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[skurl] /skɜrl/
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for skirl
Historical Examples
  • I say, ye auld deevil, skirlskirl—louder—louder, woman; gar the gentles hear ye in the ha'.

    Bride of Lammermoor Sir Walter Scott
  • Dancing was engaged in around the bonfire to the skirl of the philabeg.

  • It is impossible to describe the effect of the skirl of those pipes that day.

    The Black Watch Scout Joe Cassells
  • Then a skirl of laughter, the piercingness of which, near to, could only be guessed at.

  • The skirl of bagpipes shrilled from without—that exotic, half-barbarous sound now coming intimately into her life.

    Ghetto Comedies Israel Zangwill
  • Cannot one hear the skirl of the pipes amid that din of cannon and musketry?

    The Red Year Louis Tracy
  • The Regiment moved on, and darkness fell as the skirl of the Irish pipes broke out, playing a marching tune.

    The Story of the Munsters Mrs Victor Rickard
  • For wi' the bang and the skirl the thing had clean disappeared.

    David Balfour, Second Part Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Highlanders stalk by to the skirl of bagpipes with their contingent of tall boys, the coming sons of Alma Mater.

    The Courage of the Commonplace Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews
  • He leaned from the window and the skirl of a police whistle split the stillness of the night.

British Dictionary definitions for skirl


/skɜːl; Scottish skɪrl/
verb (intransitive)
(Scot & Northern English, dialect) (esp of bagpipes) to emit a shrill sound
to play the bagpipes
the sound of bagpipes
a shrill sound
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
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Word Origin and History for skirl

"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
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