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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SEAM, n., v. Also saim; saem, sem(m), same (Sh.), †seem. Sc. usages. [sim; Sh., em.Sc. (a) sem]

I. n. 1. A furrow, the line marking the edge of one plough-cut as it lies over on the next. Also in Eng. dial.Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 153:
The grassfield is ploughed before winter; it is harrowed thereafter, when the grass begins to shoot up in the seams.
Fif. 1939 St. Andrews Cit. (11 Feb.) 4:
A fine firm straight rig, with a good seam.

2. A bed or stratum of a mineral, specif. of coal in a mine (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 58). In Sc. and Eng. mining usage. Phr. to be in a guid seam, to be in some profitable line of business, often implying some shady or illegal dealing (Edb. 1957).

3. Gen. in phr. a seam o teeth, a row of natural or, more usu., artificial teeth, the upper or lower set of dentures (ne.Sc., Ags., Per. 1969), also transf., a long tedious discourse (Gsw. 1912 Scotsman (9 Jan.)).Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 28:
They [sharks] whummel roon on their backs an bite up an' hae a seam o' teeth for ilka year auld they are.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 185:
A seam o' teeth she had, nae doot, Richt nabbie, for a ball or route.
Abd. 1941 Bon-Accord (27 Nov.) 12:
A dunt that sint her tap seam stottin' doon the closs.
Ags. 1948 J. C. Rodger Mary Ann 41:
I'd been crackin' awa t'ee dentist-chield fin he wiz giein' me a noo saim o' teeth.

4. The parting of the hair (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 265; I.Sc., Ags., Per., w.Lth. 1969). Obs. in Eng.

5. A woman's sewing or needlework (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc. Obs. in Eng. exc. dial. Comb. white seam, plain needlework, also used as a v. = to do this type of sewing.Abd. 1738 G. Turreff Gleanings (1859) 300:
The want of an accomplished gentlewoman for teaching white and coloured seam.
Abd. 1758 Abd. Journal (28 Feb.):
She teaches white seam and samplars.
Sc. 1818 S. Ferrier Marriage I. xv.:
A large work-bag well stuffed with white seam.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 234:
Little out-lets, as it were, well known to the sewers of white-seam.
Sc. 1837 Carlyle French Rev. III. ii. v.:
Citoyennes who bring their seam with them.
Lnk. a.1872 W. Miller Willie Winkie (1902) 60:
She can back-spley and fore-spley; can white-seam and sew.
Ayr. 1897 H. Ochiltree Out of her Shroud xv.:
A guid hand at the white-seam.
Fif. 1900 S. Tytler Jean Keir xvi.:
The whole complete round of what was wont to be called “white seam”.

6. Hence any task entrusted to one, a piece of work (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Per., Fif., Ayr., s.Sc. 1969); an occupation, a purpose or objective; an appointment, an arrangement to meet one, a tryst (Watson), esp. in courtship. Hence seam night, the night of the week assigned to courtship (Rxb. 1930).Cld. 1880 Jam.:
A weaver will say on finishing a web, “My seam's oot.”
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 14:
The seams an ploys o grit-folk an Royalties.

7. A nail used to fix together the planks of a clinker-built boat and rivetted, after being driven in, by a Ruive (Sh. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XII. 191, 1914 Angus Gl., Sh. 1969). Combs. grund-sem, see Grund, I. 4. (20); sem-fer(d), -fur, a groove or moulding run along the edge of a boat's board to guide the builder in driving in the seams, the row of rivets and the joints made by them (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), -fer(d), 1914 Angus Gl., -fur); saem-, se(a)m-klu(i)v, -kløv, an iron tool with a hole at one end used to cut off and clinch the rivet (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1908 Jak. (1928), -kløv, 1914 Angus Gl., -kluiv, Sh. 1969); seam-nail, a clinker-nail (Ork. 1929 Marw.).Ork. 1747 P. Ork. A.S. XII. 50:
Some seem and ruve for boats.
Sh. 1898 Shetland News (17 Dec.):
See ye da saemkluv 'at William is been wirkin' wi?
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 125:
The pieces were numbered and shipped in bundles to Shetland, where local carpenters were employed to “set them up,” or put the parts together with seam and röv, and make them ready for sea.
Sh. 1949 New Shetlander No. 19. 44:
He bent wi' a semkluiv klenshin da sem.

II. v. 1. To fit one edge of a plank to another as in flooring (Sh., Cai. 1969).Sc. 1829 R. Chambers Sc. Songs II. 665:
The wright that canna seam a deal can scarcely lay a laft.

2. To fasten the boards of a boat together with special rivets (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), Sh. 1969). See I. 7.

[In the Sh. usages, the word is a translation of the cognate Norw. søm, O.N. saumr, seam in sewing, a nail. For semfer, semkluv, cf. O.N. saumför, a rivet in a boat's plank, O.N. klauf, Norw. klov, a cloven hoof, klove, a cleft stick, a kind of pincers. O.Sc. has seym in this sense, 1512.]

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"Seam n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Jun 2023 <>



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