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2017 Word of the Year

clew

[kloo] /klu/
noun
1.
clue (def 1).
2.
Nautical. either lower corner of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
3.
a ball or skein of thread, yarn, etc.
4.
Usually, clews. the rigging for a hammock.
5.
Theater. a metal device holding scenery lines controlled by one weighted line.
6.
Classical Mythology. the thread by which Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth.
verb (used with object)
7.
to coil into a ball.
8.
clue (def 3).
9.
Theater.
  1. to draw up the bottom edge of (a curtain, drop, etc.) and fold out of view; bag.
  2. to secure (lines) with a clew.
Verb phrases
10.
clew down, Nautical. to secure (a sail) in an unfurled position.
11.
clew up, Nautical. to haul (the lower corners of a square-rig sail) up to the yard by means of the clew lines.
Idioms
12.
spread a large clew, Nautical.
  1. to carry a large amount of sail.
  2. to present an impressive appearance.
Origin of clew
900
before 900; Middle English clewe, Old English cleowen, cliewen, equivalent to cliew- (cognate with Old High German kliu ball) + -en -en5; akin to Dutch kluwen
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for clew
Historical Examples
  • I asked, astonished at Jim's behavior, and anxious for some clew by which to solve its mystery.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • His behavior gave me no clew as to whether it had been a joyful or a sorrowful one.

    The First Violin Jessie Fothergill
  • It would be idle to travel on until this clew had been cleared up.

  • Now, it was clear to him Miss Kellett had a secret; or, at least, had the clew to one.

    Davenport Dunn, Volume 2 (of 2) Charles James Lever
  • You are certainly not bent on giving me any clew to your motives, Fagan.

    Sir Jasper Carew Charles James Lever
  • For a great while I could not detect the clew to his proceedings.

    Roland Cashel Charles James Lever
  • Of Keane not a trace could be discovered; nor could any clew be obtained as to his companion.

    Roland Cashel Charles James Lever
  • So that you advise me to open his pack and see if I can find a clew to him.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • There was nothing in that sallow but handsome face that revealed a clew to anything.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • "Up to this moment you have given me no clew to it," said Sir Stafford, with a smile.

    The Daltons, Volume I (of II) Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for clew

clew

/kluː/
noun
1.
a ball of thread, yarn, or twine
2.
(nautical) either of the lower corners of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail
3.
(usually pl) the rigging of a hammock
4.
a rare variant of clue
verb
5.
(transitive) to coil or roll into a ball
Word Origin
Old English cliewen (vb); related to Old High German kliu ball
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for clew
n.

"ball of thread or yarn," northern English and Scottish relic of Old English cliewen "sphere, ball, skein, ball of thread or yarn," probably from West Germanic *kleuwin (cf. Old Saxon cleuwin, Dutch kluwen), from Proto-Germanic *kliwjo-, from PIE *gleu- "gather into a mass, conglomerate" (see clay).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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