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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1976 (SND Vol. X).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

WEEM, n. [wim]

1. A cave, a natural cavity in the ground, in a rock, etc. (Ags., Fif. 1808 Jam.). Also in place-names as Weem in Per., Wemyss in Fif.Edb. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife (1803) 325:
The Earl of Weems takes his surname of Weems from the caves in his ground upon the coast to the east of the house.
Fif. 1795 Stat. .Acc.1 IV. 369:
In the town there is a large cove, anciently called a weem.

2. An underground dwelling, a souterrain, gen. in the form of a curved slab-lined passage-way, of which there are many examples in the historical Pictland, hence their alternative name of Pict's houses, though they may be dated somewhat earlier in the Early Iron Age in Scot. See Erd, n., 3. (3).Ags. 1748 A. Reid Kirriemuir (1909) 289:
On the Top of the Hill of Mearns, there is underground, an artificial Cave or Vault, called the Weems-hole, built on each side with Stone, and covered above with great unpolish'd Stones, about six feet wide.
Ags. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 IV. 101:
An artificial cave or subterraneous passage, such as is sometimes called by the country people a weem. It was composed of large loose stones; was about 4 feet high, and as many wide.
Abd. 1875 A. Jervise Epitaphs II. 134:
Near Castle Fraser, there was a Weem or Pict's House.
Ags. 1883 W. B. Cook Local N. & Q. I. 275:
On a large portion of the Weem the floor is covered with flat stones, but portions of it are without flags.
Sc. 1927 J. Mothersole Roman Scotland 10:
There was discovered [at Crichton] in 1869 a ‘weem' or ‘earth-house', the builders of which have made liberal use of stones dressed by Roman masons.
Sh. 1934 W. Moffatt Shetland 137:
There are traces of earlier structure even that this, in the shape of Weems, or earth-dwellings, nobably Jarlshoff.
Ags. 1951 F. T. Wainwright Souterrains of Southern Pictland 211:
She remembered . . . that what she called the ‘second weem' . . . was found ‘just across the burn from Tealing House' in 1880 or 1881.

3. A cellar (m.Lth. 1958).

[From early Gael. or Mid.Ir. uaim, Mod. Gael. uaimh, a cave, cavern.]

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"Weem n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Feb 2024 <>



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