Definition of skirmish in English:



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

    • ‘They do not seek a decisive battle, and they prefer to engage in raids, skirmishes, and ambushes.’
    • ‘Relations with Israel have long been contentious and border skirmishes are fought periodically between the two nations.’
    • ‘Whites fought frequent wars and skirmishes through the later nineteenth century as they pushed into Native Americans' lands.’
    • ‘Both on its advance and retreat, Jacobites fought skirmishes at Clifton, in the Eden valley.’
    • ‘In a few cases, their battles have been won, in others they were fighting the initial skirmishes of later battles.’
    • ‘The key now is to tune out the ‘white noise’ and stop fighting the daily skirmishes of the last war.’
    • ‘The Constitutional Court's decision is only a skirmish in the broader battle between the executive and the judiciary.’
    • ‘Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, he fought the first skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indian War.’
    • ‘No, this won't be a naval skirmish with some oppressive foreign dictator.’
    • ‘The Marines who let me through the skirmish line filed their reports on Booth's death.’
    • ‘Yon describes a full month of bloody skirmishes in the streets of Mosul, complete with body counts.’
    • ‘A skirmish broke out after troops ran across a boat belonging to the rebels.’
    • ‘Now, in five years, there have been no provocations save one, a naval skirmish in 2002.’
    • ‘Fix the enemy in place using skirmishes, artillery, feints, and demonstrations while probing his lines.’
    • ‘There were only a few minor skirmishes left, but they were quickly being ended.’
    • ‘The skirmishes fought by the Gäian Retributors were bloody and their terrorist actions vicious.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Such incidents may seem minor, but they represent skirmishes in a larger battle.’
    • ‘McClernand reputably organized and led his brigade, division, and finally, corps in skirmishes and battles of the Western Theater.’
    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’
      • ‘Yesterday there was a short skirmish in the woods outside the town of Nyda.’
      • ‘Skirmishes continue to break out in the US over science education in public schools.’
      • ‘None of them bothered to change out of their street clothes, expecting a short skirmish only.’
      • ‘And it's just the latest skirmish in the war over digital music, movies, and books.’
      • ‘When some of the dust of those culture war skirmishes cleared, the budget of the NEA had been riven.’
      • ‘When these disappeared, she fought and won a brief skirmish with her conscience.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When Jock discovers his daughter with the piper, a skirmish ensues and an official inquest is called.’
      • ‘Stay tuned - literally - and we'll see how this latest skirmish in the media wars turns out.’
      • ‘Short of adverse personnel actions, a few skirmishes have broken out involving controversial campus events and visitors.’
      • ‘Other than the budget skirmishes, there just doesn't seem to be much going on.’
      • ‘Both furs jumped to their feet, and a very short skirmish ensued.’
      • ‘The favorable legal climate does not mean that skirmishes don't occur.’
      • ‘Teddy Roosevelt was the same though he had a few minor skirmishes.’
      • ‘When the emperors soldiers came to reclaim the hawk, a brief skirmish ensued and the hawk was not returned.’
      • ‘I never got the feeling that this was an actual skirmish occurring in front of me.’
      • ‘Who would have bet on Mjallby being the one on the seat of his shorts trackside after an unlikely skirmish between David and Goliath?’
      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’
    • ‘Azmoth the Clever, a master at leadership and full of cunning, was the scouting and skirmishing army for the One.’
    • ‘They could adopt a new method of combat, that is, fighting in columns and skirmishing.’
    • ‘Armed gangs, constituents of rival warring factions, skirmished for control of the camps.’
    • ‘In this context, an ideal lawn was less about skirmishing with crabgrass than defending the urban landscape from weeds.’
    • ‘In addition to skirmishing with German patrols, the group destroyed a bridge north of Graignes to interrupt one German route to the fighting.’
    • ‘After skirmishing with a civilian wagon train on O'Fallon's Creek, they crossed the Yellowstone River two or three days before Christmas.’
    • ‘But they can expect little sympathy from the anti-globalisation protesters, already skirmishing yesterday with the police in south-west France.’
    • ‘The two armies skirmished occasionally throughout the month, but no serious fighting developed.’
    • ‘There was now open skirmishing between the Greeks and the Latins.’
    • ‘The army reached Iconium in the middle of August and skirmished with Turkish forces near Heraclea later that month.’
    • ‘For the next several weeks, the 82nd and the rest of the Army skirmished with the Confederates around Marietta and Kenesaw.’
    • ‘At age 15, he was travelling Italy with Lazio's infamous Irriducibili hooligans, skirmishing with police and opposing supporters.’
    • ‘In short, it was to dilapidation what the American Civil War was to skirmishing.’
    • ‘He fought a war with Chad, skirmished with Egypt, and trained a commando group which attacked a city in southern Tunisia.’
    • ‘There was some more skirmishing over the details, but finally everyone consented.’
    • ‘She leaves the frame, and one of the boys is skirmishing with a football.’
    • ‘But by early summer, Chicago's hotel workers were skirmishing on the job.’
    • ‘A little after this, they skirmished briefly with Byzantine troops.’
    • ‘In recent months King has been skirmishing bitterly with Catholic bishops over immigration policy.’
    • ‘In the early skirmishing it was Motherwell who were the assured side.’
    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; related to scrimmage.