get under one’s skin


  1. the external covering or integument of an animal body, especially when soft and flexible.
  2. such an integument stripped from the body of an animal, especially a small animal; pelt: a beaver skin.
  3. the tanned or treated pelt or hide of an animal, especially when used in apparel and accessories; leather (usually used in combination): pigskin; calfskin.
  4. any integumentary covering, casing, outer coating, or surface layer, as an investing membrane, the rind or peel of fruit, or a film on liquid: a skin of thin ice; the aluminum skin of an airplane.
  5. Jewelry.
    1. the outermost layer of a pearl.
    2. the outermost layer of a diamond as found: often different in color and refraction from the inner part of the stone.
  6. Nautical.
    1. the shell or ceiling of a hull.
    2. the outer, exposed part of a furled sail.
  7. Metallurgy. an outer layer of a metal piece having characteristics differing from those of the interior.
  8. a container made of animal skin, used for holding liquids, especially wine.
  9. Slang. condom.
  10. skins, Slang. drums.
  11. Slang. a swindler; cheat.
  12. Slang. a skinflint.
  13. Slang. a horse.
  14. Slang. a dollar bill.
  15. Rocketry. the outer surface of a missile or rocket.

verb (used with object), skinned, skin·ning.

  1. to strip or deprive of skin; flay; peel; husk.
  2. to remove or strip off (any covering, outer coating, surface layer, etc.).
  3. to scrape or rub a small piece of skin from (one’s hand, leg, etc.), as in falling or sliding against something: She skinned her knee.
  4. to urge on, drive, or whip (a draft animal, as a mule or ox).
  5. to climb or jump: He skinned the rope to the top of the wall.
  6. to cover with or as if with skin.
  7. Slang. to strip of money or belongings; fleece, as in gambling.
  8. Cards. to slide cards one at a time off the top of (the pack) in dealing.
  9. Slang. to defeat completely: skinned at the polls.
  10. Slang. to castigate; reprimand: skinned for his disobedience.

verb (used without object), skinned, skin·ning.

  1. Slang. to slip off or depart hurriedly (often followed by out).


    1. Slang.showing or featuring nude persons, often in a sexually explicit way: a skin magazine.
    2. presenting films, stage shows, exhibitions, etc., that feature nude persons, especially in a sexually explicit way: a Times Square skin house.
  1. by the skin of one’s teeth, Informal. by an extremely narrow margin; just barely; scarcely: We made the last train by the skin of our teeth.
  2. get under one’s skin, Slang.
    1. to irritate; bother: His laugh really gets under my skin.
    2. to affect deeply; impress; penetrate: That sort of music always gets under my skin.
  3. have a thick skin, to be insensitive to criticism or rebuffs: The complaint desk is a job for someone who has a thick skin.
  4. have a thin skin, to be extremely sensitive to criticism or rebuffs; be easily offended: Be careful what you say to me, I have a thin skin.
  5. in/with a whole skin, without harm; unscathed; safely: She escaped from the burning building with a whole skin.
  6. no skin off one’s back/nose/teeth, Slang. of no interest or concern or involving no risk to one.
  7. save one’s skin, Informal. to avoid harm, especially to escape death: They betrayed their country to save their skins.
  8. skin alive, Informal.
    1. to reprimand; scold.
    2. to subdue completely, especially in a cruel or ruthless manner: The home team was skinned alive this afternoon.
  9. under the skin, in essence; fundamentally; despite appearances or differences: sisters under the skin.


    1. the tissue forming the outer covering of the vertebrate body: it consists of two layers (the dermis and epidermis), the outermost of which may be covered with hair, scales, feathers, etc. It is mainly protective and sensory in function
    2. (as modifier)a skin disease See also dermis, epidermis Related adjectives: cutaneous, dermatoid
  1. a person’s complexiona fair skin
  2. any similar covering in a plant or lower animal
  3. any coating or film, such as one that forms on the surface of a liquid
  4. unsplit leather made from the outer covering of various mammals, reptiles, etcCompare hide 2 (def. 1)
  5. the outer covering of a fur-bearing animal, dressed and finished with the hair on
  6. a container made from animal skin
  7. the outer covering surface of a vessel, rocket, etc
  8. a person’s skin regarded as his lifeto save one’s skin
  9. (often plural) informal (in jazz or pop use) a drum
  10. informal short for skinhead
  11. slang a cigarette paper used for rolling a cannabis cigarette
  12. Irish slang a person; sorthe’s a good old skin
  13. by the skin of one’s teeth by a narrow margin; only just
  14. get under one’s skin informal to irritate one
  15. jump out of one’s skin to be very startled
  16. no skin off one’s nose informal not a matter that affects one adversely
  17. skin and bone extremely thin
  18. thick skin an insensitive nature
  19. thin skin a sensitive nature

verb skins, skinning or skinned

  1. (tr) to remove the outer covering from (fruit, etc)
  2. (tr) to scrape a small piece of skin from (a part of oneself) in falling, etche skinned his knee
  3. (often foll by over) to cover (something) with skin or a skinlike substance or (of something) to become covered in this way
  4. (tr) slang to strip of money; swindle


  1. relating to or for the skinskin cream
  2. slang, mainly US involving or depicting nudityskin magazines

c.1200, “animal hide” (usually dressed and tanned), from Old Norse skinn “animal hide, fur,” from Proto-Germanic *skintha- (cf. 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 cut off” (cf. Breton scant “scale of a fish,” Irish scainim “I tear, I burst”), from root *sek- “to cut” (see section (n.)).

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.


  1. The membranous tissue forming an external protective covering or integument of an animal and consisting of the epidermis and dermis.


  1. To bruise, cut, or injure the skin of.

  1. The outer covering of a vertebrate animal, consisting of two layers of cells, a thick inner layer (the dermis) and a thin outer layer (the epidermis). Structures such as hair, scales, or feathers are contained in the skin, as are fat cells, sweat glands, and sensory receptors. Skin provides a protective barrier against disease-causing microorganisms and against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In warm-blooded animals, it aids in temperature regulation, as by insulating against the cold.

To affect deeply: “At first I couldn’t get Wanda to notice me, but now I think I’ve gotten under her skin.”

The external tissue that covers the body. As the body’s largest organ (it makes up about one twenty-fifth of an adult’s weight), the skin serves as a waterproof covering that helps keep out pathogens and protects against temperature extremes and sunlight. The skin also contains special nerve endings that respond to touch, pressure, heat, and cold. The skin has an outer layer, or epidermis, and a layer immediately below, called the dermis.

In addition to the idioms beginning with skin

  • skin alive
  • skin and bones
  • skin deep
  • skin off one’s nose
  • skin of one’s teeth

also see:

  • beauty is only skin deep
  • by the skin of one’s teeth
  • get under someone’s skin
  • jump out of one’s skin
  • make one’s flesh creep (skin crawl)
  • more than one way to skin a cat
  • no skin off one’s nose
  • save one’s bacon (skin)
  • soaked to the skin
  • thick skin

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