The verb skink has largely disappeared from English. Here it is in Chaucer: “Bacchus the wine them skinketh all about.” In a play in the 1600s James Shirley wrote of “Such wine as Ganymede doth skink to Jove.” Those two examples appeared in the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary, which gave this definition: ‘To draw or serve, as drink.’ The word seems to have survived in Scottish English, with the Online Scots Dictionary defining the verb as: ‘To pour liquid from one vessel or from a spoon or ladle into another in small quantities, to mix liquids in that way.’ Here’s the etymology given in Wiktionary: ‘From Old English scencan or Old Norse skenkja, from Proto-Germanic *skankijaną. Cognate with German schenken (“to give as a present”), Dutch schenken (“to pour, give as a present”).’ The skink that is a type of lizard is an unrelated word.

At this point you’re probably wondering what the connection to Spanish could be. It turns out that the Gothic cognate of the verb, *skankjan, got borrowed into Spanish as escanciar, which the DRAE defines as: ‘Echar o servir una bebida, especialmente vino, sidra u otro licor’ [‘to pour or serve a drink, especially wine, cider, or other alcoholic beverage’]. A person who performs that function is an escanciador (and formerly an escanciano). The abstract noun escancia designates the ‘acción y efecto de escanciar.’

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whilldtkwriter
    Aug 09, 2017 @ 11:09:25

    Funny that skink as a noun is a lizard. And other vowelly “nearby” phonetic words–skank and skunk–are also nouns, and usually not complimentary when referring to people. 🙂


  2. shoreacres
    Aug 10, 2017 @ 23:03:09

    An imaginary conjugation:

    “Drink, drank, drunk…”
    “Skink, skank, skunk…”

    Given that a slang term for a person who’s had too much to drink is “skunked,” it makes sense that a person who’d been skinked with abandon might end up skunked.


  3. DebunkerOfCassidy
    Dec 02, 2017 @ 10:44:23

    In Irish, scinc (I presume a borrowing from Middle English or Scots) is used to mean weak tea or watered-down drink. I suppose it is also related to the famous Scottish soup, Cullen Skink, which is basically a kind of chowder made with smoked haddock.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 02, 2017 @ 11:25:55

      Thanks for your addition of the Irish term. As for Cullen skink, I see from the article at

      that that skink is etymologically unrelated to the one in this post, coming as it does from a Dutch relative of English shank.


      • DebunkerOfCassidy
        Dec 02, 2017 @ 11:29:23

        That’s cleared that one up, then! By a strange coincidence, I just typed the words “Etymology by sound is not sound etymology” about 10 minutes ago! I like the blog, by the way. My Spanish is rusty but it’s a language I really love.


        • Steve Schwartzman
          Dec 02, 2017 @ 11:47:22

          I like your quoting of that adage, which is new to me. From what I see online, linguists have been using that saying for some time, though I don’t believe I’ve encountered it.

          Even without the Spanish connection, plenty of interesting stuff about English turns up here, so your rustiness in Spanish needn’t be an obstacle. I’ve learned plenty of new things about Spanish while researching these posts.


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