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noun, plural skunks, (especially collectively) skunk.
  1. a small North American mammal, Mephitis mephitis, of the weasel family, having a black coat with a white, V-shaped stripe on the back, and ejecting a fetid odor when alarmed or attacked.
  2. any of several related or similar animals.Compare hog-nosed skunk, spotted skunk.
  3. Informal. a thoroughly contemptible person.
  4. U.S. Navy Slang. an unidentified ship or target.
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verb (used with object)
  1. Slang. to defeat thoroughly in a game, especially while keeping an opponent from scoring: The team skunked the favorites in the crucial game.
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Origin of skunk

1625–35, Americanism; < the Massachusett reflex of Proto-Algonquian *šeka·kwa (derivative of *šek- urinate + -a·kw fox, foxlike animal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for skunk


noun plural skunks or skunk
  1. any of various American musteline mammals of the subfamily Mephitinae, esp Mephitis mephitis (striped skunk), typically having a black and white coat and bushy tail: they eject an unpleasant-smelling fluid from the anal gland when attacked
  2. informal a despicable person
  3. slang a strain of cannabis smoked for its exceptionally powerful psychoactive properties
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  1. (tr) US and Canadian slang to defeat overwhelmingly in a game
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Word Origin

C17: from Algonquian; compare Abnaki segākw skunk
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 skunk


1630s, squunck, from a southern New England Algonquian language (probably Abenaki) seganku, from Proto-Algonquian */šeka:kwa/, from */šek-/ "to urinate" + */-a:kw/ "fox." As an insult, attested from 1841. Skunk cabbage is attested from 1751; earlier skunkweed (1738).

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"to completely defeat (in a game), to shut out from scoring," 1831, from skunk (n.). Related: Skunked; skunking.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper