The Scottish National Dictionary was published by the Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA) from 1931 to 1976 and documents the Modern (Lowland) Scots language. The original editor, William Grant, was the driving force behind the collection of Scots vocabulary. A wide range of sources were used by the editorial team in order to represent the full spectrum of Scottish vocabulary and cultural life.
Literary sources of words and phrases up to the mid-twentieth century were thoroughly investigated, as were historical records, both published and unpublished, of Parliament, Town Councils, Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries and Law Courts. More ephemeral sources such as domestic memoirs, household account books, diaries, letters and the like were also read for the dictionary, and a wide range of local and national newspapers and magazines, which often shed light on regional vocabulary and culture.
Given the fact that Scots has often been perceived as inappropriate for formal situations (including formal written text) during the period from 1700 to the present day, many words and expressions that were in regular everyday use did not appear in print. In order to redress this imbalance and fully appreciate the linguistic oral heritage of Scots, field-workers for the dictionary collected personal quotations across the country.
When David Murison took over the editorship of the dictionary in 1946, following William Grant's death. He greatly increased the number and range of written sources and expanded the coverage of oral material. He improved the layout and clarity of the entries, revealing the healthy position of modern Scots usage in spite of centuries of neglect. Murison was therefore instrumental in encouraging the study of modern Scots and fostering respect for it as a language. He was responsible for the completion of Volume III, and for overall control of Volumes IV to X.
In 1985 the one-volume Concise Scots Dictionary based on the SND and DOST was published (editor-in-chief Mairi Robinson).
In 2004 a team at Dundee University digitised the full text of all ten volumes and made them available free via the Dictionary of the Scots Language.
An award from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled SLD to bring the dictionary up-to-date with a New Supplement, published online in 2005 as part of the Dictionary of the Scots Language.