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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

DUMB, adj. Sc. usages.

1. = Silent, in phr. and combs.: (1) dumb cake, a cake prepared in silence on St Mark's Eve by unmarried women whose future husbands would then appear; also in Eng. dial.; ¶(2) dumb-deid, dead of night; (3) dumb Jean, a boot-last (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein); (4) dumb-swaul, a noiseless ocean-swell; “commonly these swells are the largest waves that are seen before storms and after them” (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 188); (5) dumb sweer, a thumbing of the nose, a snook (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Rxb.5 1941), hence dumb-sweerin', cocking a snook (Ib.); (6) dum(b) Tam (Tom), (a) “a bunch of clothes on a beggar's back, under his coat” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., dum Tam); (b) = (3) (Bwk. 1942 Wettstein); (c) a metal arm with a marker at its end, attached at right angles to a plough, and used to mark the limits of ridges for the spreading of dung (Lth. 1951); (7) to sing dumb, to be silent, to hold one's tongue. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc.(1) Sc. 1885 E. J. Guthrie Old Sc. Customs 15:
The bakers of the “dumb cakes” at Rutherglen, in common with the herdsmen and shepherds who kindled their fire and drank their caudle on Beltane day, were ignorant of the real nature of the mysterious practices.
(2) Sc.(E) 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 15:
And in the dumb-deid, still as dreams are still, Her pupils narraw to bricht threids that thrill.
(6) (c)e.Lth. 1883 Joiner's Acct. Bk. MS.:
To a New Dum Tom 18 ft. for Flaring.
(7) Sc. 1715 Auld Stuarts back again in Jacobite Minstr. (1827) 56:
We'll either gar them a' sing dumb, Or “Auld Stuarts back again”.
Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shepherd Act II. Sc. iii. in Poems (1728):
I'll tell them Tales will gar them a' sing dumb.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 11:
Gin I had heal I's gar them a' sing dumb: An' gin I get but muckle o' their dinn, I's try whilk o' us has the thickest skin.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Poems (1925) 2:
An' there's my hand she'll tire, and soon sing dumb.

2. = Lacking some property or accompaniment usually associated with the thing named, in combs. (1) dumchaser, an imperfectly developed male sheep which chases and spoils the ewes in the rutting season (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 187); (2) dum doddled, adj., see Doddle, n., 2.; (3) dumb fit, (see quot.); (4) dumb-hole, see quot.; (5) dumb nut, a deaf nut (see Deaf, adj., 2.) (Sc. 1897 N.E.D.).(3) Fif. 1904 Caled. Med. Jnl. V. 389:
I mentioned “dumb fits.” We are constantly coming across them in the jargon of the proletariat. I have heard it applied to so many conditions — pneumonia, zymotic enteritis, meningitis, etc. — that I doubt whether there really ever was, in the minds of the vulgar, any special disease to which this term referred.
(4)Ags. 1858 People's Journal (16 Oct.):
The other kind [of bothy] is what we call "a Dumb Hole," that is a place where the ploughmen sleep, but don't make their "grub," as no fire is allowed.

3. In architecture = closed up, built-up; sham, in combs. (1) dumb door, a built-np or sham door (Ags.17 1941); (2) dumb space, a built-up space; (3) dumb-window, a built-up window painted on the outside to counterfeit a real one (Edb. 1950); cf. (1).(2) Ags. 1866 D. Mitchell Hist. Montrose viii.:
Besides that addition made to the back [of the Town-Hall], above the dumb overarched spaces where the letters are put in.
(3) Ags. 1896 J. M. Barrie Sentimental Tommy xiv.:
It was also remarkable for several ‘dumb' windows, with the most artful blinds painted on them.

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"Dumb adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jun 2024 <>



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