Definition of udal in English:



  • [mass noun] A kind of freehold tenure based on uninterrupted possession, formerly practised in northern Europe and still in use in Orkney and Shetland.

    • ‘Orkney MSP and Scottish Justice Minister Jim Wallace has moved to allay fears that udal law in Orkney will be scrapped as a result of proposals being considered by the Scottish Law Commission.’
    • ‘The Scottish Law Commission are still receiving responses to their discussion paper on the law relating to the foreshore and the seabed, which could see the scrapping of udal rights in Orkney - but the OIC have yet to make a response.’
    • ‘The assembled ‘jury’ voted 5-7 that udal law is no longer relevant, completely at odds to the audience who voted 46-11 that it was.’
    • ‘However, Mr Wallace says that there is no specific reference to udal law in the Scotland Act which established the new Parliament in Edinburgh.’
    • ‘Many storms have lashed the Northern Isles since udal law was introduced to Orkney and Shetland, yet still it endures, defining the boundaries of farms that have remained in the same family for a millennium or more.’


Late 15th century: from Old Norse othal property held by inheritance, of Germanic origin.