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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.

CUMMER, KIMMER, KUMMER, Cimmer, n.2, v.2 Also commer and dims. cummerie, etc. [′kʌmər, ′kɪmər Sc.; ′komər Sh.]

I. n.

1. A godmother (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), kummer, obs.).Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage II. xi.:
As for the kirsnin, that was aye whar it sude be — i' the hoos o' God, an' aw the kith an' kin bye in full dress, an' a band o' maiden cimmers aw in white.
Abd. 1828 J. Ruddiman Tales Sc. Parish (1889) 118:
One of the maiden cummers, or godmothers, in this case an interesting girl, . . . took the infant.
Kcb. 1891 M.A.M. Halloween Guest 239:
She was "maiden kimmer" when he was baptised, and thenceforward claimed a right to nurse him.

2. (1) A gossip, scandalmonger (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); a friend (Abd.2, Ags.17, Fif.10, Lnk.11 1941); applied only to a woman and often used as a mode of address, familiar, condescending, or contemptuous (Bnff.2 1941); “a frivolous woman” (Abd. 1931 (per Abd.4), kimmer). Also used fig.Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary (1818) xxvii.:
Ye're auld, cummer, and sae am I mysel'.
Abd. after 1768 A. Ross Fortunate Shepherd (S.H.S. 1938) ll. 1135–6:
Her in a glent the wyllie cummer mist, An' in a clap was on her e'er she wist.
Fif. 1897 “S. Tytler” Lady Jean's Son xv.:
She was feeling dowie, and she thought she would be the better of a crack with her cummer, Jeanie.
Ayr. 1789 Burns Five Carlins (Cent. ed.) xvii.:
Then Brandy Jean spak owre her drink: — “Ye weel ken, kimmers a'.”
Ayr. 1821 Galt Ann. Parish xxiv.:
I beheld Meg sitting with two or three of the neighbouring kimmers, and the corpse laid out on a bed.
Dmf. [1777] J. Mayne Siller Gun (1808) 18:
And Fame, the story-telling kimmer, Jocosely hints. . . .

(2) A married woman (Gall. 1825 Jam.2, kimmer); a wife.Sc. 1724–27 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1733) 167:
My kimmer and I lay down to sleep, And twa pint-stoups at our bed's feet.
Sc.(E) 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 20:
A gaucy kimmer mendin' breeks, A lassie by her on a creepie.
Ags.(D) 1894 J. B. Salmond My Man Sandy (1899) iii.:
There was a young bit kimmerie an' a bairnie i' the carriage.

3. A midwife (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)). Also used attrib.Sc. 1822 A. Cunningham Trad. Tales II. 289:
The cummer drink's hot, and the knave bairn is expected at Laird Laurie's to-night.
Abd. c.1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed in Sc. Poems (1821) 34:
The cummer then cam to me bent, And gravely did my son present.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems II. 58:
Whan your auld father humm'd the grace, An' fill'd the horn, Amang the rantin kimmer race, When ye was born!

4. A girl, a lass, as opposed to a lad or callant (Bnff.2 1941; Rnf.1 c.1920).Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. VIII. 199:
And now on Lover's knees the Cummers sit.
Ags. 1890 Arbroath Guide (5 July) 3/7:
That's yon dainty, guid-lookin' cummerie wha's been sae lang wi' Pate.
Edb. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 181:
As I beside my winsome cummer Sit cheek for chow.
wm.Sc. 1937 W. Hutcheson Chota Chants 1:
And faster and sweeter the music kept saying: “Come, bonnie young kimmer, and dance on the grass.”
s.Sc. 1835–40 J. M. Wilson (ed.) Tales of the Borders (1857–59) V. 144:
And then come down flap upon some sonsy cummer's neck.

5. A witch.Sc. c.1700 H. G. Graham Soc. Life Scot. 18th Cent. (1899) I. 193:
By their peat fires at night, old peasants told how the old kimmers had set forth on their eldrich journey.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxiii.:
That's a fresh and full-grown hemlock . . . mony a cummer lang syne wad hae sought nae better horse to flee . . . through mist and moonlight.
Dmf. 1810 R. H. Cromek Rem. Nithsd. and Gall. Song 60:
Kimmer can sit i' the coat tails o' the moon, And tipple gude wine at Brabant brewin'.

6. A male companion; a neighbour.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 162:
He wav'd his hand, an' thus address'd, His kimmers o' the gowden crest, O brethren! brethren! Tent me weel.

II. v.

1. To celebrate the birth of a child. Found only as vbl.n. kimmerin, kimmeran, cummering, commering, the feast to celebrate a birth. Also fig.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 300:
Kimmerins. The feasts at births. These, the “kimmers,” or gude-wives, have to themselves, no men are allowed to partake along with them.
Slk. 1740 in T. Craig-Brown Hist. Selkirkshire (1886) II. 77:
It [Kirk-session] went so far as to petition Magistrates to forbid “all banquetings, gossippings, or cummerings in all time coming” [commering, p. 79].
Slk. 1986 Harvey Holton in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 167:
Come the kimmerin o derkness an day,
closer cleikit tae derk's doonfaa,
wild winter's broukit bairn's
fresh faa'n awa sae's reingein rise
Slk. 1991 Harvey Holton in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 132:
Noo git guid by thon gully Bran, whaur ye see the whin,
an come up anent me wi the wund in ma ee
that quickly oo'll kep him syne quaff at the kimmeran
thon wierdest o wines at gied birth tae us baith.

2. To gossip.Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems I. 35:
In social key, the neebour wives Gaung kimmerin at ease.
Rxb. 1696 Jedburgh Records (8 Jan.):
Gossipping and cummering.
Rxb. 1811 A. Scott Poems 100:
When auld wives kimmer thrang, And tongues at random glibly gang.

3. “To bring forth a child: a ludicrous term” (Lnk. 1825 Jam.2, kimmer).

[O.Sc. cummer, cummar, comer, etc., a godmother; a female intimate, a woman gossip, from c.1420; used as a form of address, from a.1508 (D.O.S.T.); Mid.Eng. has only one ex. of this word, viz. commare, = a godmother, 1303 (N.E.D.); Fr. commère, id.; also a familiar appellation; from ecclesiastical Lat. commatrem, from cum + mater (Hatz. and Darm.).]

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