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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SCAM, v., n. Also scame, scaam, scamb, scaum, scawm, ska(u)m, ¶scowm. [′skɑ:m, ′skǫ:m]

I. v. 1. To burn slightly, to scorch, singe with dry heat, of cloth, skin, cakes, etc. (Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 464; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., n.Sc., em.Sc. (a), Uls. 1969), the down off a plucked fowl (Traynor); of nettles: to sting. Also fig. Ppl.adj. scaumed, skaummit, having the mark of a burn (Sc. 1808 Jam.), discoloured, faded by heat or sun, of cloth (Fif. 1969).Sc. 1746 Jacobite Memoirs (Chambers 1834) 486:
The cuttie being exceedingly short, Malcolm scamed the Prince's cheek with the tow.
Per. 1811 J. Sim Poems 36:
Feard they get a singet crown, Or scamit clais.
Dmb. 1817 J. Walker Poems 53:
Wha's to blame if he shou'd fever, An' scad his lungs, an' scawm his liver?
m.Sc. 1842 A. Rodger Stray Leaves 109:
His fause loopy tongue maistly ruined us a', O had it been scaumed to the skinning o't.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1922) 43:
If she disna get scammit for her leein', I dinna ken what use there is for a deevil ava.
Uls. 1901 Northern Whig:
In County Armagh milk which, in the process of being heated, is singed slightly, is said to be “scammed”, and in other parts of Ulster it is applied to a slight burn — i.e., a woman smoothing clothes on touching by chance the warm iron with her hand will say “I'm scammed”.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 135:
The scaumin' lowe o' hell.
Crm. 1933 D. A. Mackenzie Stroopie Well 5:
For fear the nettlies scam my leggies.
Ork. 1956 C. M. Costie Benjie's Bodle 11:
Phemie's bannocks wir a' scammed on the ootside an' raw levan i' the inside.
Per.4 1966:
He gaed doon the road like a scamed cat.

Comb. scam-scone, †scaumt —, a pancake or crumpet, made of meal, water and salt and toasted (Crm., Rs., Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.). Also fig. as in quot. Cf. scaddit-scone s.v. Scaud, v., 1.Rnf. 1837 Crawfurd MSS. XI. 325:
When a lass had a spurious wane, she is called a scaumt scone.

2. Of frost: to scorch, blight (foliage) (n.Sc., Per. 1969).Sc. 1882 Pall Mall Gazette (26 July) 4:
Snow and sleet, which “scam” the soft plants, and leave them withered as if they had been touched by fire.
Abd. 1949 Buchan Observer (27 Dec.):
“Scaumin” the oat braird and the early grass in its bitter blast.

3. To “wither” with reproof, to scold severely (Bnff., Per. 1969).Abd. 1922 Swatches o' Hamespun 49:
Fin her an' the kitchie-deem fa' oot, an' I come in for a scaumin' wi' the lave.

4. To cover with a film of moisture, a haze, shadow or the like. Vbl.n. scowman, a haze or gloomy appearance in the sky.Gall. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 277:
The windows are scaum'd.
s.Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxxx. 10:
The heights, they war scaum'd wi' her schadowe.
Mry. 1914 Trans. Banffshire Field Club 25:
A scowman or blackie were signs of storm to windward.

5. To injure, crack, esp. in ppl.adj. scambed (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.); to spoil, damage, harm in some way, esp. of clothing (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

II. n. 1. A burn, singe, scorch, or the mark of such (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh., n.Sc., em. Sc. (a), Uls. 1969); a sudden glow of heat or red in the sky (Cai. 1939); an application of heat, as by a poultice.Sh. 1898 Shetland News (21 May):
What'll doo lay at him [a cut], Mansie? A scam o' raw garr?
Ags. 1901 W. J. Milne Reminisc. 293:
The big blazin' forge, and Grigg's pincers reid het. Garr'd this dreamer think sair o' the scaums he micht get.
Abd. 1909 J. Tennant Jeannie Jaffray v.:
Neither skaum nor scart were upon us.
Ags. 1947 Forfar Dispatch (13 Feb.):
Mary Ann cried up tae get a scaum at my feire-side, her ain coals bein dune.
Abd. 1956 People's Jnl. (20 Oct.) 3:
Lookin' oot the piggies an' giein' 'em a gweed scaum afore sen'in' 'em tae some ferm tae get full't o' saut butter.

2. A withering or scorching of foliage by frost, etc. (n.Sc., Per. 1969). Also of peats (Arg. 1990s).Abd.16 1954:
Heard from a gardener putting weed-killer on a garden walk. — “If you're nae carefu, it's easy to gie a scaum to the edge o' the green”.
Abd. 1961 People's Jnl. (13 May):
A touch o' frost in the mornin's fairly garred 'em hap the green shaw, for fear o' them gettin' a scaum.

3. Fig. A hurt to one's feelings, a wound, a harm, cause of suffering (Bnff., Abd. 1969).Abd. 1875 G. MacDonald Malcolm xli.:
The leddy cairried her heid heicher nor ever — maybe to hide a scaum she had taen, for a' her pride.
Abd. 1916 G. Abel Wylins 42:
He need's it, for there's mony whisks An' scaums abeen the sod.

4. A spot, blemish, crack, injury (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1914 Angus Gl.; Sh., Ags., Per., Fif. 1969), esp. of some superficial damage (Ork. 1929 Marw.), an abrasion (Sh. 1969). Adj. scammy, with patchy marks. Comb. scammy post, a soft, much-jointed sandstone in thin layers interspersed with deposits of mica. Also in n.Eng. dial.Dmf. 1812 W. Singer Agric. Dmf. 663:
White scammy post, and coal partings.
Abd. 1925 A. Murison Rosehearty Rhymes 104:
I thocht the warl a lo'esome place, Without a scaum or blot.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 234:
Dey mount agen dir grit war chairgers, An return withoot a scam.

5. A film of vapour, a haze, mist, or shadow (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 57). Adj. scaumie, misty, hazy. Phr. the scaum o' the sky, haze (MacTaggart).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 421:
A scaumy day, a day when the sun's face is behind white thin clouds. There is red scaum, white scaum, and many others. By the colour or hue of the scaum, do Wather-wiseakers guess about coming weather.
Rxb. 1877 J. Veitch Hist. Sc. Border 426:
A wide-spreading web of greyish cloud — the “skaum” of the sky.
Sc. 1879 P. Waddell Isaiah xxv. 5:
Like lowe in the scaum o' a clud.
Gall. 1901 H. Wallace Greatest of These xxv.:
He knew too well what that “skaum” meant, as the Galloway shepherds called it, that haze drawn across the sky, light as a gossamer at first but growing denser and thicker till the sun was blotted out altogether.
Sc. 1928 Scots. Mag. (May) 143:
The grit muckle room, he tellt me, fadit oot, and he thocht to be harled into a fell deep scaum through whilk he heard the lassie's voice like as if it were a hunner mile awa'.
wm.Sc. 1929 R. Crawford Quiet Fields 36:
While gloamin' haps baith howe an' brae Wi' scaumie wing.

[O.Sc. scam, to scorch, 1644. Etym. uncertain but prob. of Scand. orig. O.N. skam, shame, can also mean, though rarely, a hurt or injury, which seems to be the basic significance of the Sc. developments. Cf. also Norw. skjemma, Sw. skämma, to spoil, mar, disfigure, and n.Eng. dial. scam, to stain, blotch, discolour, scaumy, blotched, misty.]

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"Scam v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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