\ ˈskān How to pronounce skein (audio) \

Definition of skein

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 or less commonly skean or skeane \ ˈskān How to pronounce skein (audio) \ : a loosely coiled length of yarn or thread wound on a reel
2 : something suggesting the twists or coils of a skein : tangle
3 : a flock of wildfowl (such as geese or ducks) in flight


skeined; skeining; skeins

Definition of skein (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to wind into skeins skein yarn

Examples of skein in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Amid the books at her side is a bright orange skein of yarn and a pair of knitting needles -- the hobby keeps her calm and her attention stable. Reuters, ABC News, 5 June 2021 Harris bought a skein, which Romanetti understood that Harris was going to give to her stepdaughter Ella Emhoff, a fashion student in New York who designs knitwear. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2021 His house was another thread in the skein of complications that consumed his life, all of which were caused or made worse by a lack of money. New York Times, 23 Mar. 2021 What follows is a complicated skein of misunderstandings with painful consequences—leavened by touches of laughter along the way. Terry Teachout, WSJ, 18 Feb. 2021 The estimated cost of improving global infrastructure, a skein of metaphorical Silk Roads encircling the world by land and (even more) by sea, rose to $6trn. The Economist, 16 Nov. 2020 Scorsese presents not merely one skein of interlocking scandals but an existential vision of society, the very immoral essence of humankind, looked in the face and wearing suits. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2019 Long skeins of glorious dancing — of quick-stepping, rhythmically complex Philadelphia footwork delivered in a cool, quiet manner — speak of inheritance, resilience, even confidence. New York Times, 16 Apr. 2020 To meet her deadline, Ms. Durant recruited a skein full of knitters to assist. Abby Ellin, New York Times, 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'skein.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of skein


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1775, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for skein


Middle English skeyne, from Middle French (Picard) escagne, probably from Vulgar Latin *scamnia, from *scamniare to wind yarn, from *scamnium rack for holding bobbins, from Latin scamnum bench, stool — more at shambles

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Time Traveler for skein

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The first known use of skein was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

11 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Skein.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for skein



English Language Learners Definition of skein

: a long piece of yarn or thread that is loosely wound


\ ˈskān How to pronounce skein (audio) \

Kids Definition of skein

: a quantity of yarn or thread arranged in a loose coil

More from Merriam-Webster on skein

Nglish: Translation of skein for Spanish Speakers


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