Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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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. 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.

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;
1 :
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). 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 Jun 2019 <>



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