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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HUMPH, n.1, v.1 Also humf. Sc. forms of Eng. hump. [hʌmf]

I. n. 1. A curvature of the back or spine, a hump-back, a protuberance on the back. Specif. a mussel shell with a hump or bulge indicating that it contains pearls. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Hence humph-backit, hunch-backed (Ib.), humphed, hunched. Gen.Sc.Edb. 1843 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie v.:
They'd a humph-backit laddie.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 211:
He'd a humph on his back as big as Paddy's balloon.
Lnk. 1883 W. Thomson Leddy May 110:
The cuif wad be only a puir doitit sumph That wad chauner at fate for gi'ein' him a humph.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 134:
Mistress Ginger's cat, wha was stanin near the fire, its humph up like a camel.
Per. 1975 Scottish Field (Oct.) 46:
A 'humph and flat run', for example, which is a really good shell with three pearls round, flat on one side and egg-shaped.

Hence fig. in phrs.: (1) away an run up ma humph, also away an cuddle ma humph, expression of dismissal: get lost!; (2) to come up yin's humph, to come into one's head, to occur to one to do (a thing) (Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 12; m.Sc., Slk. 1957). Cf. Back, n.1, 5. (18); (3) to gae up one's humph, (a) to be beyond one's power or comprehension, to baffle one. Cf. Back, n.1, 5. (19); (b) also to put someone's humph up, to get up someone's humph, to “get one's back up” (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Per. 1957); (4) to set up one's hump, to become angry and antagonistic, to “set one's back up” (e. and wm.Sc., Slk. 1957).(1) Gsw. 1988 Michael Munro The Patter Another Blast 34:
humph A hump in one's back, used in a phrase of rude dismissal: away an run up ma humph.
Edb. 1996:
A new computer fur yer Christmas! Away an cuddle ma humph!
(2) wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 29:
How could it come up Orgon's humph
To abandon his dochter tae yon big sumph?
Gsw. 1987 Peter Mason C'mon Geeze Yer Patter! 53:
He only dis it when it comes up his humph. He will only do it when he feels in the mood.
(3) (a) Ags. 1893 Brechin Advertiser (29 Aug.) 3:
Fat improvement that street can want gaes fairly up her humph.
(b) wm.Sc. 1983 William McIlvanney The Papers of Tony Veitch 57:
About as easy to ignore as a Salvation Army drum. He's going to start putting everybody's humph up.
Ags. 1994 Mary McIntosh in James Robertson A Tongue in Yer Heid 148:
She had an awfy pan-loafie voice. Fair got up my humph wi her poash wurds.
(4) Rnf. 1895 J. Nicholson Kilwuddie 173:
When they grow nettled an' set up their humph.

2. The act of carrying a heavy load, a lugging about of something heavy. Gen.Sc.Abd.31 1957:
It's an aafu humph up the hill wi twa heavy cases.

II. v. 1. tr. To carry about a heavy burden, as on the back, to lug, to hoist or lift up anything heavy. Also vbl.n. Gen.Sc. Hump is so used in Australian slang 1853.Lnk. 1890 J. Coghill Poems 91:
O' “humphin” my kit, I grew weary.
Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 37:
Auld Sandy, the cairrier, mak's a bonnie penny humphin' their kists.
Peb. 1938 J. Dickson Poems 52:
Was't no about a poke o' corn That some hill herd was forced to humph.
Gsw. 1950 H. W. Pryde McFlannel Family Affairs 121:
Ah wis fair wabbit humphin' it up the stair.
ne.Sc. 1958 Scottish Studies II. i. 47:
He was aye sittin' humphed up.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 126:
And so she day-dreamed her way through her water-carrying and washing, her humphing-in of the day's peats.
wm.Sc. 1991 Liz Lochhead Bagpipe Muzak 41:
Steys in a three-up in Easterhoose that's that bogging damp the paper's curling aff the walls, has to humph that pram doon three flights past pish, broken gless, auld hypodermics and Alsatian-shite.
Edb. 1998 Gordon Legge Near Neighbours (1999) 92:
... I was busy, I was humphing stuff left, right and centre, and some of them barrels was near a hundredweight, mind - ...

2. intr. To move around laboriously under the weight of a heavy, unwieldy burden (ne.Sc., m.Lth., Lnk., Dmf. 1957).Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 20:
He humpit roon' the country side to clachan, craft an' ha'.
Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
He humph't off wi' the seck o' tataes.
Lnk. 1953 per Mearns6:
The weans will hae tae bide at hame, Aa canna humph aboot wi them aa day.

[For interchange of final p and ph (f), cf. Bumph, Sumph, Trumph.]

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"Humph n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2024 <>



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