Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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SMEDDUM, n. Also smed(d)im, -am, -om, smeadum, smiddum. [′smɛdəm]

1. (1) A fine powder, specif. finely ground meal, or malt (Ags. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 465; Kcd. 1822 G. R. Kinloch MS.). Also malt-smeddum, id. (Ib.). Now dial. in Eng. in form smitham. Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 44:
So oftimes he [a dog], wi' eager will, Wad wend awa' to Grugal's mill, There he gat fouth o' smervy smeddum.
Sc. 1901 Scotsman (20 Aug.) 7:
The malt was coarsely crushed or ground, was then put through a sieve. The part that sifted out was called “smeddum”. It was kneaded up into tiny bannocks, baked on a griddle and eaten. If when baked the smeddum inside the crust was in taste and appearance like a thick dark syrup the malt was good and strong. If not syrupy, the malt was poor.

(2) A medicinal powder. Comb. red smeddum, prob. red precipitate of mercury, used as an insecticide. Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Louse v.:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet, Or fell, red smeddum.

(3) Finely-ground lead ore. Lnk. 1744 Session Papers, Petition J. Stirling (23 Feb.) 11:
The smaller Parts of the [Lead] ore, which pass through the Sieve into the Tub of Water, is called Smeddim.

2. The pith, strength or efficacious essence of a substance. Hdg. 1790 J. Mylne Poems 54:
Afore he wrote, bauld Ramsay saw The smeddom o' our tongue decay.
Rxb. 1807 J. Ruickbie Way-side Cottager 187:
The smeddum o' your barmie pills.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail xxiv.:
It [snuff] was sae brisk in the smeddum, so pleasant to the smell.

3. Fig. Spirit, mettle, energy, drive, spunk, vigorous common sense and resourcefulness (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Hence smeddumf(o)u, smeddumless, having or lacking smeddum. Ayr. 1787 Burns Letters (Ferguson) No. 112:
Onie ane o' them had as muckle smeddum and rumblegumtion as the half o' some Presbytries that you and I baith ken.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxxix.:
There was neither bir nor smeddum enough in it [a newspaper], to molest the high, or to pleasure the low.
Slk. 1827 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xvii.:
O, I wish ye wad endow him wi' a like spunk and smeddum to act for himsell.
wm.Sc. 1837 Laird of Logan (1868) 536:
To instruct this smeddomless smaik in the divine art of minstrelsy.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer ii. xii.:
He's no ill aff for smeddum.
Hdg. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 262:
You an' your clever, through-gaun, smeddum-fou', young gude wife.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) 73:
Ye micht hae smeddum enough to say Mester Bowden.
Kcb. 1912 W. Burnie Poems 117:
To put some smeddom in oor Sam.
Abd. 1932 J. White Moss Road 70:
Ye poor smeddumless stock, all ye can do is to scare a bairn.
Gsw. 1951 H. W. Pryde M. McFlannel's Romance 110:
Could ye no' have as much smeddum as to boss her afore she gets her word in?

[O.E. smed(e)ma, smeo-, fine flour, E.M.E. smitham, in senses 1. (1) and (3). O.Sc. has smedome, = 1., 1667.]

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"Smeddum n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jan 2022 <>



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