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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WHUMMLE, v., n. Also whummel(l), -il(l), whum(b)le, whumul, hwum(e)l (Sc. 1908 Jak. (1928)); whom(m)le, -el, -il, whomble, whoammle; whaum(m)le, -el, wham(m)le, -el, -al, whamble; whem(m)le; whimmle, -el; and arch. forms †quhamle, †quhemle. For ne.Sc. forms see Fummle, v.2, n.2, and for Sh. forms Cumble. [ʍʌml, ʍǫml, ʍɑml]

I. v. 1. tr. and intr. To capsize, overturn (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Sh., m., s.Sc. 1974); of water: to overwhelm and so drown (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 473).Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 197:
If ever I get his Cart whemling, I'll give it a Putt.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xl.:
I see the coble whombled keel up.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 125:
The Lovely Lass of Annanwater, who whomel'd, keel upward, on the hip of the Mermaid rock.
Abd. 1879 G. MacDonald Sir Gibbie xxxvi.:
No one believed she could have gone very far without being whelmed, or whumled as they said, in the fierce waters.
Lth. 1884 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny 196:
Ane o' them that the excisemen just missed by their boat “whummlin” at the milkin' stane.
Ork. 1915 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. I. 43:
Gin id [a bowl] wad bit whimmel I wad hae 'im.

2. tr. To upturn, invert, turn upside down, stand on its head or rim: (1) lit. of a vessel, container, etc. (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 473; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Per., Fif., Lth. 1915–26 Wilson; Ork. 1929 Marw.; Arg. 1936 L. McInnes S. Kintyre 16; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; Uls. 1953 Traynor; I., m., s.Sc. 1974). Also in Eng. dial. Also transf.Sc. 1715 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 72:
On whomelt Tubs lay twa lang Dails.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 129:
Ye change-house keepers never grumble, Tho' you a while your bickers whumble.
Slg. 1808 W. Watson Poems 62:
The pow that ye whamble yer hats on.
Sc. 1822 Scott F. Nigel xxxii.:
Ye think Steenie wad hae putten the weight of his foot into the scales of justice and garred them whomle the bucket.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 192:
He had as soon expected to see Ailsa craig whummel'd up like a salmon cobble.
Sh. 1846 Fraser's Mag. (Oct.) 482:
The faculty of exciting tempests could be procured through other ceremonies than the whummilled caup.
Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 12:
Ithers clank'd their hurdies doun On whomilt tubs an' pails.
Ayr. 1870 J. K. Hunter Life Studies 12:
I built up a pyramid of stools, whaumlin a big stool on the top.
Ork. 1908 Old-Lore Misc. I. viii. 326:
A ald gizzened ceular whimmled ower a deuk ahint da back tae keep 'er fae layan awa.
Fif. 1933:
Man, jist whummle forrit that barrel and tak a sate and I'll tell ye what I can.
Uls. 1942 E. E. Evans Irish Heritage 72:
Plates, jugs and long rows or nests of bowls “whammeled,” that is tumbled on their sides, line the dresser shelves.

(2) fig. to overthrow, make topsy-turvy, throw into ruin or confusion, bring low. Also ppl.adj. whummling.Lnk. a.1832 W. Watt Poems (1860) 41:
Ane inspired by God himsel' To set the whomilt nation on her feet.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller 135:
Foul fa' the Scot wha wad whomle thee doun.
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff xxi.:
He kenned the hoose was whummelled upside doon.
e.Lth. 1905 J. Lumsden Croonings 5:
The lift a' whombled, whiles 'twas day, whiles nicht.
Abd. 1923 B. R. M'Intosh Scent o' Broom 62:
Dinna' whummle auld creeds or auld graces Till ye've better to set i' their places.
Sc. 1931 H. McDiarmid First Hymn to Lenin 15:
O arselins wi' them! Whummle them again! Coup them heels-owre-gowdy in a storm.
Sc. 1963 A. V. Stuart The Door Between 38:
Aiblins a wheen the waur o' drink: the stoun Whummelt his harns.
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 198:
Ruadh arrived at the stockade, tearful, screaming, his words a whummling spray of fear. The kirk bell rang urgently.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 70:
'Ye'll ken better than I, but I hear the west is awash wi fanatics forby witches, that they haud their conventicles weekly on the moors, wi thoosans in attendance. Lauderdale's patience must be near whummelt. ... '

3. tr. To empty (a container) by tilting it, to turn or pour out the contents of a vessel, etc. (Sh., Slg., Wgt. 1974), to drain dry; to swallow. Phr. whummle the ladle to Fala, “a provincial phrase applied to two females who fall a-fighting with each other” (m.Lth. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 213). Vbl.n. whamlin(s), what is left after a dish has been upended and emptied out, hence nothing at all, esp. jocularly in phr. a dish o' whamlin(s), no food to eat or drink, = dish o' want s.v. Dish, n., 2. (Gall. 1921 T.S.D.C.; Lnk., Kcb. 1974). Also in corrupted form whammlum, id. (see -Um).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 164:
With reaming Quaff, and whomelt to her Name, Whase active Motion to his Heart did reach.
Sc. 1796 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 55:
Whan ye out oure your thraple whumble A whean o' them [herring].
Edb. 1814 J. Monro Farewell Song 48:
Then, hurry-scurry, out ilk pouch was whumbl'd.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 112:
The sweet brewn whusky toddy; “Come whomeld owre,” the waiter says.
Gsw. 1860 J. Young Poorhouse Lays 45:
Pat in a blink intae his bonnet whummel't The reekin parritch.
Ork. 1911 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 23:
This lot was then whummelled into a tub, and more put into the pot till enough was burst.
Gall. 1912 Trans. Dmf. & Gall. Antiq. Soc. 291:
Hae a dish o' whammlum.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 23:
Bebbin an taain oot ov a bottle, an whoammlin't ti geet the verra grunds.
Ayr. 1934:
A foreman of a mill told me he was going to shut up the mill for three days: “What about your cats?” “Oh! they will just have to live on whammlum.”
Bwk. 1943 W. L. Ferguson Vignettes 87:
Whaur Blackamoors, ne'er fashed wi' braces, Whummle their leemons and molasses Aboard oor ships.
Kcb. 1958:
Ye'll get whamlins for supper!

4. tr. To cover or conceal by inverting a hollow vessel over (Ork. 1929 Marw.; Sh., Ork. 1974), as with a broody hen. Also fig. Obs. in Eng. exc. dial.Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 473:
To be whommled beneath a bushel.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 53:
The night wus whumblan' ower de sea as black as ime.
Sh. 1892 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 261:
She hed me whombled an under a muckle paet-cashie dat wis lyin' ipa da fluir.
Uls. 1929 W. F. Marshall Ballads 46:
How I whammeld the moon in Bernish An' fetched her home in a bag.
Ayr.4 1940:
Whammel the cloakin hen.

5. tr. To cause to turn or revolve, to turn inside out, to stir or toss round and round (Sc. 1905 E.D.D.; em.Sc., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1974). Also fig. Vbl.n. whummlin, a rocking, tossing about.Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch ii.:
They whammelled them [cigars] round in their mouths.
Ags. 1833 J. S. Sands Poems 113:
They whumbled round the key; And lat us in.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Miller xii.:
He whomles out the ends, pu's out the siller, refaulds the letter again.
wm.Sc. 1887 Jam.:
To quhemle a boat; to quhamle milk.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 133:
I whummled Tam's case through my wame ae nicht with a hue of toddy.
Fif. 1894 A. S. Robertson Provost 99:
Flung among the Deevil's ace, to be whummelled in red-hot backets to a' eternity.
m.Sc. 1922 O. Douglas Ann and her Mother xxiv.:
A terrible sea wi' waves an' a' kinds o' wee boats on it, some o' them gettin' an awfu' whummlin.
Lth. 1928 S. A. Robertson With Double Tongue 31:
Never can she wile awa, however she whommle her wheel, Our herts frae the dear Lowden braes.

6. intr. To roll, revolve, whirl, turn round (Dmf. 1922 Rymour Club Misc. III. 100); to toss and turn, oscillate, rock to and fro (Ags., Per. 1974); of water: to swirl. Ppl.adj. whomlin, fig., vacillating, shifty.Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 17:
The Western seas whare selchs an' pellucks whamble.
Sc. 1833 J. Skene Memories Sir W. Scott MS. 4:
The ill-fashioned crank thing kept whirling and whomeling about all night.
Edb. 1856 J. Ballantine Poems 286:
Nae twa-faced whomlin' whirligig shall ever wheedle me.
Sc. 1881 Stevenson Thrawn Janet:
His heart fair whammled in his inside.
Ayr. 1882 J. Hyslop Poems 142:
When I cam' down tae the water's edge, It jaw'd an' it whamelt frae bank tae brae.
Gsw. 1902 J. J. Bell Wee Macgreegor 106:
I like when the boat's whumlin' aboot.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 64:
The net is in ablow him, an' the bauld fish whummles roond.
Sc. 1937 Scotsman (29 May) 14:
And at the ferlie o' yon fen My spy-gless whaumles roond.
Edb. 1956 Burns Chronicle 64:
Whummlin about like a waukrife feverit bairn.
wm.Sc. 1988 Scotsman 16 Jan :
There I was, leaning over the parapet of the old stone bridge with the glaring morning sun on my right and a mis-shapen moon on my left, looking down on the burn whummlin white-crested with wavelets under me, ...
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 33:
I'se warrant he'd raither staun there an swither
than tak tent o law, the neep-heidit loon.
"Ye thievan wee pyat, its tane or its tither,
Deil kens yer wame maun be whummlan aroun"
but naa, tho I'm lossan the rag aathegither,
yon dour feckless tyke is biddan abuin.
Sc. 1991 William Wolfe in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 64:
But gin the Spirit werena swack
The Strath no geylies fu
Heiven'd whummle an yird'd faa
Giean life a chitteran grue.

7. intr. To go head over heels, to fall, tumble or sprawl in a sudden precipitate manner (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.); in 1933 quot. to move unsteadily, stumble (Sh., Fif., Lth., Lnk., sm.Sc. 1974).Abd. 1797 Aberdeen Mag. 349:
O'er it whuml'd wi' sic dowie cheep, As gart me jump.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales I. 309:
That whin-stone rock seems as if it would whomble aboon me.
Edb. 1844 J. Ballantine Gaberlunzie x.:
Wholming heels ower head like a tumblerdoo.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 176:
Lum-cans tell o't as doon they're whumlin'.
Gsw. 1879 A. G. Murdoch Rhymes 95:
An' ow! as owre the brig I drew, I whumult doon upon my dowp.
Kcb. 1897 Crockett Lad's Love iii.:
Your hoggs whammelin' in the black hags by the score.
Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xxix.:
The man just took a violent fancy the very first nicht he set his een on me, fell whummlin' at my feet.
Sc. c.1925 R. Thomas Sandie McWhustler's Waddin' 52:
He whummled heels-ower-hurdie ower twa cairt-loads o' sand.
m.Sc. 1933 J. Ressich Thir Braw Days 27:
The last tae whummle up wis fat Willie Telfer.

8. tr. and refl. To knock down, to push or bowl over (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.); to propel or thrust forcibly.Rnf. a.1810 R. Tannahill Poems (1900) 278:
Young Ann whamelt him owre on the flair.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xxx.:
The neist blast whomled us as a gudewife would whomle a bowie.
Sc. 1828 Blackwood's Mag. (Sept.) 296:
Fro whawmled Teeger off [in a dog-fight].
Lth. 1849 M. Oliphant M. Maitland xxii.:
I hae been whomled by Providence into a warm seat.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders ii.:
Ye'll hae to get berried and scartit, whammelt and riven, till ye learn as I hae learned.
Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's xi. 3:
The crookit gangin o' the ill-daein 'll whummle them to discomfishment.
Sc. 1926 H. M'Diarmid Drunk Man 2:
Aince I get them there I'll whummle them And souse the craturs in the nether deeps.

9. To sprain, twist (the ankle).Bwk. 1948:
The laddie whummelt his ankle.

10. To overpower, defeat, get the better of; to astonish, flabbergast (Fif. 1974).Abd. 1879 G. MacDonald Sir Gibbie vi.:
I hae tried an' tried to maister the drink, but I was aye whumled.
s.Sc. 1947 L. Derwent Clashmaclavers 96:
We were a' fair whummled when he took the flair.

11. To catch fish with a drift- or hang-net. Comb. whammeling-net, a drift net. Also in Cmb. dial. Poss. a sense derivative of 1.Dmf. 1962 Scotsman (10 Feb.) 5:
Taking salmon without legal right or permission within the estuary limits on the Scottish side of the Solway Firth by the use of a whammeling net.

II. n. 1. (1) A capsizing, overturning, upset (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 250; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Slg., Fif., Lth., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1974).Ayr. 1822 Galt Steamboat xii.:
The vessel heel'd o'er, till I thought she would hae coupit, and made a clean whamle o't.

(2) The emptying of a dish; hence transf., as in I. 3., no food, a diet of starvation, and in phr. a dish (plate) o whammle, id. (Dmf. 1974), also fig.Ayr.4 1928:
Ye'll get (a plate o) whammle for yer denner.
Sc. 1932 H. McDiarmid Scots Unbound 3:
I feel that somewhere there's a missing one That mak's a dish o' whummle o' my pains.
Per. 1941 W. Soutar Poems in Sc. 52:
Nappers in his noddie And whummles in his wame.

2. (1) A turning, a whirling round; a rocking, tossing or rolling from side to side (wm.Sc. 1887 Jam.); fig. hurry and scurry, bustle.Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch ii.:
Another whammel from one cheek to the other, and syne another mouthful.
Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 108:
Thou gie'st the rain-filled clouds a whummle.
Abd. 1877 G. MacDonald M. of Lossie ix.:
Sic a whummle an' a rum'le an' a remish as this Lon'on.
m.Sc. 1899 J. Buchan Grey Weather 207:
I gae an awfu' whammle and edged my way back.

Phr. and deriv.: (i) dim. whumlick, “a shoemaker's term for the handle (or its hollow case) affixed to the driving wheel of certain rotatory machines” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.) a crank handle; (ii) to gie onesel a whummle, in hill climbing: to throw oneself half over on one's face to prevent slipping on a scree (Sc. 1951).

(2) In pl.: a whip for a boy's top (Abd. 1825 Jam., whummils).

3. A tumble, a fall, avalanche (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags., Per., Dmf. 1974); fig. a downfall, reversal of good fortune. Adj. whummly, insecure, liable to slip (Dmb. 1974). Phr. to play whummle, to roll or topple over.Sc. 1817 Scott Rob Roy xxii.:
It's an awfu' whummle — and for ane that held his head sae high too.
Ayr. 1830 Galt Lawrie Todd iii. v.:
Many a joint-dislocking jolt, and almost headlong whamle.
Dmb. 1846 W. Cross Disruption v.:
Brocht owre the coals by Dr. Snapperdudgeon for his whumble intil the midden.
Ags. 1883 J. Kennedy Poems (1920) 112:
Awa' it bounced wi' bev'llin skyte An' on the mott played whummle.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xlviii.:
His horse also fell from rock to rock, and among a great whammel of stones, reached the bottom of the defile.
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 86:
It gied my speerits a whammle o' fricht.
Gsw. 1951 H. W. Pryde M. McFlannel's Romance 85:
You sit doon and I'll fix this cushion. It's awful kinna whummly.

4. In comb. whammle-net, a drift- or hang-net used in the Solway Firth for catching salmon (Dmf. 1974). See I. 11. and Hang-net.Dmf. 1897 Annals Sc. Nat. Hist. 224:
Caught in a “whammle” net in the Nith Channel.
Dmf. 1954 Dmf. & Gall. Standard (2 Oct.):
A third method of fishing, the whammle or drift-net, was started, as far as was known, in 1857 or 1858, when a number of shrimp fishermen from Morcambe settled in Annan. The net was paid out as the boat steered its course across stream and when the full length of the net was in the water it remained drifting with the current until such time as the fish might strike.

[O.Sc. quhemle, to overturn, 1536, quhomle, to overwhelm, 1567, met. form of earlier O.Sc. quhelm, to turn upside down, 1470, Mid.Eng. quelm, w(h)elm, as in Eng. overwhelm.]

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"Whummle v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Apr 2024 <>



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