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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FERM, n.1, v. Also fairm, †fe(a)rme, †farme. Sc. forms of Eng. farm. See P.L.D. § 48.1

(2) and E. [fɛrm, ferm]

1. A fixed yearly amount paid in money or, more usually, in kind, as rent for land. Obs. in Eng. c.1700. Now only hist. For blench farm(e), -ferme, see Blench.Abd. 1717 T. Mair Ellon Rec. (1898) 299:
The tenants of Meikle Ythsey were bound to winn and lead peats as to pay their farmes.
Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (7 July):
Severals of the Nobility and Gentry of the said County had at this time of great Dearth and Scarcity, from Compassion to the Poor, generously delivered in to the Magistrates of Aberdeen one Fifth-part of their whole Meal Farms, to be sold out to the Poor of said Town and neighbouring Country, at 8 Pence per Peck.
Sc. 1762 Nairne Peerage Evid. (1873) 93:
All and sundry the rents maills farms profites and duties kains customs and casualties of all and haill the liferent lands.
Sc. 1787 J. Beattie Scotticisms 36:
A man who pays farm can scarce live in these hard times.
Sc. 1872 C. Innes Sc. Legal Antiq. 257:
Certain bolls of oatmeal and bear, which is always distinguished as ferme — that is, the real and solid part of the rent.

Comb.: (1) farm bear, barley paid as rent; (2) ferm-corn, rent paid in grain (Mry.1 1928); (3) farm-meal, meal paid as part of rent (Sc. 1825 Jam.); (4) farm-victual = (2).(1) Mry. 1745 Lord Elchies' Letters (ed. Macwilliam) 250:
The hint I gave you concerning the fearme bear.
Abd. 1808 Misc. New S.C. II. 39:
The Farm Bear agreeably to the Linlithgow measure is one pound one shilling & ten pence 10/17 p[er] boll.
(3) Sc. 1710 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families II. 116:
Patrick Reid, officer, . . . being at the Miln of Pitnacree grinding his ferm meall.
Abd. 1721 Monymusk Papers (S.H.S.) 24:
The said William is to pay seven bolls, two firlots good and sufficient ferm meall for the first five years of the said tack.
Abd. 1811 G. Keith Agric. Abd. 244:
Before 1782 the Farm meal was commonly paid of this inferior oats; i.e. the landlord, in many places of the county, got part of his rent paid in kind from meal made from this grain.
(4) Sc. 1799 Trans. Highl. Soc. I. ciii.:
Where farm-victual is part of the tenant's rent, meal will be computed at 1s. 6d. per stone, and bear at 16s. per boll.

2. As in Eng., a tract of land cultivated as a unit (fairm Bnff., Abd., Ags., Edb., Gsw., Dmf.; ferm Ork., Cai., Bnff., Fif., Edb., Arg., Ayr., Rxb. 2000s).Ork. 1952 R. T. Johnston Stenwick Days (1984) 22:
"He wur fer fae plazed, a'll tell thee. He didno tak' id in a philosopheecal wey at all. In fact, he wur ferly barmin'. He chissed me roond the ferm wi' a scythe, ... "
Ags. 1990 Raymond Vettese in Hamish Whyte and Janice Galloway New Writing Scotland 8: The Day I Met the Queen Mother 141:
Nae sangs o dool but sangs o the fairm, sangs o feein, sangs o the days whan he bothied ootby.

Sc. usages in phr. and combs.: (1) fairm-cheil, a male farmworker; (2) fairmhaun, Sc. form of Eng. farmhand; (3) fairmlan, Sc. form of Eng. farmland; (4) farm o' lan', a farm (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.); (5) farm-onstead, the farm buildings, homestead; (6) ferm-place, = (5) (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; m.Lth.1 1951); †(7) ferm-room, a farm. See Room; (8) farm-stead, -steid (Fif.10 1941), = (5); (9) ferm steading, -stedding, the collection of buildings on a farm, with or without the farm-house. Gen.Sc. See Steading and cf. (11); (10) ferm-stockin, farm animals, esp. cattle and sheep. Gen.Sc. See Stocking; (11) ferm-toun, -toon, farm-toun, fairm toon, the homestead of a farm, used in a somewhat more general application than ferm-steading, which usu. connotes the outbuildings only. Gen.Sc.(1) Abd. 1993 Sheena Blackhall in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 138:
Syne suddent, frae ayont deep-shaddaed trees
A fairm-cheil drave his combine ower the lan.
(2) Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 5:
The sun wis bleezin hett ower the rigs, as the fairmhauns plytered an tcyauved wi the tractor, finally cowpin it ooto the soss o the bog.
(3) Abd. 1993 Sheena Blackhall in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 139:
Straicht lines o Black Watch sodjers,
Haudin their bayonets heich,
Are the fir wids raxxed ower fairmlans,
Far the leaden lift hings dreich.
(5) Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recoll. 87:
The farm onsteads in the Lothians . . . came to be denominated the farmers' mains.
Bwk. 1900 A.T.G. Annals of Thornlea 24:
It was my privilege to meet him at farm-onsteads (as he called them), where in the farmhouse after tea, he unfolded . . . a text of Scripture.
Sc. 1933 E. S. Haldane Scotland of Our Fathers 293:
As to the “farm-onsteads” [in the Lowlands], if quite small they were in the old days of the simplest sort. The dwelling-house was in the middle, barns at one end, and cattle-houses at the other, all low and thatched with straw.
(7) Sc. 1723 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 312:
Therefter it runs S.W.S. by W. to a ferm room called Whithills.
e.Lth. 1811 Farmer's Mag. XII. 54:
The farm-rooms, as they are commonly called, are divided or distinguished in infield and outfield land.
(8) Sc. 1807 G. Chalmers Caledonia I. iii. vii. 401 Note:
There is, in the parish of Monikie, a farmstead, named Camus-ton.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 10:
A farm-steid fu' o' kintra stir, Wi' acres braid o' rig and fur.
(9) Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 185:
The ends of the ridges next to the farm-stedding would be destroyed by the poultry.
Lnl. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 II. 129:
Near the farm-steading of Upper Kinneil, and a little south of the Roman wall, there was a small tumulus or cairn.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Raiders vii.:
We could look down on the farmsteading of Craigdarroch.
(10) Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 93:
They seemed to have been attending a country roup of farm stocking.
Sc. 1829 P. F. Tytler Hist. Scot. II. 189:
The chamberlain should . . . lay an annual tax upon the crops and farm stocking.
ne.Sc. 1888 D. Grant Keckleton 111:
A' yer penny siller's either in the grun' or in yer fairm stockin' an' implements.
(11) Per. 1730 “John o' Blair” Donald of Glenisla (1931) 275:
I and my servant, with several others living in the farmtown.
Sc. 1786 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 515:
Several farm-towns in the Carse were likewise laid under water.
Lnk. 1827 J. Watt Poems 41:
Spier'd whar he was, at what farm-town: Auld Willie said, 'twas Thissel-law.
Wgt. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 218:
A farm steading is to this day . . . called in the current speech a farm town.
Ags. 1889 Barrie W. in Thrums xi.:
For all there was sic fear ower the hale farm-toon 'at naebody would gang ower the door alane after the gloamin' cam.
Kcb. 1900 Crockett Stickit Minister's Wooing 290:
In those days in all the Galloway farm-towns, master and servant sat together to meals.
Abd. 1917 T. McWilliam Passing Days 47:
By farm-toon, croft and cottar-house.
Lth. 1935 L. J. Rintoul and E. V. Baxter Fauna of Forth 156:
It [house-martin] nests in many of the “fairm toons.”
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 69:
A toun was in fact a farm - even today we still speak about a farm steading as the farm-toun. The simplest sort of toun was a farm leased to one tenant, usually for five years, He then sub-let portions to families, who paid a rent, partly in kind and partly in service.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge iii:
Dundonald was still formed by a "kirktoun", built round the church, and several "farmtouns" of eight or nine cots, each group built close to one of the main houses belonging to the bonnet lairds.
Abd. 1992 Sheila Douglas ed. The Sang's the Thing: Voices from Lowland Scotland 204:
... an romance must hae blossomed 'cause they were mairried within three month. She cam hame as mistress o' the fairm toon at Gellybrae.
ne.Sc. 2000 Herald 20 Mar 23:
Its blue-grey ridge looks over the brown and green fields of the "fairm toons" of the Garioch (pronounced geeree) and the further farmlands of Buchan.

[O.Sc. ferme, letting of land, 1381, rent, 1483, ferm stedyng, 1559, ferme toune, 1609; O.Fr. ferme, lease, leased farm, Med.Lat. firma, fixed payment.]

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"Ferm n.1, v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 May 2024 <>



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