Bryn provided evidence of an earlier sense, which has now been dated to 1885.
One military slang word from the First World War which has become a core part of modern colloquial English in the UK is skive, meaning ‘to avoid work’. Our first quotation at present is from a 1919 magazine article, which lists ‘some of the most universal and expressive Army terms’:
‘To skive’, to dodge a fatigue.
1919 Athenæum 1 Aug., p. 695/1
Although the word skive was used with different meanings in earlier English (for example, in the 19th century skive meant ‘to move lightly or quickly’), this sense of avoiding work seems to have arisen during the war, perhaps from French esquiver ‘to escape, avoid’. Can you find any evidence earlier than 1919?
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To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the OED is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often from newspapers and magazines, and in some cases we know that there may well be earlier evidence in less-easily-accessible sources such as letters, diaries, and government records, many of which are now being made available in digital form for the first time.
Posted by OED_Editor on 21 February 2014 15.23