Adventures in Etymology – Sloom

Today we’re looking into the origins of the word sloom.


In some dialects of English spoken in England sloom [sluːm] means:

  • A gentle sleep; slumber.
  • to doze, slumber
  • to become weak and flaccid (of plants)
  • to move or wander slowly or silently

In Scots sloom is:

  • A dreamy or sleepy state, a reverie, day-dream, a light sleep, slumber, an unsettled sleep
  • to sleep lightly, doze, slumber fitfully
  • to slip along easily and quietly, to glide smoothly
  • to make or become soft and flaccid as a result of frost, damp, etc

It comes from the Middle English sloum(b)e / slume, from the Old English slūma (sleep, slumber), from the Proto-Germaic *slūm- (slack, loose, limp, flabby), from the PIE *(s)lew- (slack, loose, limp, flabby) [source].

The English word slumber comes from the same Proto-Germanic root, as does the Dutch sluimeren (to slumber) and sloom (sluggish, lifeless), the German Schlummer (slumber) and schlummern (to doze, slumber), and the Danish slumre (to drowse) [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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