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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 clewed up
Historical Examples
  • In the first mad shock not a sail was clewed up, not a jib lowered, not a reef taken in, so much is flight a delirium.

    The Man Who Laughs Victor Hugo
  • Thar 192 on the bed, clewed up into a knot, lies the rhoomatic party.

    Faro Nell and Her Friends Alfred Henry Lewis
  • When abreast Cuxhaven we clewed up and let go the second bower.

    Torrey's Narrative William Torrey
  • Every sail was clewed up, while the anchors were weighed to prevent our thumping on them.

    Captain Canot Brantz Mayer
  • On the morning of the 17th, then, the sails were clewed up, and the Fram began to roll even worse than with the sails set.

  • As Dunn would say, his affairs in her were all "clewed up" by her loss.

    H.M.S. ---- Klaxon
  • When fairly abreast of this the canvas was clewed up, and the brig slid into the loch with the way that she had on her.

    The Castaways Harry Collingwood
  • The sails were all clewed up, and the heaviest of them were furled.

    The Crater James Fenimore Cooper
  • He approached with a strong wind, and clewed up his light sails as if about to anchor, saluting meanwhile.

    Twelve Naval Captains Molly Elliot Seawell
  • At last the Céres clewed up her courses, and we did the same, and right glad we were to do it.

    Digby Heathcote W.H.G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for clewed up


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 clewed up



"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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