noun Scot. and North England.

the act of shrieking.

Origin of skirling

First recorded in 1775–85; skirl + -ing1



verb (used without object)

to play the bagpipe.
Scot. and North England. to shriek.


the sound of a bagpipe.
Scot. and North England. any shrill sound.

Origin of skirl

1350–1400; Middle English scirlen, skrillen (v.), perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian skrella boom, crash Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for skirling

blare, hiss, sound, signal, whine, warble, pipe, toot, whiz, wheeze, blast, shriek, fife, trill, tootle, flute, skirl

Examples from the Web for skirling

Contemporary Examples of skirling

Historical Examples of skirling

  • 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)

Scot and Northern English dialect (esp of bagpipes) to emit a shrill sound
to play the bagpipes


the sound of bagpipes
a shrill sound

Word Origin for skirl

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper