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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FADDOM, n., v. Also fadam, fadom (Sh.); faddum (Sc. a.1912 A. Lang Poet. Works (1923) I. 1.), foddom (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 29; Cai.7 1941), misprint fadour (Sc. 1701 House-Bk. Lady G. Baillie (S.H.S.) 8). Sc. forms and usages of Eng. fathom.

1. n. In deriv. fathomage, “payment made to miners per fathom driven or cut” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 28) and in phrs. and comb.: †(1) fathom peats, peats measured and sold by the fathom, as explained in quot. under v. (1) below. [See Ork. 1931 J. T. S. Leask Peculiar People 45–6]; (2) to gie 'im da fadom, see quot.; (3) to hae lost the faddom o' his thoomb, of a workman, to have lost his skill (Sc. 1912 Rymour Club Misc. II. 197).(1) Ork. 1796 Session Papers, Balfour v. Kirkwall T.C. (9 March) 39:
Every year that the deponent had fathom peats from that side of the country, he had them set down for measuring on the foresaid waste ground.
(2) Sh. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 129:
When the fisherman “felt 'im” . . . he “gi'ed 'im da fadam,” i.e. he hauled in an arm's length of line with a sudden jerk.

Deriv. faddomlessm.Sc. 1991 Tom Scott in Tom Hubbard The New Makars 37:
Aa your Science, aa your philosophie
Are smoorit deep in faddomless mysterie.

2. v. †(1) To measure (stacked peats) by the fathom.Ork. 1796 Session Papers, Balfour v. Kirkwall T.C. (9 March) 39:
In selling and buying of peats in this place, the practice is for the seller to build his peats after bringing them in, and after they are so built, they are measured by the fathom, and the price is ascertained accordingly; and immediately after this operation, the purchaser removes his peats from the place where they are thus fathomed; and this operation of fathoming peats is frequently performed upon the High Street of Kirkwall.

(2) To encircle with the outstretched arms, specif. of corn-stacks at Halloween to call up the apparition of one's future spouse.Ayr. 1786 Burns Halloween xxiii.:
It chanc'd the stack he faddom't thrice Was timmer-propt for thrawin.
ne.Sc. 1881 Gregor Folk-Lore 84:
This incantation was performed by measuring or fathoming with the arms round a stack of oats of barley three times against the sun. In going round the third time the apparition of the future husband or wife was clasped when the arms were stretched out for the last time.
Sc. 1899 J. Spence Folk-Lore 192:
One went blindfold into the corn yard and fathomed this skroo, three times with the sun and thrice widdershins.

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"Faddom n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Mar 2024 <>



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