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See more synonyms for skittish on Thesaurus.com
  1. apt to start or shy: a skittish horse.
  2. restlessly or excessively lively: a skittish mood.
  3. fickle; uncertain.
  4. shy; coy.
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Origin of skittish

1375–1425; late Middle English, perhaps derivative of the Scand source of skite1; see -ish1
Related formsskit·tish·ly, adverbskit·tish·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for skittish


  1. playful, lively, or frivolous
  2. difficult to handle or predict
  3. rare coy
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Derived Formsskittishly, adverbskittishness, noun

Word Origin

C15: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse skjōta to shoot; see -ish
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 skittish


early 15c., "very lively, frivolous," perhaps from Scandinavian base *skyt- (stem of Old Norse skjota "to shoot, launch, move quickly"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, to chase, to throw, to project" (see shoot (v.)). Sense of "shy, nervous, apt to run" first recorded c.1500, of horses. Related: Skittishly; skittishness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper