I'm working on a corporate training project where the project lead insists that we are "Skilling" people (not training them) and we are offering "Personnel Skilling" programs. She insists it's proper English. It's driving me nuts.

I'm in no position to argue, but I'd like to at least know what the rule is that is being broken for my own peace of mind.

Can anyone offer the proper justification for why "skilling" just isn't a word, or am I off base here?


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    I find the verb in the OED, not even marked as informal, defined as (usually as noun 'skilling') train a worker to do a particular task. I've never heard it before, and I suspect it may be jargon.
    – Angelos
    Aug 8 '16 at 21:20
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    Your user name wins the internet. Pro tip: kill marketroid jargon with fire. Aug 8 '16 at 21:30
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    I've encountered the verb in educational and business circles. It's given in ODO (which is what @Nothing at all may actually mean). It has almost certainly become common enough to have escaped the 'jargon' class. Aug 8 '16 at 21:40
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    @Nothingatall Do not confuse the OED with ODO. There is no OED entry, although many variants appear, such as deskilling, out-skilling, upskiling, and so on.
    – choster
    Aug 8 '16 at 22:03
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    It sounds stupid to me. I don’t see any reason to not use “training”...
    – Jim
    Aug 8 '16 at 23:26

What makes a word a word is a matter of philosophy. Terms are invented all the time and when their use spreads it can become a word.

As far as I know, 'Skilling' in the sense that your boss speaks of does not exist. Looking at the American Heritage Dictionary and the New Oxford American Dictionary there is no such entry. However according to this site 'Skilling', or 'Multi-Skilling' is defined as:

The training of a single employee in multiple skill-sets. Another definition regards labor unions and their structure, which promotes workers who have a range of skills or knowledge for working on several different projects, which may or may not be a part of the worker's technical job description...

Which leads me to believe that if it's a term, it's a highly specialized term and you're not going to hear it outside of certain professions, though arguably it does exist. If it is a verb it is being used correctly.

Possibly also of interest is this Urban Dictionary entry:

To complete[ly] dominate in life, by being a boss and taking what you want.

In everyday English, stick to saying 'Training'. This sounds exactly like marketing malarkey.


Do 'skilling' and 'teaching' have different meanings? Yes. In general there are no exact synonyms. If they're spelled differently or pronounced differently, there is some slightest difference in how they are used.

'Skilling' was unknown to me until this question. It sounds like a two-step neologism process, first a verbification of the noun 'skill' into a verb, then taking the present participle 'skilling' with the intention of it being used like 'training'.

So your question really might be: Do 'skilling' and 'training' have different meanings? To be more specific than 'there are no exact synonyms', you really can't replace 'training' with 'skilling' because of the connotations; most people would have the same reaction as you to this strange new word. In context people would understand it to mean something like 'training' but with the extra 'very rare, only used in very particular business situations'. That's enough to make them different.

You may still be concerned that it is not a 'word'. More than one person has used it (internet search, ODO). More than one person has used it more than once. So even if there may not be any authoritative source that pronounces 'This is a word', it's being used consistently, and really in the end that's enough, at least for those people who've used it.

This sounds very similar to the 'gifting' controversy. Many people cringe at the the many other people who use 'gift' as a verb: "I gifted them a book" meaning "I gave them a book as a gift".

Words come in and out of fashion. 'Very' came from Old French after the 1066 invasion (cognate with 'vrai'), it replaced a perfectly good word from Old English that has a vestige in the rare 'sore' (as in "I am sore wroth" = "I am very angry") which is cognate with German 'sehr' = 'very'). Sure that annoyed the crap out of some poor saxons when the house staff took on airs and spoke fancy like their Norman overlords. They got over it eventually, or at least it didn't bother their kids as much.

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    To be honest, to use 'skilling' is an aesthetic crime.
    – Mitch
    Aug 9 '16 at 3:07

I'm not able to find this word, even in the OED. It appears to be business jargon, which doesn't necessarily make it improper (jargon is often a non-real world that has common usage and understanding). However, since it doesn't appear to be a real word in an academic sense, I would shy away from it. Some business folk do in fact respond positively to jargon, however it still doesn't quite feel right.

At least in my part of the United States, I've never heard this usage; not even in training departments that I've worked in and with.

  • Google 'skilling' + 'schools' or 'skilling' + 'workers'. Aug 8 '16 at 22:29
  • And all of those hits, at least as appear in my browser, are from business sites and conferences where jargon would be common. Aug 8 '16 at 22:36
  • That's hardly surprising for those search parameters; I was addressing your 'I've never heard ...' (which is too subjective for an answer). Have you read the comments above (where quotes from educational bodies and councils are given)? Have you tried some of your own research? 'Jargon' is usually restricted to a single domain. And you're not likely to find examples with say 'skilling' + 'beetroot'. Aug 8 '16 at 23:06
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    Actually, it was a qualified comment, making it somewhat less objective. I did try my own research after reading the question, which led to no plausible results beyond jargon. It does seem to be a business/corporate/training jargon word, mostly in that particular vernacular. More specifically, any noun can be turned into a verb and have a reasonably understood meaning - that doesn't mean it's a "real" word. I could say someone "cold-turkied" a habit and people would know what I meant. It's still ridiculous. Aug 8 '16 at 23:59
  • But 'cold-turkey' isn't listed as a verb in any reputable dictionary I have access to. Whereas 'skill' (v) is, in ODO. // YourDictionary lists 'Bang for the buck', 'Chief cook and bottle-washer', and 'Suspect' [n] as jargon, when I think most people would agree they are often used today far beyond the institutions where they were invented. In any case, note that OP (ELU jargon!) starts 'I'm working on a corporate training project', which renders 'However, since it doesn't appear to be a real word in an academic sense, I would shy away from it.' doubly inappropriate. Aug 10 '16 at 0:10

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