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19th century US - dramatically appearing and gaining prominence in Civil War military contexts around 1861, and rapidly passing into more general use. Possibly an alteration of British dialect scaddle (to run off in a fright), from the adjective scaddle (wild, timid, skittish), from Middle English scathel, skadylle (harmful, fierce, wild), perhaps of North Germanic/Scandinavian origin, from Old Norse *sköþull; or from Old English *scaþol, *sceaþol (see scathel); akin to Old Norse skaði (harm).

Possibly related to the Ancient Greek σκέδασις (skédasis, scattering), σκεδασμός (skedasmós, dispersion). Possibly related to scud or scat.

Used even earlier in the American Revolution, by Tallmadge in December of 1777, "...only to find out they had already heard the news and skedaddled."



skedaddle (third-person singular simple present skedaddles, present participle skedaddling, simple past and past participle skedaddled)

  1. (informal, intransitive, US) To move or run away quickly.
    • 1895 October 1, Stephen Crane, chapter 2, in The Red Badge of Courage, 1st US edition, New York: D. Appleton and Company, page 29:
      "Well," continued the youth, "lots of good-a-'nough men have thought they was going to do great things before the fight, but when the time come they skedaddled."
    • 1976, Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift, New York: Avon, →ISBN, page 122:
      Then filled with inspiration he drove in his Buick, the busted muffler blasting in the country lanes and the great long car skedaddling dangerously on the curves. Lucky for the woodchucks they were already hibernating.
    • 2018, Oliver Bullough, chapter 2, in Moneyland, →ISBN, page 41:
      In the early 1960s, there were plenty of people still alive who had looted Europe in the Second World War, parked proceeds in Switzerland, and skedaddled to Argentina.
  2. (transitive, regional) To spill; to scatter.




skedaddle (plural skedaddles)

  1. (informal) The act of running away; a scurrying off.


See also[edit]


  • 1897, Hunter, Robert, and Charles Morris, editors, Universal Dictionary of the English Language, v4, p4291: "Etym. doubtful; perhaps allied to scud. To betake one's self hurriedly to flight; to run away as in a panic; to fly in terror. (A word of American origin.)"
  • Michael Quinion (7 February 2004), “Skedaddle”, in World Wide Words.