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noun Scot. and North England.
  1. the act of shrieking.
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Origin of skirling

First recorded in 1775–85; skirl + -ing1


verb (used without object)
  1. to play the bagpipe.
  2. Scot. and North England. to shriek.
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  1. the sound of a bagpipe.
  2. Scot. and North England. any shrill sound.
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Origin of skirl

1350–1400; Middle English scirlen, skrillen (v.), perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian skrella boom, crash
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for skirling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Very faint, from far in the distance, there is heard a skirling sound.

  • She played absent-mindedly, her fingers skipping and skirling on the notes.

    The Black Opal

    Katharine Susannah Prichard

  • Police whistles were skirling around the house of Huang Chow.

  • Scarlett came in a moment after and sniffed, with his nose in the air; then he walked to the pan in which the bacon was skirling.


    S. R. Crockett

  • At last this word was given, and the procession began its march amidst the cheers of the people and a skirling of the pipes.

British Dictionary definitions for skirling


verb (intr)
  1. Scot and Northern English dialect (esp of bagpipes) to emit a shrill sound
  2. to play the bagpipes
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  1. the sound of bagpipes
  2. a shrill sound
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Word Origin

C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; see shrill
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for skirling



"to make a shrill sound," mid-15c., from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian skyrlaskrella "to shriek"), of imitative origin. In reference to bagpipes, it is attested by 1660s and now rarely used otherwise. As a noun 1510s from the verb.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper