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[kloo] /klu/
clue (def 1).
Nautical. either lower corner of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
a ball or skein of thread, yarn, etc.
Usually, clews. the rigging for a hammock.
Theater. a metal device holding scenery lines controlled by one weighted line.
Classical Mythology. the thread by which Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth.
verb (used with object)
to coil into a ball.
clue (def 3).
  1. to draw up the bottom edge of (a curtain, drop, etc.) and fold out of view; bag.
  2. to secure (lines) with a clew.
Verb phrases
clew down, Nautical. to secure (a sail) in an unfurled position.
clew up, Nautical. to haul (the lower corners of a square-rig sail) up to the yard by means of the clew lines.
spread a large clew, Nautical.
  1. to carry a large amount of sail.
  2. to present an impressive appearance.
Origin of clew
before 900; Middle English clewe, Old English cleowen, cliewen, equivalent to cliew- (cognate with Old High German kliu ball) + -en -en5; akin to Dutch kluwen Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for clew
Historical Examples
  • "It's a clew," he said, but he spoke slowly and thoughtfully.

    The Come Back Carolyn Wells
  • The count had no clew to the cause of his sudden return to Brittany.

    Fairy Fingers Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie
  • I have followed up every sort of clew I have transferred a dozen men.

    The Last Shot Frederick Palmer
  • The victim had escaped, and the miser had obtained no clew to the lost treasure.

    Freaks of Fortune Oliver Optic
  • The only clew we have to the identification of the missing money were two boxes of Mexican doubloons.

  • But the baroness had not the clew we have; and what a difference that makes!

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • He has grasped his clew; and, following it, presses bravely on.

    My Fire Opal, and Other Tales Sarah Warner Brooks
  • Every labyrinth has its clew, but the fugitive walks safely in a crowd.

    The Doomsman Van Tassel Sutphen
  • Was the clew to the mysterious disappearance of the writing to be found here?

    The Two Destinies Wilkie Collins
  • When you allowed me to take that letter you furnished me with my first clew.

    The Loyalist James Francis Barrett
British Dictionary definitions for clew


a ball of thread, yarn, or twine
(nautical) either of the lower corners of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail
(usually pl) the rigging of a hammock
a rare variant of clue
(transitive) to coil or roll into a ball
Word Origin
Old English cliewen (vb); related to Old High German kliu ball
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for clew

"ball of thread or yarn," northern English and Scottish relic of Old English cliewen "sphere, ball, skein, ball of thread or yarn," probably from West Germanic *kleuwin (cf. Old Saxon cleuwin, Dutch kluwen), from Proto-Germanic *kliwjo-, from PIE *gleu- "gather into a mass, conglomerate" (see clay).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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