• synonyms


See more synonyms for skirmish on Thesaurus.com
  1. Military. a fight between small bodies of troops, especially advanced or outlying detachments of opposing armies.
  2. any brisk conflict or encounter: She had a skirmish with her landlord about the rent.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. to engage in a skirmish.
Show More

Origin of skirmish

1300–50; (noun) Middle English skirmysshe < Old French eskirmiss-, long stem of eskirmir < Germanic (compare Old High German skirman); replacing Middle English scarmouche < Old French escaramoucher (see Scaramouch); (v.) late Middle English scarmuchen, scarmusshen to skirmish, Middle English skirmisshen to brandish a weapon < Old French escar(a)mucher to skirmish; vowels influenced by Old French eskirmiss-
Related formsskir·mish·er, nounout·skir·mish, verb (used with object)


See more synonyms for skirmish on Thesaurus.com
1. combat, brush.

Synonym study

1. See battle1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for skirmish

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Went with Pierre to the summit of Skirmish Hill, and took angles.

  • The skirmish lasted about fifteen minutes, the enemy firing from the houses.


    Scian Dubh

  • I cut him nigh to the saddle-bow in a skirmish on the eve of Dunbar.

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • But after a skirmish or two, what with the roads and what with the enemy, our horses were foundered and useless.

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Have you forgot the skirmish on the Rhine bank, when you did flash your snapphahn at me?

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for skirmish


  1. a minor short-lived military engagement
  2. any brisk clash or encounter, usually of a minor nature
Show More
  1. (intr often foll by with) to engage in a skirmish
Show More
Derived Formsskirmisher, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French eskirmir, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German skirmen to defend
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 skirmish


late 14c., from Old French escarmouche "skirmish," from Italian scaramuccia, earlier schermugio, probably from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German skirmen "to protect, defend"), with a diminutive or depreciatory suffix, from Proto-Germanic *skerm-, from PIE *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear).

Influenced in Middle English by a separate verb skirmysshen "to brandish a weapon," from Old French eskirmiss-, stem of eskirmir "to fence," from Frankish *skirmjan, from the same Germanic source. Cf. also scrimmage. Other modern Germanic forms have an additional diminutive affix: German scharmützel, Dutch schermutseling, Danish skjærmydsel. Skirmish-line attested by 1864.

Show More


c.1200, from Old French escarmouchier, from Italian scaramucciare (see skirmish (n.)). Related: Skirmished; skirmishing.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper