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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.

BUMMLE, BUMMIL, Bumble, Bumbel, Bummel, Bumle, Bommle, v., n. [bʌm(b)l, bɔml]

I. v., tr. and intr.

1. To hum (of a bee) (Bnff.2, Abd.22, Lnk.3 1937).Abd. 1930 J. M. Bulloch in Abd. Press and Jnl. (1 March):
The bee that bummles kens its skep, The lammie kens its yowe.

Hence bummler, a humming insect, a bee (Ags.1 1937).Ayr. 1900 “G. Douglas” House with Green Shutters (1901) x.:
For the loudest bummler's no the best bee, as my father, honest man, used to tell the minister.

2. “To read in a low indistinct tone; to sing, or play in a bungling manner” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19; Bnff.2, Abd.9 1937); “to stutter and stammer; to speak carelessly, making many mistakes in pronunciation or in the construction of a sentence” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), bummel; 1914 Angus Gl., bumbel; Lnk.3 1937).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems 200:
'Tis ne'er be me Shall scandalize, or say ye bummil Ye'r Poetrie.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19:
There's her bummlin' o' the piano.

3. To weep (Bnff.2, Abd.22 1937). Ppl.adj. bummlin', given to weeping.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19:
There's that bummlin' loon t' the rod again. He hiz his finger eye in's ee.

4. “To bustle about, work busily, but noisily and not effectively” (Sc. 1898 E.D.D., bumble); to spoil, blunder, confuse (Lnk.3 1937); “to work confusedly” (Ayr. 1825 Jam.2, bommle; Ayr.4 1928). Ppl.adj. bummlin', bungling.em.Sc. 1988 James Robertson in Joy Hendry Chapman 52 71:
' ... But he bummelt an stummelt aroun i the derk, an the affcome o't wis he gaed heelster-gowdie intae a grave that wis newly howkit for a burial the morn's morn. The man kent naethin ava about it. ... '
Edb. 1917 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's o' Solomon xix. 100:
For, gif ye redd him o' ae pliskie the day, He'll be bummlin intil anither by the morn.
w.Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 196:
We're sore disappointed and bummled.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 98:
Till drunk he [Adam] tummilt, An', as oor sacred authors gree, Life's garden bummilt.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A muckle bummlin' ass.

Hence bum(m)ler, bummeler, bumlar, bumbler, a blundering fellow, a bungler (Sc. 1808 Jam., bummeler; Cai.1 1932, bumlar, bumbler; Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Gl., bumler; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); a blockhead (Cai.8 1934, bummler). Cf. Bumbar, and Boomalar.Mearns 1890 Stonehaven Jnl. (29 May) 2/6:
He wis employed bi the then Cooncil o' the Auld Toon, a set o' hardfisted meeserable bummlers.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems 29:
A bummler, Mick McFad, A wad-be ferrier, feckless coof.

II. n.

1. A wild bee (Abd.19, Lnk.3 1937; Gall. 1825 Jam.2, bummil; Kcb.9 1937).Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 63:
While, up the howes the bummles fly in troops.
Dmf. 1910 R. Quin The Borderland, etc. 87:
Here's Peter like an eel, aye saft-spoken and genteel — Tho' as busy as a bummle in the bar.

2. An idle fellow.Ayr. 1786 Burns On a Scotch Bard iv.:
Hadst thou taen aff some drowsy bummle, Wha can do nought but fyke an' fumble, 'Twad been nae plea.

3. A blundering, clumsy person.Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 127:
Some bubblie bumle, wi' a brainless head, In shape o' man, but void o' manly merit.

4. Indistinct, blundering reading (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Lnk.3 1937).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19:
He made an unco bummle o' the paiper, fin he read it.

5. “One who reads in a low, indistinct, blundering manner; one who sings, or plays without skill or taste” (Ib.; Bnff.2 1937).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19:
He's naething bit a mere bummle at readan.
Kcb. 1794–1868 Curriehill; Kcb.1 1937:
One of the masters in a local school a few years ago was called “Bummle” by the boys because of his indistinct speaking.

6. A bungle, botch (Bnff.2, Abd.9, Lnk.3, Kcb.1 1937; Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 19).Sc. 1914 R. B. Cunninghame Graham Sc. Stories 53:
When I dee, Ramsey wull just hae to sort me . . . though he is sure to mak' a bummle o' the job!
w.Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 372:
Wi' goose, wi' lapboord, and wi' thummle, They made but aye an unco bummle.

Comb.: bummle-up, confusion, “mess-up.”Rxb. 1916 Kelso Chron. (17 March) 4/6:
Oh, aye; it's been a gie bummle-up, but it's a' by and ou've gotten a guid man, and it 'ill be a peety if things disna gan smoothly now.

[Frequentative of Bum, v.1, but prob. influenced in some of the meanings by Eng. bungle. O.Sc. has bombill, ? blundering efforts, bumlar, bumbler, a bungler, a.1585 (D.O.S.T.); E.M.E. bomble, bumble, to labour ineffectively.]

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"Bummle v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Apr 2024 <>



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