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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SIMMEN, n., v. Also simman, -in, -on, simon, symmon, summon; simmind, -ond, -und, -int; simmet, -it. [′sɪmən; Sh. + -ə(n)t]

I. n. 1. A rope made of heather, grass, rushes, or esp. straw (Ork. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc., Cai. 1970), gen. in pl. applied to those used to hold down thatch on houses and stacks by being weighted with stones at each eave (Id., obsol.).Sh. a.1711 R. Sibbald Descr. Zet. (1845) 14:
The common thatching of them is a sort of Divet (they call there Flais) and straw and Summons above the same.
Highl. 1752 J. Campbell Highl. Scot. 20:
These [divots] they fix upon their Roofs with what they call Simmonds; These are Balls of twisted Heath which they throw backwards and forwards from one End to the other, and fix at the Bottom of each Side with large Stones.
Ork. 1779 P. Fea MS. Diary (3 Aug.):
4 Load of Straw and 2 Clews of Simmens.
Cai. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XV. 146:
The tenants of each penny-land for instance, had to furnish a certain quantity of drawn straw to thatch the mains' houses, and a certain quantity of simmins, that is, plaited straw-ropes, to bind down the thatch.
Ork. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 54:
The old houses are roofed with straw or heath, which is twisted into a rope, locally known as “simmons”. These “simmons” are stretched in close parallel lines across the roof from eave to eave; and when the whole roof has been covered in this way, some loose straw is put over all, which is bound down by a second layer of “simmons”.
Cai. 1904 E.D.D.:
Heather simmans are used mainly for thatched roofs. Straw simmans for corn stacks and byres. Sma' simmans, made of crushed rushes or of dog's tail grass, for making creels, keyzes, and cubbags.
Sh. 1918 T. Manson Peat Comm. 127:
Dis is a bit o straw simmit I'm tied aroond me hat ta keep him on.
Cai. 1921 Old-Lore Misc. IX. i. 21:
The method generally adopted in Caithness to charm away the produce of a neighbour's dairy was the trailing of a hair tether or simmon over their grazing pasture between sun and day, when the dew lay wet and heavy.
Sh. 1964 New Shetlander No. 71. 21:
An windin simmints, spinnin, makkin, dey sat afore da paet fire's licht.

Combs. (1) simmon-chair, a chair made by the interlacing of simmons, a straw-rope chair; (2) simmon clew, a ball of straw rope (Ork. 1970); (3) simmons-craw, a hook for twisting simmons, a thrawcruik (Cai. 1970).(1) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 195:
Articles of domestic use from straw, such as simmond-chairs.
(2) Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 23:
Da Deevil catchin' da end o' his tail, laek a oater, rowed himsel' ower da banks laek a simmet clew.

2. Fig. A long, gangling, rather stupid sort of person.Cai.9 1939:
A lang teem simman.

II. v. Also in forms simmons. To tie down thatch with straw-ropes on a roof, corn-stack, etc. (Cai. 1970).Ork. 1771 P. Fea MS. Diary (Nov.):
Got all the bear in the yard fully simmened.
Cai. 1930 John o' Groat Jnl. (21 Feb.) 2:
'E benleens broad wis simmons'd on'e thatch.

[O.Sc. siming, 1616, simmon, 1690, ultimately of Scand. orig. from O.N. sima, a straw rope, n.Eng. dial. sime, id. The orig. vowel however is long and the exact formation of simmen is uncertain, poss. representing a deriv. in -in(g), but there may have been some influence from Gael., Ir. síoman, which itself appears to be an early Celtic borrowing from O.N. The -nd forms arise from -n(n) by reverse analogy (see D, 2, 3), and become -nt and finally -t, hence simmet. Jakobsen's explanation that -en represents the suffixed art. of sími, masc. and -et of síma, neut. is hardly feasible.]

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"Simmen n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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