This word for a miserly, contemptible person is of American origin from the late 19th century. The word skate in America during the 19th century meant simultaneously a worn-out horse, a mean, contemptible person, or a second-rate sportsman. Cheap was added very early on for emphasis. According to Eric Partridge, the word skate was also adopted by the Royal Navy in the early 20th century to describe a troublesome rating. Originally, skate is thought to be Scots dialect for a contemptible person and the word was taken to America by immigrants. Interestingly, skate is also known in South Africa as a disreputable person, with the same pronunciation, but this origin could well derive from the Afrikaans skuit meaning excreta.