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See more synonyms for skein on Thesaurus.com
  1. a length of yarn or thread wound on a reel or swift preparatory for use in manufacturing.
  2. anything wound in or resembling such a coil: a skein of hair.
  3. something suggestive of the twistings of a skein: an incoherent skein of words.
  4. a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.
  5. a succession or series of similar or interrelated things: a skein of tennis victories.
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Origin of skein

1400–50; late Middle English skeyne, skayne < Middle French escaigne < ?
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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

British Dictionary definitions for skein


  1. a length of yarn, etc, wound in a long coil
  2. something resembling this, such as a lock of hair
  3. a flock of geese flyingCompare gaggle (def. 2)
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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

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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper