Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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NICKIE-TAM, n.comb. Also (k)nicky-, -tom. and jocular variant nickiewillie (Fif.17 1950). One of a pair of straps, or a piece of string in lieu, tied by farmworkers over the trousers-legs immediately below the knee to keep the legs clear of the soil and dust, etc., blowing up or relieve the weight of mud at the ankles (Abd. 1911 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. IV. 17, knicky-tom; Fif. 1962 Scots Mag. (June) 209). Gen.Sc. These seem to have come into use c.1900. Bnff. 1917  E. S. Rae Private John Macpherson 54:
An' Geordie, ma foreman, a dacenter lad Ne'er wore nickietoms, nor plooed up a fleed.
Sc. a.1931  E. MacColl Scotland Sings (1953) 96:
I first put on my narrow breeks to hap my spinnel trams, And buskit roond my nappin' knees a pair o' Nicky Tams.
e.Lth. 1953  Stat. Acc.3 266:
It was characteristic of the ploughman to secure his trousers round his legs immediately below the knees by a narrow buckled strap or thong. These attachments were known in this part of the country as “nickie tams” or “bow yanks”.

[From an abbrev. dim. form of knicker (bocker)s, which the trousers in effect became by being bound by the strap, + tome, Taum, a cord, subsequently altered to -tam, with a play on the common Christian name. Cf. Waltam, id. and note.]

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"Nickie-tam n. comb.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2019 <>



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