There are 2 main definitions of bone in English:

Share this entry

bone 1

Pronunciation: /bōn/


1Any of the pieces of hard, whitish tissue making up the skeleton in humans and other vertebrates: his injuries included many broken bones a shoulder bone

The substance of bones is formed by specialized cells (osteoblasts) that secrete around themselves a material containing calcium salts (which provide hardness and strength in compression) and collagen fibers (which provide tensile strength). Many bones have a central cavity containing marrow.

More example sentences
  • Direct injury to the spine may cause a bone fracture anywhere along your vertebral column.
  • Years ago we realized that if we combined all our accidents, there was hardly a bone in the human skeleton we hadn't broken.
  • Bone marrow is a spongy tissue inside certain bones of the body that produces blood cells.
1.1 (bones) A person’s body: he hauled his tired bones upright
More example sentences
  • Sighing, he pulled his weary bones to their feet and decided coffee was the best option.
  • He lowered his aching bones to the floor after a harder day's work than he'd ever done.
  • I dragged my tired bones to the bathroom to shave.
1.2 (bones) A corpse or skeleton: the diggers turned up the bones of a fifteen-year-old girl bones of prehistoric mammals
More example sentences
  • Just ahead, in the wider section of the pass, the dried bones and carcasses of men and pack animals lay strewn about.
  • We are still unburying the bones, the remains, of the people who got killed.
  • In centuries past, graves would be exhumed, and any bones remaining would be collected and buried deeper down, thereby allowing fresh graves on top.
1.3A bone of an animal with meat on it, used as food for people or dogs: stewed in stock made with a ham bone dogs yelping over a bone
More example sentences
  • What they actually think happened is that some animal had the bone in his or her burrow and just now decided to toss it.
  • So, I've already had to add more water to re-thin it to properly boil down the bones and meat.
  • We first put about 5,697 pots of different cereals, lentils, meats, bones and spices on different pots to warm.
2The calcified material of which bones consist: an earring of bone
More example sentences
  • The material would be gradually replaced by healthy, newly grown bone and blood vessels.
  • My latest cut-down bone handled table knives have a near quadrant at the tip and cut unbelievably.
  • The spongy bone material was then used for DNA extraction.
2.1A substance similar to bone such as ivory, dentin, or whalebone.
Example sentences
  • Mining activity has been a constant source of bone and ivory artifacts over the last several decades.
  • What's more, treasured wood was decorated with bone, jade, gold, bronze and shells adding to the value.
  • The earliest example of European poetry about a stranded whale is an Anglo-Saxon inscription on a whale bone casket of about 700 AD.
2.2 (often bones) A thing made of, or once made of, such a substance, for example a pair of dice.
Example sentences
  • Farthingales sells corset supplies including bone casing tape for corset bones.
  • The quality of the needlework, particularly around the bodice's bone inserts, makes this unlikely.
2.3The whitish color of bone: the sandals she had dyed bone to match the small purse
More example sentences
  • The shower is available in white or bone.
3 (bones) The basic or essential framework of something: you need to put some flesh on the bones of your idea
More example sentences
  • It is a basic bare bones work on the battle of Chattanooga.
  • The bill sets out only the very bare bones of the framework on which the criteria for the process will be hung.
  • That's the basic bones of the argument, and there's lots of detail in and around it.
4 vulgar slang A penis.


1 [with object] Remove the bones from (meat or fish): while the gumbo is simmering, bone the cooked chicken
More example sentences
  • The school's culinary dean recalls being hung from a meat hook for improperly boning veal during one of his 14-hour days as an apprentice in 1949 Germany.
  • Clean and bone the fish, leaving their heads in place.
  • Unless you are a dab-hand with the boning knife, ask the butcher to bone the chicken legs for you.
2 [no object] (bone up on) informal Study (a subject) intensively, often in preparation for something: she boned up on languages she had learned long ago and went back to New Guinea
More example sentences
  • There's nothing like a stroll immediately before an interview for a spot of last minute boning up on your subject.
  • To bone up on the subject, he read the works of a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose area of research was deceptive political advertising.
  • Unless you're willing to bone up on the subject, you're better off to assess his technical ability by asking for references and checking them out.
3 [with object] US vulgar slang (Of a man) have sexual intercourse with (someone).



a bag of bones

see bag.
Example sentences
  • The other woman’s weight was nothing, a bag of bones covered by skin, that’s all.
  • What I remember about this hug is that it was not so much like hugging a person as it was like hugging a bag of bones.

the bare bones

see bare.

be skin and bones

see skin.

a bone of contention

A subject or issue over which there is continuing disagreement: the examination system has long been a serious bone of contention
More example sentences
  • Road safety and pollution issues were the main bones of contention, with frequent tailbacks of lorries billowing fumes into people's homes, he said.
  • The issue has been a bone of contention for several years between Mid West farmers and State Government authorities.
  • In the last century the same conflicts led to the First World War and continued to be a bone of contention throughout the Second.

close to (or near) the bone

1(Of a remark) penetrating and accurate to the point of causing hurt or discomfort.
Example sentences
  • As a fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian, I sometimes find your articles a bit close to the bone, but in fairness you reflect accurately the nature of the Internet.
  • The funny thing about that is that the film is about a man who gets into trouble for writing books that cut too close to the bone, other people's bones in this case.
  • This list can go on and on, and hearing these stories cuts rather close to the bone: suffering is everywhere and also infinite in its variety.

cut (or pare) something to the bone

Reduce something to the bare minimum: costs will have to be cut to the bone
More example sentences
  • Transport manifesto commitments have been pared to the bone.
  • But, with hindsight, we can already see that the company achieved spectacular growth by cutting premiums to the bone, and possibly under-reserving.
  • So there is a war on, with each side cutting prices to the bone.

(as) dry as a bone

see dry.

have a bone to pick with someone

informal Have reason to disagree or be annoyed with someone.
Example sentences
  • He could be gruff and if he had a bone to pick with you, he picked it.
  • Someone could have a bone to pick with you soon, and they'll lay it on thick as sauce.
  • Perhaps I have always had a bone to pick with her because I believe that she stole my thunder.

have not a —— bone in one's body

(Of a person) have not the slightest trace of the specified quality: there’s not a conservative bone in his body
More example sentences
  • It doesn't matter if you haven't got an artistic bone in your body, we can show you very simple ways to achieve a masterpiece!
  • Darren is not a racist - he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.
  • Charlotte claims Katie was never interested in either her or her siblings and the mother-of-two ‘doesn't have a maternal bone in her body’.

in one's bones

Felt, believed, or known deeply or instinctively: he has rhythm in his bones something good was bound to happen; he could feel it in his bones
More example sentences
  • We believe in our bones that what we are doing is the right thing.
  • The Albanian people who make up a good part of our parish understood this in their bones; many of the Americans seemed not to.
  • Tocqueville understood this milieu in his bones.

make no bones about something

Have no hesitation in stating or dealing with something, however awkward or distasteful it is: the film is an op-ed piece, and the director makes no bones about its biases
More example sentences
  • Definitely not for the squeamish, the article makes no bones about where the responsibility for the massacre lay.
  • The solicitor told the court: ‘Her behaviour was dreadful and she makes no bones about that.’
  • ‘She makes no bones about not liking journalists,’ says one.

to the bone

1(Of a wound) so deep as to expose a person’s bone: his thigh had been axed open to the bone figurative his contempt cut her to the bone
More example sentences
  • It was a deep wound, not quite to the bone but not just skin either.
  • One of the operations was to repair his left hand and stitch up stab wounds, which cut through to the bone.
  • She did not wince as blades sunk deeper to the bone.
1.1(Especially of cold) affecting a person in a penetrating way: chilled to the bone
More example sentences
  • The blue-green sky of Pomen was partly cloudy, and although the afternoon sun tried to warm the proceedings below, it was a cold day that chilled to the bone.
  • The room seemed to have lost all its warmth and the torch's fire seemed to be diffusing only cold, chilling to the bone.
  • Neko woke up, freezing cold, soaked to the bone with sweat.
2 (or to one's bones) Used to emphasize that a person has a specified quality in an overwhelming or fundamental way: she’s a New Englander to her bones he’s a cop to the bone
More example sentences
  • But, anyone who thinks that careerist social climbers aren't liberals to their bones just doesn't know what he's talking about.
  • He would not, however, feel any divided loyalties were his team to come up against Italy in the knock-out stages of the finals in Greece: ‘I am Australian to my bones.’
  • Jeremiah was a patriot down to his bones and wrote an entire book lamenting the fall of his nation.

throw a bone to

Give someone only a token concession: was the true purpose of the minimum wage hike to throw a bone to the unions?
More example sentences
  • And I believe that his policies sometimes reflect a political need to throw a bone to that constituency to keep them happy.
  • I would like to point out, if you read the next paragraph in the judge's finding, he seemed to throw a bone to each side.
  • What you see here is a case where the campaign felt they could throw a bone to the conservatives.

what's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh (or blood)

proverb A person’s behavior or characteristics are determined by heredity.
Example sentences
  • I guess what's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, as they say.
  • What's bred in the bone will out in the flesh, the saying goes.
  • Because what's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, and we should never forget it.

work one's fingers to the bone

Work very hard: Tracy can work her fingers to the bone, but it’s Ms. Green who gets the thanks
More example sentences
  • We are working our fingers to the bone to try and rescue our comrades, but at the moment we have yet to locate where their screams were coming from.
  • I've worked my fingers to the bone, cleaning, organizing and even releasing to the trash bin things I no longer need.
  • ‘We lived in a tiny little flat, and had no money, and my mother had to work her fingers to the bone,’ Carol says.


Old English bān, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch been and German Bein.

  • This Old English word gives us the phrase bone idle which arose in the early 19th century implying idle through to the bone. Bonfire (Late Middle English) was originally a bone fire, on which people burned animal bones. People would collect old animal bones through the year to make a big fire for annual celebrations.

Words that rhyme with bone

alone, atone, Beaune, bemoan, blown, Capone, clone, Cohn, Cologne, condone, cone, co-own, crone, drone, enthrone, flown, foreknown, foreshown, groan, grown, half-tone, home-grown, hone, Joan, known, leone, loan, lone, mephedrone, moan, Mon, mown, ochone, outflown, outgrown, own, phone, pone, prone, Rhône, roan, rone, sewn, shown, Simone, Sloane, Soane, sone, sown, stone, strown, throne, thrown, tone, trombone, Tyrone, unbeknown, undersown, windblown, zone

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: bone

Share this entry

There are 2 main definitions of bone in English:

Share this entry

Bône 2

Pronunciation: /bōn/
Former name for Annaba.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: Bône

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.