Definition of skeleton in English:


Line breaks: skel|eton
Pronunciation: /ˈskɛlɪt(ə)n


  • 1An internal or external framework of bone, cartilage, or other rigid material supporting or containing the body of an animal or plant: the human skeleton
    More example sentences
    • Despite the apparent differences produced by an internal versus an external skeleton, the control problems faced by the two groups are formally the same.
    • While human bodies have skeletons of bones, our cells have a framework made of a filamentous network.
    • These forms had two dorsal fins rather than one, and all the fins were supported by an internal skeleton and musculature.
  • 1.1Used in reference to a very thin or emaciated person or animal: she was no more than a skeleton at the end
    More example sentences
    • I was only 5 when I first saw it and for years just couldn't comprehend that the emaciated distressed skeletons shown were actually people.
    • His tattered clothes hung loosely on his pale and thin skeleton as he thrust three bottles of scotch to the side.
    • The next man seemed to be a skeleton, and his voice was just as thin.
    skin and bone, stick, scrag
    informal bag of bones
    Scottish informal skinnymalinky
    archaic starveling
  • 1.2The remaining part of something after its life or usefulness is gone: the chapel was stripped to a skeleton of its former self
    More example sentences
    • The place was a complete wreck, a skeleton, there was nothing there - it was just gutted.
    • On either side the rusting skeletons of dead trucks lined the route like a line of memento mori.
    • The structure was reduced to a charred skeleton and had to be demolished, prompting a campaign to restore the rundown Victorian public gardens.
  • 2The supporting framework, basic structure, or essential part of something: the concrete skeleton of an unfinished building the skeleton of a report
    More example sentences
    • The basic skeleton of all languages is grammar, that is structure which, when mastered, enables anything to be said.
    • I saw the movie long back and I just remember the basic skeleton of the story.
    • That structure provides a skeleton of sorts for the ship.
    framework, basic structure, frame, shell; chassisoutline, draft, abstract, plan, blueprint; main points, bones, bare bones; sketch, rough draft
  • 2.1 [as modifier] Denoting the essential or minimum number of people, things, or parts necessary for something: there was only a skeleton staff on duty
    More example sentences
    • Many other services operated with skeleton staff.
    • Council offices reduced to skeleton staff manning because most of the people are sleeping off the previous night's counting.
    • It is in the municipalities and corporations the health service finds it difficult to operate with skeleton staff.
    minimum, minimal, smallest possible, basic, reduced; essential, bare-bones


skeleton in the cupboard

(North American skeleton in the closet)
A discreditable or embarrassing fact that someone wishes to keep secret.
More example sentences
  • We all have our hidden secrets, our skeletons in the closet, our feelings of guilt; these things weigh on everyone to a degree.
  • When we think of secrets, we think of all those the skeletons in the closet.
  • But she isn't the only one with a skeleton in the closet; Danny is hiding a secret of his own.



(also skeletonise) verb
More example sentences
  • They can skeletonize a cow in under thirty seconds!
  • I'm now worried that if I'll be skeletonised if I ever fall asleep at my desk.
  • At 7’ overall, the knife is the perfect size for everyday carry, made even easier by weight saved by skeletonizing the handle.


late 16th century: modern Latin, from Greek, neuter of skeletos 'dried up', from skellein 'dry up'.

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a small amount; a little