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

  • intransitive v. To produce a high, shrill, wailing tone. Used of bagpipes.
  • transitive v. To play (a piece) on bagpipes.
  • n. The shrill sound made by the chanter pipe of bagpipes.
  • n. A shrill wailing sound: "The skirl of a police whistle split the stillness” ( Sax Rohmer).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To make a shrill sound, as of bagpipes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A shrill cry or sound.
  • v. To utter in a shrill tone; to scream.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A Scotch form of shirl for shrill.

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

  • n. the sound of (the chanter of) a bagpipe
  • v. make a shrill, wailing sound
  • v. play the bagpipes


Middle English skrillen, skirlen, probably of Scandinavian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Originally Scots and Northern English dialects, probably of Old Norse origin; ultimately imitative. (Wiktionary)



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  • 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

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

    November 21, 2007

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

    November 21, 2007

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

    November 20, 2007