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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English skif, from Middle French esquif, from Old Italian schifo (small boat), from Lombardic skif (boat), from Proto-Germanic *skipą (boat, ship), from Proto-Indo-European *skei- (to split, cut). Cognate with Old High German skif (boat, ship), Old English scip (small craft, boat). More at ship.


skiff (plural skiffs)

  1. A small flat-bottomed open boat with a pointed bow and square stern.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Old Applegate, in the stern, just set and looked at me, and Lord James, amidship, waved both arms and kept hollering for help. I took a couple of everlasting big strokes and managed to grab hold of the skiff's rail, close to the stern.
  2. Any of various types of boats small enough for sailing or rowing by one person.
  3. (weather) A light wind/rain/snow, etc.
    A skiff of rain blew into the shed and the two men moved their chairs back.
  4. (slang) Someone (typically a redneck or fisherman) who has a degree of intelligence, but believes they are more than they actually are.


skiff (third-person singular simple present skiffs, present participle skiffing, simple past and past participle skiffed)

  1. to navigate in a skiff.

Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from Scottish Gaelic sguabag.


skiff (plural skiffs)

  1. (weather, Nova Scotia) a deep blanket of snow covering the ground