Definition of clew
1 : a ball of thread, yarn, or cord
2 : clue 1
3a : a lower corner or only the after corner of a sailb : a metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sailc clews plural : a combination of lines by which a hammock is suspended
clew was our Word of the Day on 05/22/2011. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
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.
Origin and Etymology of clew
Middle English clewe, from Old English cliewen; akin to Old High German kliuwa ball, Sanskrit glauḥ lump
First Known Use: before 12th century
First Known Use of clew
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up clew? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).