skeleton

noun
skel·​e·​ton | \ ˈske-lə-tən How to pronounce skeleton (audio) \

Definition of skeleton

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
4a : 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

skeleton

adjective

Definition of skeleton (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, consisting of, or resembling a skeleton

Illustration of skeleton

Illustration of skeleton

Noun

skeleton 1:1 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

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from skeleton

Noun

skeletonic \ ˌske-​lə-​ˈtä-​nik How to pronounce skeletonic (audio) \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

No African woman had ever participated in skeleton at the Olympics. New York Times, "Bulletin Board," 8 June 2019 And the skeletons of the preimpact and postimpact fossils were different as well. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "This quaillike creature was the only bird to survive the dinosaur-killing asteroid impact," 24 May 2018 The skeleton was a thriving oasis in a vast, desertlike expanse. Crispin T. S. Little, Scientific American, "Life at the Bottom: The Prolific Afterlife of Whales," 23 May 2017 The standard joke concerns the museum docent who tells a visitor that a dinosaur skeleton is 75,000,005 years old. Quanta Magazine, "How Can We Tell Which Forecasts Are True?," 13 Oct. 2016 There’s a faint whirring noise as the blade sinks into the skeleton, and clouds of coral dust billow in the surrounding water. Quanta Magazine, "Cores From Coral Reefs Hold Secrets of the Seas’ Past and Future," 29 May 2018 Also out are cross-country skiing gold medalist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov, as well as potential medal contenders in biathlon, luge and bobsled. James Ellingworth, Houston Chronicle, "Appeals by 45 Russian athletes against Olympic bans rejected," 9 Feb. 2018 One of the most accomplished scholars in the field of human origins, Donald Johanson is best known for his 1974 groundbreaking discovery of the 3.2 million- year-old skeleton known as Lucy. National Geographic, "Donald Johanson," 12 June 2019 The disease kills coral tissue, leaving lifeless skeletons on centuries-old reef structures. David Fleshler, sun-sentinel.com, "Search and rescue: Researchers on mission to save the coral reefs of South Florida," 12 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'skeleton.' 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 skeleton

Noun

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1778, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for skeleton

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

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Statistics for skeleton

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for skeleton

The first known use of skeleton was in 1578

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More Definitions for skeleton

skeleton

noun

English Language Learners Definition of skeleton

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the structure of bones that supports the body of a person or animal
: a set or model of all the bones in the body of a person
: a very thin person or animal

skeleton

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of skeleton (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the smallest possible number of people who can get a job done

skeleton

noun
skel·​e·​ton | \ ˈske-lə-tən How to pronounce skeleton (audio) \

Kids Definition of skeleton

1 : a firm structure or framework of a living thing that in vertebrates (as fish, birds, or humans) is typically made of bone and supports the soft tissues of the body and protects the internal organs
2 : framework the steel skeleton of a building

skeleton

noun
skel·​e·​ton | \ ˈskel-ət-ᵊn How to pronounce skeleton (audio) \

Medical Definition of skeleton

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

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Comments on skeleton

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