verb (used with object), sleaved, sleav·ing.

to divide or separate into filaments, as silk.


anything matted or raveled.
a filament of silk obtained by separating a thicker thread.
a silk in the form of such filaments.

Origin of sleave

1585–95; Old English -slǣfan (only in the compound tōslǣfan), akin to slīfan to split; see sliver
Related formsun·sleaved, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for sleaving



a tangled thread
a thin filament unravelled from a thicker thread
mainly poetic anything matted or complicated


to disentangle (twisted thread, etc)

Word Origin for sleave

Old English slǣfan to divide; related to Middle Low German slēf, Norwegian sleiv big spoon
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 sleaving



"to separate or divide" (threads, strands, fibers), Old English -slæfan, from stem of -slifan "to separate, split, cleave," from Proto-Germanic *slifanan, perhaps related to the root of slip (v.). Cf. German Schleife "a loop, knot, noose." Related: Sleaved; sleaving. As a noun, "knotted, tangled silk or thread," 1590s, from the verb; this is the word in Shakespeare's rauel'd Sleeue of Care ("Macbeth").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper