Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CAM, CAUM, CAWM, Kaum, Calm, Caulm, Caam, n. and v. [kɑ(:)m, but m.Sc. + k(:)m]

I. n. Still in gen. use in Sc., except in Ork. and Sh.

1. Pipeclay; “soft kind of clay used in colouring hearthstones and door-steps. The use of blue ‘caum' is said to be peculiar to Forfarshire” (Ags.9 1926, caum); “also used in Fife” (Ags.1, Fif.1 1938). Fif. 1897 “S. Tytler” Witch-Wife iv.:
The doorstep and the flagged path to the little gate were as white as if they had been pipe-clayed; the pipe-clay having been hearthstone — in Scotch parlance, “cawm.”

Combs.: (1) camstane, caum-, calm-, camstone, (a) pipeclay used for whitening; “fuller's earth, used by scourers” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 129); known to Abd.19, Ags.17, Slg.3, Kcb.1 1938; (b) a smooth waterworn stone frequently used as a charm (Kcb.9 1938); †(c) common compact limestone; (2) caum-quarry, clay quarry. (1) (a) Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxxvi.:
And in the other [hand] a pail of whiting, or camstane, as it is called, mixed with water — a circumstance which indicates Saturday night in Edinburgh.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 26:
A spindle o' bourtree, A whorl o' caumstane, Put them on the housetop, And it will spin its lane. This was a supposed charm against witches.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick xv.:
Though mebbe he michtna be as white as camstane, he wasna as black as coal coom.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables R. Cummell 151:
He had a big broo white as caum-stane.

Hence ca'm-stoned, adj. Fif. 1893 “G. Setoun” Barncraig I. 17–18:
The Saturday's cleaning was by no means a slovenly affair, as was evident from the outside stairs, scrubbed and sanded, and the “ca'm-stoned” doorsteps.
(b) Gall. 1930 (per Wgt.3):
I fumml't aboot in my pooch, but could fin' naethin' but a bit o' calmstane I foun' yae Sunday efternune in the Gairlaird Burn.
(c) Sc. 1806 R. Forsyth Beauties Scot. III. 359:
The third kind of limestone is what is called camstone or glenstone, because mostly found in the bottom of glens. . . . It contains a considerable proportion of clay.
Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 327:
At the base of the hill, immediately after the coal is cut off, you meet with several layers of camstone, (as it is termed with us,) which is easy burned into a heavy lime.
(2) Ayr. 1879 R. Adamson Lays of Leisure Hours 92–93:
For, whisht! the golden mine was but And [sic] auld caum-quarry hole.

2. “Usually applied to slate pencil” (Kcb.2 1914). Known in this sense to Lnk.3 1938. w.Dmf. 1899 J. Shaw Country Schoolmaster 339:
Slate-pen is “caum” — a black-lead pencil “waud.”

Comb.: cawmpen, “slate pencil” (Slk.1 1929).

3. “White or light coloured blaes” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 15, calm, caulm).

II. v. To whiten a hearth, etc., by means of pipeclay (Ags.17, Fif.10, Lnk.3 1938). Ppl.adj. caamed, kaumed. Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 58:
Stanes to calm an' chains to clean, Spoons to dicht an' cogs to claw oot.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) viii.:
Mistress Mikaver had the stair noo whitened, an' every stap was kaumed an' sandit.
w.Dmf. 1903 J. L. Waugh Thornhill 151:
The floor was keeled, and in the caamed circle design round each flagstone Mrs Ritchie's handiwork was indisputably evidenced.

[O.Sc. calm, limestone; of obscure origin, c.1450; calmstane, later dial. camstane, a variety of limestone, earliest date 1502 (D.O.S.T.).]

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"Cam n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 13 Jun 2021 <>



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