1 of 2


or less commonly skean or skeane : a loosely coiled length of yarn or thread wound on a reel
: something suggesting the twists or coils of a skein : tangle
: a flock of wildfowl (such as geese or ducks) in flight


2 of 2


skeined; skeining; skeins

transitive verb

: to wind into skeins
skein yarn

Examples of skein in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
After every last doily, every stitch of fabric, each skein of yard has been bought; once even the very fixtures and shelves are sold off, Wells will lock the door for the last time and walk away. John Carlisle, Detroit Free Press, 25 Feb. 2024 Then comes a piece of the bomb bay door, its hydraulics still attached; skeins of electrical wires; and a handful of indignant crabs, which are promptly returned to the sea. Carolyn Wells, Longreads, 22 Feb. 2024 To have crafted Clotho’s pose, Claudel would have had to imagine the intimate darkness under those weighty skeins of yarn. Farah Peterson, The Atlantic, 14 Dec. 2023 Cities everywhere have replicated Southern California’s skein of interchanges scything through the landscape and its roadways lined with towers that are so moated by driveways and parking that popping next door means boarding a two-ton vehicle for a two-minute drive. Curbed, 29 Nov. 2023 Her compulsion to write (A4 blue notebook always to hand) and her ability to create intricate skeins of narrative was remarkable. Vulture, 17 Nov. 2023 White cuts a genuinely heroic figure, upright and just, and his sleuthing guides us surely through the skeins of evidence. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 19 Oct. 2023 The choppy editing draws attention to itself, perhaps suggesting that, in lieu of long skeins of speech, Cornwell’s remarks were assembled from snippets—that the interview itself is an ordering, an abstraction, rather than a confrontation or a connection. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 24 Oct. 2023 As the days go by, the strange events and increasingly disturbing situations that torment her will eventually lead her to unravel the terrible skein of secrets that surround the convent and haunt its inhabitants. Michaela Zee, Variety, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'skein.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1775, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near skein

Cite this Entry

“Skein.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a looped length of yarn or thread put up in a loose twist after it is taken from the reel

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