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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.

SOAM, n. Also som(m)e, soum, sowm. [so:m, †sʌum]

1. The draught-chain of a plough; on the old oxen plough it was formed of separate sections connecting the various pairs of yokes or the hindmost yoke with the bridle of the plough; on the horse plough it joins the main swingle-tree to the bridle of the plough (s.Sc. 1802 J. Sibbald Chron. Sc. Poetry Gl.; Sc. 1808 Jam., 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 725; Kcd., Bwk., Ayr., Kcb. 1971). Also attrib. Also in n.Eng. dial.Per. 1729 D. P. Menzies Menzies Bk. 364:
A Soums head, and ane old Beasen.
Sc. 1743 Edb. Commiss. Test. MSS. CVII.:
Graith to yoake ane eight some plow and a six soam plow.
Abd. 1758 Session Papers, Ferguson v. Mackenzie, State of Process 23:
Some Birch Sprouts betwixt a Supple and a Soam Wand.
Lth. 1765 A. Dickson Agriculture 255–6:
The soam of the pair immediately before the hindmost must be fixed, not to their yoke, but to the beam; and, to prevent this soam from incommoding the hindmost in turning, a link must be fixed to their yoke for it to pass through, the link long enough to allow the soam to be fully stretched.
Cai. 1772 Session Papers, Petition D. Forbes (28 July) 16:
The said Christian Monro, pulled an ax or hatchet out of her bosom, and therewith cut the soum of John McLeod's plough.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 103:
In general that inconvenience is prevented in the plough by using a long chain (provincially a soam), which connects the draught of the foremost pair, not with any part of the harness of those behind, but immediately with the muzzle of the plough.
Ork. 1814 J. Shirreff Agric. Ork. 52:
U, the draucht, sometimes called a soam, and generally about five feet in length.
Sc. 1830 Scott Demonology ix.:
The plough harness and soams [of the witch-plough] were of quicken grass.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 36:
Connected with the yoke of the “fit owsen” pair, which, of course, were nearest the plough, was a short series of elongated links, or staffs, for raising or lowering the “soam” according as more or less “yird” was required by the ploughman.

Combs. and phr.: foot-soam, see Fit, n.1, III. 34.; frock-soam, see Frock, n.1; soam-chain, a draught-chain; to streik a soam, to drive a plough. See Streek, v.1, 4.Sc. 1773 Weekly Mag. (28 Oct.) 147:
Alas! an' sall a villain streik a soam, Or saw ill-gotten seed in Robie's howm?
Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 626:
The middle horse pulling by the soam-chain.

2. Only in MacTaggart: “the iron of the head of a plough,” phs. the sock and coulter on the old-style plough. This meaning is phs. erroneous.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 380:
The twa big stars o' the soam point to the Pole Star.

3. In pl., in mining: the harness worn by a bearer pulling a hutch of coal. Cf. n.Eng. dial. soam.e.Lth. 1840 P. McNeill Tranent (1884) 44:
This [box] being filled [with coal], mother put on the ‘somes' (a sort of harness fixed over the head and shoulders) and went before the box.

4. A chain, in gen.; the mooring-chain of a boat.Bwk. 1739 Abbey St. Bathans Session Rec. MS. (18 Dec.):
Their boat being wrecked by a great flood upon June 27th last, also the Iron Soam by which it was kept carried of with it.

[O.Sc. soyme, = 1., 1375, sowm, id., 1524. The form [so:m] suggests a borrowing from n.Eng. dial. for the more regular sowm [sʌum], O.N. saumr, a sewing, seam, a joining, a nail, cogn. with O.E. sēam, seam.]

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"Soam n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 Sep 2023 <>



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