Definition of skunkworks in US English:


plural noun

informal, trademark
  • usually treated as singular An experimental laboratory or department of a company or institution, typically smaller than and independent of its main research division.

    ‘this wasn't a short-staffed skunkworks, these were the top research managers’
    ‘the most successful collection of such skunkworks cannot alone propel the growth of a large company’
    as modifier ‘this was a real skunkworks project’
    • ‘Now, thanks to a combination of a skunkworks project within Google, and an enterprising Java developer, Google has done much to close the gap.’
    • ‘And Lotus, a skunkworks of clever engineering, was sold.’
    • ‘Apple co-opts the Mozilla code base for a skunkworks native OS X browser that's both super fast and grannie-friendly.’
    • ‘Another drawback of the skunkworks approach is that it may create a climate of us and them.’
    • ‘The chipset and motherboard are designed by Bechtolsheim's skunkworks team.’
    • ‘Microsoft must want Corel's Linux expertise to get the skunkworks Linux Office port flying, right?’
    • ‘Leave standard-setting, skunkworks, innovation, and invention to the private sector.’
    • ‘Our multimedia skunkworks has experimented with file recovery programs that restore deleted images on removable media.’
    • ‘‘We used to be a skunkworks,’ he admits, and adds, ‘But we do have a skunkworks within us.’’
    • ‘Yamhill is Intel's skunkworks effort to add 64 bit instructions to the x86 line.’
    • ‘‘It's a classic example of the skunkworks approach,’ Bovet says.’
    • ‘We first confirmed that Intel's Jackson project was slightly more than a skunkworks sideline here, last February in fact.’
    • ‘Have you ever noticed how many cool hardware and software products are made by skunkworks operations?’


1970s (originally used in reference to the research laboratories of the aerospace company Lockheed Martin): allegedly from an association with the Skonk Works, an illegal still in the 'Li'l Abner' comic strip.