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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

COOM, Koom, Kum, Cowm, n.1 and v. Also dim. coomie. [kum]

1. n.

(1) Coal-dust; dross for smithy fires; flakes of soot emanating from burning coals or adhering to cooking utensils. Also fig. Cf. Gum. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1886 C. Rogers Social Life III. 220:
If coom hang from the bars of the grate, a stranger's arrival was foretokened.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes, etc. 79:
While lums like me maun still consume Gas cinders, sclates, or smiddy coom.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) xvi.:
He took the hammer an' ca'd a' the coals fair into koom.
Edb. 1824 R. Howden in Royal Sc. Minstrelsy 134:
And black them [shoes] weel wi' girgle [? girdle] cowm, And brush them till they're clear.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie I. xxi.:
Mr Nettle, I suspect and believe that your han's no clear o' the coom o' this wark.
Ayr. 1996:
Coom - specks of soot, peat dust.
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D. Riach A Galloway Glossary :
coom, coomie specks of soot, peat-dust.

Hence coomy, begrimed, soot-covered (Slg.3 1937). Also used subst. as a nickname for a miner, collier (Rnf., Ayr. a.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) K.19; Ayr. 1975).Slg. 1932 W. D. Cocker Poems 59:
Drinkin' weel-biled tea frae the coomy can.

(2) Peat dust; fine (dried) turf mould (Dmf.3 c.1920). The usual sense in Uls.Kcb. 1894 S. R. Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
Being ankle-deep in fragrant dust or “coom” — which is, strange to say, a perfectly clean and even a luxurious bedding.
Uls. 1904 J. W. Byers in Victoria Coll. Mag. 16:
The common custom of placing coom or peat (turf) dust . . . at the back of the kitchen fire . . . is also used among the superstitious with the idea of providing a fire for the fairies.

(3) “Dust produced from grain when first passed through the mill in the process of shillin [q.v.]” (Cai. 1905 D. B. Nicolson in County of Cai. 68; Cai.7 1937); “the small particle of meal at the root end of a seed [of barley] — liberated by the process of ‘shilling'” (Ork. 1929 Marw.).

(4) Dust of any kind (Uls.1 c.1920); a layer, “a very small quantity of any powdery stuff” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kum); “anything much broken; applied to coals, biscuit, etc.” (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.).Sh.(D) 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 15:
Na, lamb, da deil koom o aitmeal is ithin da waa's.
Ork. 1929 Marw.:
Of a plate . . . on which a cheese has been lying — “the' war a koom o' mites apae hid.”

Phr.: in coom, into ashes.Sh.(D) 1922 Inkster Mansie's Röd 49:
I' da state 'at shü's in, shü might tum'l i' da fire, an' be brunt in coom afore we cam apon her.

2. v.

(1) To dirty, blacken, stain (Abd.22, Lnk.3 1937; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.). Also fig.Sc. 1829 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 312:
Let's coom his face wi' burned cork.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems and Songs 11:
They'll coom the Patron's nose.
Ayr. 1826 Galt Last of the Lairds xix.:
They ought to have been punished, Miss Shoosie, for cooming your character in the way they did.
sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 305:
As much as two hundred years after the martyrdom, in the last decade of the nineteenth century, a minister of the district overheard a quarrel which was concluded with the damning thrust: "I wadna like to have had a forebear who betrayed the martyrs! I wadna be coomed o' sic folk!"

(2) “To reduce to a fine powder by grinding, pounding, or burning” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., kum).

[O.Sc. cowm, n., soot, grime, 1503, and v., to begrime, 1560 (D.O.S.T.), Mid.Eng. coame, coome, come, comb, id. Appar. a Sc. form of Eng. cutm, coal-dust, slack, shale (cf. P.L.D. § 60.2 and § 78.3). O.N. kám, “grime, film of dirt” (Cleasby and Vigfusson), although similar in sense, would not give the Sc. forms regularly.]

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"Coom n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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