skirmish

noun
skir·​mish | \ ˈskər-mish How to pronounce skirmish (audio) \

Definition of skirmish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a minor fight in war usually incidental to larger movements
2a : a brisk preliminary verbal conflict
b : a minor dispute or contest between opposing parties the debate touched off a skirmish

skirmish

verb
skirmished; skirmishing; skirmishes

Definition of skirmish (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to engage in a skirmish
2 : to search about (as for supplies) : scout around

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from skirmish

Verb

skirmisher noun

Synonyms for skirmish

Synonyms: Noun

brush, encounter, hassle, run-in, scrape

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of skirmish in a Sentence

Noun

Skirmishes broke out between rebel groups. Violent skirmishes with the enemy continue despite talks of peace.

Verb

Rebel groups are skirmishing with military forces. The presidential candidates skirmished over their economic plans.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That has set up a legal skirmish between the U.S. and China, as Washington seeks Ms. Meng’s extradition to face charges stemming from alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. Sadie Gurman, WSJ, "Trump Aides Warn Him Against Intervening in Huawei Case," 13 Dec. 2018 That difference depends on whether or not WORTH can survive partisan skirmishes. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "Inside a Radical Experiment to Transform the Lives of Incarcerated Women," 22 Aug. 2018 One of the officers exited the police vehicle and attempted to pull Daniel off his bike, resulting in a skirmish, according to The Sacramento Bee. Kaylen Ralph, Teen Vogue, "Sacramento Police Released Dashcam Footage of an Officer Hitting a Fleeing Teen With an SUV," 20 Aug. 2018 The coalition divided responsibilities, as the United Arab Emirates worked in southern Yemen to organize loyalist and irregular forces, while Saudi Arabia ran a campaign of airstrikes and fought border skirmishes with the Houthis to the north. Washington Post, "AP News Guide: What to know about Yemen’s yearslong war," 14 June 2018 The argument began in the days after the skirmishes on Lexington’s Battle Green and at Concord’s North Bridge, and the rivalry continues 243 years later. BostonGlobe.com, "Lexington or Concord? A Patriots’ debate," 31 Mar. 2018 With the game already decided, Thompson fouled Shaun Livingston, which led to a midcourt skirmish and Thompson ejection. Sam Amick, USA TODAY, "Warriors survive Game 1 vs. Cavs after J.R. Smith's apparent blunder forced overtime," 31 May 2018 Whatever skirmishes lie ahead as the school works out its plans for the class of 2021 and beyond, the real battle for what constitutes a Harvard man—or woman—may have already been lost by an old generation, or won by a new one. William Stadiem, Town & Country, "Can Harvard's Storied Final Clubs Resist the Tides of Change?," 2 Aug. 2016 President Trump can call off his meeting with Mr. Putin pending a substantive gesture, such as release of the two dozen Ukrainian sailors Russia kidnapped in its skirmish. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Ways to Make Putin Pay for Ukraine," 27 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Armed separatists have skirmished with road workers and the military, which is now overseeing highway construction. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "Today’s Logistics Report: Shrinking Japan’s Fleet; Squeezing the Grocers; Highway Dividing Lines," 8 Mar. 2019 Although outright fighting stopped, the two countries have skirmished a number of times in recent years and the peace agreement has not been implemented. Elias Meseret, The Seattle Times, "Ethiopia welcomes 1st delegation from rival Eritrea in years," 26 June 2018 Ethiopia and Eritrea have not had diplomatic ties since the war began in 1998, with Abiy himself fighting in a town that remains contested today, and the countries have skirmished since then. Elias Meseret, The Christian Science Monitor, "Ethiopia and Eritrea unite after ending 20-year border war," 9 July 2018 Ethiopia had refused to accept the deal's handing of key locations to Eritrea and the countries have skirmished over the years. Elias Meseret, Fox News, "Ethiopia, Eritrea leaders to meet 'soon' in surprising thaw," 28 June 2018 Ethiopia had refused to accept the deal’s handing of key locations to Eritrea and the countries have skirmished over the years. Washington Post, "Ethiopia, Eritrea leaders to meet ‘soon’ in surprising thaw," 28 June 2018 Ethiopia and Eritrea have not had diplomatic ties since the fighting began in 1998, with Abiy himself fighting in the war, and the countries have skirmished since then in one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. Elias Meseret, Fox News, "With hugs, leaders of rivals Ethiopia, Eritrea finally meet," 8 July 2018 Screens above the walkway showed footage of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists skirmishing with protesters in Charlottesville, Va., last summer. Matthew Hay Brown, baltimoresun.com, "In Washington, U2 traces its history on 'Experience + Innocence' tour," 18 June 2018 In a 2009 San Diego Union-Tribune article, Richard Crawford said Smith’s actions came as American sailors and Marines were skirmishing with Mexican locals, called Californios, over possession of the state. Pauline Repard, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Richard Smith joins 172-year family history of Old Town flag-waving," 23 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of skirmish

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for skirmish

Noun

Middle English skyrmissh, alteration (influenced by Anglo-French eskermir to fence (with swords), protect, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German scirmen to protect, scirm shield) of skarmuch, from Anglo-French escarmuche, from Old Italian scaramuccia — more at screen

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about skirmish

Dictionary Entries near skirmish

skip zone

Skire Thursday

skirl

skirmish

skirmish line

skirr

skirreh

Statistics for skirmish

Last Updated

17 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for skirmish

The first known use of skirmish was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for skirmish

skirmish

noun

English Language Learners Definition of skirmish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a brief and usually unplanned fight during a war
: a minor or brief argument or disagreement

skirmish

verb

English Language Learners Definition of skirmish (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be involved in a skirmish

skirmish

noun
skir·​mish | \ ˈskər-mish How to pronounce skirmish (audio) \

Kids Definition of skirmish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a minor fight in war
2 : a minor argument

skirmish

verb
skirmished; skirmishing

Kids Definition of skirmish (Entry 2 of 2)

: to take part in a fight or dispute

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on skirmish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for skirmish

Spanish Central: Translation of skirmish

Nglish: Translation of skirmish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about skirmish

Comments on skirmish

What made you want to look up skirmish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!