Printable Version
Pronunciation: klu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A ball of yarn, twine or thread. 2. A key, a piece of evidence for solving a mystery, anything that points the way to a solution.

Notes: The adjective clueless refers to people who are not very smart. Now we have an antonym, clueful, referring to people who are smart. Both allow nouns, cluelessness and cluefulness. This word may be used as a verb, usually used with in, meaning "to inform", as 'to clue someone in about the meeting'.

In Play: A clue is basically a hint toward the solution to a mystery: "The cover of Rhoda Book's latest novel provides the only clue as to what it is about." Since this is a common word, here is a sentence containing its figurative uses: "His friends decided not to clue Morgan in on their plans because they thought him too clueless to understand them."

Word History: What is it? Need a clew? In Old English today's Good Word was spelled cliew and by Middle English it had turned into clewe, later the double-U became a single U (cleue) and, finally, the middle E was dropped out. The meaning change is explained by a metaphoric shift based on the clew of thread given by Ariadne to Theseus as a guide out of the labyrinth in Greek mythology. The Germanic languages metaphorized PIE gel-/gol- "curl, wind" for German Klumpen "clump", which English borrowed and modified it as clump. Polish głaz "boulder" probably comes from the same source, if not Russian glas "eye(ball)". We find further evidence of this word in Sanskrit gulah "ball, pearl", Albanian gogël "ball, berry", and Latin galla "gall apple" (not to be confused with gala apples). (Now an e-nod to our mega-contributor Rob Towart for bringing today's addition to the Good Word dictionary to our attention.)

Dr. Goodword,

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