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  • IPA(key): /skɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪl

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English skill, skille (also schil, schile), from Old English scille and Old Norse skil (a distinction, discernment, knowledge), from Proto-Germanic *skilją (separation, limit), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kelH- (to split, cut). Cognate with Danish skel (a separation, boundary, divide), Swedish skäl (reason), Dutch verschil (difference) and schillen (to separate the outer layer (schil) from the product, verb).

Alternative formsEdit


skill (countable and uncountable, plural skills)

  1. Capacity to do something well; technique, ability. Skills are usually acquired or learned, as opposed to abilities, which are often thought of as innate.
    Synonyms: ability, talent; see also Thesaurus:skill
    Where did you pick up that skill?
    With great skill, she navigated through the tricky passage.
    Doing that coaching course not only taught me useful skills on the field, but also some important life skills.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, “The Merry VViues of VVindsor”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene i], page 45:
      I have heard the French-man hath good skill in his rapier.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. Indeed, a nail filed sharp is not of much avail as an arrowhead; you must have it barbed, and that was a little beyond our skill.
    • 2013 November 26, Simon Hoggart, “Araucaria's last puzzle: crossword master dies”, in The Guardian Weekly[1], volume 189, number 26, page 43:
      The skill was not in creating a grid full of words, but in producing clues cryptic enough to baffle the puzzler, yet constructed so honestly that they could be solved by any intelligent person who knew the conventions.
  2. (obsolete) Discrimination; judgment; propriety; reason; cause.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book II, Hackett, 2006, Canto I, Stanza 54, lines 1-5, p. 21,
      Him so I sought, and so at last I fownd
      Where him that witch had thralled to her will,
      In chaines of lust and lewde desyres ybownd
      And so transformed from his former skill,
      That me he knew not, nether his owne ill;
    • c. 1605, William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene 7,[2]
      Methinks I should know you, and know this man;
      Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly ignorant
      What place this is; and all the skill I have
      Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
      Where I did lodge last night. []
  3. (obsolete) Knowledge; understanding.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book III, Hackett, 2006, Canto III, Stanza 45, lines 4-5, p. 62,
      And Howell Dha shall goodly well indew
      The salvage minds with skill of just and trew;
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II,[3]
      [] This desert soil
      Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;
      Nor want we skill or art from whence to raise
      Magnificence []
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide
      'I kenna whatna man ye are,' he says, 'but ye have the skill of lassies' hearts. Tell me truly, is there no way to win her to common love?'
  4. (obsolete) Display of art; exercise of ability; contrivance; address.
    • 1639, Thomas Fuller, The Historie of the Holy Warre, Book III, Chapter VI,[4], [5]
      Richard was well stored with men, the bones, and quickly got money, the sinews of warre; by a thousand princely skills gathering so much coin as if he meant not to return, because looking back would unbowe his resolution.
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit


skill (comparative skiller, superlative skillest)

  1. (Britain, slang) Great, excellent. [1980s–1990s]
    • 1987, Teresa Maughan, Letters (in Your Sinclair issue 18, June 1987)
      Well, unfortunately for you, my dearest Waggipoos, I'm much more skill than you!
    • 1991, Wreckers (video game review in Crash issue 88, May 1991)
      This game is skill. Remember that because it's going to sound really complicated.
    • 1999, "Andy Smith", I am well skill (on Internet newsgroup alt.digitiser)
      And I am skiller than you.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English skilen (also schillen), partly from Old English scylian, scielian (to separate, part, divide off); and partly from Old Norse skilja (to divide, separate); both from Proto-Germanic *skilōną, *skiljaną (to divide, limit), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kelH- (to split, cut). Cognate with Danish skille (to separate, discard), Swedish skilja (to distinguish, differentiate, part), Icelandic skilja (to understand), Low German schelen (to make a difference; to be squint-eyed), Dutch schelen (to make a difference).


skill (third-person singular simple present skills, present participle skilling, simple past and past participle skilled)

  1. (transitive) To set apart; separate.
  2. (transitive, chiefly dialectal) To discern; have knowledge or understanding; to know how (to).
    • 1633, George Herbert, “Justice,” in The Temple,[6]
      I cannot skill of these Thy ways []
  3. (transitive, dialectal, Scotland, Northern England, rare) To know; to understand.
    • 1613, Breadalbane Letters and Documents
      As for the virginals I have none here that skill of them, except the young lord.
    • 17th century, Isaac Barrow, “On Industry in Our Particular Calling as Scholars,”
      [] to skill the arts of expressing our mind and imparting our conceptions with advantage, so as to instruct or persuade others []
  4. (intransitive) To have knowledge or comprehension; discern.
  5. (intransitive) To have personal or practical knowledge; be versed or practised; be expert or dextrous.
  6. (intransitive, archaic) To make a difference; signify; matter.
    • 1592, Richard Turnbull, An Exposition upon the Canonicall Epistle of Saint Jude, London: John Windet, Sermon 5, p. 67,[7]
      So then the whole scripture of God, being true, whence soever this be delivered and gathered, it skilleth not []
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1,[8]
      [] I should have given’t you to-day morning, but as a madman’s epistles are no gospels, so it skills not much when they are delivered.
    • 1633, George Herbert, “The Church Porch,” in The Temple,[9]
      What skills it, if a bag of stones or gold
      About thy neck do drown thee?
    • 1820, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Chapter 42,[10]
      But it skills not talking of it.
  7. (video games) To spend acquired points in exchange for skills.
  • (separate): split (call management systems)



Norwegian BokmålEdit



  1. imperative of skille