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Originally from Scots and Northern English dialects (as a verb), probably of Old Norse origin; ultimately imitative.


  • IPA(key): /skɜːl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɜː(ɹ)l


skirl (third-person singular simple present skirls, present participle skirling, simple past and past participle skirled)

  1. (Scotland, Northern England) To make a shrill sound, as of bagpipes.
    • 1819, Walter Scott, “The Bride of Lammermoor”, in Collection of Ancient and Modern British Authors, Volume 14, published 1839, page 91:
      Come here, or stay where ye are, and skirl as loud ye can — it's a' ye're gude for — l say, ye auld deevil, skirlskirl — louder — louder, woman — gar the gentles hear ye in the ha' — I have heard ye as far off as the Bass for a less matter.
    • 1829, James Hogg (as the Ettrick Shepherd), The p and the q, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 26, page 693,
      He gloom'd and he skirl'd, and, when in hard case, / He whiles gae his mother a yerk on the face;
    • 1985, Anthony Burgess, The Kingdom of the Wicked:
      Drums began to thump in a variety of rhythms. The flautists were not sure what to play. The shawm began to skirl.


skirl (plural skirls)

  1. (Scotland, Northern England) A shrill sound, as of bagpipes.
    • 1977, Raja Proctor, The Illicit Immigrant, page 92:
      To a resounding wail headed by the King-Kong skirl, all gangs joined in hauling in the net.
    • 2003, Michael Morpurgo, The Last Wolf, page 26:
      'Have we found a son only to lose him?' she cried, 'And what for? For the skirl of the pipes, is it? [] '
    • 2006 [Bantam], Nick Drake, Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead, 2011, Black Swan, page 191,
      The last servants and late officials hurried into their places, the guards took their positions, and then, with a beating of the drums and a skirl of reed pipes, the whole group made its way back across the courtyard and up the stairs to the Window of Appearances between the palace and the Great Temple.




skirl (third-person singular simple present skirls, present participle skirlin, simple past skirlt, past participle skirlt)

  1. to make a shrill sound, as of bagpipes
  2. to scream
  3. to shriek
  4. to laugh shrilly


skirl (plural skirls)

  1. shrill, piercing noise
  2. scream, screech