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[skit-ish] /ˈskɪt ɪʃ/
apt to start or shy:
a skittish horse.
restlessly or excessively lively:
a skittish mood.
fickle; uncertain.
shy; coy.
Origin of skittish
1375-1425; late Middle English, perhaps derivative of the Scand source of skite1; see -ish1
Related forms
skittishly, adverb
skittishness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for skittish
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My maid is to be a model of discretion—an elderly woman, not a skittish young person who will only encourage me.

    I Say No Wilkie Collins
  • "There's only about a dozen guests there now, so you needn't get skittish," says he.

    Shorty McCabe Sewell Ford
  • A skittish horse is often frightened by a loose skirt flapping at his side.

    How Women Should Ride C. De Hurst
  • Of course it's silly for a girl who's nearly nineteen to be as skittish as I am.

    Otherwise Phyllis Meredith Nicholson
  • Last spring, when the judge made this offer, he was as skittish and unreliable as a young colt.

British Dictionary definitions for skittish


playful, lively, or frivolous
difficult to handle or predict
(rare) coy
Derived Forms
skittishly, adverb
skittishness, 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
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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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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