Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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COOM, Koom, Kum, Cowm, n.1 and v. [kum]

1. n.

(1) Coal-dust; dross for smithy fires; flakes of soot emanating from burning coals or adhering to cooking utensils. Also fig. Cf. Gum. Gen.Sc. Abd. 1851  W. Anderson Rhymes, etc. 79:
While lums like me maun still consume Gas cinders, sclates, or smiddy coom.
Ags.(D) 1894  J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xvi.:
He took the hammer an' ca'd a' the coals fair into koom.
Edb. 1824  R. Howden in Royal Sc. Minstrelsy 134:
And black them [shoes] weel wi' girgle [? girdle] cowm, And brush them till they're clear.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie I. xxi.:
Mr Nettle, I suspect and believe that your han's no clear o' the coom o' this wark.

Hence coomy, begrimed, soot-covered (Slg.3 1937). Slg. 1932  W. D. Cocker Poems 59:
Drinkin' weel-biled tea frae the coomy can.

(2) Peat dust; fine (dried) turf mould (Dmf.3 c.1920). The usual sense in Uls. Kcb. 1894  S. R. Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
Being ankle-deep in fragrant dust or “coom” — which is, strange to say, a perfectly clean and even a luxurious bedding.
Uls. 1904  J. W. Byers in Victoria Coll. Mag. 16:
The common custom of placing coom or peat (turf) dust . . . at the back of the kitchen fire . . . is also used among the superstitious with the idea of providing a fire for the fairies.

(3) “Dust produced from grain when first passed through the mill in the process of shillin [q.v.]” (Cai. 1905 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68; Cai.7 1937); “the small particle of meal at the root end of a seed [of barley] — liberated by the process of ‘shilling'” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

(4) Dust of any kind (Uls.1 c.1920); a layer, “a very small quantity of any powdery stuff” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kum); “anything much broken; applied to coals, biscuit, etc.” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.). Sh.(D) 1922  J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 15:
Na, lamb, da deil koom o aitmeal is ithin da waa's.
Ork. 1929  Marw.:
Of a plate . . . on which a cheese has been lying — “the' war a koom o' mites apae hid.”

Phr.: in coom, into ashes. Sh.(D) 1922  Inkster Mansie's Röd 49:
I' da state 'at shü's in, shü might tum'l i' da fire, an' be brunt in coom afore we cam apon her.

2. v.

(1) To dirty, blacken, stain (Abd.22, Lnk.3 1937; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.). Also fig. Sc. 1829  Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 312:
Let's coom his face wi' burned cork.
Ayr. 1790  A. Tait Poems and Songs 11:
They'll coom the Patron's nose.
Ayr. 1826  Galt Last of the Lairds xix.:
They ought to have been punished, Miss Shoosie, for cooming your character in the way they did.

(2) “To reduce to a fine powder by grinding, pounding, or burning” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kum).

[O.Sc. cowm, n., soot, grime, 1503, and v., to begrime, 1560 (D.O.S.T.), Mid.Eng. coame, coome, come, comb, id. Appar. a Sc. form of Eng. cutm, coal-dust, slack, shale (cf. P.L.D. § 60.2 and § 78.3). O.N. kám, “grime, film of dirt” (Cleasby and Vigfusson), although similar in sense, would not give the Sc. forms regularly.]

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"Coom n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jun 2019 <>



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