John Jamieson

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For the American curler, see John Jamieson (curler)
Rev Dr
John Jamieson
Born 3 May 1759
Died 12 July 1838
George Square, Edinburgh
Resting place St. Cuthbert's Cemetery, Edinburgh
Nationality Scottish
Citizenship Great Britain
Education Glasgow Grammar School
Alma mater Glasgow University (1768-71)
Edinburgh University (1775-6)
College of New Jersey (DD 1795)

Licensed 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 (d. 1837)

Rev Dr John Jamieson FRSE (3 May 1759 – 12 July 1838) was a Scottish minister of religion, lexicographer, philologist and antiquary.


The son of the Rev John Jamieson, Minister of the Associate Congregation, Duke Street, Glasgow, he was educated at Glasgow Grammar School.

He was educated at the University of Glasgow, and subsequently attended classes at the University of Edinburgh. After six years' theological study, Jamieson was licensed to preach in 1779 and became pastor of an Anti-burgher congregation in Forfar, Angus; and 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.[1]

Jamieson was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the American Antiquarian Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.


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.[2] A revised edition by John Longmuir and David Donaldson was issued in 1879-1887. 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:[2]

  • Socinianism Unmasked, 1786.
  • A Poem on 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.
  • A Treatise on the Ancient Culdees of Iona, 1811, published, through Walter Scott's support, by Ballantyne.
  • Hermes Scythicus, 1814, expounding affinities between the Gothic and the classical tongues.

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).[2]


In 1781, Dr Jamieson married Charlotte, 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, Esq., advocate, became a distinguished member of the Faculty of Advocates.



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