skittish

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Probably from skite (to move lightly and hurriedly; to move suddenly, particularly in an oblique direction (Scotland, Northern England)) +‎ -ish; compare skitter.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˈskɪtɪʃ/
  • (T-flapping) IPA(key): [ˈskɪɾɪʃ]
  • Hyphenation: skit‧tish
  • (file)

Adjective[edit]

skittish (comparative more skittish, superlative most skittish)

  1. Easily scared or startled; timid.
    The cat likes people he knows, but he is skittish around strangers.
    • 1557, Roger Edgeworth, Sermons Very Fruitfull, Godly, and Learned, London: Robert Caly, The fiftenth treatice or Sermon,[1]
      All such be like a skittish starting horse, whiche coming ouer a bridge, wil start for a shadowe, or for a stone lying by him, and leapeth ouer on the other side into the water, & drowneth both horse and man.
  2. Wanton; changeable; fickle
    • c. 1601, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene 3,[2]
      How some men creep in skittish fortune’s hall,
      Whiles others play the idiots in her eyes!
    • 1785, William Cowper, The Task, London: J. Johnson, Book 2, p. 69,[3]
      [] ’Tis pitiful
      To court a grin, when you should wooe a soul;
      To break a jest, when pity would inspire
      Pathetic exhortation; and t’ address
      The skittish fancy with facetious tales,
      When sent with God’s commission to the heart.
  3. Difficult to manage; tricky.
    • 1872, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Book 2, Chapter 15,[4]
      For everybody’s family doctor was remarkably clever, and was understood to have immeasurable skill in the management and training of the most skittish or vicious diseases.

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