"type of flat, cartilaginous fish, a kind of ray," mid-14c., scate, in reference to the common European skate, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse skata "skate," Danish skade, Faeroese skøta, a word of unknown origin.
All skates are rays, but all rays are not called skates, this name being applied chiefly to certain small rays of the restricted genus Raia, of both Europe and America. [Century Dictionary]
"an ice-skate, a contrivance for enabling a person to glide swiftly on ice," 1660s, skeates (plural), from Dutch schaats (plural schaatsen), a singular mistaken in English for plural, from Middle Dutch schaetse. The word and the custom were brought to England after the Restoration by exiled followers of Charles II who had taken refuge in Holland.
The Dutch word is perhaps from Old North French escache "a stilt, trestle," related to Old French eschace "stilt" (French échasse), from Frankish *skakkja "stilt" or a similar Germanic source (compare Frisian skatja "stilt"), perhaps literally "thing that shakes or moves fast" and related to root of Old English sceacan "to vibrate" (see shake (v.)). Or perhaps [Klein] the Dutch word is connected to Middle Low German schenke, Old English scanca "leg" (see shank). If the former, the sense alteration in Dutch from "stilt" to "skate" is not clearly traced. The latter theory perhaps is supported by evidence that the original ice skates, up to medieval times, were leg bones of horse, ox, or deer, strapped to the feet with leather strips.
The sense in English was extended to roller-skates by 1876. The meaning "an act of skating" is from 1853. A slightly older word for an ice skate was scrick-shoe (1650s), from Middle Dutch scricschoe, from schricken "to slide."
1690s, "to ice-skate, glide over the ice on skates," from skate (n.2). U.S. slang sense of "to get away with something" is attested from 1945. Related: Skated; skating.
updated on November 27, 2022