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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HUMMEL, adj., n., v. Also -ell, -le, -(m)il, -ill, †houmle; hum(b)le, -el; hom(m)el; ham(m)el, -le, hamble, and holm (misprint). Dim. n. forms hum(m)lie, humly, -lag, -lock. [′hʌməl]

I. adj. 1. Of farm animals: having no horns naturally or by polling, hornless, polled (Sc. 1775 Johnson W. Isles 186, humble, 1819 Jacobite Relics (Hogg) I. 118, hummle). Gen.Sc.; of deer (Abd.16, Per. 1957). Combs. humle-headed, fig. of a youth: closely-cropped; †hammel-horn, as a name for a cow.Sc. 1699 Edb. Gazette (30 Oct.):
Wandered away last Wednesday Night . . . a Houmle Cow white faced, spotted black and white.
Sc. 1745 Scots Mag. (June) 274:
Is Brauny Bill, or Hammel-Horn elf-shot? Or 'mang our ews has come the dolefu' rot?
Abd. 1775 Abd. Journal (8 May):
A young black humle Bull, and some Year Olds.
Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality iv.:
The humle-cow, that's the best in the byre.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales I. 187:
It now tethers my hummel cow on the unmowed side of John Allen's park.
Sc. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 177:
Some [sheep] horned, and some hummel.
Abd. 1839 J. Robertson Bk. Of Bonaccord 91:
A rough, ragged, humle-headed, long, stowie, clever boy.
Per. 1898 C. Spence Poems 56:
He [a bull] shook his burly hummel head And bullered to himsel'.
Sc. 1957 Scotsman (28 Jan.) 8:
Roebucks throw a variety of freakish heads, but to the best of my knowledge there is nothing corresponding to the hummel stag (a stag who never produces antlers in his life).
Abd. 1987 Sheena Blackhall in Joy Hendry Chapman 49 56:
War he a reed, she'd rax tae be his bow
The reeshlin, randy stra, she'd stap the manger
War he a stag, she'd ben, the hummel doe
An wi him, thole the brunt o only danger

2. In various fig. extensions = without projections or prominences, presenting a flat, level appearance, smooth and bald. Hence (1) lopped, cropped, truncated; (2) of a boat: without a mast or sail, or lying with mast and sail lowered (Crm. 1911 hammel, 1919 T.S.D.C. III., hummel; Mry.1 1925; Rs. 1951); ¶(3) of clothes: having lost the nap, worn threadbare, smooth; (4) of persons: (a) plain, featureless; (b) without means of defence, unarmed; (5) of handwriting: without flourishes (Inv. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.).(1) Ags. 1815 G. Beattie John o' Arnha' (1852) 48:
He loutit him, wi' due respeck, An' toutit thro' his hummel neck: His speech was eldrich and uncouth, 'Cause, losin's head, he lost his mouth.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 345:
The toors or twa steeples o't are nae bigget yet, for wint o' siller, I'm tauld, an' that mak's't hummel like.
(3) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 215:
To think that erst you've hain'd my tail Frae wind and weet, frae snaw and hail, And for reward, whan bald an' hummil, Frae garret high to dree a tumble.
(4) (a) Abd. 1903 W. Watson Auld Lang Syne 35:
His voice was thin and metallic, and altogether he had a “hummel” appearance, which led to his being often referred to as a “stot” — the kind of man in whom lies neither tears nor laughter.
(b) ne.Sc. 1714 R. Smith Poems (1869) 9:
Some had an Ax, and some a Wimble, But many more for haste came humle.

3. Of corn, grain, pulse: awnless, not bearded, gen. in comb. hummel(l)-corn, a term applied to such grain (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.), or to all kinds of lighter grain and that which becomes separated from the rest during fanning (Rxb. 1825 Jam., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.); meal made from a mixture of barley and peas (Bwk. 1825 Jam.); also used attrib. esp. in fig. sense of poor, mean, shabby.e.Lth. 1716 Trans. E. Lth. Antiq. Soc. VI. 69:
For six firlots of Hummel Corn grinding.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 208–9:
It will come out yet, like the Holm [sic] Corn. I do not know the Reason of the Expression, but it is used when we see a young Man, and a young Woman too oft in Company, we suspect there will be some Effects of that Familiarity hereafter.
Ags. 1727 Arbroath T.C. Minutes (28 Feb.):
Ordain the hummell corn multure to give six pound Scots the Boll in time coming.
Bch. 1735 J. Arbuthnot Buchan Farmers (1811) 70:
It ought to be sown with clean white oats . . . but after that with homel oats.
Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Hummelcorn, adj. Mean, shabby; applied both to persons and things; as, “a hummel-corn discourse,” a poor sermon, “a hummel-corn man,” etc.
Rxb. 1843 Report Trial Jedburgh Magistrates v. Bakers 7:
For each Roxburghshire boll of humble corn (namely) bear or barley, peas, beans, and rye.
Bwk. 1876 W. Brockie Confessional 179:
We have a stane o' meal a week, An' five big bowes o' hummel corn.

4. Combs.: (1) hummel bonnet, a plain bonnet without a crest of feathers in a style worn by Highland regiments; (2) hum(m)el-doddie, -y, (a) adj., hornless (Bnff., Abd. 1957); (b) n., (i) something which has a flat appearance, esp. applied to a plain bonnet or cap; (ii) in pl.: woollen gloves having one compartment only for all the fingers and one for the thumb, mitts (Bnff. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; Abd. 1957). Also hummle-dods. Cf. Doddie-Mitten; (3) hummel-heidit, of a corn-stack: having a rounded, not peaked, top (Ags. 1957); (4) hum(m)le mittens, = (2) (b) (ii) (Abd. 1897 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xx.; Bnff., Abd. 1957). Also hummel-thrumy mittens (Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 49). See Thrum; (5) hum'le mutch, = (2) (b) (i).(1) Sc. 1801 I. H. S. Mackay Old Highl. Fencible Corps (1914) 298:
The foraging caps (humble bonnets) are in future only to be worn when the soldiers repose themselves on the guard bed, or when ordered on fatigues or working parties, they are to be worn in place of the bonnet.
Sc. 1819 Hist. Rec. Cameron Highlanders (1909) II. 275:
Foraging cap (a humble bonnet, edged and lettered white).
Sc. 1846 J. Grant Romance of War III. ii.:
Campbell waved his hummel-bonnet (a plain cap without feathers) to the assembled multitude.
(2) (a) Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Inglismill 30:
Like ony haulket hummledoddy stirk.
Abd. 1891 Bon-Accord (28 Nov.) 28:
He should atten' a cattle sale An' buy a humel doddie coo.
(b) (i) Ags. 1825 Jam.:
A ludicrous term applied to dress, especially to that of a woman's head, when it has a flat and mean appearance; as, “Whatna hummel-doddie of a mutch is that ye've on?”
(ii) Abd. 1924 Scots Mag. (Oct.) 57:
In sic roch, freesty win's ye cwidna geen yithooten yer hummle doddies, on yer han's been a sod, sair hotterel o' hacks.
Bch. 1946 J. C. Milne Orra Loon 39:
When the winter was sae frosty that the cauld cam' dirlin' through Braw moggins and gweed hummle-dods.
(4) Abd. 1879 G. Macdonald Sir Gibbie xx.:
Toeless feet, and thumbed but fingerless hands! as if he was made with stockings and hum'le mittens!
Abd. a.1880 W. Robbie Yonderton ii.:
When he had occasion to go from home in cold frosty weather, he sometimes put on a pair of “hummle mittens.”
(5) Abd. 1906 Banffshire Jnl. (26 June) 2:
O gi'e my he'rt the tender touch To sing auld grannie's hum'le mutch.

II. n. 1. Freq. in dim. forms.: (1) an animal which has no horns or has been polled (Sc. 1825 Jam., humlie, humlock; Cai. 1902 E.D.D., humlag, hummlie; Mry.1 1925, hummle; Cai., Abd., Kcd., Ags. 1957). Cf. Doddie. Comb. Buchan humlie, one of the hornless Aberdeen-Angus type of cattle, chiefly reared in Buchan (ne.Sc. 1957). See also (2).Ags. 1813 J. Headrick Agric. Ags. 439:
A great proportion of the permanent stock are humlies, that is, they have no horns.
Abd. 1860 W. G. Stewart Lectures i. 27:
The Aberdeenshire humbles or doddies accounted both good for milk and feeding, generally preponderated.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 74:
The dwellers in the Lowlands came “their gate,” from the haughs and braesides, with groups of black “hummlies.”
Mry. 1897 J. Mackinnon Braefoot Sk. vi.:
“Stan' aboot, humlie,” said Betty, feeling in vain for the cow.
Abd. 1898 J. Milne Poems 19:
The Buchan humlies keep their jog An' rug an' rive awa'.
Sc. 1938 Times (23 May) 2:
From time immemorial the native cattle of Angus and Aberdeenshire, and, indeed, of the north-east of Scotland generally, were black and hornless — “dodded” or “hummle” hence the terms applied at times to representatives of the breed even to-day — “Buchan Hummlies” and “Angus Doddies.”
Sc. 1957 Scotsman (28 Jan.) 8:
In addition [to the full-antlered stag] there is the hummel, with no horns; and the switch, with rapier antlers unforked above the brow.
Highl. 1982 Alasdair MacLean in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 65:
A hummel served the hinds that year
whose strength was all between his legs,
not growing from his skull in antique patterns.
Sc. 1990 Scotsman (1 Nov.) 17:
I was not surprised either to find that the master stag was a hummel - one with no antlers.

(2) A rustic; specif. a Highlander (see 1818 quot.), later a native of Buchan from the cattle reared there (Abd. 1957). See (1). Hence Buchan humlie, id. Also attrib.Sc. 1745 Origins of '45 (S.H.S.) 145:
About thirty were taken prisoners including ten or twelve Humlys that they had picked up.
ne.Sc. 1818 in E. Burt Letters II. 104:
In the days of our grand-fathers the lower class of Highlanders, were . . . denominated humblies from their wearing no covering on their heads but their hair.
Abd. 1886 Bon-Accord (21 Aug.) 8:
Then up ye Buchan humlies a'! Come to this market dressed richt bra'.
Abd. 1930 E. S. Rae Waff o' Win' vii.:
Fae Mearns tae Moray, far an' near The hummlie breed forgaither here, We're a' ae 'oo' an' a' maist dear As frien' tae frien'.

2. An implement for removing awns from barley. See III. 2.Ags. 1829 Edb. Ev. Courant (17 Aug.):
For an improved barley humble, one sovereign, to George Cowie, blacksmith, Brechin.

3. A mitt, = I. 4. (2) (b) (ii) (Abd. 1957).Abd. 1950 Huntly Express (24 Nov.):
The doddy mittens or humlies were then more often worn. Some people say they are warmer than fingered woollen gloves, and those who weave them that they are easier knitted.

4. A bladder or skin formerly used as a float for a herring net, now replaced by glass balls or pallets (Bwk. 1951).

5. Fig. A botch, a bungle (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Prob. back-formation from v., 4. below.

III. v. 1. Of cattle, etc., to deprive of horns. Found only in ppl.adj. hummilt (Sc. 1825 Jam.), humblit (Sh. 1932 J. Saxby Trad. Lore 195), hummelled (Cai.9 1939), †humeld, etc., hornless, polled (Cai., Ags., wm.Sc. 1957).Cai. 1698 Old-Lore Misc. VIII. ii. 76:
He hes of my beasts in his custodie, a dinn humbled ox.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 136:
The ware twa o' them, a humeld ane an a horn'd ane, a goodman de'il, and a goodwife de'il as we took them to be.
Ayr. 1784 A. Wight Husbandry III. 162:
With regard to cattle, of which a great number are bred for the English market in this country, they are pretty much the same with the Galloway breed, mostly hummelt.
m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 249:
As cowed as ony hummilt cow That treads the lee.
Per. 1880 A. Porteous Crieff (1912) 135:
(No funds for a steeple on the new church) It'll just look like a hummult coo.
Cai. 1929 John o' Groat Jnl. (18 Oct.):
Hid's 'e awful win' 'at wid nearly blaw 'e horns aff o' hum'eld beyse.

2. Of barley, etc.: to remove the awns (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., hummil; Ork. 1887 Jam., hamble, hamel; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ork. 1929 Marw., hammle). Gen.Sc.Ork. 1766 P. Fea MS. Diary (15 Dec.):
Allso humbled 2 Kilns of Bear in order to Cassie it.
Sc. 1799 Prize Essays Highl. Soc. 120:
In chusing seed bear, all late and raw grain is to be avoided, but, in particular hummel'd grain; that is, bear whose awns have been broken by the winds, before being ripe.
Kcd. 1813 G. Robertson Agric. Kcd. 268:
Threshing mills do not in general, hummel it, or take off the awns so well as when it is beaten out with the flail.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man II. 230:
My heart dunt — duntit like a man humblin bear.
Sc. 1831 J. C. Loudon Encycl. Agric. 439:
Mitchell's hummelling machine is the invention of a millwright of that name in the neighbourhood of Elgin, and it has been very generally added to threshing machines, in the barley districts of Scotland, for the purpose of separating the awns from the grains of barley.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 15:
Ye'll hae mair sheillin to be sure Frae corn that's hummelt on the floor.

Hence hum(me)l(l)er, hamm(e)ler (Ork., Rxb.), a machine used for removing awns from barley, that part of a threshing mill which does this (Abd. 1835 Trans. Highl. Soc. 334). Gen.Sc. See also bere hummler s.v. Bear.Ork. 1771 P. Fea MS. Diary (Nov.):
2 helping with the Corn humler.
Sc. 1889 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 478:
When barley has not been thoroughly ripened, the awns are broken off at a distance from the grain by the threshing machine; and as the part left must be got rid of before the corn can be clean dressed, a hummeller is used for the purpose.
Sc. 1936 Ork. Agric. Jnl. XI. 62:
The hummeller makes a very regular dressing of the grain; it does not leave a long awn as the drum does, for one will always see a long awn among a sample of drum hummelled bere.

3. Of stones or large pieces of driftwood: to break up into smaller pieces, to remove rough edges and shape for use (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., humbel; †Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., hummel; Sh. 1957). Also found in Nhb. dial.

4. Fig. in ppl.adj. hummeled, of a job of work: botched, bungled (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

[O.Sc. hummill, earlier hommill, hornless, 1530, awnless, 1475; L.Ger. hommel, hummel, a hornless animal. For hummel corn, cf. Norw. dial. hummelkorn, Dan., Germ. hammelkorn, a mixed grain of oats and barley or barley and rye, of same orig.]

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"Hummel adj., n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Apr 2024 <>



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