Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SWEEM, v., n. Sc. form and usages of Eng. swim. For other Sc. forms see Soom, v.1, n.1 [swim]

I. v. A. Forms. Pr.t. sweem (Ork. 1703 J. Brand Descr. Ork. 20; Inv. 1726 Session Papers, Presb. Skye v. Mackenzie (15 July); Edb. 1768 Caled. Mercury (9 April); Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 214; Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 377; Uls. 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings by Robin 44; Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. v. 175; Abd. 1940 C. Gavin Hostile Shore xiv.; Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 16. 9; Ork., ne.Sc., Per. 1972). Pa.t. strong swam (Gen.Sc.); weak sweemt (Abd. 1932 Dieth Bch. Dial. 167; ne.Sc. 1972), sweemed (Mry. 1830 T. D. Lauder Moray Floods (1873) 241). Pa.p. strong swam, swum (Gen.Sc.); weak sweemt (Dieth), sweemed (Sc. 19th c. N.E.D.; Sh., Ags. 1972).

B. Sc. usage in comb. and phr.: 1. Sweem-pad, a game in which a blindfolded boy crawls about in search of a cap the owner of which he has to identify, his motions being like those of a padda or frog swimming (see Puddock) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); 2. to swim fair, of a plough: to cut forward with a steady level motion. 2. Sc. 1797  Encycl. Britannica XV. 75:
When the plough goes on steadily, without any effort of the ploughman, it is said to be in trim, and to swim fair.
Sc. 1828  Quarterly Jnl. Agric. I. 428:
Performed by the ploughman until he feels that the plough continues to “swim fair,” to use his own technical language, that is, till he feels, which he does at once, that it continues to move horizontally forward without any tendency to rise from the earth, or to sink deeper into it.

II. n. A state of great wetness, a flood, a “sea” of water (Sh., Bnff., Abd. 1972). Bnff. 1866  Gregor D. Bnff. 188:
The neep laan's in a perfit sweem.
Sh. 1899  Shetland News (12 Aug.):
Da ert is in a sweem o' weet.

[O.Sc. sweme, to swim, a.1400. The form corresponds to Mid.Eng. sweme, swime, to swim, with lengthening of the vowel in an open syllable, and not therefore directly descended from O.E. swimman, but rather from O.N. svima, to swim.]

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"Sweem v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 17 Mar 2018 <>



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