Definition of clue in English:

Share this entry

clue

Pronunciation: /klo͞o/

noun

1A piece of evidence or information used in the detection of a crime or solving of a mystery: police officers are still searching for clues
More example sentences
  • Detectives piecing together clues in the inquiry remain confident they will catch the attacker.
  • I reviewed all my efforts to make sure I hadn't missed even the slightest clue or piece of evidence.
  • So could the details of his business life provide a clue to the killing?
1.1A fact or idea that serves as a guide or aid in a task or problem: archaeological evidence can give clues about the past
More example sentences
  • The site does not publish contact details for the creators or reveal any other clues to the identity of the organisation.
  • She stared at the little card looking for clues that would reveal the identity of the sender.
  • A trawl of all her friends has revealed no clues as to where she has gone.
2A verbal formula giving an indication as to what is to be inserted in a particular space in a crossword or other puzzle.
Example sentences
  • He ran the words through his mind, almost like a crossword clue.
  • Cryptic clues in the crossword may be stand-alone or a combination of any of the following nine types.
  • I still prefer the uncertainty and randomness of crossword clues.
Synonyms
question, problem, puzzle, riddle, poser, conundrum

verb (clues, clueing, clued)

[with object] (clue someone in) informal
Inform someone about a particular matter: Stella had clued her in about Peter
More example sentences
  • But the fact that she was with another man and quite plainly ignoring him should have clued him in a little.
  • Perhaps someone should also clue her in that that if you're going to be dishonest you don't want to leave a paper trail behind.
  • For that matter, only the changing seasons clue us in to our geography.
Synonyms
inform, notify, make aware, prime;
keep up to date, keep posted
informal tip off, give the lowdown, fill in on, put in the picture, put wise, get/keep up to speed

Phrases

not have a clue

informal Know nothing about something or about how to do something.
Example sentences
  • But he admits he doesn't have a clue what terms like ‘world music’ and ‘global music’ mean.
  • Our nice, but inexperienced, waiter explains to us that he is new and doesn't have a clue about the wine list, so we are left to peruse it whilst he fetches the aperitifs and the manageress.
  • Poor thing, he doesn't have a clue what it's like for us mere mortals.
Synonyms
have no idea, be ignorant, not have an inkling;
be baffled, be mystified, be at a loss
informal be clueless, not have the faintest/foggiest/slightest idea

Origin

Late Middle English: variant of clew. The original sense was 'a ball of thread'; hence one used to guide a person out of a labyrinth (literally or figuratively). sense 1 of the noun dates from the early 17th century.

More
  • 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 clue

accrue, adieu, ado, anew, Anjou, aperçu, askew, ballyhoo, bamboo, bedew, bestrew, billet-doux, blew, blue, boo, boohoo, brew, buckaroo, canoe, chew, clew, clou, cock-a-doodle-doo, cockatoo, construe, coo, Corfu, coup, crew, Crewe, cru, cue, déjà vu, derring-do, dew, didgeridoo, do, drew, due, endue, ensue, eschew, feu, few, flew, flu, flue, foreknew, glue, gnu, goo, grew, halloo, hereto, hew, Hindu, hitherto, how-do-you-do, hue, Hugh, hullabaloo, imbrue, imbue, jackaroo, Jew, kangaroo, Karroo, Kathmandu, kazoo, Kiangsu, knew, Kru, K2, kung fu, Lahu, Lanzhou, Lao-tzu, lasso, lieu, loo, Lou, Manchu, mangetout, mew, misconstrue, miscue, moo, moue, mu, nardoo, new, non-U, nu, ooh, outdo, outflew, outgrew, peekaboo, Peru, pew, plew, Poitou, pooh, pooh-pooh, potoroo, pursue, queue, revue, roo, roux, rue, Selous, set-to, shampoo, shih-tzu, shoe, shoo, shrew, Sioux, skean dhu, skew, skidoo, slew, smew, snafu, sou, spew, sprue, stew, strew, subdue, sue, switcheroo, taboo, tattoo, thereto, thew, threw, thro, through, thru, tickety-boo, Timbuktu, tiramisu, to, to-do, too, toodle-oo, true, true-blue, tu-whit tu-whoo, two, vendue, view, vindaloo, virtu, wahoo, wallaroo, Waterloo, well-to-do, whereto, whew, who, withdrew, woo, Wu, yew, you, zoo

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: clue

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.