Friday, May 27, 2011

Word of the Week: Clue

Here's a word that has experienced a radical transformation from its original meaning to its present day usage, and it's all due to a famous story. If you asked someone in medieval England for a clue, they would not give you information to solve a mystery. Instead, they would hand you a ball of thread. The modern word clue is a phonetic variant of clew which meant a ball of thread or yarn. Used in northern English and Scottish, clew derived from the Old English word cliewen, which meant skein or ball. The modern sense of the word clue developed in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries when the word clew became associated with the ball of thread that the Greek hero Theseus used to find his way out of the Labyrinth.


  1. How cool is that! I love linguistics.

  2. Fascinating clue to our language!
    By the way - loved your story at Every Day Fiction!