Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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THAIRM, n. Also therm(e); tharm (Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 35); thairn (Sc. 1825 Jam.); and Sh. forms term, terrem (Sh. 1880 Jam.). See T, letter, 9. and also Fearn. [θerm; Sh. tɛrm]

1. A gut or bowel in the human or animal intestine (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929). Now only dial. in Eng.; a gut used as the skin of a sausage or pudding (Sh., em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc. 1972). Now only liter. Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 137:
He that has a wide Theim [sic], had never a long Arm. Gluttonous People will not be be liberal of their Meat.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Haggis i.:
Painch, tripe, or thairm.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls (1935) 265:
The sordid pot of tripe and thairm.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in Wind 34:
The tattie-bogle wags its airms It hasna onie banes or thairms.

2. Gut dried and twisted into a string or cord for various purposes, catgut: (1) in gen. (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Sh., Per. 1972): Dmf. 1817 W. Caesar Poems 112:
Hung wi' cords as strong as thairm.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 16:
He hed an airm wi' nerves like thairm.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 68:
The axe was probably fitted into the split end of the wood, and secured by thongs of hide or term.

(2) as a cord for the mechanism of a †watch or pendulum clock (Abd., Ags., Rnf. 1972). Abd. 1701 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VI. 184:
For puttin a therme in my watch, 10 shil.
Sc. 1724 Rothes MSS. (19 Oct.):
To dressin two Clocks and an Spinit work and New Therms . . . 10s. 0d.
Rnf. 1964 Private MS.:
To new Therms to Clock, ¥1.10 /-.

(3) for the driving-belt of a spinning-wheel (Sh. 1943 Abd. Press and Jnl. (27 Jan.) 2, Sh. 1972). Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 164:
Twa knots o' ribbons, blue an' white — An' thairm, to mount a spinnin' wheel.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 183:
The “guts” referred to the wheel-band, which was made of the intestines of sheep, and was called term.

†(4) for a bow-string. Edb. 1764 Session Papers, Reoch v. Aberdour (19 March) 17:
He gave the Defender a parcel of therms or bow-strings, about two years ago.

(5) as a fiddle-string (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., Lnk. 1972). Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars 200:
While I kittle hair on thairms.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Let. xi,:
When I am tired of scraping thairm or singing ballants.
Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 276:
The thairms of an old time-worn fiddle.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems (1877) 5:
Benjie, fing'rin' owre the thairms, Now draws his bow sae sweet.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 29:
Screw the pegs wi' cheepin' twistle, And strum the thairms.
Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 106:
Geordie Forbes scrapin' on's aul' therm.
Kcb. 1941 Gallovidian 11:
He yirks its thairms on warblin' scale O' stirrin' notes.

(6) in combs.: (i) thairm-band, the catgut belt of a spinning-wheel (Sc. 1825 Jam .): ¶(ii) thairm-inspiring, breathing life into the music of the violin; (iii) thairm-scraper, a contemptuous term for a fiddler; (iv) thairm-strings, strings of catgut. (i) Mry. c.1840 Lays & Leg. (Douglas 1939) 14:
Sweet oil for wheels and thairm-bands.
(ii) Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 202–3:
O had McLauchlan, thairm-inspiring Sage, Been there to hear this heavenly band engage.
(iii) Per. 1821 T. Atkinson Three Nights 39:
Ye lan-loupin' thairm scraper ye!
(iv) Ayr. 1788 G. Turnbull Poet. Essays 185:
Therm-strings for spinning wheels, and fiddles.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 43:
He gart his thairm-strings speak, at will, True Scots vibrations!

[O.Sc. tharm, = 1., 1513, Mid.Eng. tharm, O.E. þearm, gut, bowel.]

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"Thairm n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jan 2022 <>



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