from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To produce a high, shrill, wailing tone. Used of bagpipes.
  • intransitive verb To play (a piece) on bagpipes.
  • noun The shrill sound made by the chanter pipe of bagpipes.
  • noun A shrill wailing sound.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A Scotch form of shirl for shrill.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • verb Prov. Eng. & Scot. To utter in a shrill tone; to scream.
  • noun Prov. Eng. & Scot. A shrill cry or sound.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb Scotland, Northern England To make a shrill sound, as of bagpipes.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun the sound of (the chanter of) a bagpipe
  • verb make a shrill, wailing sound
  • verb play the bagpipes


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English skrillen, skirlen, probably of Scandinavian origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Originally Scots and Northern English dialects, probably of Old Norse origin; ultimately imitative.


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  • I always think of the phrase "the skirling of the pipes" (as in bagpipes). They do skirl.

    November 20, 2007

  • For some reason I'm thinking of skirt and girl and females much too young for me. Oh dear.

    November 21, 2007

  • No, no, bilby. Kilts, not skirts. You're in the right neighborhood, at least. ;->

    November 21, 2007

  • To keep the situation moving he drawled teasingly, "Och, you women, you women! Born with the tongues of cats you are, every one of ye, and with the advawnce of ceevilisation ye're developing the claws! There was a fine piece in the Scotsman this morning about one of your Suffragettes standing on the roof of a town hall and behaving as a wild cat would think shame to, skirling at Mr. Asquith through a skylight and throwing slates at the polis that came to fetch her. Aw, verra nice, verra ladylike, I'm sure."

    - Rebecca West, The Judge

    July 29, 2009