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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 but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SKIMMER, v., n.1 Also skimmar, skimer. [′skɪmər]

I. v. 1. Of light: to flicker, quiver in short gleams or flashes, to glitter, twinkle (Sc. 1825 Jam.); of a bright object: to gleam, glisten, flutter brightly; of the eye: to flutter, look uncertainly or unsteadily, in phr. in 1808 quot. Vbl.n. skimmerin, the flickering of rays of light (Lnk. 1825 Jam.).n.Sc. 1808 Jam.:
A skimmerin look, that peculiar look which characterises an idiot or a lunatic as perhaps originally descriptive of the faint glare of the disordered eye.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 60:
An' a' their armour . . . Made sic a flashy skimmerin' in his rays.
Sc. 1840 R. Chambers Hist. Rebellion (1869) 48:
The appearance of the standard was hailed by a cloud of skimmering bonnets.
Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 43:
It glimmart awa an' skimmart awa.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 78:
Nae freen'ly lozen skimmers.
Abd. 1957:
Nae skimmerin'. Not clean — of clothes. “Skimmerin'” was nearly always used here with the negative.
Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 46:
at the crossgates o Aprile,
and eternity it cam owre'm as a splairge
o licht cams owre the watter - skimmerin
wi life - (and him a sodger tae).
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 66:
The lichts o the oil base are bonnie -
there's orange and yella and neon-white
skimmrin on the sleekit bleck o the Esk,

2. Fig.: (1) of clothes or their wearer: to be radiant or resplendent, to flounce in a showy manner (Lnk., Ayr. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs I. 26:
Whan she cam into the kirke, She skimmer'd like the sun.

(2) tr. To scatter, to dust any powdery substance over the surface of anything (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158), intr., to fall in a very light drizzling shower (Ib.), specif. of snow. Vbl.n. skimmerin, a light sprinkling (of snow) (Sh., ne.Sc., Per. 1970).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158:
A skimmerin' shoorie i' the mornin'.
Abd. 1945 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 378:
An icy skimmerin' lappers the troch moo.

3. Of movement: to glide along easily and quickly (Rxb. 1825 Jam.); to walk or trip with a light airy step, as over soft boggy ground (Per. 1825 Jam.); to skim over the surface of water like a bird (Fif. Ib.).s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 388:
The day was sunny, he saw a bonny Young lass come skimerin' by.
Lth. 1813 G. Bruce Poems 63:
Now skim'ring frae a' airts, in raws, Cam lads, an' lasses dainty.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Confessions (1874) 464:
He dreamed that he was making his feet skimmer against the ceiling.
Ags. 1834 A. Smart Rambling Rhymes 135:
Though her wheels were made o' timmer, An' ne'er like braw brass warks could skimmer.
Sc. 1938 Glasgow Herald (29 Jan.) 4:
I aften wunner gin the world Gangs skimmerin round in the ae place.

II. n. 1. A flicker or glimmer of light (Lnk. 1825 Jam.).Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 21:
For, noo an' than, an eerie skimmer Wad lich'en up the gloomy timmer.
Ags. 1993 Mary McIntosh in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 112:
He pit his ee tae the gaig. It wis the skimmer o a caunle, the low gien smaa licht. The har on the back o his craig prinkled at the pewlin soon cummin oot o that bleck pit.

2. A light sprinkling of a fine powdery substance over a surface, specif. of snow or rain (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 158; Sh., ne.Sc. 1970).

3. A low skimming flight of a bird (Fif. 1825 Jam.).

[In senses I. and II. 1. and 2. a northern variant of Eng. shimmer, found in North. Mid.Eng., and n.Eng. dial. Meanings I. and II. 3. may be developments of this by extension of sense from appearance to movement, but there has prob. been influence from skim, of which skimmer would represent a freq. form.]

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"Skimmer v., n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Mar 2023 <>



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