A skerry is a small rocky island, usually defined to be too small for habitation. It may simply be a rocky reef.

The term skerry is derived from the Old Norse "sker", which means a rock in the sea. The Old Norse term "sker" was brought into the English language via the Scots language. It is a cognate of the Scandinavian languages' words for "skerry" – Icelandic, Faroese: "sker", Danish: "skær", Swedish: "skär", Norwegian: "skjær" / "skjer" and Finnish: "kari". In Scottish Gaelic, it appears as "sgeir", e.g. Sula Sgeir.


Skerries are most commonly formed at the outlet of fjords where submerged glacially formed valleys at right angles with the coast join with other cross valleys in a complex array. In some places near the seaward margins of fjorded areas, the ice-scoured channels are so numerous and varied in direction that the rocky coast is divided into thousands of island blocks, some large and mountainous while others merely rocky points or rock reefs, menacing navigation.


The island fringe of Norway is such a group of glacially formed skerries (called a "skjærgård"); many of the cross fjords are so arranged that they parallel the coast and provide a protected channel behind an almost unbroken succession of mountainous islands and skerries. By this channel one can travel through a protected passage almost the entire 1,600 km route from Stavanger to North Cape, Norway. The Blindleia is a skerry-protected waterway that starts near Kristiansand in southern Norway, and continues past Lillesand.

The “inside passage” provides a similar route from Seattle, Washington to Skagway, Alaska. Yet another such skerry-protected passage extends from the Straits of Magellan north for 800 km (500 miles). The Swedish coast along Bohuslän is likewise skerry guarded. Even the east coast of Sweden, in the Baltic sea has many big skärgårdar (archipelago) , notably Stockholm archipelago - Stockholms skärgård - "skjærgård".

The southwestern coast of Finland also has a large amount of skerries, so many, in fact, that they form an archipelago.

In the Russian Federation the best examples are the Minina Skerries, located in the Kara Sea, in the western shores of the Taymyr Peninsula, and the Sumsky Skerries (Sumskiye Shkhery) coord|64|24|N|35|30|E|, located in the White Sea.

The United Kingdom has a large number of skerries including Staple Island (an Outer Farne Island) in England, a small rocky outcrop near the Fowlsheugh in northeast Scotland and numerous reefs in the Hebrides such as Dhu Heartach and Skerryvore.

The most southerly skerries are perhaps the Skrap Skerries off of South Georgia.

For a list of the various islands and island groups with "skerry" or "skerries" as part of their name see: The Skerries.

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  • skerry — noun (plural skerries) Etymology: Scots (Shetland and Orkney islands), ultimately from Old Norse skerj , sker rocky islet more at scar Date: 1612 a rocky isle ; reef …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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