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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SOUM, n., v.1 Also soom, soume, sowm(e), summ (Traynor), and misprint soam (Inv. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 X. 368). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. sum. [sum]

I. n. 1. As in Eng. (Sc. 1700 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 298, soume; Dmf. 1711 Trans. Dmf. and Gall. Antiq. Soc. (1889) 187; Bnff. 1715 Ann. Bnff. (S.C.) I. 115, sowme; Sc. 1818 Scott Rob Roy xxvi.; Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail iv., Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1865) 710, soom; wm.Sc. 1876 A. B. Grosart Wilson's Poems I. xxxiii.; m.Lth. 1894 P. Hay Hunter J. Inwick 99: Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 23; Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 24; Per. 1971).

2. The number of livestock which can be supported by a certain amount of pasturage, usu. assessed at one cow or a proportional number of sheep varying locally from four to ten per soum (Inv. 1808 J. Robertson Agric. Inv. 75; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Highl., Per. 1971). Coll. sing. soum, esp. in early quots.Sc. 1724 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) I. 9:
Three soums of sheep, twa good milk ky.
Lth. 1726 Edb. Ev. Courant (31 March):
1000 Sheep of the Masters, at six Score the hundred, and in Summer a third Part more, besides the Herds Sooms.
Lnk. 1735 Session Papers, Petition J. Bell:
The said Commonty belonging to the Eight Merk Feures might hold ninty-six Soum, counting ten sheep for every Soum.
Ayr. 1761 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (M.C.) 95:
Two soumes to each freedom: six sheep for a soum, and a cow for a soum, and all in whole seventy-two soum.
Dmb. 1794 D. Ure Agric. Dmb. 97:
A Sowm is a full grown cow, at three years old and upwards: or two cows at two years old each: their calves or Followers are included.
Slk. 1807 Hogg Shepherd's Guide 256:
It is applied in the south of Scotland to the grass of ten sheep, one cow, or nineteen pecks of oatmeal, Edinburgh measure. Of all these, a shepherd often gets his choice, and they are called his sums.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recoll. 177:
A horse was reckoned at a full soum, two cows, a soum; and eight sheep a soum.
Hebr. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Report App. A. 468:
In Lews and Harris a man is entitled to send so many soums to the grazings of his townland.

3. The unit of pasturage which can support a certain fixed number of livestock (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor). Phr. soums (of) grass, id.Ayr. 1707 Ayr Presb. Reg. MS. (2 July):
There was not a sufficient gleib and grasse soums conform to Law.
Lnk. 1708 Minutes J.P.s. (S.H.S.) 19:
He is to have a cot house and a kaill yeard, a boll of meall in summer and a soumes grass yearly.
Sc. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) II. 139:
If the tenant is to hire his grazing in the Hills, he takes it by soumes. A soume is as much grass as will maintain four sheep.
Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 VIII. 104:
The glebe, which is supposed to be legal as to extent, with 4 soums grass.
Slk. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Slk. 315:
The wages of shepherds are commonly eight soums of grass, or what the parties reckon equivalent in value to these. A soum is the grass eaten by one cow or ten sheep.
Uls. 1947 J. M. Mogey Rural Life 234:
A soum is the grass of a cow for one season.
Highl. 1950 P.S.A.S. LXXXV. 61:
Grazing value was computed by the number of animals it could carry. In Scotland the unit was the Soum, or grazing of a cow and her “followers,” usually including her progeny for two years back.

II. v. 1. As in Eng. (Sc. 1709 Earls Crm. (Fraser 1876) II. 109; Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 95; Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr. Duguid 113).

2. To determine the total number of livestock in terms of soums (see I. 2.) which a common pasture can properly support in order to allocate a proportionate share among the tenants (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Sh., Highl. 1971). Vbl.n. souming, the process of doing this, the number of stock permitted to the common or to any one of its tenants (Id). Phrs. to soum and roum, to apportion each tenant's soum, (an action, process, of) souming and rooming, a legal action to establish this (Sc. 1754 Erskine Principles ii. ix. § 6). See Room, v., 1. Deriv. soomar, one who grazes cattle in soums.Sc. 1722 W. Forbes Institutes I. II. 140:
The overcharging of a Common is prevented by Souming and Rouming; that is, by determining how many Soums the Ground will conveniently pasture.
Ayr. 1761 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (M.C.) 95:
The committee appointed for souming the town.
Arg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 192:
The ancient souming of the parish was 3068 head of black cattle, from 3 years old and upwards, stirks and 2 year olds, not being reckoned soums.
w.Sc. 1811 J. MacDonald Agric. Hebr. 168:
Stenting or apportioning a certain quantity of the head dyke to each tenant in proportion to the souming of cattle.
Sc. 1851 G. Outram Lyrics (1874) 43:
Raising a Process o' Soumin and Roumin.
Inv. 1884 Crofters' Comm. Evidence IV. 2868:
A “souming” of the tacksmen's stock was taken this year, when it was found that a tacksman kept about £10 worth of stock for every pound of rent he paid.
Arg. 1889 Session Cases (1899–90) 135:
In no case shall the number of sheep exceed the average stock or souming of the farm.
Cai. 1896 “MacBremen” Breezes from John o' Groat's 217:
I kenn'd him richt weel, auld Krockanknowe, An' a dour auld soomar was he.
Sh. 1914 A. C. O'Dell Hist. Geog. Sh. (1939) 67:
Fixing the dates in each year on which the souming is to be made up or regulated, and the class of stock to be included in the souming.
Highl. 1929 A. A. MacGregor Summer Days 245:
He is empowered to demand, when the souming is being made up, that all parties having rights in the common grazings gather their stock and deliver it up to him for counting.
Highl. 1963 Scotsman (2 Sept.):
Croft extends to 2 acres 35 poles arable, 32 poles outrun, together with share in the common grazing; souming one cow and four sheep.

[O.Sc. sowmoys, pl., = I. 3., 1500, soumes, = I. 2., 1508, = II. 1., 1448, = II. 2., 1679, souming and rouming, 1681, O.Fr. summe, Lat. summa, sum, total.]

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"Soum n., v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 29 May 2023 <>



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