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See also: skänk and skånk
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Etymology 1[edit]

Origin unknown. Perhaps from skag (unattractive woman), but the origins of skag are unknown.[1] Compare scold (troublesome woman), skeevy (disgusting). Attested from the 1960s.[2]

EB1911 - Volume 01 - Page 001 - 1.svg This entry lacks etymological information. If you are familiar with the origin of this term, please add it to the page per etymology instructions. You can also discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “Blend sounds rather unlikely; see talk page.”


skank (countable and uncountable, plural skanks)

  1. (derogatory, slang) A lewd and disreputable person, often female, especially an unattractive person with an air of tawdry promiscuity.
    • 1996, Jay Mohr as Bob Sugar, Jerry Maguire, written by Cameron Crowe, Culver City, Calif.: TriStar Pictures; distributed by Columbia TriStar Home Video, published 1997, →ISBN:
      It's also my job to take care of the skanks on the road that you bang.
    • 2017 March 30, Hayley Minn, “Josie Gibson reveals she's found 'The One' a week after splitting from 'skank' ex as she talks new dating show”, in Daily Mirror[1]:
      Speaking exclusively to Mirror TV, Josie revealed: "I've just split up from somebody because he was a skank and was selling stories to the press, and he was a loser."
  2. Anything that is particularly foul, unhygienic or unpleasant.
    • 2011, James Ellroy, American Tabloid, page 21:
      Hughes CRAVED dirt. Hughes CRAVED slander skank to share with Mr. Hoover. What Hughes CRAVED, Hughes BOUGHT. ¶ Pete bought an issue’s worth of dirt. His cop contacts supplied him with a one-week load of lackluster skank.
Derived terms[edit]


skank (comparative more skank, superlative most skank)

  1. (derogatory, slang) Lewd, vulgar, skanky.
    • 1997 June–July, Michael A. Gonzales, “Toni's secret: Miss Braxton lets it all hang out”, in Vibe[2], volume 5, number 5, New York, N.Y.: Time Publishing Ventures; Intermedia Vibe Holdings, ISSN 1070-4701, page 92:
      "I wear provocative clothes because they make me feel sexy," Toni says without apology. "If an artist like Madonna is wearing her booty hanging out, she's considered a genius. But if a black person does it, we're considered skank whores or sluts."
    • 2001, Angela Nissel, The Broke Diaries, →ISBN, page 49:
      You can even be a wee bit more skank and don a dirty shirt. Unwashed underwear, however, is a no-go.

Etymology 2[edit]

Originally Jamaican, attested from the twentieth century, but earliest source is uncertain. The verb sense be dishonest is evidently older. Perhaps originally onomatopoeic. The dance senses may come from a resemblance to motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic.[3] Compare skanker.


skank (plural skanks)

  1. A dance performed to ska, dub, or reggae music.
    • 1989, “Reggae: The revolution continues”, in Link, volume 32, number 1, page 35:
      [] the ability to double up with contagious laughter; the feeling of pure child-like glee; and the mesmerizing, trance-like skank dancing that looks like African aerobics after centuries of rhythm.
    • 1999, Kwame Dawes, Natural Mysticism: Towards a New Reggae Aesthetic in Caribbean Writing, page 110:
      All reggae dance represents a dialogue with that basic movement which is the skank — a kind of offbeat walking on the spot
  2. A style of rhythmic guitar strumming in ska, reggae, and punk.
    • 2017, Jas Obrecht, “Ben Harper in San Francisco, May 3, 1994”, in Talking Guitar, page 279:
      He took it another step and brought blues into reggae music. I don’t play skank. I don’t play reggae guitar. So I had to call.


skank (third-person singular simple present skanks, present participle skanking, simple past and past participle skanked)

  1. To dance the skank.
    • 1998, Billy Bergman, Hot Sauces: Latin and Caribbean Pop, 1985, quoted in Craig Lockard, Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia, page 51:
      Four-thousand miles away, there is a reggae night spot called Club 69, where local youth wear dreadlocks... and dance ska, rocksteady, and skank to the beats of the Wailers.... Club 69 is in Tokyo, the dread youths are Japanese.
  2. To play guitar with a skank rhythm.
    • 1999, Tobias Hurwitz, Punk Guitar Styles, page 24:
      Joe Strummer and Mick Jones did a lot of skanking. Skanking refers to a style of playing using scratch (page 17) rhythms with a strong accent on the off-beats (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &) rather than the on-beats.
  3. (transitive or intransitive, Jamaica) To be dishonest or unreliable, to defraud or deceive, to steal.
    • 2011, Colin Grant, I & I: The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh and Wailer, page 210:
      Only Tosh, Marley and Livingston had been signed, and Aston Barrett harboured an unarticulated resentment that later would be couched in the language of betrayal [] In any event ‘Family Man’ believed that they had an oral agreement, and placed his faith in Marley (from whom they received their wages) that he would not skank them.

Etymology 3[edit]

Slang word used in Northern England. Origin unknown. Perhaps from etymology 2, above; attested in West Indian and UK black slang from the twentieth century.[4]


skank (plural skanks)

  1. The act of cheating a person.
    That's not a good deal; it's a skank.


skank (third-person singular simple present skanks, present participle skanking, simple past and past participle skanked)

  1. (transitive) To cheat, especially a friend.
    He short-changed a partner, leaving him feeling skanked.
    • 2000, Lanre Fehintola, Charlie Says - Don't Get High on your Own Supply, page 101:
      He thought I was trying to skank him and wouldn’t wait any more; he wanted to be there. He wouldn’t wait!
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ skank” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018, retrieved 17 September 2018.
  2. ^ “skank, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, launched 2000.
  3. ^ “skank (scank) vb” in Richard Allsopp, Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (1996).
  4. ^ Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor (2015) The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, page 2025.


Alternative forms[edit]


Cognate with Danish skank, English shank, used as a noun in Swedish since 1635. The noun is based on an older adjective (now obsolete) skank, skink (limping, lame on one leg).


skank c

  1. a leg (human or animal)
    rör på skankarna!
    move your legs! (walk on, keep moving)


Declension of skank 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative skank skanken skankar skankarna
Genitive skanks skankens skankars skankarnas

Related terms[edit]