skeleton

1 of 2

noun

skel·​e·​ton ˈske-lə-tən How to pronounce skeleton (audio)
1
: a usually rigid supportive or protective structure or framework of an organism
especially : the bony or more or less cartilaginous framework supporting the soft tissues and protecting the internal organs of a vertebrate
2
: something reduced to its minimum form or essential parts
3
: an emaciated person or animal
4
a
: something forming a structural framework
b
: the straight or branched chain or ring of atoms that forms the basic structure of an organic molecule
5
: something shameful and kept secret (as in a family)
often used in the phrase skeleton in the closet
6
: a small sled that is ridden in a prone position and used especially in competition
also : the competition itself
skeletonic adjective

Illustration of skeleton

Illustration of skeleton
  • 1 skull
  • 2 clavicle
  • 3 scapula
  • 4 sternum
  • 5 humerus
  • 6 pelvis
  • 7 carpus
  • 8 metacarpal bones
  • 9 phalanges (fingers)
  • 10 tibia
  • 11 tarsus
  • 12 metatarsal bones
  • 13 phalanges (toes)
  • 14 fibula
  • 15 patella
  • 16 femur
  • 17 ulna
  • 18 radius
  • 19 spinal column
  • 20 rib
  • 21 orbit

skeleton

2 of 2

adjective

: of, consisting of, or resembling a skeleton

Examples of skeleton in a Sentence

Noun They found the fossil skeleton of a mastodon. He hung a plastic skeleton on the door for Halloween. She was a skeleton after her illness. Only the charred skeleton of the house remained after the fire. We saw a skeleton of the report before it was published.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Supported by a loyal skeleton crew throughout the run, Cook has amassed a huge social media following and has raised over $965,000 for a number of charities. Ben Church, CNN, 8 Apr. 2024 The discovery of a skeleton in Pottstown, Pa., opens out to a story of integration and community. The California Independent Booksellers Alliance, Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2024 And because teachers are still expected to post class work online, often nothing more than a skeleton version of an assignment, families incorrectly think students are keeping up, Ms. Miller said. Sarah Mervosh, New York Times, 28 Mar. 2024 Concepts aimed at this market include vessels shaped like sharks, the Star Trek Enterprise, and bird skeletons. Lucy Alexander, Robb Report, 23 Mar. 2024 The disappearing microbiota hypothesis The sampled teeth were part of a larger skeleton found in Killuragh Cave, County Limerick, by the late Peter Woodman of University College Cork. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 27 Mar. 2024 Related article 70 million-year-old giant dinosaur skeleton found connected from skull to tail Clark, O’Connor and their colleagues began studying the fossil in early 2023, and they were surprised by the bird’s lack of teeth in addition to its unu sual forelimbs, or wing bones. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 8 Mar. 2024 Archaeologists unearthed 146 skeletons — including 120 complete skeletons. Moira Ritter, Miami Herald, 7 Mar. 2024 One day later, Prince Harry personally tested out an outdoor skeleton track for next year’s games, while Markle kept warm in a navy puffer coat with a matching scarf and beanie. Emily Tannenbaum, Glamour, 2 Mar. 2024
Adjective
Six weeks after his birth, Rivera and Dorsey gave the first glimpse at their newborn by posting a picture of him on Instagram in a skeleton Halloween costume. Ariana Quihuiz, Peoplemag, 29 June 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

New Latin, from Greek, neuter of skeletos dried up; akin to Greek skellein to dry up, sklēros hard and perhaps to Old English sceald shallow

First Known Use

Noun

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1778, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of skeleton was in 1578

Dictionary Entries Near skeleton

Cite this Entry

“Skeleton.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skeleton. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

skeleton

1 of 2 noun
skel·​e·​ton ˈskel-ət-ᵊn How to pronounce skeleton (audio)
1
: a firm supporting or protecting structure or framework of a living thing
especially : a framework made of bone or sometimes cartilage that supports the soft tissues and protects the internal organs of a vertebrate (as a fish or human being) compare endoskeleton, exoskeleton
2
: a very thin person or animal
3
: something forming a structural framework

skeleton

2 of 2 adjective
1
: of, consisting of, or resembling a skeleton
a skeleton hand
2
: consisting of the smallest possible number of persons who can get a job done
a skeleton crew

Medical Definition

skeleton

noun
skel·​e·​ton ˈskel-ət-ᵊn How to pronounce skeleton (audio)
1
: a usually rigid supportive or protective structure or framework of an organism
especially : the bony or more or less cartilaginous framework supporting the soft tissues and protecting the internal organs of a vertebrate
2
: the straight or branched chain or ring of atoms that forms the basic structure of an organic molecule

More from Merriam-Webster on skeleton

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