Anatomy, Zoology. the bones of a human or an animal considered as a whole, together forming the framework of the body.
any of various structures forming a rigid framework in an invertebrate.
an emaciated person or animal.
a supporting framework, as of a leaf, building, or ship.
an outline, as of a literary work: the skeleton of the plot.
something reduced to its essential parts.
of or pertaining to a skeleton.
like or being a mere framework; reduced to the essential or minimal parts or numbers: a skeleton staff.
skeleton at the feast, a person or thing that casts gloom over a joyful occasion; a note or reminder of sorrow in the midst of joy.
skeleton in the closet/cupboard,
a family scandal that is concealed to avoid public disgrace.
any embarrassing, shameful, or damaging secret.

1570–80; < Neo-Latin < Greek: mummy, noun use of neuter of skeletós dried up, verbid of skéllein to dry

skeletonless, adjective
skeletonlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
skeleton (ˈskɛlɪtən)
1.  endoskeleton See also exoskeleton a hard framework consisting of inorganic material that supports and protects the soft parts of an animal's body and provides attachment for muscles: may be internal (an endoskeleton), as in vertebrates, or external( an exoskeleton), as in arthropods
2.  informal a very thin emaciated person or animal
3.  the essential framework of any structure, such as a building or leaf, that supports or determines the shape of the rest of the structure
4.  an outline consisting of bare essentials: the skeleton of a novel
5.  (US), (Canadian) (modifier) reduced to a minimum: a skeleton staff
6.  skeleton in the cupboard, skeleton in the closet a scandalous fact or event in the past that is kept secret
[C16: via New Latin from Greek: something desiccated, from skellein to dry up]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1578, from Mod.L. sceleton "bones, bony framework of the body," from Gk. skeleton soma "dried-up body, mummy," from neut. of skeletos "dried-up," from skellein "dry up," from PIE base *skele- "to parch, whither" (cf. Gk. skleros "hard"). The Gk. word was borrowed in L.L. (sceletus), hence Fr. squelette,
Sp. esqueleto, It. scheletro. The meaning "bare outline" is first recorded 1607; hence skeleton crew (1778), skeleton key, etc. Phrase skeleton in the closet "source of secret shame to a person or family" popularized 1845 by Thackeray, though he likely didn't coin it.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

skeleton skel·e·ton (skěl'ĭ-tn)

  1. The internal structure composed of bone and cartilage that protects and supports the soft organs, tissues, and other parts of a vertebrate organism; endoskeleton.

  2. All the bones of the body taken collectively.

  3. The exoskeleton.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
skeleton  [%PREMIUM_LINK%]     (skěl'ĭ-tn)  Pronunciation Key 

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  1. The internal structure of vertebrate animals, composed of bone or cartilage, that supports the body, serves as a framework for the attachment of muscles, and protects the vital organs and associated structures.

  2. A hard protective covering or supporting structure of invertebrate animals. See also endoskeleton, exoskeleton.

skeletal adjective
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Sue's skeleton shows signs of infection of the lower leg and right upper arm
  bones and curious holes in the lower jaw.
Now, with all bones in their right places, the skeleton has joined the museum
  as one more exhibit.
The arms are composed almost entirely of muscle, with no bone or external
  skeleton-a structure known as a muscular hydrostat.
For years, scientists thought they understood the skeleton.
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