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 Meanwhile, a skeleton crew remained on the ship and cleaned and sanitized it from bow to stern. Matthias Gafni, SFChronicle.com, "Despite setbacks, Theodore Roosevelt returns to sea after coronavirus outbreak saga," 20 May 2020 Those discoveries are largely because of advanced methods for determining a shark’s age, such as tracing carbon-14, a rare type of radioactive isotope that is a byproduct of Cold War-era bomb detonations, in shark skeletons. National Geographic, "See the Full Archive," 6 Apr. 2020 When the robot finger touches an object, its soft exterior deforms, and the photodiodes in the skeleton detect changing light levels from the LEDs. Matt Simon, Wired, "This Clever Robotic Finger Feels With Light," 26 Feb. 2020 In recent years, however, scientists have learned that the petrous bone of the inner ear contains an unusually high quantity of DNA, allowing them to locate usable genetic material even in otherwise degraded skeletons. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Genome of nearly 5000-year-old woman links modern Indians to ancient civilization," 5 Sep. 2019 But if the 13 bones did belong to Earhart, what happened to the other 193 in a human skeleton that weren’t found? Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "Was Amelia Earhart Eaten by Crabs?," 26 Aug. 2019 By doing so, landowners can support the natural process of the marine environment, and skeletons left behind can be used for educational purposes, officials said. USA TODAY, "Mural for missing women, ‘Jedi’ cremations, MRI party: News from around our 50 states," 18 June 2019 By doing so, landowners can support the natural process of the marine environment, and skeletons left behind can be used for educational purposes, officials said. Washington Post, "Washington state waterfront owners asked to take dead whales," 16 June 2019 Bones that were once legs still exist in whale skeletons. Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, "Had our human ancestors taken to the sea, we would have been big and blubbery," 26 Mar. 2018

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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Time Traveler for skeleton

Time Traveler

The first known use of skeleton was in 1578

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Statistics for skeleton

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Skeleton.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skeleton. Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for skeleton

skeleton

noun
How to pronounce skeleton (audio)

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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