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The noun is from Middle English scold(e), skald(e), first attested in the 12th or 13th century (as scold, scolde, skolde, skald). The verb is from Middle English scolden, first attested in the late 1300s. Most dictionaries derive the verb from the noun and say the noun is probably from Old Norse skald (poet) (cognate with Icelandic skáld (poet, scop)), as skalds sometimes wrote insulting poems,[1][2][3][4] though another view is that the Norse and English words are cognate to each other and to Old High German skeltan, Old Dutch skeldan,[5] all inherited from Proto-Germanic *skeldaną (scold).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /skəʊld/, [skɒʊɫd]
  • (US) IPA(key): /skoʊld/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -əʊld


scold (plural scolds)

  1. A person who habitually scolds, in particular a troublesome and angry woman.
    • c. 1515–1516, published 1568, John Skelton, Againſt venemous tongues enpoyſoned with ſclaunder and falſe detractions &c.:
      A ſclaunderous tunge, a tunge of a ſkolde,
      Worketh more miſchiefe than can be tolde;
      That, if I wiſt not to be controlde,
      Yet ſomwhat to ſay I dare well be bolde,
      How ſome delite for to lye, thycke and threfolde.
    • 1907, E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey, Part II, XVIII [Uniform ed., p. 196]:
      “Well, I won’t have it, and that’s enough.” She laughed, for her voice had a little been that of the professional scold.
    • 2015 September 14, Paul Krugman, “Labour's dead centre [print version: International New York Times, 15 September 2015, p. 9]”, in The New York Times[1]:
      Consider the contrast with the United States, where deficit scolds dominated Beltway discourse in 2010–2011 but never managed to dictate the terms of political debate []

Alternative forms[edit]


Related terms[edit]



scold (third-person singular simple present scolds, present participle scolding, simple past and past participle scolded)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To rebuke angrily.
    I advise that you refrain from using that kind of language at home, lest your mother scold you.
    • 1813 January 27, [Jane Austen], Pride and Prejudice: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] [George Sidney] for T[homas] Egerton, [], →OCLC:
      A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her —
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC:
      Molly the dairymaid came a little way from the rickyard, and said she would pluck the pigeon that very night after work. She was always ready to do anything for us boys; and we could never quite make out why they scolded her so for an idle hussy indoors. It seemed so unjust. Looking back, I recollect she had very beautiful brown eyes.
  2. (ornithology) Of birds, to make harsh vocalisations in aggression.
  3. Of birds, to make vocalisations that resemble human scolding.
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 89:
      [T]he merry songsters of the wood now filled the air with their jubilee; the nutcracker began his monotonous clattering, the chaffinches and the wrens sang high in the sky, the blackcock scolded and blustered loudly, the thrush sang his mocking songs and libellous ditties about everybody, but became occasionally a little sentimental and warbled gently and bashfully some tender stanzas.
  4. Misconstruction of scald


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ scold”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present. ("perhaps of Scandinavian origin")
  2. ^ scold”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, →ISBN. ("probably of Scandinavian origin")
  3. ^ scold”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022. ("probably from Old Norse")
  4. ^ scold”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present. ("from Old Norse")
  5. ^ Margaret Clunies Ross, A History of Old Norse Poetry and Poetics (2011), page 13: "The etymology of the term skáld has been debated, but a common view is that the noun is cognate with Old High German skeldan ('to scold'), English scold (both noun and verb), and may have originally referred to the satiric or critical role skaldic poets sometimes played".