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skulked; skulking; skulks

intransitive verb

: to move in a stealthy or furtive manner
skulked into her sister's room
: to hide or conceal something (such as oneself) often out of cowardice or fear or with sinister intent
chiefly British : malinger
skulker noun


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: one that skulks
: a group of foxes

Did you know?

Here's one for the word-puzzle lovers. Can you name three things that the word skulk has in common with all of these other words: booth, brink, cog, flit, kid, meek, scab, seem, and skull? If you noticed that all of the terms on that list have just one syllable, then you've got the first, and easiest, similarity, but the next two are likely to prove a little harder to guess. Do you give up? All of the words listed above are of Scandinavian origin and all were first recorded in English in the 13th century. As for skulk specifically, its closest known Scandinavian relative is the Norwegian dialect word skulka, which means "to lie in wait" or "to lurk."

Choose the Right Synonym for skulk

lurk, skulk, slink, sneak mean to behave so as to escape attention.

lurk implies a lying in wait in a place of concealment and often suggests an evil intent.

suspicious men lurking in alleyways

skulk suggests more strongly cowardice or fear or sinister intent.

something skulking in the shadows

slink implies moving stealthily often merely to escape attention.

slunk around the corner

sneak may add an implication of entering or leaving a place or evading a difficulty by furtive or underhanded methods.

sneaked out early

Example Sentences

Verb A man was skulking around outside. She skulked into her sister's room. Noun the animal control officers caught the stray cat that had been skulking behind some trash cans
Recent Examples on the Web
While some drivers skulk away, others give you a hearty thumbs up, while still others will try to race you, mostly without success. Dallas News, 1 Oct. 2022 While some drivers skulk away, others give you a hearty thumbs up, while still others will try to race you, mostly without success. cleveland, 8 Oct. 2022 Of more than 3,500 mosquito species that skulk about the planet, fewer than 10 percent (and only the females, at that) enjoy nibbling on humans. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 18 Aug. 2022 Product managers would skulk around Los Angeles parks, where they were routinely questioned by police, with their handheld units to try and find satellites. Andrew Freeman, Outside Online, 21 May 2012 So, the best way to offer support and assistance is to let her skulk off and hide in a corner? Star Tribune, 2 June 2021 The broadcaster obliged, was affable and didn't skulk through the gauntlet. Guy Martin, Forbes, 10 Mar. 2021 Moreover, disirregardless of what Jamie Lee asserts, irregardless did not skulk into the dictionary just this year. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Nov. 2020 Osama bin Laden skulked in caves and a nondescript house in Pakistan. The Economist, 21 May 2020
Meantime, others in the household skulk around, muttering about plans regarding Lady Aghdas and her inheritance. Michael Phillips,, 1 Dec. 2021 The park's tree-climbing lions often lie in wait on the branches of sycamores, while leopards skulk in the tall grasses. Gina Decaprio Vercesi, Travel + Leisure, 20 Mar. 2021 The household staple skulks in sinks amid dirty dishes and soggy food scraps, sopping up and amplifying microbial forces capable of invading clean food spaces. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 31 July 2017 See More

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

Word History



Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian dialect skulka to lie in wait, lurk

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of skulk was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near skulk

Cite this Entry

“Skulk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to move in a sly or secret manner : sneak
: to hide or conceal oneself from cowardice or fear or with treacherous intention
skulker noun

More from Merriam-Webster on skulk

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