Definition of skirmish in English:



  • 1An episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting, especially between small or outlying parts of armies or fleets.

    ‘the unit was caught in several skirmishes and the commanding officer was killed’
    • ‘Such incidents may seem minor, but they represent skirmishes in a larger battle.’
    • ‘Now, in five years, there have been no provocations save one, a naval skirmish in 2002.’
    • ‘Yon describes a full month of bloody skirmishes in the streets of Mosul, complete with body counts.’
    • ‘Whites fought frequent wars and skirmishes through the later nineteenth century as they pushed into Native Americans' lands.’
    • ‘No, this won't be a naval skirmish with some oppressive foreign dictator.’
    • ‘In a few cases, their battles have been won, in others they were fighting the initial skirmishes of later battles.’
    • ‘The Marines who let me through the skirmish line filed their reports on Booth's death.’
    • ‘For three years it has been negotiating peace with Manila, all the while keeping up skirmishes against the national army.’
    • ‘Occasional skirmishes continued over the border during the 1980s, with over 1,000 people being killed.’
    • ‘Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, he fought the first skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indian War.’
    • ‘A skirmish broke out after troops ran across a boat belonging to the rebels.’
    • ‘The Constitutional Court's decision is only a skirmish in the broader battle between the executive and the judiciary.’
    • ‘The key now is to tune out the ‘white noise’ and stop fighting the daily skirmishes of the last war.’
    • ‘Relations with Israel have long been contentious and border skirmishes are fought periodically between the two nations.’
    • ‘There were only a few minor skirmishes left, but they were quickly being ended.’
    • ‘Both on its advance and retreat, Jacobites fought skirmishes at Clifton, in the Eden valley.’
    • ‘McClernand reputably organized and led his brigade, division, and finally, corps in skirmishes and battles of the Western Theater.’
    • ‘They do not seek a decisive battle, and they prefer to engage in raids, skirmishes, and ambushes.’
    • ‘The skirmishes fought by the Gäian Retributors were bloody and their terrorist actions vicious.’
    • ‘Fix the enemy in place using skirmishes, artillery, feints, and demonstrations while probing his lines.’
    fight, battle, clash, conflict, encounter, confrontation, engagement, fray, contest, combat, tussle, scrimmage, fracas, affray, melee
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    1. 1.1A short argument.
      ‘there was a skirmish over the budget’
      • ‘When some of the dust of those culture war skirmishes cleared, the budget of the NEA had been riven.’
      • ‘Yesterday there was a short skirmish in the woods outside the town of Nyda.’
      • ‘When the emperors soldiers came to reclaim the hawk, a brief skirmish ensued and the hawk was not returned.’
      • ‘The favorable legal climate does not mean that skirmishes don't occur.’
      • ‘None of them bothered to change out of their street clothes, expecting a short skirmish only.’
      • ‘Carey may have won the opening skirmish, but the Europeans aren't crying uncle yet.’
      • ‘Once in a while, there's a short skirmish and someone dies, but it's all dull and uninspired.’
      • ‘Who would have bet on Mjallby being the one on the seat of his shorts trackside after an unlikely skirmish between David and Goliath?’
      • ‘When Jock discovers his daughter with the piper, a skirmish ensues and an official inquest is called.’
      • ‘Skirmishes continue to break out in the US over science education in public schools.’
      • ‘And it's just the latest skirmish in the war over digital music, movies, and books.’
      • ‘Teddy Roosevelt was the same though he had a few minor skirmishes.’
      • ‘Other than the budget skirmishes, there just doesn't seem to be much going on.’
      • ‘I never got the feeling that this was an actual skirmish occurring in front of me.’
      • ‘Both furs jumped to their feet, and a very short skirmish ensued.’
      • ‘When these disappeared, she fought and won a brief skirmish with her conscience.’
      • ‘Short of adverse personnel actions, a few skirmishes have broken out involving controversial campus events and visitors.’
      • ‘Stay tuned - literally - and we'll see how this latest skirmish in the media wars turns out.’
      argument, quarrel, squabble, contretemps, disagreement, difference of opinion, dissension, falling-out, dispute, disputation, contention, clash, altercation, exchange, war of words
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  • Engage in a skirmish.

    ‘reports of skirmishing along the border’
    • ‘But by early summer, Chicago's hotel workers were skirmishing on the job.’
    • ‘There was some more skirmishing over the details, but finally everyone consented.’
    • ‘In short, it was to dilapidation what the American Civil War was to skirmishing.’
    • ‘For the next several weeks, the 82nd and the rest of the Army skirmished with the Confederates around Marietta and Kenesaw.’
    • ‘In this context, an ideal lawn was less about skirmishing with crabgrass than defending the urban landscape from weeds.’
    • ‘Armed gangs, constituents of rival warring factions, skirmished for control of the camps.’
    • ‘There was now open skirmishing between the Greeks and the Latins.’
    • ‘In recent months King has been skirmishing bitterly with Catholic bishops over immigration policy.’
    • ‘Azmoth the Clever, a master at leadership and full of cunning, was the scouting and skirmishing army for the One.’
    • ‘After skirmishing with a civilian wagon train on O'Fallon's Creek, they crossed the Yellowstone River two or three days before Christmas.’
    • ‘In addition to skirmishing with German patrols, the group destroyed a bridge north of Graignes to interrupt one German route to the fighting.’
    • ‘A little after this, they skirmished briefly with Byzantine troops.’
    • ‘The army reached Iconium in the middle of August and skirmished with Turkish forces near Heraclea later that month.’
    • ‘But they can expect little sympathy from the anti-globalisation protesters, already skirmishing yesterday with the police in south-west France.’
    • ‘He fought a war with Chad, skirmished with Egypt, and trained a commando group which attacked a city in southern Tunisia.’
    • ‘In the early skirmishing it was Motherwell who were the assured side.’
    • ‘The two armies skirmished occasionally throughout the month, but no serious fighting developed.’
    • ‘They could adopt a new method of combat, that is, fighting in columns and skirmishing.’
    • ‘At age 15, he was travelling Italy with Lazio's infamous Irriducibili hooligans, skirmishing with police and opposing supporters.’
    • ‘She leaves the frame, and one of the boys is skirmishing with a football.’
    fight, do battle with, battle with, engage with, close with, combat, clash with, come to blows with, exchange blows with, struggle with, tussle with
    scrap with
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Middle English (as a verb): from Old French eskirmiss-, lengthened stem of eskirmir, from a Germanic verb meaning defend.