Clew vs clue

Photo of author


Clew and clue are two words that are pronounced in the same manner but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They are homophones. We will examine the definitions of the words clew and clue, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Clew may mean the lower corner of a ship’s sail, to raise or lower such a sail or the lines by which a hammock is hung. Clew also means a ball of yarn or a ball or thread, or to wind something up in a ball. Related words are clews, clewed, clewing. The word clew is derived from the Old English word cliewen which means ball of thread or yarn, sphere.

A clue is a hint or a piece of evidence that aids one in coming to a conclusion concerning a crime or a mystery. Clue may also be used as a verb, related words are clues, clued, cluing. Interestingly, the word clue is derived from the word clew. In this case the reference is to the clew or ball of thread that Ariadne had given to Theseus to guide him out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth in the Greek myth.


On Masquerade, we set up our asymmetric spinnaker for inside jibes, where the clew passes between the spinnaker and the headstay during the jibe, and we launch out of the forward hatch. (Sailing World Magazine)

“Our delivery mechanism resembles a ball of yarn or clew, so we call it a nanoclew,” said Zhen Gu, Ph.D., co-senior author on the study and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-CH. (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News)

Amazon has finally shared more financial details around its Prime user base, giving a clue to just how popular its membership service really is. (Business Insider)