[ skel-i-tn ]
See synonyms for: skeletonskeletonlike on

  1. Anatomy, Zoology. the bones of a human or an animal considered as a whole, together forming the framework of the body.

  2. any of various structures forming a rigid framework in an invertebrate.

  1. an emaciated person or animal.

  2. a supporting framework, as of a leaf, building, or ship.

  3. an outline, as of a literary work: the skeleton of the plot.

  4. something reduced to its essential parts.

  1. of or relating to a skeleton.

  2. like or being a mere framework; reduced to the essential or minimal parts or numbers: a skeleton staff.

Idioms about skeleton

  1. skeleton at the feast, a person or thing that casts gloom over a joyful occasion; a note or reminder of sorrow in the midst of joy.

  2. skeleton in the closet / cupboard,

    • a family scandal that is concealed to avoid public disgrace.

    • any embarrassing, shameful, or damaging secret.

Origin of skeleton

1570–80; <New Latin <Greek: mummy, noun use of neuter of skeletós dried up, verbid of skéllein to dry

Other words from skeleton

  • skel·e·ton·less, adjective
  • skel·e·ton·like, adjective

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

How to use skeleton in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for skeleton


/ (ˈskɛlɪtən) /

  1. a hard framework consisting of inorganic material that supports and protects the soft parts of an animal's body and provides attachment for muscles: may be internal (an endoskeleton), as in vertebrates, or external( an exoskeleton), as in arthropods: See also endoskeleton, exoskeleton

  2. informal a very thin emaciated person or animal

  1. the essential framework of any structure, such as a building or leaf, that supports or determines the shape of the rest of the structure

  2. an outline consisting of bare essentials: the skeleton of a novel

  3. (modifier) US and Canadian reduced to a minimum: a skeleton staff

  4. skeleton in the cupboard or US and Canadian skeleton in the closet a scandalous fact or event in the past that is kept secret

Origin of skeleton

C16: via New Latin from Greek: something desiccated, from skellein to dry up

Derived forms of skeleton

  • skeletal, adjective
  • skeletally, adverb
  • skeleton-like, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for skeleton


[ skĕlĭ-tn ]

  1. The internal structure of vertebrate animals, composed of bone or cartilage, that supports the body, serves as a framework for the attachment of muscles, and protects the vital organs and associated structures.

  2. A hard protective covering or supporting structure of invertebrate animals. See also endoskeleton exoskeleton.

Other words from skeleton

  • skeletal adjective

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.