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Skull of a human (Homo sapiens) viewed from the front
The skull of a hippopotamus
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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English sculle, scolle (also schulle, scholle), probably from Old Norse skalli (bald head, skull), itself probably related to Old English sċealu (husk). Compare Danish skal (skull) and skalle (bald head, skull), Swedish skalle, Norwegian skalle. [1]

Alternatively, perhaps from Old Norse skoltr, skolptr (muzzle, snout), akin to Icelandic skoltur (jaw), dialectal Swedish skult, skulle (dome, crown of the head, skull), Middle Dutch scolle, scholle, Middle Low German scholle, schulle (clod, sod). Compare also Old High German sciula, skiula (skull).

Alternative forms[edit]



skull (plural skulls)

  1. (anatomy) The main bones of the head considered as a unit; including the cranium, facial bones, and mandible.
    • 1922 October 26, Virginia Woolf, chapter 1, in Jacob’s Room, Richmond, London: [] Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, OCLC 19736994; republished London: The Hogarth Press, 1960, OCLC 258624721:
      He was about to roar when, lying among the black sticks and straw under the cliff, he saw a whole skull—perhaps a cow's skull, a skull, perhaps, with the teeth in it. Sobbing, but absent-mindedly, he ran farther and farther away until he held the skull in his arms.
  2. These bones as a symbol for death; death's-head.
  3. (figuratively) The mind or brain.
    • 2006, Bart Yates, The Brothers Bishop:
      My thoughts are flying around in my skull like fireflies in a jar, but all of a sudden I'm unbearably tired and can't stay awake.
  4. A crust formed on the ladle, etc. by the partial cooling of molten metal.
  5. The crown of the headpiece in armour.
  6. (Scotland) A shallow bow-handled basket.
Coordinate terms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]
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skull (third-person singular simple present skulls, present participle skulling, simple past and past participle skulled)

  1. To hit in the head with a fist, a weapon, or a thrown object.
  2. (transitive, golf) To strike the top of (the ball).
    • 2002, Robert C. Knox, Golf Balls Are Female (page 148)
      Monte swung so hard at the next ball that he skulled it straight right, into the pond: 8 in, 9 out.


Etymology 2[edit]

See school (a multitude).


skull (plural skulls)

  1. Obsolete form of school (a multitude).
    • 1586, William Warner, Albion’s England:
      A knavish skull of boys and girls did pelt at him.
    • 1601, Philemon Holland (translator), Pliny the Elder (author), The Historie of the World. Commonly called, The Natvrall Historie of C. Plinivs Secvndvs., book IX, chapter xv: “Of the names and natures of many fishes.”:
      These fishs, togither with the old Tunies and the young, called Pelamides, enter in great flotes and skulls, into the sea Pontus, for the sweet food that they there find: and every companie of them hath their fever all leaders and captaines; and before them all, the Maquerels lead the way; which, while they be in the water, have a colour of brimstone; but without, like they be to the rest.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for skull in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913)




An alternate form of skuld (debt) from Old Norse skuld, from Proto-Germanic *skuldiz, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kéltis. Compare gälla and gälda.



skull c

  1. (for someone's) sake, (on someone's) behalf; an archaic form of skuld (debt), used to indicate for whom or why something is done
    för din skull
    for your sake, for you, because of you, on your behalf
    För edra hjärtans hårdhets skull tillstadde Moses eder att skiljas från edra hustrur
    Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives (Matthew 19:8)

Related terms[edit]