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[skeyn] /skeɪn/
a length of yarn or thread wound on a reel or swift preparatory for use in manufacturing.
anything wound in or resembling such a coil:
a skein of hair.
something suggestive of the twistings of a skein:
an incoherent skein of words.
a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.
a succession or series of similar or interrelated things:
a skein of tennis victories.
Origin of skein
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English skeyne, skayne < Middle French escaigne < ? Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for skein
Historical Examples
  • Then he added a pinch of a colorless powder, and dipped a skein of silk into the bowl.

    In the Days of the Guild Louise Lamprey
  • That doesn't matter a bit, you must wait till the skein is unwound.

    The Day of Wrath Maurus Jkai
  • Merton had stopped singing, and was now holding a skein of wool for Esther to wind.

  • She will remember now that a skein of hemp thread is not the thing to line her nest with.

    Tales From Two Hemispheres Hjalmar Hjorth Boysen
  • Either Saxony or floss may be used, about six skeins of white and half a skein of each of the colours used being necessary.

  • In the evening it was a pleasure to hold a skein of yarn for her to wind.

  • And they used to say, he wound the Gineral round and round like a skein o' yarn; but he couldn't come it round Ruth.

    Oldtown Fireside Stories Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Shall we think that our prayers can avert a doom woven with the skein of events?

    Eugene Aram, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Sometimes I dye one end of a skein, and leave the other untouched; that gives quite a good effect.

    Lady Cassandra Mrs George de Horne Vaizey
  • Uncle Nicholas,” said Amber, “you promised to buy me a skein of blue silk.

    Newton Forster Captain Frederick Marryat
British Dictionary definitions for skein


a length of yarn, etc, wound in a long coil
something resembling this, such as a lock of hair
a flock of geese flying Compare gaggle (sense 2)
Word Origin
C15: from Old French escaigne, of unknown origin
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 skein

"fixed quantity of yarn doubled over and over and knotted, mid-15c., from Middle French escaigne "a hank of yarn" (Old French escagne, mid-14c., Modern French écagne), of uncertain origin. Cf. Medieval Latin scagna "a skein," Irish sgainne "a skein, clue."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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