1893 text

A villain or scoundrel; the cant term for a thief.

4 Annotations

JWB   Link to this

"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

Gallowglass   Link to this

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

in Aqua Scripto   Link to this

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.

Alistair J. Sinclair   Link to this

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."

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  • 1663
    • Apr