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clew

[kloo] /klu/
noun
1.
clue (def 1).
2.
Nautical. either lower corner of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
3.
a ball or skein of thread, yarn, etc.
4.
Usually, clews. the rigging for a hammock.
5.
Theater. a metal device holding scenery lines controlled by one weighted line.
6.
Classical Mythology. the thread by which Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth.
verb (used with object)
7.
to coil into a ball.
8.
clue (def 3).
9.
Theater.
  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
10.
clew down, Nautical. to secure (a sail) in an unfurled position.
11.
clew up, Nautical. to haul (the lower corners of a square-rig sail) up to the yard by means of the clew lines.
Idioms
12.
spread a large clew, Nautical.
  1. to carry a large amount of sail.
  2. to present an impressive appearance.
Origin of clew
900
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
Dictionary.com 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
  • I asked, astonished at Jim's behavior, and anxious for some clew by which to solve its mystery.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • I have followed up every sort of clew I have transferred a dozen men.

    The Last Shot Frederick Palmer
  • Of Keane not a trace could be discovered; nor could any clew be obtained as to his companion.

    Roland Cashel Charles James Lever
  • The only clew we have to the identification of the missing money were two boxes of Mexican doubloons.

  • So that you advise me to open his pack and see if I can find a clew to him.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • He has grasped his clew; and, following it, presses bravely on.

    My Fire Opal, and Other Tales Sarah Warner Brooks
  • "Up to this moment you have given me no clew to it," said Sir Stafford, with a smile.

    The Daltons, Volume I (of II) Charles James Lever
  • Was the clew to the mysterious disappearance of the writing to be found here?

    The Two Destinies Wilkie Collins
  • I know they do this; and can you give me no clew, however faint, to guide me?

British Dictionary definitions for clew

clew

/kluː/
noun
1.
a ball of thread, yarn, or twine
2.
(nautical) either of the lower corners of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail
3.
(usually pl) the rigging of a hammock
4.
a rare variant of clue
verb
5.
(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
n.

"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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