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An English or Lowland Scotch form of the middle-Latin word abthania (Gaelic, abdhaine), meaning abbacy. The exact sense of the word being lost, it was presumed to denote some ancient dignity, the holder of which was called abthanus or abthane. Dr. W.F. Skene (Historians of Scotland, IV; Fordun, II, 413) holds that the correct meaning of abthain (or abthane) is not "abbot" or "over-thane", but "abbey" or "monastery." The word has special reference to the territories of the churches and monasteries founded by the old Celtic or Columban monks, mostly between the mountain chain of the Mounth and the Firth of Forth. Dr. Skene recommends the use of the word abthany or abthanry. Many of these abthains passed into the hands of laymen, and were transmitted from father to son: They paid certain ecclesiastical tributes, and seem to have closely resembled the termon lands of the early Irish Church.
SKENE, Celtic Scotland (Edinburgh, l887), III, 83, 261, 283; A New English Dictionary (Oxford, 1888).