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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.

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.
ne.Sc. 1993 James McBey The Early Life of James McBey 92:
She then poured all out on our plates, where they set firm, and sprinkled raw oatmeal on top to make them attractive. This retained their 'smeddum' - imparting quality, she maintained.

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?
ne.Sc. 1982 Colin Lamont in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 100:
Pit smeddum in yir hairt wi frostit lungs straining
At the lang tchyauve climbing
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 21:
I'm feart to just say I'll no wed him!
Love asks you hae a lover's smeddum!
It's no a question of how much I love Valère.
He should deal wi dad for me, so there!
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 36:
'But why not? The organ isn't seen from the Chapel. I'll come up with you, show you where to go and you can play the service.'
Cockpen shook his head but without smeddum to his protest.
'Och I couldnae ... but mind it would be the great thing for me, that.' And so it was arranged.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 27:
I'll cry for smeddum tae snap the tether-band
that hauds us, mane the wyegaun o Scots words, . . .
Sc. 1991 John McDonald in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 90:
Spain's sair syle cam drookit i their licht;
an the sair syle gruppit their smeddum
tae'ts hert - hainin a pickle; garrin thaim byde
(like Cornford, bund in Cordova's mort-claith)
tae mak growthie this sair syle fir the future.
Sc. 2000 Herald (2 Dec) 20:
... the virtues she displayed in the last months of her life are unfashionable: dignity, a deep sense of privacy and a courage which can only be called heroic. ... The Scot in Fiona, who loved good literature more than she loved glossy magazines, would have summed them up with the word "smeddum".

[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 16 Jun 2024 <>



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