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  1. anything said or done, on or off stage, that is followed by a specific line or action: An off-stage door slam was his cue to enter.
  2. anything that excites to action; stimulus.
  3. a hint; intimation; guiding suggestion.
  4. the part a person is to play; a prescribed or necessary course of action.
  5. a sensory signal used to identify experiences, facilitate memory, or organize responses.
  6. Archaic. frame of mind; mood.
verb (used with object), cued, cu·ing.
  1. to provide with a cue or indication; give a cue to; prompt: Will you cue me on my lines?
  2. to insert, or direct to come in, in a specific place in a musical or dramatic performance (usually followed by in or into): to cue in a lighting effect.
  3. to search for and reach (a specific track on a recording) (sometimes followed by up).
  1. cue (someone) in, Informal. to inform; give instructions, information, news, etc., to: Cue him in on the plans for the dance.
  2. miss a cue,
    1. to fail to respond to a cue.
    2. Informal.to miss the point: You could tell by his expression that he had missed a cue.

Origin of cue1

1545–55; spelled name of the letter q as an abbreviation (found in acting scripts) of Latin quandō when
Can be confusedcue Kew queue


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1. signal. 3. sign, clue, key, tip, inkling.


  1. a long, tapering rod, tipped with a soft leather pad, used to strike the ball in billiards, pool, etc.
  2. a long, usually wooden stick with a concave head, used to propel the disks in shuffleboard.
  3. a queue of hair.
  4. a queue or file, as of persons awaiting their turn.
verb (used with object), cued, cu·ing.
  1. to tie into a queue.
  2. to strike with a cue.

Origin of cue2

1725–35; < French queue tail, Old French coue < Latin cōda, earlier cauda tail; cf. coward, queue


  1. the letter Q, q.

Origin of cue3

1400–50; late Middle English cu; conventional adaptation in spelling of the letter name
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for cue


    1. (in the theatre, films, music, etc) anything spoken or done that serves as a signal to an actor, musician, etc, to follow with specific lines or action
    2. on cueat the right moment
  1. a signal or reminder to do something
  2. psychol the part of any sensory pattern that is identified as the signal for a response
  3. the part, function, or action assigned to or expected of a person
verb cues, cueing or cued
  1. (tr) to give a cue or cues to (an actor)
  2. (usually foll by in or into) to signal (to something or somebody) at a specific moment in a musical or dramatic performanceto cue in a flourish of trumpets
  3. (tr) to give information or a reminder to (someone)
  4. (intr) to signal the commencement of filming, as with the word "Action!"

Word Origin

C16: probably from name of the letter q, used in an actor's script to represent Latin quando when


  1. billiards snooker a long tapered shaft with a leather tip, used to drive the balls
  2. hair caught at the back forming a tail or braid
  3. US a variant spelling of queue
verb cues, cueing or cued
  1. to drive (a ball) with a cue
  2. (tr) to twist or tie (the hair) into a cue

Word Origin

C18: variant of queue
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

Word Origin and History for cue


"stage direction," 1550s, from Q, which was used 16c., 17c. in stage plays to indicate actors' entrances, probably as an abbreviation of Latin quando "when" (see quandary) or a similar Latin adverb. Shakespeare has it as both Q and cue.


"billiard stick," 1749, variant of queue (n.). Cue ball first recorded 1881.


1928, from cue (n.1). Related: Cued, cueing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper