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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.

SKOOM, n., v. Also scoom, skum (Jak.). [skum]

I. n. Scum, a thin layer of matter forming on the top of a liquid (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; I.Sc. 1970). Adj. scoomy, skoomi, of the sky or clouds: hazy, slightly obscured.Sh. 1897 J. Jakobsen Dial. Sh. 37:
A slightly obscured sky: a skoomi sky.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen Wi Da Trow 159:
Scoomy cloods laek reek drave fast.
Sh. 1953 Manson's Almanac 124:
While the kettle was boiling, bubbles rose to the top, forming “skoom”.

II. v. 1. To skim, take off scum (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh. 1970). Also fig. Hence skoomer, a skimmer (Sh. 1953 Manson's Almanac 124); a hand-net with a circular frame on a long shaft for scooping a salmon out of a fly-net or for catching herring spilling out of a drift-net (Bnff. 1964).Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 592:
Da fleeter itt Saxie skoom'd his kettle wi.
Sh. 1888 Edmonston & Saxby Home of a Naturalist 228:
One did scoom weel his fish, and lo! a splendid pearl was found among the scoomings.
Sh. 1916 J. Burgess Rasmie's Smaa Murr (Iktober 13):
Gödnaetur is da fleetir 'at skooms da pot o life.

2. To remove the top layer of anything, to scrape off (dirt, etc.) (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Sh., Ork. 1970); specif. in opening up an old peat-bank (see 1964 quot.).Sh. 1888 B. R. Anderson Broken Lights 82:
Safe and snug dey'd buried lie Till fanns wir scoomed, or drifts wir by.
Sh. 1928 Manson's Almanac 192:
It took him some poofin an' scoomin before he was in a fit state to present himself.
Sh. 1953 Manson's Almanac 122:
Skoomin the hearth clear of ashes.
Sh. 1964 Folk Life II. 7:
This was necessary when new banks were being opened on old peat moor that had already had two or three depths of peat removed, leaving more underneath. A great deal of clearing was needed to get down to the fresh peat, and for this a square garden spade was used. The process was called skooming the bank.

3. To skim, to graze, touch lightly in passing (Sh. 1970).Sh. 1962 New Shetlander No. 60. 16:
Da pail-bool withered roond my neck An skoomed my left sheek-bane.

[Norw. dial. skum, Icel., Faer. skúm, scum.]

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"Skoom n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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