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90s Slang You Should Know


[kloo] /klu/
clue (def 1).
Nautical. either lower corner of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
a ball or skein of thread, yarn, etc.
Usually, clews. the rigging for a hammock.
Theater. a metal device holding scenery lines controlled by one weighted line.
Classical Mythology. the thread by which Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth.
verb (used with object)
to coil into a ball.
clue (def 3).
  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
clew down, Nautical. to secure (a sail) in an unfurled position.
clew up, Nautical. to haul (the lower corners of a square-rig sail) up to the yard by means of the clew lines.
spread a large clew, Nautical.
  1. to carry a large amount of sail.
  2. to present an impressive appearance.
Origin of clew
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for clew up
Historical Examples
  • If the wind is fresh, it would make it difficult to clew up the sails.

    The Seaman's Friend Richard Henry Dana
  • “Clear the anchor, and clew up the main-topsail,” shouted the mate.

    The Golden Dream R.M. Ballantyne
  • We hadn't strength to clew up, so her sails were blown away, and she went flying before the mad tempest under bare poles.

    Voyage of the Liberdade Captain Joshua Slocum
  • Let go the topgallant and topsail halliards, and clew up and furl the sails.

    The Rover's Secret Harry Collingwood
  • Stand boldly in until abreast of the big rock at the mouth of the bight, when clew up and furl everything.

    The Castaways Harry Collingwood
  • clew up the courses,” was the next command; followed by an order to brace round the yards.

    Picked up at Sea J.C. Hutcheson
  • The first thing we did was to clew up the three top-gallant-sails.

    Miles Wallingford James Fenimore Cooper
  • Raise main tack and sheet; man the main clew-garnets, buntlines, and leech-lines; clew up cheerily, lads!

    A Middy of the King Harry Collingwood
  • The order was given to clew up the courses and take a reef in the topsails.

    The Two Supercargoes W.H.G. Kingston
  • Stand boldly in until ye come abreast of the big rock at the mouth of the bight, when clew up and furl everything.

    The Castaways Harry Collingwood
British Dictionary definitions for clew up

clew up

(adverb) (nautical) to furl (a square sail) by gathering its clews up to the yard by means of clew lines


a ball of thread, yarn, or twine
(nautical) either of the lower corners of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail
(usually pl) the rigging of a hammock
a rare variant of clue
(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 up



"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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