also skew-bald, 1650s, "having white and brown (or some other color) patches, spotted in an irregular manner" (used especially of horses), from skued, skeued "skewbald, of mixed colors" (early 15c.) + bald "having white patches" (see bald).
The first element is said to be unconnected with skew (v.), but Klein's sources say it is and Middle English Compendium offers that as a possibility; OED suggests it is perhaps from Old French escu "shield," but also notes a close resemblance in form and sense with Icelandic skjottr, "the history of which is equally obscure." Watkins says it is Scandinavian and akin to Old Norse sky "cloud" on the resemblance of the markings to cloud cover.
When the white is mixed with black it is called 'pie-bald,' with bay the name of 'skew-bald' is given to it. ["Youatt's 'The Horse,' " 1866]
As a noun meaning "skewbald horse" or other animal from 1863.
updated on December 01, 2022