- a ball of thread or yarn: in Greek legend, a thread is used by Theseus as a guide out of the labyrinth
- archaic sp. of clue
- either of the lower corners of a square sail
- the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail
- [pl.] a combination of lines by which a hammock is hung
Origin of clewMiddle English cleue from Old English cliwen, akin to Dutch klüwen and dissimilated German knäuel from Indo-European base an unverified form gel-: see claw
- to wind (up) into a ball
clew down (or up)
- A ball of yarn or thread.
- Greek Mythology The ball of thread used by Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth.
- clews The cords by which a hammock is suspended.
- also clue Nautical a. One of the two lower corners of a square sail.b. The lower aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
transitive verbclewed, clew·ing, clews
- To roll or coil into a ball.
- also clue Nautical To raise the lower corners of (a square sail) by means of clew lines. Used with up.
Origin of clewMiddle English clewe from Old English cliwen
- 1796, John Gabriel Stedman, The Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam:
- Both these creatures, by forming themselves in a clew, have often more the appearance of excrescences in the bark, than that of animals.
- (archaic) A ball of thread or yarn.
- Yarn or thread as used to guide one's way through a maze or labyrinth; a guide, a clue.
- (nautical) The lower corner(s) of a sail to which a sheet is attached for trimming the sail (adjusting its position relative to the wind); the metal loop or cringle in the corner of the sail, to which the sheet is attached. On a triangular sail, the clew is the trailing corner relative to the wind direction.
- (in the plural) The sheets so attached to a sail.
- (nautical, in the plural) The cords suspending a hammock.
- Archaic form of clue.
(third-person singular simple present clews, present participle clewing, simple past and past participle clewed)
From Middle English clewe, from Old English cleowen, cliewen, cliwen (“sphere, ball, skein; ball of thread or yarn; mass, group”), from Proto-Germanic *kliuwiną, *klewô (“ball, bale”), from Proto-Indo-European *glew-, *gelew- (“to conglomerate, gather into a mass; clump, ball, bale”). Akin to Old English clǣġ (“clay”).