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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

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
This was funny for a moment, and then not—a thin skein of anxiety started winding its way across the room. Zephyr Teachout, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2022 In a skein of dialogues that runs more than a half hour long, set in and around an otherwise empty café, Sangok confronts and defies mortality by way of her artistic vocation and creative passion. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 5 May 2022 Her hair hung like a skein of silk, immune to humidity. New York Times, 5 Mar. 2022 The hot directorial duo have also written the screenplays of the six-episode skein, for which casting is currently underway. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 7 Feb. 2022 This should be the season the Mariners finally end the 21-year drought, the longest skein without a playoff berth in North American team sports. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, 18 Feb. 2022 Held in the mesh of gravity and spin, a skein of quantum magnetic charge, the Muon persists, outlives its foreseeable wobble. Judith K. Liebmann, Scientific American, 20 Jan. 2022 It’s dry, with apricot and pear flavors and a skein of minerality that carries the fruit through to a long, satisfying finish. Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2021 Kalmerton has most success fishing skein or flies for the spawning chinook. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9 Oct. 2021 See More

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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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 29 Sep. 2022.

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Kids Definition



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

More from Merriam-Webster on skein

Last Updated: 10 Aug 2022

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