1838, The new statistical account of Scotland - Volume 19, page 496:
      Previous to the reign of Malcolm Canmore, in the eleventh century, the chief titles of distinction under the King in this country were those of Abthane and Thane. The Abthane of Scotland was invested with a jurisdiction over the whole kingdom; and the Thane possessed a similar power over a district.
    • 1856, George Buchanan, The history of Scotland, page 333:
      He had, however, two daughters ; one named Beatrix, whom he gave in marriage to Crinus, a nobleman, thane of the western isles, and chief of the thanes, who was in that age called the abthane; the other, named Doaca, he married to the thane of Angus, whence was born Macbeth, or Macbed, of whom I shall speak afterwards.
    • 1996, Peter G. B. McNeill, Hector L. MacQueen, & Anona May Lyons, Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, page 361:
      Other early possessions probably included Ellom, Nigg, the kirkson of Arbuthnott, Inchbraoch and the Abthane of Kinghorn.
    • 2004, A.D. Dewar, “A More Detailed History of the Clan Menzies”, in Clan Menzies:
      Robert’s heir, Sir Alexander Menzies, was granted the lands of Aberfeldy and Weem with patronage of the Church of Weem in c. 1266 and in 1312-14, the family’s loyalty to Robert Bruce against Edward I of England, was rewarded by grants of lands in the Highlands, Glendochart, Finlarig and Glenorchy and further lands in the Abthane of Dull, and, in the Lowlands Durisdeer in Nithsdale.
    • 2005, Cynthia J. Neville, Native lordship in medieval Scotland, page 169:
      Bishop Jonathan further granted the church possession of all episcopal rights in the abthane lands of the church of Madderty, a gift that gave to the brethren firm control over all the revenues associated with that church.

Usage notes[edit]

The precise meaning of this rank is subject to controversy among antiquarians. Some authors take it to be an officer appointed by the king who is responsible for an entire country and an overlord to regional thanes, a title later replaced by Lord High Steward. Others use it to mean a bailiff or steward of the abbot, analogous to the use of thane as a bailiff or steward of the king.