\ ˈskān How to pronounce skein (audio) \

Definition of skein

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 or less commonly skean or skeane \ ˈskān How to pronounce skeane (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 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, "Watching “The Irishman” on Netflix Is the Best Way to See It," 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, "Music, Theater and More to Experience at Home This Weekend," 16 Apr. 2020 To meet her deadline, Ms. Durant recruited a skein full of knitters to assist. Abby Ellin, New York Times, "A Good Yarn About Those ‘Carousel’ Costumes," 23 May 2018 The sky over Capitan Peak was going from orange and pink to deep blue and black, and long skeins of sandhill cranes coursed overhead. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "A D.I.Y. Duck Hunt on Public Land in New Mexico," 10 Mar. 2020 Carvillian politics cannot go beyond analyzing the thin skein of polling and focus group data and then adopting whatever positions come out ahead. Ed Burmila, The New Republic, "The Obsolete Politics of James Carville," 10 Feb. 2020 The net itself is an intricate skein of marine-grade stainless steel — enough to fill seven football fields. Rachel Swan,, "Golden Gate Bridge suicide nets delayed two years, as people keep jumping," 12 Dec. 2019 Hanks, skeins and balls — from cloud-soft kid mohair to slightly felted, neon yellow merino wool from Uruguay to beginner-friendly, spaghetti-thick acrylics — pack the cubbyholes that hug the walls in the shop on Red Hill Avenue. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Of earls and purls: Costa Mesa knitting group makes accessories to look the part at ‘Downton Abbey’ showing," 13 Sep. 2019 The plane cut through a skein of dark-gray cloud, through a layer of liquid light, into another cloud that started as dark as steel wool, then thickened to gray and turned slowly white. Anne Enright, The New Yorker, "The Weight," 29 Aug. 2019

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

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Skein.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for skein


How to pronounce skein (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on skein

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with skein

Spanish Central: Translation of skein

Nglish: Translation of skein for Spanish Speakers

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