It seems that the Scottish English word outwith can be replaced in (almost?) all contexts by one of the following:

  • outside
  • outside of

However, to ears familiar with the word, the meaning of outwith is nuanced and perhaps more elegant than outside.

Are there any use cases where outwith conveys a specific or distinct meaning, not adequately expressed by a simple substitution as above?

  • Would you include legal English (or possibly Scottish)? May 14, 2014 at 13:05
  • Yes, I suspect that its use in Scots law may have unique meaning in specific circumstances so examples would be good. I'd be pleasantly surprised to hear it used in any legal English writing as I thought it was really just a Scottish word.
    – Lunatik
    May 14, 2014 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


This might be a little overwhelming - but there's a lot of information about this!


Outwith, prep., adv., and a. Also: oute-, owt- and -uith, -withe, -witht, -wyth(t.  [ME. utenn wiþþ (Orm), utwiþþ (Orm), utewið (c 1230), utewid (Cursor M.), utwith (Destr. Troy), out(e)wiþ (Cursor M.), outwith (c 1420), thereafter appar. only Sc.: cf. also Outouth, Utwith, etc., Without (and Inwith).]

    A. prep. 1. a. Of position: Outside of (a place or boundary); on the far side of; beyond. Also transf. (1)  Mony sandy brayis lyand Outwith the craggis on the land; Troy-bk. ii. 1806.  Endlang the feild outwith the toun The battell fers was; Alex. ii. 9340.  Outewith the realme; 1427 Acts II. 16/2.  1436 Ib. 24/2.  The landis outwytht the said merchis; 1493 Antiq. Aberd. & B. II. 214.  Abufe the watir thar hals stude … With bludy crestis owtwith the wallis hie; Doug. ii. iv. 13.  Bell. Boece II. 106.  At fischear hewinis … and landwart kirk styllis outwith freburgh; 1555 Conv. Burghs I. 12.  And thair culd fynd na geir outwith houses and lokfast lwmes to pvnd; 1577 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. I. 36.  In purchessing of lordschip outwith burgh; 1583 Conv. Burghs I. 170.  The maser to stand outwith the dur; 1583–4 Reg. Privy C. III. 627.  Rus, the … countrie outwith tounis; Despauter (1579).  1584–5 Rec. Earld. Orkney 306.  Till sett vp meat owt with thair bwithe; 1608 St. A. Baxter Bks. 72.  For the Dunkirkar wes not a pare of buttes lenth owtwith the peere; ? 1623 Melrose P. 513.  Becaus the Marques duelt in the Bog outwith the schirref-dome of Abirdene; Spalding II. 306.  1687 Edinb. B. Rec. XI. 214. (2)  Na thing is outwith [P. withouten] a man … that may defoule him, but tha thingis that cummis furth of a man [etc.]; Nisbet Mark vii. 15.  For He had not ane externall principle outwith Himself to induce Him; R. Bruce Serm. 118.  Ib. 195.  Gif the love of Christ … be outwith thee, only sounding in thy eir [etc.]; 1599 Rollock Wks. I. 348.  Gif thou be not an new creature you are not in Christ bot outwith Christ and outwith Jesus Christ na salvation; Ib. 445.
    b. Not in (another’s presence).  The said Susanna owtwith the presens of hir said spous gaif hir full consent … thairto; 1588 Prot. Bk. A. Lawson 171 b.  Ilkane of thame outwith the presence of another ar seuerallie examinat; 1620 Perth Kirk S. MS. 15 Feb.  1655 Rothesay B. Rec. 4.
    c. Of motion: Outside of, away from.  To cum outwith thair awin place; 1504 (c 1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I. 101.  That nane of thame pas nor send owtwith the town to … stop ony persoun cummand to the mercatt; 1535–6 (c 1580) Ib. II. 72.  That thai sall nocht evaid nor eschaip owt-with this burcht; 1553–4 Reg. Privy C. I. 155.
    d. Coupled with inwith, within, in, etc. Freq. in judgment or outwith.
    For further examples see Jugement n. 4 d, Inwith prep. A 1 (2). (1)  Quhat out-with and within the toun, Thare was ane full great assemble; Alex. ii. 10924.  Both in houshald and out-with houshald; 1508 Reg. Panmure II. 275.  That thair be na ale sald derar innoch the hous nor outwith the hous derar than xvj d.; 1531 Linlithgow B. Ct. 26 Oct.  1552 Edinb. B. Rec. II. 165.  1581 Acts III. 210/1.  Outwith or inwith his hous; 1597 Breadalbane Ct. Bk. 158.  Alswele within the court as outwith the same; 1631 Misc. Spald. C. II. 226. (2)  To be vext … be me … in priue or in a pert, in jugement or owtwith, of the said landis; 1465 Montgomery Mem. II. 35.  In his forest courtis or outwith; 1509 Reg. Privy S. I. 285/1.  Outwyth; 1516 Ib. 422/2.  Outwitht; 1589 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 188.  To mak als gritt fayth in jugement and outwith as the principall; 1599 Ayr Chart. 5.  1613 Binns P. (S.R.S.) 23.
    2. a. Outside, not during (a particular period of time).  And outwith confessioun he [the priest] may say and swere he wate nocht of the thing that he herd in confessioun; Irland Asl. MS. I. 20/27.  Outwith tymes customable to ete & drink; Id. Ib. 72/15.  Tuesday, recent spuilʒies outwith the time of vacance; Balfour Pract. 272.
    b. Not in (one’s keeping or possession).  1593 Edinb. Test. XXV. 255 b (see Inwith prep. A 2 c).
    c. Beyond the limitations or restraint of, not governed or restrained by.  All men … that hes swyne in the towne outwith band; 1450 (c 1580) Edinb. B. Rec. I. 12.  The landis lyis without the starnys blenk, Outwith the ʒheris cours and sonnys renk; Doug. vi. xiii. 88.  Ane bairne vnlauchfully gotten outwith the bande of mariage; Skene Verb. S. (1599) s.v. Bastardus.  That it sall be laufull … to marie outuith the degreis of affinitie and consanguinitie; 1626 Justiciary Cases I. 48.
    d. Not included in.  Letters which wer smothered to and again in bypacquets outwith the publict sealled pacquett; 1686 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIII. 27.
    B. adv. Outside, on the outside; out of doors; out of the country. a. Of position or situation. b. Of motion.
    See also Inwith adv., for examples. a.  That none was outwith of walour … the Troyiens to succour; Troy-bk. ii. 1243 (C).  Becaus of kynrend thar behufys to be a purchas, and … gife it be outwyth, it sal be gotyn on bath thair costys; 1425 Montgomery Mem. II. 9.  And lynyt befor outwith; 1455 Acts II. 43/2.  I counsall ʒow He be nocht techit in this cite … Bot erar owtwith in a fair waist; Seven S. 73.  Than was ald Ysak tane & bundyn Becaus he was outwith foundyn; Ib. 1148.  Thou blind Pharisie, clenge the cop and platere within, that it that is outwith [P. with outforth] be made clene; Nisbet Matth. xxiii. 26.  Thi modere and thi brethire outwith [P. with outforth] seekis thee; Id. Mark iii. 32.  Id. Luke xi. 39.  And lokit the tour ʒet thairof outwith; 1576 Crim. Trials I. ii. 61.  And the edge … be pairit outwith toward the nethir syde; 1587 Acts III. 522/1. b.  [The advocate to] pas outwyth wyth the party; 1532 Facs. Nat. MSS. III. xx.
    C. adj. Outside, outer, exterior.  In the … outwithe chalmer ane Turkie coverlatt; 1603 Reg. Privy C. VI. 576.  1613 Soc. Ant. X. 222 (see Inwith adj.). 


OUTWITH, prep., adv., adj., n., v. Also outwuth, ootwuth (Abd. 1880 G. Webster Crim. Officer 82), oot’ith. [ˈutˈwɪθ]     I. prep. Outside, out of, beyond. Gen.Sc.
    *Abd. 1705 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. II. 309:
    It shall be leisum to them . . . to take themselves outwith the family.
    *Sc. 1724 Records Conv. Burghs (1885) 341:
    None dwelling out of burrows use merchandize, nor top nor sell wine, wax, etc., nor staple goods, outwith burrows.
    *Sc. 1735 Session Papers, Petition C. Sheriff (16 Dec.) 3:
    Putting the Salt on board the Lighters, outwith the Supercargo’s Presence.
    *Sc. 1875 P.S.A.S. X. 286:
    It is only probable that outwith this row there had been an outer course of piles.
    *Rxb. 1923 Kelso Chron. (11 Dec.) 2:
    Savings Certificates. — Sales during October — Berwickshire (outwith burgh), 1162.
    *Knr. 1925 H. Haliburton Horace 240:
    Drive off the evils that we dread, Outwith us and within’s.
    *Sc. 1937 St. Andrews Cit. (24 April) 3:
    It [the car] was outwith the control of the driver.
    *Sc. 1947 H. Farmer Hist. Music Scot. 216:
    In music, there was but one name, John Abell (d. 1724), and he gained his fame outwith Scotland, to use the appropriate Scots word.
    *Sc. 1962 Scotsman (8 Oct.) 1:
    Comunn na h-Oigridh, the youth section of An Comunn Gaidhealach, is to be placed outwith the parent body’s immediate management and control.
    ‡II. adv. Outside, out-of-doors, outwards (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis; Fif. c.1850 R. Peattie MS.; Abd., Kcd. 1964) beyond a certain limit.
    *Sc. 1701 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 321:
    To determine and mark out to him how far he is to come outwith.
    *Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 89:
    Colen her father, who had outwith gane.
    *Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xli.:
    The two being now, as Hairry put it, only “freen’s fae the teeth ootwuth.”
    *Ags. 1895 Caledonia I. 433:
    Bein’ a hantle ootwith an’ hearin’ the maist o’ fouk’s stories.
    *Abd. c.1930:
    Tak that trash awa’ oot’ith a bit, an’ burn’t.
    III. adj. Outward, outermost, outlying (Abd. 1964).
    *Sc. 1819 Scots Mag. (July) 256:
    An’ fesh my hawks sae fleet o’ flicht To hunt in the outwith lan’.
    *Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlv.:
    Nae the ootwuth nyeuk o’ fat we ca’ the Pardes park?
    *Abd. 1917 C. Murray Sough o’ War 15:
    They wandered awa’ on the ootwith roads.
    *Bch. 1943 Scots Mag. (March) 446:
    They’ve teen a waefu’ ootwith gait we’ve never had to tak’.
    IV. n. The outer world, the district beyond one’s immediate circle.
    *Abd. 1882 W. Alexander My Ain Folk 98:
    He’s as weel kent there as he’s respeckit to the ootwith.
    ¶V. v. To go beyond, exceed, overreach.
    *Bnff. 1935 I. Bennet Fishermen vii.:
    Ye’re so clever, ma lad, ye’ll ootwith yersel’ yet.
    [From Out + With (cf. without). O.Sc. otowth, out from, 1375, ututh, outside, a.1400, North. Mid.Eng. utwiþ.] 


OUTWITH, adv. Add variant utwith (Sc. 1825 Jam.).


OUTWITH, prep., adv., adj., n., v. I. Add quots.:
    *Gsw. 1983 George MacDonald Fraser The General Danced at Dawn (1988) 66:
    "It’ll be outwith the battalion, ye see. Aye, auld Wullie, he’ll be the forgotten man of Heliopolis nick if the redcaps get their way."
    *Sc. 1991 Scottish Banker Aug 30/1:
    If a banker did something outwith business hours which should be done within business hours he could not claim to be acting ‘in the ordinary course of business’.
    *Gsw. 1991 James Kelman The Burn (1992) 73:
    Outwith the Palace Grounds the sudden reversals were being met by widely differing though often violent retorts.
    *Sc. 1994 Candia McWilliam Debatable Land (1995) 110:
    Did the sea count as space although it was outwith the boat?
    *m.Sc. 1994 Peter McCarey in Daniel O’Rourke Dream State 27:
    ...They worked outwith their majesty’s tidal sway neither on nor under the land....
    *Sc. 1995 Stornoway Gazette 13 Jul 12/2:
    There were no restrictions on where they found this 25&percent; though, it could be outwith their region.
    *Sc. 1997 Shetland Times 10 Oct 2/3:
    But someone living outwith Shetland has only to spend one night in the islands to be able to qualify as a potential resident.

DOST = Dictionary of the Scots Language

SND = Scottish National Dictionary

SNDS = Scottish National Dictionary Supplement

SNDS 2 = Scottish National Dictionary New Supplement


To consider if it has a different nuance to outside, we have to look at the meaning of both words: user3306356 has shown the definition of outwith so let us look at outside.

In my experience as an immigrant who has lived in Central Scotland for 15 years, there is no preposition outside and so there is no nuance in outwith. When I tried to check this in the SND I got a surprising result. There is a a pronunciation for the preposition, but no meaning. It looks as if they started to write the entry, and then realized it was an English word, not a Scots one. (This a very easy mistake to make as everybody knows and understands the English words.) (There is also an entry in the supplement but this does not add a prepositional sense.

So it follows that outwith is the only word to express this sense so there is no nuance.

But there is a further problem. My answer so far assumes you are speaking pure Scots. In any situation in which English and Scots are being used together, and if the speaker is aware that the word does not exist in English (which many don't) then the word becomes nuanced precisely because it is Scots. You are saying "I will use a Scots word if I choose, and I don't care if any English people in the room are bemused." It must be stressed that this only applies if the speaker appreciates it is not English - for example when I use it in front of English people!

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