from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Jazz, folk, or country music played by performers who use unconventional instruments, such as kazoos, washboards, or jugs, sometimes in combination with conventional instruments.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A type of folk music, with jazz and blues influences, using homemade or improvised instruments.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a style of popular music in the 1950s; based on American folk music and played on guitars and improvised percussion instruments


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Origin unknown.


  • Country blues groups in the pre-war American south were sometimes described as skiffle acts, but it was Glasgow-born Lonnie Donegan who popularised the idea of making music with improvised instruments such as a washboard and tea-chest bass in the mid-50s.

    Lonnie Donegan brings the skiffle craze

  • But knowing that it does adds meaning and weight to each moment, especially when John discovers his idol, Elvis Presley, his fledgling "skiffle" band embarks on its first performances and John is introduced to two promising young musicians named Paul and George.

    Jonathan Kim: ReThink Review: Nowhere Boy -- On His 70th Birthday, Lennon as a Lad

  • "It's an Italian term and it's short for the word skiffle and skiffle means disgusting but it doesn't really mean disgusting in the way we use that word in English.


  • Set in Brighton in 1963 on the cusp of Beatlemania, there's a terrific skiffle band playing before each act, and each principal actor takes a solo turn on a bizarre instrument, ranging from washboard to tuned car-horns.

    Small-Screen Stars Shine on Stage

  • It's a shame that TV channels keep on making reality shows following Paris Hilton around or scripting the lives of the young and dumb for our amusement when they could be catch a psychedelic hippy skiffle group as they surf a drug- and BBQ chicken-powered wave across America.

    Internet picks of the week

  • It's a rare reunion for the Old Line Skiffle Combo, a Maryland six-piece that plays traditional skiffle and rockabilly tunes using everything from a washboard to pedal-steel guitar to recreate the shufflin' '50s vibe.

    Nightlife Agenda: Parties for a long weekend

  • But Bean has set the action in 1963 in Brighton, and the key point is that Francis Henshall, a failed skiffle player, finds himself working for two guvnors.

    One Man, Two Guvnors - review

  • For good measure there is even a prefatory skiffle session and musical interludes by Grant Olding.

    One Man, Two Guvnors - review

  • The lyrics betray less knowledge about baseball ( "The catcher hits for .318") than lust ( "Oh elope with me in private and we'll set something ablaze!"), but the song's melody and skiffle beat overpower such shortcomings.

    In concert: Belle & Sebastian at DAR Constitution Hall

  • Rockabilly and doo-wop provide the sturdy structures, with a nod to the skiffle of the Quarrymen as he sings "Long, long lost John" over the fade of "I'm Losing You", in a deliberate echo of Lonnie Donegan's version of a song borrowed from Woody Guthrie.

    The legacy of John Lennon


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Ska always makes me think of Skiffle, not because of the music but because of the association with the Beatles and beat music and because the names are somewhat similar. See Free Association.

    February 13, 2008

  • John Lennon's high school band, The Quarrymen, was a skiffle band.

    September 3, 2007

  • Skiffle is a type of folk music with a jazz and blues influence, usually using homemade or improvised instruments such as the washboard, tea chest bass, kazoo, cigar-box fiddle, musical saw, comb and paper, and so forth, as well as more conventional instruments such as acoustic guitar and banjo. Skiffle and jug band music are closely related...The Oxford English Dictionary states that skiffle was a slang term for "rent party"...Originally, skiffle groups were referred to as spasm bands.

    September 2, 2007