Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
A villain or scoundrel; the cant term for a thief.
"O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise, As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice! She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;"
Tam o'Shanter, Burns
SKELLUM: n, (contemptuous term for a man, now sometimes playfully to a boy) a scamp, rogue, scoundrel [late 18th to 20th.] [obsolete English slang, Dutch "schelm"]
Source: The Concise Scots Dictionary 1987, pub. Aberdeen University Press
Once more Sam makes history, OED: skelm 1663 PEPYS Diary 3 Apr., He ripped up Hugh Peters (calling him the execrable skellum).
Also 7 skelum, scellum, schellam, 7- skellum, skelm, 7-9 schellum, 9 skellam, 9- schelm, 20 skilum. For examples attributed to German speakers see SCHELM. [ad. Du. schelm ( m), a. G. schelm rascal, devil, pestilence, carcass, etc. (MHG. schelme, OHG. scelmo): cf. SCHELM. ON. skelmir, Da. skelm, Sw. skälm are from LG.] A. n. 1. A rascal, scamp, scoundrel, villain. Now arch. (except in S. Afr.).
1611 B. JONSON Coryat's Crudities Introd. Verses, Going to steal 'em He findeth soure graspes and gripes from a Dutch Skelum.
It is primarily a Scottish word:Samuel Pepys' Diary - Friday 3 April 1663:"Dr. Creeton,[Robert Creighton] the Scotchman, . . . ripped up Hugh Peters (calling him the execrable skellum), his preaching and stirring up the maids of the city to bring in their bodkins and thimbles."
Log in to post an annotation.
If you don't have an account, then register here.