So we all know what skiving is, right? It’s bunking off work or school. Well yes, but this is actually an almost exclusively British use of the word. Skive has another meaning which it seems is more well known away from our shores – to cut thin layers or pieces off a material like leather or rubber. This probably comes from Scandinavia, from ‘skīfa’ which is Old Norse for slice.
Back to bunking off now (figuratively, not literally of course, for any clients who are reading). ‘Skive’ in this context first appeared in print in 1919 and was originally a British military expression. One theory is that it came from another earlier slang meaning of the same word which was ‘to move lightly and quickly, to dart,’ as someone who’s trying to get out of their duties might do. It likely comes from the French word ‘esquiver’ which means to dodge, sidestep or evade. From there we go on an etymological round trip of Europe – ‘esquiver’ probably came from the Spanish word ‘esquivar’ which means unsociable or shy, which itself came from a German word which came from an Italian word (I’ve stopped telling you the words now in case you stop reading/your head explodes), which finally takes us back to France and the Old French word ‘eschiver’.
Opinions differ as to whether you add an ‘off’ or not (as in ‘Emma never skives work’, or ‘Emma is definitely not skiving off work as we speak’).