skyscraper (n.) Look up skyscraper at
very tall urban building, 1888, in a Chicago context, from sky (n.) + agent noun of scrape (v.). Used earlier for "ornament atop a building" (1883), "very tall man" (1857), "high-flying bird" (1840), "light sail at the top of a mast" (1794), and the name of a racehorse (1789). Compare cognate French gratte-ciel, from gratter "to scrape" + ciel "sky;" German Wolkenkratzer, from Wolke "cloud" + Kratzer "scraper."
cloud-cleaver, an imaginary sail jokingly assumed to be carried by Yankee ships. [W. Clark Russell, "Sailors' Word Book," 1883]