\ ˈskər(-ə)l How to pronounce skirl (audio) , ˈskir(-ə)l \
skirled; skirling; skirls

Definition of skirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

of a bagpipe : to emit the high shrill tone of the chanter also : to give forth music

transitive verb

: to play (music) on the bagpipe



Definition of skirl (Entry 2 of 2)

: a high shrill sound produced by the chanter of a bagpipe

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Did You Know?


Not every musical instrument is honored with its very own verb. But then, not every musical instrument emits a sound that quite matches that of a bagpipe. Depending on your ear, you might think bagpipes "give forth music," or you might be more apt to say they shriek. If you are of the latter opinion, your thinking aligns with the earliest sense of skirl - "to shriek." That early sense was used of screeching maids, winds, and the like. Scottish poet Robert Sempill first used it for bagpipes in the mid-1600s. The meaning of skirl has shifted over time, however, and these days you can use the verb without causing offense to bagpipers and bagpipe enthusiasts.

Examples of skirl in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Then came the twirling, colorful, ruffled dresses of dancers from Grupo Folklorico de Bendiciones followed by the precision of the San Antonio Pipes & Drums, complete with the skirl of bagpipes and booming of drums. Vincent T. Davis,, "The Old West comes alive on downtown streets at San Antonio’s Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive," 1 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'skirl.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of skirl


circa 1665, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1856, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for skirl


Middle English (Scots) skrillen, skirlen to scream, shriek, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian dialect skræla to cry aloud; akin to Old English scrallettan to resound loudly

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Time Traveler for skirl

Time Traveler

The first known use of skirl was circa 1665

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Cite this Entry

“Skirl.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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