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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THRUM, n.1, v.1 Also ¶thram (Abd. 1932 R. L. Cassie Scots Sangs 25); thrumb (e.Lth. 1892 J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 316); trum (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 353; Sh. 1923 T. Manson Lerwick 21), See T, letter, 9. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. thrum, freq. in pl., the end of a warp-thread in a loom, any thread end in a fabric, esp. where fraying has occurred, a fragment of waste thread or cotton yarn, any odds and ends. [θrʌm, I.Sc. trʌm]

I. n. 1. (1) Sc. combs., phrs. and derivs., freq. fig.: (i) a thrum in the graith, see Graith, n., 6. (1); (ii) lang thrums, a nickname for a weaver, phs. from the proverb “He's nae guid weaver that leaves lang thrums”; ¶(iii) legs o' thrums, thin, thread-like legs; (iv) thrum bonnet, = Eng. †thrum-cap, a cap or bonnet made of waste yarn; (v) thrum-cutter, a derogatory name for a weaver; (vi) thrum descent, humble or plebeian origin; (vii) thrum keel, the ruddle mark made on the yarn at the end of a web of cloth; also fig. See Keel, n.1, 2.; (viii) thrum yarn, yarn left over from the end of a web, waste yarn; (ix) to knit on (o') the old thrum, to continue in one's usual practice or habits, to go on in the old way, to do exactly as before; (x) to knit one's web till the wrang thrum, to go wrong, to err, blunder; (xi) to redd thrums wi, to wrangle, altercate, squabble with.(ii) Kcd. 1880 W. B. Fraser Laurencekirk 158:
The cry of ‘Lang thrums! lang thrums!' greeted the ear of the processionists.
(iii) Sc. 1851 G. Outram Lyrics (1874) 28:
She stumps about on legs o' thrums.
(iv) Sc. 1827 Scott Highland Widow i.:
Duncan with the thrum bonnet.
Arg. 1914 N. Munro New Road xx.:
Thank God I wore Maclaren's good thrum bonnet.
(v) Slk. 1824 Hogg Shep. Cal. (1874) xii.:
Several young boobies o' hinds, thrashers, and thrum-cutters.
(vi) Ayr. 1835 Galt in Tait's Mag. (Sept.) 617:
Miss Penny . . . belonged to the ancient landed aristocracy of the west, while Miss Betty was of thrum descent.
(vii) Rnf. 1815 W. Finlayson Rhymes 39:
[They] add twa three yards to our thrum-keel To work at gratis.
Rnf. 1825 Gaberlunzie 92:
Profligacy at home, and competition abroad, will soon bring up our thrum keels.
Per. 1888 R. Ford Glentoddy 34:
It was never in the purpose o' naitur that a man should work in the thrum-keel o' his life in single harness.
(viii) Sc. 1822 Scots Mag. (Dec.) 659:
Plating a whip-lash of thrum yarn.
(ix) Sc. 1700 Edb. Gazette (5 Feb.):
They are firmly resolved either to knit on the old Thrum or begin a new Web.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 102:
”Well, nurse,” says he,”knit on o' the auld thrum, An' gae nae ground to say a warse is come.”
(x) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 111:
For gin ye let it to a hearing come, Ye'll find ye've knet your web till a wrang thrum.
(xi) Per. 1878 R. Ford Hamespun Lays 104:
Reddin' thrums wi' a' her kin.

(2) in various expressions to denote the purring of a cat, developed from a punning use of Thrum, n.2, q.v. Phrs. to sing, spin, etc. (gray) thrums, to purr (Abd., Kcd., Ags., wm.Sc. 1972), threeds and thrums (Abd., Slk. 1972), threetwa) threeds and or in a thrum, a cat's purr (Uls. 1892 Ballymena Observer; Wgt. 1900; Ork. 1972).Ayr. 1840 J. Ramsay Eglinton Park 117:
Even puss, at“twa threads an' a thrum.”
Gsw. 1844 Songs for Nursery 1:
The cat's singin' grey thrums To the sleepin' hen . . . Ruggin' at the cat's lugs, And ravelin' a' her thrums.
Ayr. 1871 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 6:
I took baudrons in my arms, and she sang three threeds and a thrum.
Wgt. 1878 “Saxon” Gall. Gossip 349:
The children want to know what their cat is singing, and so they are told that it sings, ‘Three threads in a thrum.'
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 9:
A low peat fire, where bauldrins span her thrums.
Abd. 1995 Flora Garry Collected Poems 18:
Fin I'm owercome wi warldly care
An dwine in dark despondency,
Ye'll come, ma cat, an purr to me
Yer three-threids-an-a-thrum I'll hear.

(3) adj. thrummie, -y, consisting of or resembling thrums, frayed, thready. Combs. (i) thrummy-caip, — cap, a cap made of thrums, = Eng. †thrum cap, in n.Eng. dial. applied to a hobgoblin wearing such a cap, and hence in Sc. transf. the Devil himself, Satan, also in reduced forms Thrum(my); (ii) thrummy end, the thread end of a web of cloth; hence the end or last part of anything; (iii) thrum(m)y-mittens, mitts made of thrums; (iv) thrummy-tailed, having frayed or ragged edges to one's elothes, slovenly in dress; (v) thrummy-wheelin, coarse worsted yarn spun from thrums on the large wheel. See Wheelin.Kcd. 1857 A. Taylor Lummie 2:
Sacks, torn and thrummy.
Ags. 1872 Brechin Advert. (24 Dec.) 4:
A scull cap in its patched and thrummy condition.
(i) Kcd. 1796 J. Burness Thrummy Cap (1887) 8:
An' eke, he on his head had got A Thrummy Cap, baith large and stout.
Abd. 1861 J. Davidson Poems 85:
If she's wi' Thrum she is at hame. For Elly was malicious.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 116:
Full thretty years, twice tauld, hae pass'd, an' mae, Sin' it has been a guest in thrummy's ha'.
ne.Sc. 1874 D. Macgregor The Scald 21:
Like deevils damned in auld Thrummy-caip's sulphurous fryin pan frythin.
Abd. 1932 Abd. Univ. Rev. (March) 106:
A doot aul' Thrummy hid carriet the Black Offisher awa wi 'im.
(ii) Abd. 1832 W. Scott Poems 74:
An ony rate the lass began to snuff The thrummie en' o' some uncuthie guff.
(iii) Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 49:
[Each man] with his hummel-thrummy mittens was ready to face the North wind and frost.
Sc. 1949 N. B. Morrison Winnowing Years ii. ii.:
The“thrummy mittens” his father had given for the youngest manse offspring.
(iv) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 143:
Thrummy-tail'd Meg, that's a spinner o't.
(v) Edb. 1787 W. Taylor Poems 4:
Garterless my thrummy-wheelin hose O' my lean houghs haf hap, an' haf expose.

2. A tangled or ravelled mass of anything, esp. of a dress untidily kept or carelessly thrown aside (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 193); a ragged frayed article (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 139).Ib.:
The thread's a' in a thrum. He raipit a bit thrum o' a nepkin roon's neck.

3. A horse-hair Tome, q.v. (Sh. 1972).

4. Fig. A“thread” in one's character, a (perverse) streak; a crotchet, whim, fit of ill-humour (Cld. 1880 Jam.; Ags. 1972).Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 193:
He's taen some thrum in's noodle aboot it.
Abd.1 1929:
She lad aye that thrum in her, pickin' a body up afore they fell.

5. Fig. A small particle, shred, scrap; hence something of no value, a rap.Sc. 1809 T. Donaldson Poems 133:
For that we'll never care a thrum.
Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales 120:
He wouldna hae left a tlrum o' him thegither.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 30:
The thack and divots o' the shop Were hardly worth a thrum.

6. A rummaging or fumbling about; a twirling of the fingers awkwardly; intimate or clandestine dealings, freq. implying something underhand or illegal. Cf. v., 3., 4.Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 193:
The twa hae an unco thrum thegither.

II. v. 1. To twine or weave roughly ends of yarn; to work with thrums.s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 194:
The wabsters weary at their looms, Maun still at them be thruming.

2. tr. To twist or coil loosely or carelessly; to fold together in a hasty negligent way (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 193); to tie up with string or the like in a makeshift manner.Dmf. 1832 Carlyle Letters (Norton 1888) II. 57:
You never witnessed such a piece of work as I had to get it [harness] thrummed together in any way.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 193:
He thrums his nepkin roon's neck.

3. tr. To handle excessively, fumble about with, to rummage about in search of; with out: to produce by rummaging (Gregor; Bnff. 1972).

4. intr. To twirl the fingers awkwardly or shyly (Id.), sc. as if twining or twisting thread-ends.

5. To act on a foolish whim or impulse, to become ill-humoured, take a pet (Cld. 1880 Jam.). Cf. I. 3. Used fig. in quot. of the reluctance of spring to appear.Sc. 1936 J. G. Horne Flooer o' Ling 46:
(Throu weeks o' feckless thrummin), For cuisten broon, A wally goon O' vievest green is comin.

[O.Sc. thrum, c.1425, throomb, 1591, a warp-thread end, Mid.Eng. throm, id., O.E. þrum, a ligament. The extended usages, esp. of the v., as recorded by Gregor, may be from a different word or have been influenced by Thrum, n.2, v.2 and Eng. †thrum, to press, squeeze, cram.]

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"Thrum n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Apr 2024 <>



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