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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SUMPH, n., v. Also sumf(f). [sʌmf]

I. n. 1. A slow-witted, soft-headed, stupid fellow, an oaf, a booby, simpleton (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 693: Per., Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Uls. 1929; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai; n., m., s.Sc. 1971), occas. of women. Also in n.Eng. dial. Hence ¶sumphess, a female of this kind.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 118:
The finish'd Mind, in all its Movements bright, Surveys the self-made Sumph in proper Light.
Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 289:
When noble souls ly in the dirt, While sumphs jump up so high.
Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 371:
I suspeck you omit the mere sumphs and sumphesses.
Dmf. 1836 A. Cunningham Lord Roldan I. iv.:
When he masters wi' the strong hand some sumph whose parents have not erred.
Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 17:
For e'en a gie Sumph disna care To lose his Lassock in a fair.
Uls. 1897 A. M'Ilroy When Lint was in the Bell x.:
Naethin' but a great muckle sumph — a bigger fael than a' even tuk ye for.
sm.Sc. 1925 R. W. Mackenna Flood & Fire xiv.:
An ignoramus, which in the Scots tongue, is a donnert sumph.
Kcd. 1933 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 254:
She'd grown a great sumph of a woman.
Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 79:
"...She was just takin' a rise oot o' him, but the muckle sumph thought she was in earnest."
m.Sc. 1954 J. D. Scott The End of an Old Song (1990) 120:
'What nonsense - the big sumph that he is!' Miss Craig had opened the door and was regarding Alastair from the threshold with an expression of mild disapproval.
wm.Sc. 1954 Robin Jenkins The Thistle and the Grail (1994) 115:
"I'll tell you what," she said, "you're such a sumph that if you did take the job as barman you'd develop into a drunkard. Your politeness would be the ruin of you."
Edb. 1965 J. K. Annand Sing it Aince 21:
When I want a jeely piece I'd feel an awfu' sumph.
Gsw. 1970 George MacDonald Fraser The General Danced at Dawn (1988) 48:
"... Amazing," he went on, "how the Chief's manner changes when he gets worked up about a thing like this; he sounds positively Scotch. What's a sumph, by the way?"
Edb. 1979 Albert D. Mackie in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 44:
I could think - any, think! - in Latin, French, Italian
And even knap guid Suthron for the sumphs.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 29:
How could it come up Orgon's humph
To abandon his dochter tae yon big sumph?
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 48:
" ... Are we to set sail in coracles? Try ploughing the waves and reaping the salt of them? You didna think of that, did you, you sumphs! ... "

2. A surly, sullen, sulky person (Lnk. 1880 Jam.; Wgt. 1880 G. Fraser Lowland Lore 157; ne., m. and s.Sc. 1971).Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 126:
Thrawn-gabbit Sumphs that snarl At our frank Lines.
Abd. c.1760 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 56:
Ony sumph that keeps a spite, In conscience I abhor him.
Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 154:
A sour looking sumf wi a muckle mouth.
Ayr. 1787 Burns To the Guidwife iv.:
Ye surly sumphs, who hate the name.
Sc. 1818 Scott Bride of Lamm. xii.:
An honour him or his never deserved at our hand, the ungracious sumph.
Sc. 1899 Mont.-Fleming:
A sumph is essentially an ill-conditioned fellow. Surliness is part of the character of a sumph. A simpleton can't help himself; a sumph is wilfully disagreeable.
Abd. 1922 Alma Mater (1 May):
The gamey, “a muckle soor sumph.”

3. Derivs.: (1) sumphish, stupid, doltish (Sc. 1808 Jam.: Rnf. 1920; ne. and m.Sc. 1971); sullen, sulky (Lnk. 1880 Jam.; ne. and m.Sc. 1971). Adv. sumphishly, n. sumphishness; (2) sumphy, -ie, id. (ne.Sc. 1971).(1) Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 120:
The sumphish Mob, of Penetration shawl.
Lnk. 1802 J. Struthers Works (1850) I. 53:
These audacious, sumphishly selfish assumptions.
Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 66:
Wha wad hae expeckit sic a sumphish speech frae you?
Rnf. 1835 D. Webster Rhymes 10:
Tho' bigotry abuse him, Wi' sour and sumphish sighing.
Bwk. 1869 J. Landreth Fastern's E'en 32:
Nae wonder, that ye should hae shaken your head at sic by-ordinar' sumphishness.
Ags. 1937 A. Fleming Strawberry Field i. i.:
Annie was more belligerent than sumphish now.
(2) Edb. 1866 J. Smith Merry Bridal 17:
While sumphy dour grumphy Gies aye the ither squeel.
Gsw. 1877 A. G. Murdoch Laird's Lykewake 119:
Try an' haud the bairn up weel, An' no look dowff an' sumphie.

II. v. To act like a sumph; to loaf or lie about in a dull, hangdog, stupid way; to sulk, be sullen (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 186; Lnk. 1880 Jam.; ne. and m.Sc. 1971). Ppl.adj., vbl.n. sumphan, -in (Gregor).Ayr. 1828 D. Wood Poems 184:
Sae dinna gang and sumph and sour.
Dmf. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 307:
He gangs about sumphan a' day, like a sow playing on a trump.
Ags. 1886 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 102:
He sumphs through the warld.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet ix.:
Gae wa' oot o' that, liein' sumphin' an' sleepin'.
Fif. 1898 S. Tytler Mrs Carmichael's Goddesses i.:
You lay and snored and sumphed your fill.

[Orig. obscure, prob. chiefly imit. Cf. Dumph, Grumph and Sowf. O.Sc. has sumph, to be stupid, a.1689.]

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"Sumph n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 1 Mar 2024 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/sumph>

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