1570s, from Modern Latin sceleton "bones, bony framework of the body," from Greek skeleton soma "dried-up body, mummy, skeleton," from neuter of skeletos "dried-up" (also, as a noun, "dried body, mummy"), from skellein "dry up, make dry, parch," from PIE root *skele- "to parch, wither" (see sclero-).
Skelton was an early variant form. The noun use of Greek skeletos passed into Late Latin (sceletus), hence French squelette and rare English skelet (1560s), Spanish esqueleto, Italian scheletro. The meaning "bare outline" is first recorded c.1600; hence skeleton crew (1778), skeleton key, etc. Phrase skeleton in the closet "source of secret shame to a person or family" is from 1812.
skeleton skel·e·ton (skěl'ĭ-tn)
The internal structure composed of bone and cartilage that protects and supports the soft organs, tissues, and other parts of a vertebrate organism; endoskeleton.
All the bones of the body taken collectively.
A potentially embarrassing secret: “Before nominating the new judge, the committee asked him if he had any skeletons in the closet.”