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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English skirmish (as a verb), from Old French escarmouche (skirmish), from Italian scaramuccia, earlier schermugio. Doublet of escarmouche and Scaramouche.



skirmish (plural skirmishes)

  1. (military) A brief battle between small groups, usually part of a longer or larger battle or war.
    • 1970 April 28, “Chen Pao Battle and Subsequent Threat Campaign”, in The Evolution of Soviet Policy in the Sino-Soviet Border Dispute[1], Directorate of Intelligence, published 2007, →OCLC, page 34:
      On 2 March, Chinese border guards with the help of regular PLA forces skillfully ambushed Strelnikov's unit on the ice near Chen Pao, killing him and 30 Soviets in the subsequent skirmish.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) Any minor dispute.
    Three people were arrested after a skirmish in a bar.
  3. A type of outdoor military style game using paintball or similar weapons.


Related terms[edit]



skirmish (third-person singular simple present skirmishes, present participle skirmishing, simple past and past participle skirmished)

  1. To engage in a minor battle or dispute.
    • 2019, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Children of Ruin, Macmillan, page 376:
      Other historians might also remark that [] they have persisted all this time, constantly wrestling and skirmishing and yet never destroying themselves.