clew

noun
\ ˈklü How to pronounce clew (audio) \

Definition of clew

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a ball of thread, yarn, or cord
3a : a lower corner or only the after corner of a sail
b : a metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sail
c clews plural : a combination of lines by which a hammock is suspended

clew

verb
clewed; clewing; clews

Definition of clew (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to roll into a ball
2 : clue
3 : to haul (a sail) up or down by ropes through the clews

Did you know?

Noun

The "ball of thread" meaning of clew (from Middle English clewe and ultimately from Old English cliewen) has been with us since before the 12th century. In Greek mythology, Ariadne gave a ball of thread to Theseus so that he could use it to find his way out of her father's labyrinth. This, and similar tales, gave rise to the use of clew for anything that could guide a person through a difficult place. This use led in turn to the meaning "a piece of evidence that leads one toward the solution of a problem." Today, the spelling variant clue, which appeared in the 16th century, is the more common spelling variant for the "evidence" sense, but you'll find clew in some famous works of literature. Clew is also the only choice for the sailing senses.

First Known Use of clew

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for clew

Noun

Middle English clewe, from Old English cliewen; akin to Old High German kliuwa ball, Sanskrit glauḥ lump

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About clew

Time Traveler for clew

Time Traveler

The first known use of clew was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About clew

Statistics for clew

Cite this Entry

“Clew.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clew. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on clew

Nglish: Translation of clew for Spanish Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!