[ kloo ]

  1. Nautical. either lower corner of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.

  1. a ball or skein of thread, yarn, etc.

  2. Usually clews. the rigging for a hammock.

  3. Theater. a metal device holding scenery lines controlled by one weighted line.

  4. Classical Mythology. the thread by which Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth.

verb (used with object)
  1. to coil into a ball.

  1. Theater.

    • to draw up the bottom edge of (a curtain, drop, etc.) and fold out of view; bag.

    • to secure (lines) with a clew.

Verb Phrases
  1. clew down, Nautical. to secure (a sail) in an unfurled position.

  2. clew up, Nautical. to haul (the lower corners of a square-rig sail) up to the yard by means of the clew lines.

Idioms about clew

  1. spread a large clew, Nautical.

    • to carry a large amount of sail.

    • 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

Words Nearby clew Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use clew in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for clew


/ (kluː) /

  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

  1. (usually plural) the rigging of a hammock

  2. a rare variant of clue

  1. (tr) to coil or roll into a ball

Origin of clew

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