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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.

THAIRM, n. Also therm(e); tharm (Sc. 1736 Ramsay Proverbs (1776) 35); thairn (Sc. 1825 Jam.); and Sh. forms term, terrem (Sh. 1880 Jam.). See T, letter, 9. and also Fearn. [θerm; Sh. tɛrm]

1. A gut or bowel in the human or animal intestine (Sc. 1825 Jam.; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929). Now only dial. in Eng.; a gut used as the skin of a sausage or pudding (Sh., em.Sc.(a), wm.Sc. 1972). Now only liter.Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 137:
He that has a wide Theim [sic], had never a long Arm. Gluttonous People will not be be liberal of their Meat.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To a Haggis i.:
Painch, tripe, or thairm.
Arg. 1912 N. Munro Ayrshire Idylls (1935) 265:
The sordid pot of tripe and thairm.
Sc. 1933 W. Soutar Seeds in Wind 34:
The tattie-bogle wags its airms It hasna onie banes or thairms.
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 24:
But poetrie bi nou had wrocht its herm,
its tares weel skailt abreid frae the evil curn
set there bi Clootie's haund tae mak him blinn
tae ocht but sang and rhyme an fleshlie sin,
that ruitit deep in ilka bane an thairm.
m.Sc. 1991 William Neill in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 48:
Flee, flee, sire, spak the Regent's hind
in Sillersecks left lug;
yon sauvage Clan hae taen a mynd
tae gie yir thairms a rugg.
m.Sc. 1997 Liz Niven Past Presents 14:
Efter, bledder taen oot an
Raised tae mooth,
It swelt gin till
They tethered it wae its thairm
An let it dry fur days.
Syne kicked across the yerd
Tae the boy, seik, scunnert,

2. Gut dried and twisted into a string or cord for various purposes, catgut: (1) in gen. (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Sh., Per. 1972):Dmf. 1817 W. Caesar Poems 112:
Hung wi' cords as strong as thairm.
ne.Sc. 1884 D. Grant Lays 16:
He hed an airm wi' nerves like thairm.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 68:
The axe was probably fitted into the split end of the wood, and secured by thongs of hide or term.

(2) as a cord for the mechanism of a †watch or pendulum clock (Abd., Ags., Rnf. 1972).Abd. 1701 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VI. 184:
For puttin a therme in my watch, 10 shil.
Sc. 1724 Rothes MSS. (19 Oct.):
To dressin two Clocks and an Spinit work and New Therms . . . 10s. 0d.
Rnf. 1964 Private MS.:
To new Therms to Clock, £1.10 /-.

(3) for the driving-belt of a spinning-wheel (Sh. 1943 Abd. Press and Jnl. (27 Jan.) 2, Sh. 1972).Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 164:
Twa knots o' ribbons, blue an' white — An' thairm, to mount a spinnin' wheel.
Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 183:
The “guts” referred to the wheel-band, which was made of the intestines of sheep, and was called term.

†(4) for a bow-string.Edb. 1764 Session Papers, Reoch v. Aberdour (19 March) 17:
He gave the Defender a parcel of therms or bow-strings, about two years ago.

(5) as a fiddle-string (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Fif., Lth., Ayr. 1923–6 Wilson; ‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Sh., Lnk. 1972).Ayr. 1786 Burns Jolly Beggars 200:
While I kittle hair on thairms.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Let. xi,:
When I am tired of scraping thairm or singing ballants.
Sc. 1838 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 276:
The thairms of an old time-worn fiddle.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems (1877) 5:
Benjie, fing'rin' owre the thairms, Now draws his bow sae sweet.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 29:
Screw the pegs wi' cheepin' twistle, And strum the thairms.
Abd. 1930 Abd. Univ. Review (March) 106:
Geordie Forbes scrapin' on's aul' therm.
Kcb. 1941 Gallovidian 11:
He yirks its thairms on warblin' scale O' stirrin' notes.

(6) in combs.: (i) thairm-band, the catgut belt of a spinning-wheel (Sc. 1825 Jam .): ¶(ii) thairm-inspiring, breathing life into the music of the violin; (iii) thairm-scraper, a contemptuous term for a fiddler; (iv) thairm-strings, strings of catgut.(i) Mry. c.1840 Lays & Leg. (Douglas 1939) 14:
Sweet oil for wheels and thairm-bands.
(ii) Ayr. 1786 Burns Brigs of Ayr 202–3:
O had McLauchlan, thairm-inspiring Sage, Been there to hear this heavenly band engage.
(iii) Per. 1821 T. Atkinson Three Nights 39:
Ye lan-loupin' thairm scraper ye!
(iv) Ayr. 1788 G. Turnbull Poet. Essays 185:
Therm-strings for spinning wheels, and fiddles.
Dmf. 1808 J. Mayne Siller Gun 43:
He gart his thairm-strings speak, at will, True Scots vibrations!

[O.Sc. tharm, = 1., 1513, Mid.Eng. tharm, O.E. þearm, gut, bowel.]

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"Thairm n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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