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Simmer dim




With the days lengthening, thoughts drift to the long evenings of summer. The far north of Scotland, and specifically Shetland, experience the Simmer Dim. Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) defines this as:


“the twilight of a summer evening, specifically in Shetland, where there is no darkness”.



Most of DSL’s examples reference Shetland. Here is an early one from J J Haldane Burgess’ Rasmie’s Büddie (1891):


“Hümin dere is still a splendie - Nicht is bit a simmer-dim”.


And, earlier still, (from the Shetland Times, September 1873):


“The sun had now set, the simmer dim … produced a quiet, forming quite a contrast with the noise, bustle, and fearful contest which had been going on a few hours before”.



W Moffat, writing in Shetland: the Isles of Nightless Summer (1934), gives this vivid description:


“The ‘simmer dim’ - those long, lingering summer nights when the sun merely sets to rise again at once”.



Later in the twentieth century, a character in Ian Rankin’s novel Black and Blue (1997) defines it too:


“Forres had told them this season was ‘simmer dim’ - a time of year without true darkness”.



A Shetland bookseller, interviewed by the Press and Journal (June 2003), described the demand for the latest J K Rowling Harry Potter novel:


“We originally ordered 150 books, but have had to order another 50 because they are in such demand. The launch coincides with Shetland’s ‘simmer dim’, when it doesn't get dark all night, so hopefully the Harry Potter fans will be able to read their books outside”.


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at