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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1941 (SND Vol. II). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BRECHAM, Brechim, Brechem, Braichum, Brechan, Brachin, Brauchan, n. and v. Also braham (e.Lth. 1814 Farmer's Mag. (Aug.) 337), braicham (Bnff. 1939 J. M. Caie Hills and Sea 31), braigham (Per. 1879 P. R. Drummond Bygone Days 214).

I. n.

1. The collar of a horse or ox, lined, orig. with straw, to obviate friction in draught work. A Pluscarden MS. (1750–1880) states that the collar itself was made of three coils of twisted straw. Also used fig. and attrib. Gen.Sc. [brɛxm, brɛxn, brɛxŋ Sc., but Ork., Mry. + brɑxɪn; brexəm Bnff.]Sc. 1788 Scots Mag. 558:
Nor slacks the brecham on her breast, Nor needs she goad.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xvii.:
“If yon lads stand to their tackle,” said Cuddie, “we'll hae some chance o' getting our necks out o' the brecham again; but I misdoubt them — they hae little skeel o' arms.”
Mry.1 1925:
John McNish and Donald Gair wi their brauchans dressed sae braw.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. 36:
A “brecham” or pad of dried “sprots,” rushes, straw, or strips “tyave” of moss fir roots, intervened between the neck of the ox and the bow, to prevent friction in the draught.
Ags.(D) 1922 J. B. Salmond Bawbee Bowden xvii.:
He got Bandy Webster to go ootbye wi' the train, an' tak Donal's saddle an' brechim wi' him.
Per. a.1879 A. Maclagan in R. Ford Vagab. Songs, etc. (1904) 93:
An auld teethless harrow, a brechem ring rent, Wi' mae broken gear, whilk are meant to be men't.
Lnk. 1997 Duncan Glen From Upland Man 8:
It's progress being prepared for
and haims and traces
and brechams and rigwiddies
aw noo in his past.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To W. Chalmers' Sweetheart i.:
Wi' braw new branks in mickle pride, And eke a braw new brechan, My Pegasus I'm got astride, And up Parnassus pechin.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 91:
Brechams, collars for horses; anciently they were made entirely of straw, and called “Strae brechams.”

2. Transferred meanings.

(1) “Brecham, a bulky wrap round the neck” (Abd. 1921 W. Walker W.-L.; Fif.1, w.Lth. 1935 (per Lnl.1)); “ludicrously: A heavy muffler, or other untidy neck-wear” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

(2) “A ring round the moon” (Mry.1 1925).

(3) “The hames on the collar of a draught horse” (Abd.7 1925); “wooden hems” (Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) Gloss., brachins).

(4) “A clasp for a woman's hair” (Abd. 1914 T.S.D.C. I.).

II. v. Usually with up. (See quot.)Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 16; Bnff.2 1935:
Braichum-up, to put on much dress in an untidy manner; to inwrap in an untidy fashion to protect from the weather. The word often conveys the notion of too much care.

[O.Sc. brechame, brechim, braichhame (D.O.S.T.); n.Mid.Eng. bargham, barwam. Prob. from O.E. beorgan, to protect + hama, dress, covering. Present in n.Eng. dial. in forms bargham, braffin, etc. An inverted form is hamburgh in use in Irel., Yks., Lan., Lin., Gmg., Pem., Dev. (E.D.D.).]

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"Brecham n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 May 2024 <>



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