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From Middle English besme, beseme, from Old English besma, besema (besom, broom, rod), from Proto-Germanic *besamô (broom), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰes- (to rub off, grind, sprinkle). Cognate with Scots besom, bisom (a sweeping implement, broom), West Frisian biezem (broom), Dutch bezem (broom), Low German bessen (broom), German Besen (broom).

Traditional besom.



besom (plural besoms)

  1. A broom made from a bundle of twigs tied onto a shaft.
    • 1851, “A Few Words about War and the Peace Congress.”, in Littell’s Living Age, volume 28, page 364:
      "The march of an army through a conquered country supposing it to be a highly civilized one, is a besom of destruction, whose havoc, moral and material, it would take at least a century to recover."
  2. (Scotland, Northern England, derogatory) A troublesome woman.
    • 1903, Samuel Rutherford Crockett, The Dark O' the Moon: A Novel, page 130:
      "Eh, but she was a besom, if a' tales be true !"
    • 1917, A.S. Neill., A Dominie Dismissed, page 10:
      Janet's eyes began to look dim, and I had to frown at her very hard; then I had to turn my frown on Jean ... and Janet, the besom, took advantage of my divided attention.
    • 1963, Margaret McLean MacPherson, The Shinty Boys, page 187:
      Uncle Angus went on about the behavior of the car. "She's a besom, a proper besom, her and her gears. She'll be the death of me yet one of these days."
    • 2013, Nora Kay, Best Friends:
      "She's a besom but no' bad at times, like now," Agnes said as she bit into a dough-ring.

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besom (third-person singular simple present besoms, present participle besoming, simple past and past participle besomed)

  1. (archaic, poetic) To sweep.
    • 1954, Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood, page 13,
      Now, in her iceberg-white, holily laundered crinoline nightgown, under virtuous polar sheets, in her spruced and scoured dust-defying bedroom in trig and trim Bay View, a house for paying guests at the top of the town, Mrs Ogmore-Prichard widow, twice, of Mr Ogmore, linolium, retired, and Mr Prichard, failed bookmaker, who maddened by besoming, swabbing and scrubbing, the voice of the vacuum-cleaner and the fume of polish, ironically swallowed disinfectant...