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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SMUIR, v., n. Also smure; smoor(e), smour (Ags. 1870 D. M. Ogilvy Poems 211); and freq. form smoorich (see also Smuirich). See also Smore. [m. and s.Sc. smør, sme:r, Mry. smju:r (see P.L.D. §§ 142, 157); Ork., Cai., em., wm.Sc. + smu:r]

I. v. 1. intr. (1) To be choked, stifled, suffocated, to suffer or die from want of air (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork., Cai., em., wm. and s.Sc. 1970), esp. to perish by being buried in a snowdrift. Vbl.n. smooring, death by suffocation.Ayr. 1790 Burns Tam o' Shanter 90:
Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd.
Slk. 1807 Hogg Shepherd's Guide 121:
Smooring. This is occasioned solely by the shepherd's not having his flocks gathered to proper shelter.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 4:
How shepherds smoor'd amang the snaw.
Kcb. 1828 W. McDowall Poems 24:
Be sure ye'll smoor i' snaw.
Rxb. 1847 J. Halliday Rustic Bard 164:
Where's the drift ayont endurin'? Sae troth we're little ra'd o' smoorin'.
Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life 11:
The year of the Big Snaw [1795] had its histories of smoorings of sheep.
m.Lth. 1897 P. H. Hunter J. Armiger iii.:
The yowes were smoored at the heid dyke.
Ork. 1904 Dennison Sketches 16:
Wha ever toucht hid wad come tae this 'at I s'ud smoor i' me ain kist.
Abd. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 46:
Eyven yet, tho' smoorin i' yer creesh.
Sc. 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Sc. 50:
Cain's, amang his wauchy wisps, Smoor'd in a smochy drow.
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 13:
An ye that lippent tae the warld,
Will ye no greit tae see't owerfawn,
As it gangs warslin doun wi daith
As a strang man smoors in soukin saun?

(2) to perish in a river or bog, to drown (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.).Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan II. ii.:
'Deed no, he was e'en drowned — that's to say smoored in the peat-broo.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Thrawn Janet:
They were a' like to have smoored in the De'il's Hag.

2. tr. (1) Of persons or animals: to cause to suffocate, choke, stifle, smother, crush the breath out of (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Ork., Cai., em.Sc. (a), Lnk., Rxb. 1970), by smoke, drifted snow, drowning, etc. Also fig. Also ppl.adj. smoorin. Sc. 1725 Ramsay Gentle Shep. ii. ii.:
The thick-blawn wreaths of snaw, or blashy thows, May smoor your wethers.
Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict. s.i. leverook:
If the lufft fa', 'twill smoore aw the leverooks. [Usu. quoted to silence a frivolous objection.]
Abd. 1779 Session Papers, Bremner v. Lord Forbes (16 Nov.) Proof 7:
He would be smoored by the multitude of people in going in at the style of the kirk-yard.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 32:
The death o' devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone reek.
Bwk. 1801 “Bwk. Sandie” Poems 11:
Sic show'rs o' snaw an' drift, To smuir his sheep.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xix.:
The day that Samson smoored all the mocking Philistines flat as flounders.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 19:
De winder wus sheu wus no smoored i the reek.
Ags. 1890 J. Lowson J. Guidfollow 242:
In pool or ford can nane be smur'd Gin kelpie be na there.
Per. 1895 I. Maclaren Auld Lang Syne 282:
The fog's eneuch to smoor ye.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood v.:
The puir body was like to be smoored in the Carnwath Moss.
Sc. 1931 J. Lorimer Red Sergeant xi.:
I could smoor the life oot o' him easy, the betrayer o' blood.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 187:
As he slipped along to her bedroom window past the peat stacks, the peats came flying down on him, all forty load of them. Had he not been gie on edge already, he'd have been smoored among them, but he got clear with a long leap and scudded for home with a hail of peats about his lugs.
Sc. 1964 Weekly Scotsman (19 March) 2:
Blin'in smoorin snaws.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 32:
Thro grey Dumfries the cauld broun watter gaed,
droonin the speirit as it smoort the rime.
em.Sc.(b) 1991 Athole Cameron in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 53:
In winter the hill fowk get smoorin snaw drifts.
We get Jim's Ices.

(2) To bury or cover over thickly so as to obscure or obliterate, to envelop in a dense covering of smoke, snow, vegetation or the like. Also fig.Sc. 1816 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) 162:
Hogg smoored up with snow and living beneath the wreaths like an Esquimaux.
Sc. 1887 Stevenson Merry Men ii.:
I mind the nicht weel; a mune smoored wi' mist.
Edb. 1897 W. Beatty Secretar i.:
Watching the reek from the Toun lums smooring the golden lift.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 33:
Yae winter's nicht when fields were smoored in snaw.
Ags. 1923 V. Jacob Songs 27:
When dark still smoors the west.
Abd. 1924 M. Angus Tinker's Road 8:
Smoored wi' mosses reid, The soople road wins ower the tap.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in the Wind 9:
Noo the onding's smoorin' hicht an' howe.
m.Sc. 1982 Stewart McGavin in Hamish Brown Poems of the Scottish Hills 38:
the mists smoor
hale mountain waas
turn peerie craigs tae
inaccessible pinnacles
an sheddaes tae
bleezan bogles.
m.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 37:
Aa your Science, aa your philosophie
Are smoorit deep in faddomless mysterie.
m.Sc. 1991 Ronald Stevenson in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 70:
Soon wull it faa tae ye
in flaws an flachts the fleece
that smuirs the muirs -
an hansels Peace,
o warld,
tae ye, lued Lyfe, bi luve garred gowden,

(3) Of smell or taste: to hide, conceal, obliterate.Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 84:
Stale breath she smoors wi' oils and mint.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Entail lxxx.:
An auld Muscovy duck. . . . We smoor't it wi' ingons the day afore yesterday.

3. (1) tr. To damp down a fire so that it smoulders quietly from lack of air (Ork., Cai., Ags., m.Sc., Rxb. 1970). Also fig.; to extinguish a light (Cai. 1934, smoor). Also fig. Hence smoury, adj., of a fire: difficult to kindle, slow to flame up (Ayr. 1958).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 25:
Foul fa' the Quacks wha that Fire smoors.
Abd. 1808 Jam.:
Smure the candle, put it out.
Sc. 1929 F. M. McNeill Sc. Kitchen 57:
In districts where wood is unattainable, the fire is smoored with ashes that it may smoulder all night.
ne.Sc. 1979 Alastair Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 63:
I am fou on the age-auld voice o yours
that jows fae your mony gabs
like green bells ruggit backwards and syne smoored.
m.Sc. 1998 Lillias Forbes Turning a Fresh Eye 32:
It's an ower lang day
Syne I saw the mune
Like I saw her the nicht
Ower M'Niack Mhor,
Wi her eldritch leme
Smoorin' a licht
Fae the lamp o' day.

Vbl.n. smooring, a ritual damping down of the domestic fire at night, once common in the Highlands in Catholic districts, Gael. smaladh an teine. Also attrib.Sc. 1900 A. Carmichael Carmina Gadelica I. 234:
The ceremony of smooring the fire . . . is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth — which is generally in the middle of the floor — and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss. The first peat is laid down in name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third in name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish the fire, in name of the Three of Light.
Arg. 1903 N. Munro Children of Tempest xxviii.:
Anna heard the woman hum the smooring hymn of the islands.
Sc. 1944 Scots Mag. (March) 476:
Smooring the peat-fire — even sometimes yet whispering the old quiet words over it — the Blessing of the House — in the Gaelic.

(2) intr. Of fire or a burning object: to die down, smoulder feebly, become extinguished.Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 14:
Among the smooring lintels and joists.

4. By extension of 2. (2) but prob. also influenced by confusion with the homophonous smair, Smear: to cover with a thin coating, to daub, anoint, bespread (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai. 1970); to smear sheep with an unguent of tar. Also fig. Also in n.Eng. dial.Per. 1844 J. G. Kohl Travels in Scot. 184:
They had been engaged for some days in the important business of “smuiring” the sheep. There were six great tubsful of the smearing composition in the court-yard, besides a whole row of tar barrels, some full, some partly empty, lying in the same place. Next day the “smuiring” or “smiuhring,” was to be re-commenced.
Gall. 1930:
The common Galloway word for a thin coating of ice or snow is “smoorin.”
Dmf. 1953:
Smearing sheep with tar is often smoorin'.
Cai. 1961 “Castlegreen” Tatties an' Herreen' 26:
Fa achts 'iss sookid black-stripped ball? Hid's made 'iss cheir aal smoored an' sticky.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 102:
'Maister Mitchel,' said Weir. 'I have been expecting ye, since I heard your name proclaimed at the Cross.' His voice was flat. He spoke, as he usually did in Mitchel's memory, and as some others of the most rigid persuasion also did, with a layer of English smoored over his Scots.

5. In various fig. usages of abstract things: to conceal, extinguish, damp down, quench, keep mum about.m.Lth. 1788 J. Macaulay Poems 197:
What need you smoor the thing that's true, Wi' a' your knowledge?
Ayr. 1792 Burns Duncan Gray v.:
Swelling pity smoor'd his wrath.
Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 23:
Whate'er he took oot she wad smoorich awa, . . . She ne'er loot a mush oot to grit or to sma'.
Abd. 1873 P. Buchan Inglismill 31:
They drink nae till their rizzon's fairly smoored.
Lnk. 1893 T. Stewart Among the Miners 110:
Tho' critic sumphs his fame may smoor.
Sc. 1933 N. B. Morrison Gowk Storm v. i.:
You should have waited for months yet until things are more smoored.
Sc. 1953 Scots Mag. (Sept.) 491:
The fire of youthful ambition being smoored down by the routine, “safe” job.
Sc. 1983 John McDonald in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 44:
There's naethin tae tine
and naethin tae hain;
tae smoor onie life
is tae smoor yer ain.
Ags. 1985 Raymond Vettese in Joy Hendry Chapman 40 13:
wha in their roar and motion - turbulence
catched yet no smoorit - celebrate and maister,
sing oot o the braith o generations' cry.
Ags. 1993 Mary McIntosh in Joy Hendry Chapman 74-5 112:
The bairn wis claikin an she made tae gie it aisment. Peety, smuired ower the lang days, wis like tae brak in on his venim.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 51:
Mindfu o his sensiteevity tae soun an suddent meevement, Norman froze an smoored the stirrins o a skirl as Juan ran swippert ower the fleer. Syne, cannily an sklaikily, like a luver's haun, Juan sterted on the lang, lang sclim up Norman's left trooser leg.

II. n. 1. An act of smothering, a suffocating; a feeling of smothering or suffocation (Lth., Cld. 1880 Jam.). Adj. smoory, choking, stifling; close, of the atmosphere (Fif. 1970).Knr. 1891 H. Haliburton Ochil Idylls 92:
I meikle fear the smoory toon Has left ye nocht but skin!

2. A thick atmosphere, a dense enveloping cloud or swirl: (1) of smoke (Lth., Cld. 1880 Jam.; Kcb. 1970). Dim. smurack, smuragh, a slight smoke, a puff (Ayr. 1880 Jam.).Sh. 1886 G. Temple Britta 131:
Da smoor went till Saxavoe.
Kcb. 1893 Crockett Raiders xxxviii.:
The burning sticks crackled and a great smoor of reek arose.

(2) of snow, rain or mist (Lth., Cld. 1880 Jam.; Ork., Cai., Ags., Per. 1970). Dims. smoorie, -ach. Adj. smoor(e)y, drizzly, misty.Sh. 1877 G. Stewart Fireside Tales 71:
A air o' licht smoor, or saft flucker.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xiv.:
In the smoor of the snow.
Ags. 1922 M. E. Angus The Lilt 9:
Yon nicht o' nichts on the smoory hill In the sma, sma rain.
Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 51:
As thick an' white as drivin' smoor.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen Wi Da Trow 210:
While mist, an ice, an faerfill whirlwinds In wan smoorie covered aa.
Per.4 1960:
We had a wee bit smoorach o snaw last nicht.
m.Sc. 1970 Week-End Scotsman 2:
A smoorey morning, with the mist hanging like cob-webs among the tall larches.
Dundee 1991 Ellie McDonald The Gangan Fuit 42:
Syne I gaed wi the licht
ay its turnan,
doun frae yon smoory hill,
the day's aince-erran aa bi wi,
ae sang liggan
caul i the daurk.
Abd. 1998 Sheena Blackhall The Bonsai Grower 79:
Breengin hame frae a tulzie ower a keg o fusky ae nicht bi Tom-na-Fuar, the auld warlord wis catchit in wintry smoor, weeted throwe, been-jeeled an drookit; sune dee'd in's bed o a hoast.

III. adj. Of the weather: sultry, close, stifling (Ayr. a.1838 Jam. MSS. XI. 170, smure). Either from an attrib. use of II. 1. or due to some misunderstanding.

[O.Sc. smure, to be stifled, a.1500, smuir, to smother a.1500, smoor, to suffocate, 1656, E.M.E. smoor, to stifle. The phonology of the word is somewhat difficult to explain, esp. the form [smu:r] which is current outside its normal dialect area, and may be a borrowing from n.Eng. dial., where it is also irreg., or be due to a spelling pronounciation of smoor. Vowel fluctuations before -r are not uncommon. The form [smør] corresponds most nearly to M.L.Ger. smören, to suffocate, cogn. with Du. smooren, and O.E. smorian (see Smore).]

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"Smuir v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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