Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GAM, n., adj., v. Also †gamb. ‡I. n. Gen. in pl.

1. A tooth, esp. a large and squint tooth (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 456; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obsol.; Ork.1 1944). Also used attrib. with teeth (Mry., Abd. 1953), hence gam-teetht (Gregor). Ags. 1808  Jam.:
The word is still common in Angus. It seems especially to denote a large tooth. Thus they say, greit gams, large teeth; sometimes, gams o' teeth.
Slk. 1832  Hogg Queer Book 36:
Now I [a crow], to feed my lordly gambs, Must daily warstle with the wind.
Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 58:
She's a bonnie lassie; but hir gam teeth spile hir some.
Rxb. 1923  Watson W.-B.:
Guid gams for chowin' cheese.

2. Hence, phs. through association with gum, the mouth, lips, jaw (Ork. 1900 E.D.D., 1929 Marw., gams; Bnff.7 1927), the gum(s) (Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems, Gl., gams, 1818 Sawers; Bnff. 1927). Edb. 1843  J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie i.:
Wi' a black bushy beard, and a liquory gam, O! wha wad be kittled by bauld Braxy Tam!

Hence gamsy, adj., long-jawed, with projecting lower jaw (Ork. 1929 Marw., Ork.5 1954).

II. adj. Of the teeth: crooked, out of line, overlapping. Abd. 1954  Huntly Express (5 March):
A bull from the herd over which he is in charge was turned down because some of this animal's teeth were a sixteenth of an inch “gam”.

III. v. 1. tr. To cause the teeth to become gam. Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 58:
“Gehn ye dinna keep yer tung oot o' the holes o' the aul' teeth, ye'll gam the new anes” — a piece of advise [sic] given by mothers to their bairns when losing their milk-teeth.

2. intr. “To grow twisted and overlapping (of the teeth)” (Ib.). Ppl.adj. gammt (ne.Sc. 1881 W. Gregor Folk-Lore 48).

[O.Sc. gammis, (large) teeth, jaws, from c.1500, a formation, phs. influenced by Gum, n.1, in the same range of words as Gab, n.1, Gamf, Gamp, Gamse, Gant, Gawpus, etc., all from an original root meaning “to gape open, let the mouth hang down, hence to look stupid.”]

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"Gam n., adj., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Feb 2019 <>



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