John Jamieson

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John Jamieson

Rev John Jamieson by John Kay.png
Rev John Jamieson by John Kay
Born3 March 1759
Died12 July 1838 (1838-07-13) (aged 79)
Resting placeSt. Cuthbert's Cemetery, Edinburgh
CitizenshipGreat Britain
EducationGlasgow Grammar School
Alma materGlasgow University (1768-71)
Edinburgh University (1775-6)
College of New Jersey (DD 1795)
OccupationLicensed minister (1781)
Minister of secessionist congregation Forfar, Angus
Minister of the Nicolson Street Antiburgher Church, Edinburgh (1797–1830)
Notable work
"Etymological Dictionary of The Scottish Language" (1808)
"History of the Culdees" (1811)
"Views of the Royal Palaces of Scotland" (1828)
Spouse(s)Charlotte Watson (died 1837)
Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1803)
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1815)
Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society
Fellow of the Royal Literary Society
Member of the Highland Society
The grave of Rev John Jamieson, St Cuthberts Churchyard, Edinburgh

Rev Dr John Jamieson DD FRSE FSAs FRSL (5 March 1759 – 12 July 1838) was a Scottish minister of religion, lexicographer, philologist and antiquary. His most important work is the Dictionary of the Scottish Language.


He was born in Glasgow in March 1759[1] the son of Rev John Jamieson, minister of the Associate Congregation on Duke Street. He was educated at Glasgow Grammar School.

He was educated at the University of Glasgow 1768 to 1771, and subsequently attended classes at the University of Edinburgh, 1775-6.[2] After six years' theological study, Jamieson was licensed to preach in 1781 and became pastor of an Anti-burgher congregation in Forfar, Angus. In 1797 he was called to the Anti-burgher church in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. The union of the Burgher and Anti-burgher sections of the Secession Church in 1820 was largely due to his exertions.

He retired from the ministry in 1830, spending the rest of his life in Edinburgh. In the 1830s he is listed as living at 4 George Square on the south side of the city.[3]

Jamieson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1803. His proposers were James Bonar, Alexander Fraser Tytler, and William Moodie.[4] He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1816.[5]

He died at home, 4 George Square[6] in Edinburgh on 12 July 1838 and is buried in St Cuthbert's churchyard.[7] He was buried with his son Robert (who pre-deceased him) in a large and elaborate grave in the southern section. His inscription is on the rear of the monument.


Jamieson's major work, the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language appeared in 2 vols. in 1808. A meeting the Danish scholar Grim Thorkelin had suggested this work, and, working with Thomas Ruddiman's glossary to Gavin Douglas's version of the Aeneid, Jamieson completed the work almost alone. He prepared an abridgment in 1818 (reissued in 1846 with a memoir by John Johnstone), and aided by numerous others, he added two supplementary volumes in 1825. The work drew on folklore and provincialisms. The introductory antiquarian dissertation supported a theory on the Pictish influence on the Scots language.[8] A revised edition by John Longmuir and David Donaldson was issued in 1879–87. These volumes remained the standard reference work for the Scots language until the publication of the Scottish National Dictionary in 1931.

Jamieson's other works included:[8]

  • Socinianism Unmasked, 1786.
  • The Sorrows of Slavery, 1789.
  • Sermons on the Heart, 2 vols., 1791. Around the same time he authored a pamphlet on the African slave trade entitled, The Sorrows of Slavery.
  • Congal and Fenella, a Metrical Tale, 1791.
  • Vindication of the Doctrine of Scripture, in reply to Joseph Priestley's History of Early Opinions, 2 vols., 1795.
  • A Poem on Eternity, 1798.
  • Remarks on Rowland Hill's Journal, 1799.
  • The Use of Sacred History, 1802.
  • Important Trial in the Court of Conscience, 1806.
  • Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 2 vols 1808.
  • A Treatise on the Ancient Culdees of Iona also retitled A History of the Culdees, 1811, published, through Walter Scott's support, by Ballantyne.
  • Hermes Scythicus, 1814, expounding affinities between the Gothic and the classical tongues.
  • Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 2 vols 1825.
  • Views of the Royal Palaces of Scotland (1828) published posthumously

Jamieson wrote on other themes: rhetoric, cremation, and the royal palaces of Scotland, besides publishing occasional sermons. In 1820 he issued edited versions of John Barbour's Bruce and Blind Harry's Wallace. Posthumous was Dissertations on the Reality of the Spirit's Influence (1844).[8]


In 1781, Jamieson married Charlotte Watson (died 1837), daughter of Robert Watson, Esq., of Easter Rhind, Perthshire, and had seventeen children, of whom only two daughters and one son survived. His son, Robert Jameson (died 1834) advocate, became a distinguished member of the Faculty of Advocates.


  1. ^ Bayne, T. W. (2004). "Jamieson, John (1759–1838)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Rev. ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14639. Retrieved 1 February 2016. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^
  3. ^ "(132) - Scottish Post Office Directories > Towns > Edinburgh > 1805–1834 - Post Office annual directory > 1832–1833 - Scottish Directories - National Library of Scotland".
  4. ^
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory, 1835-36
  7. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland: The Grampian Society, 1871
  8. ^ a b c "Jamieson, John (1759-1838)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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