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[skeyn] /skeɪn/
a length of yarn or thread wound on a reel or swift preparatory for use in manufacturing.
anything wound in or resembling such a coil:
a skein of hair.
something suggestive of the twistings of a skein:
an incoherent skein of words.
a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.
a succession or series of similar or interrelated things:
a skein of tennis victories.
Origin of skein
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English skeyne, skayne < Middle French escaigne < ? Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for skein
Historical Examples
  • She will remember now that a skein of hemp thread is not the thing to line her nest with.

    Tales From Two Hemispheres Hjalmar Hjorth Boysen
  • There was a skein of blue silk swinging over the edge of the table.

    The Flying Mercury Eleanor M. Ingram
  • In the evening it was a pleasure to hold a skein of yarn for her to wind.

  • That doesn't matter a bit, you must wait till the skein is unwound.

    The Day of Wrath Maurus Jkai
  • It was this time a skein of silk that the little lady wanted to have unwound.

    The Day of Wrath Maurus Jkai
  • She parted with caressing fingers the skein of tow on the frowsled head.

    Flamsted quarries Mary E. Waller
  • Shall we think that our prayers can avert a doom woven with the skein of events?

    Eugene Aram, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Uncle Nicholas,” said Amber, “you promised to buy me a skein of blue silk.

    Newton Forster Captain Frederick Marryat
  • In a little while Alice asked her to hold a skein of cotton for her while she wound it.

    The Wide, Wide World Susan Warner
  • The negotiation with the French Government was but one of the threads in the skein.

    Sir Walter Ralegh William Stebbing
British Dictionary definitions for skein


a length of yarn, etc, wound in a long coil
something resembling this, such as a lock of hair
a flock of geese flying Compare gaggle (sense 2)
Word Origin
C15: from Old French escaigne, of unknown origin
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 skein

"fixed quantity of yarn doubled over and over and knotted, mid-15c., from Middle French escaigne "a hank of yarn" (Old French escagne, mid-14c., Modern French écagne), of uncertain origin. Cf. Medieval Latin scagna "a skein," Irish sgainne "a skein, clue."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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