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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX).

TRAM, n. Also traum. Dim. ¶trammel. [trɑm]

1. A long beam, bar or shaft of wood, in gen. (Sc. 1808 Jam.).Abd. 1811 Garland Bon-Accord (1886) 38:
As waulkmill trams alternate thud On blankets sent to scour.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry 141:
His ten-fit tram of aiken spear.

2. One of the two shafts of a cart, carriage or barrow, the backward projection of which forms a handle in a wheelbarrow and a butt in a tilt-cart (wm.Sc. 1741 A. McDonald Galick Vocab. 94; Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 469; Lth. 1869 J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 726; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai). Gen.Sc., in Uls. applied specif. to the back-shafts (Uls. 1953 Traynor). Also fig.Peb. 1722 C. B. Gunn Linton Church (1912) 108:
The trams of the hearse are all wrong.
Slg. 1746 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc. (1894–5) 67:
The trams of the litter were safe.
Rs. 1759 Pitcalnie MSS.:
Nine Dozen pairs Cart Trams.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Inventory 30:
Ae auld wheelbarrow — mair for token, Ae leg an' baith the trams are broken.
wm.Sc. 1807 J. Headrick View Arran 317:
Cars, or sledges. These consist of two beams, or trams, joined together by crossbars or rungs.
Cld. 1818 Scots Mag. (Aug.) 155:
The cart was stannan cowpit up on its hin' trams.
Dmf. 1822 Scots Mag. (Feb.) 173:
The barrow trammels slid from their exhausted fingers.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller ii.:
Squeaking trams, an' creaking wheels.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 40:
While yoket tae the trams o' life.
m.Sc. 1898 J. Buchan John Burnet iii. xvii.:
Him wi' the lang bare shanks, like the trams o' a cairt.
Abd. 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 22:
To drap for aye the trams o' wardly care.
wm.Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xix.:
Sitting on his barrow trams, smoking a thoughtful pipe.
Inv. 1914 Trans. Inv. Scientific Soc. VIII. 166:
Killed at the battle of Culloden, after killing seven men with the tram of a peat cart.
Uls. 1942 E. E. Evans Irish Heritage 111:
Two long “runners” which form in turn the front shafts, the side supports of the body and the back shafts or “trams.”

Combs., phr. and deriv.: (1) to get one's legs ower the trams, to go beyond the bounds. Cf. Theat, n., 3. and Eng. traces; (2) tram girth, a girth attached to the shafts of a cart and stretched loosely under a horse's belly in order to prevent a load from tipping backwards (Ork. 1972); (3) tram horse, a horse harnessed between the shafts of a cart, as opposed to a trace-horse (Ork. 1972); (4) tramless, without shafts.(1) m.Sc. 1917 J. Buchan Poems 17:
He feucht wi' Prophets, jouked wi' Psalms, He got his legs clean ower the trams.
(2) Abd. 1847 Gill Binklets 87:
He told the boy to put a tram girth upon Dobin.
Rnf. 1862 A. M'Gilvray Poems 76:
Lads, when ye weigh it by the way, Tram girths keep on.
(3) Sc. 1776 Kames Gentleman Farmer 41:
The tram-horse which is burdened with part of the weight of the cart.
Rxb. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 367:
A cross-bar of wood, used to separate what is called the tram-horse from the chain-horse.
(4) Per. 1851 A. Maclagan Poems 174:
A tramless cart or a couterless plough.

3. In pl., jocularly: the legs of a pair of spectacles (Fif. 1970).

4. Transf.: a leg, with jocular or contemptuous force, a long unshapely leg (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Mry. 1813 W. Leslie Agric. Mry. 469; I., n., em.Sc. (a), Lth., sm.Sc. 1972); a wooden leg.Sc. 1800 Merry Muses (1959) 146:
Atweesh her trams a birkie lay.
Slk. 1824 Hogg Justified Sinner (1874) 522:
What for are ye roaring that gate? Deil be in your reistit trams.
Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 188:
The smith, owre a chappin, aft rested his trams.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Shoes of Fortune xxviii.:
Your long trams of legs and red shoes.
Abd. 1958 People's Jnl. (2 Aug.):
Cudna win tae sleep for caul trams.

5. A very tall, thin, ungainly person, esp. in regard to having long legs (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 197; ne.Sc. 1972).

[O.Sc. tram, the shaft of a barrow, c.1500, L.Ger. traam, beam of a barrow or sledge, Mid. Du. tram(e), beam, rung.]

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"Tram n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2022 <>



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