Definition of clew in English:

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Pronunciation: /klo͞o/


1 Sailing The lower or after corner of a sail.
Example sentences
  • I started to give the outhaul a good yank to get the foot of the main tight and the damned thing came off in my hand along with a piece of the sail containing the clew.
  • Hullo is a rectangular shaped flat wooden plank seater with its four corners fixed to the roof by means of metal clews which can swing.
  • A clew of the sail is fixed to the slide allowing the sail to be orientated without a need for a boom.
2 (clews) The cords by which a hammock is suspended.
Example sentences
  • Tie the clew down to the boom using a reef knot.
  • A good but currently illegal idea you can use to keep tension in the outhaul lines is to tie the clew inhaul shockcord between the clew cringle and the block.
2.1 (clew) A ball of thread (used especially with reference to the thread supposedly used by Theseus to mark his way out of the Cretan labyrinth).
Example sentences
  • A clew of sugán rope or ceirtlin súgán in traditional style was made of bent grass by Peter Shevlin of Belmullet.
  • If we observe this clew of wool from, say a kilometre distance, it is just a spot - zero dimension.
  • The clever man took a clew of rope and suspended it by the door of entry so that it could serve as a guide to all who entered or came out.
3 archaic variant of clue.
Example sentences
  • To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest clew.
  • In searching for evidence of the presence of the murderer, not a clew of any kind could be found.


[with object] (clew a sail up)
1Haul up the clews of a sail to the yard or into the mast ready for furling.
Example sentences
  • It is mostly the way to man the clew-lines and the bunt-lines, ease off the lee-sheet and clew it up.
  • If you intend to set them again after the topsail is reefed, clew the sail up.
  • And your Arthur, I mind, was one of the four men to go aloft to clew it up.
1.1 (clew a sail down) Lower an upper square sail by hauling down on the clew lines while slacking away on the halyard.
Example sentences
  • Then, by these, brace in the yard and clew it down.
  • Sailors clew down and tied the cargo and themselves with ropes to the ship.


Old English cliwen, cleowen (denoting a rounded mass, also a ball of thread), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kluwen. All senses are also recorded for the form clue.

  • clue from Late Middle English:

    Our word clue is a modern spelling of the old word clew, ‘a ball of thread’. The idea here is of string or thread being used to guide a person out of a maze by tracing a path through it. The most famous example is that of the Greek hero Theseus, who killed the monstrous bull-headed Minotaur in its lair and then escaped from the Labyrinth, an underground maze of tunnels. This he was able to do because the princess Ariadne gave him a ball of twine, which he unravelled as he went in and followed back to find his way out again. From this a clue became anything that you can follow to get a solution.

Words that rhyme with clew

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For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: clew

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