What Does Skid Row Mean?

Skid Row Meaning

Definition: An area of town that houses the city’s poorest or most disreputable people.

Origin of Skid Row

This term comes from the logging industry in America. It originally referred to a “skidway” that logs and timber would slide down in mountainous regions.

During that time, the area of towns that were frequented by loggers was called Skid Road. These areas were filled with taverns and brothels.

As we entered the 20th century, however, the term came to apply to any area of degeneracy, even those unaffiliated with the logging industry. Sometime by the mid-20th century the term changed into skid row.

Several large cities, such as Seattle, have actual streets named Skid Row or Skid Road. However, there is no evidence to prove which city had the first.

The term skid row is related to the phrase on the skids.

Examples of Skid Row

skid row definitionThe dialogue below shows two university students discussing the best place to live off campus.

Nisha: Alan, do you live on campus?

Alan: No, I’ve had my own house for many years. Why do you ask?

Nisha: Well, I’ve been living with my parents for the past year to save money. However, I’d like to have the experience of living on my own. I’m trying to figure out the best place to live. I don’t have a lot of money, so I can’t afford a really expensive place. That being said, I also don’t want to end up on Skid Row.

Alan: Hmmm. Just stay away from the west side of town. That’s the area with the most crime.

define skid rowThe second dialogue shows a father and son discussing the son’s wanderings.

Son: Why are you so angry at me?

Dad: I have an app that tracks your phone. You told me you would be at Bobby’s house last night. He lives in a good part of town. When I tracked your phone, I found that you were actually hanging out on Skid Row! What were you doing there? Were you buying drugs? It can’t have been anything good.

Son: That’s insulting! You have no right to track my whereabouts!

More Examples

The excerpt describes how one man always invited a homeless person from the poor section of town over for a holiday feast.

  • His gentleness and that of his beloved father (who always invited a Skid Row transient to join the family for Christmas dinner) contrast with other male relatives, wounded literally and psychically by the Vietnam War and other hardships. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is about how a newspaper researched people living in poverty.

  • The Daily News expose of the squalor of Skid Row takes center stage here, highlighting the paper’s undercover work in gathering personal accounts of the homeless population. –Chicago Tribune


The term skid row is a destitute section of town that often has lots of crime.