c. 1200, "animal hide" (usually dressed and tanned), from Old Norse skinn "animal hide, fur," from Proto-Germanic *skinth- (source also of Old English scinn (rare), Old High German scinten, German schinden "to flay, skin;" German dialectal schind "skin of a fruit," Flemish schinde "bark"), from PIE *sken- "to peel off, flay" (source also of Breton scant "scale of a fish," Irish scainim "I tear, I burst"), extended form of root *sek- "to cut."
Ful of fleissche Y was to fele, Now ... Me is lefte But skyn & boon. [hymn, c. 1430]
The usual Anglo-Saxon word is hide (n.1). Meaning "epidermis of a living animal or person" is attested from early 14c.; extended to fruits, vegetables, etc. late 14c. Jazz slang sense of "drum" is from 1927. Meaning "a skinhead" is from 1970. As an adjective, it formerly had a slang sense of "cheating" (1868); sense of "pornographic" is attested from 1968. Skin deep is first attested in this:
All the carnall beauty of my wife, Is but skin-deep. [Sir Thomas Overbury, "A Wife," 1613; the poem was a main motive for his murder]
The skin of one's teeth as the narrowest of margins is attested from 1550s in the Geneva Bible literal translation of the Hebrew text in Job xix.20. To get under (someone's) skin "annoy" is from 1896. Skin-graft is from 1871. Skin merchant "recruiting officer" is from 1792.
late 14c., "to remove the skin from" (originally of circumcision), from skin (n.). As "to have (a particular kind of) skin" from c. 1400. In 19c. U.S. colloquial use, "to strip, fleece, plunder;" hence skin-game, one in which one player has no chance against the others (as with a stacked deck), the type of con game played in a skin-house. Skin the cat in gymnastics is from 1845. Related: Skinned; skinning.
updated on September 25, 2018