I am looking to find the ultimate origin of the English word SKULK which, in the southern England that I grew up in, means to hang around, in a semi-concealed fashion, for some underhanded purpose. “That burglar is skulking around the neighbourhood.”
In all the etymological dictionaries that I have examined, the word origin is given as Scandinavian from the 12th or 13th century. For example: Danish “skulke“, Swedish “skolka“, and Icelandic “skolla.” Those derivations are from Walter Skeat’s Dictionary, and similar derivations can be found at various online dictionaries such here, here, and here. Normally that would be that; all the sources agree.
However, today I have been reading a 1985 PhD dissertation on the settlement of 6th and 7th century northern Italy by the Langobards who came from Pannonia which is roughly Croatia, and northern parts of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzeogivana. In a discussion of military organization, the author mentions: “the sculca, denoting a spying or reconnaissance group or look-out … it was of Germanic origin which passed into Byzantine usage.”
Sculca as spies or look outs and skulking seem awfully close in both meaning and sound. Could the Scandinavians have picked up the earlier word via the Germanic tribes between Lombardy and the Baltic? Or perhaps both words derive from a proto-Germanic or even PIE original. Is there any debate on this anywhere?