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  • IPA(key): /ˈskɛlətən/
  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

From New Latin sceleton, from Ancient Greek σκελετός (skeletós, dried up, withered, dried body, parched, mummy), from σκέλλω (skéllō, dry, dry up, make dry, parch), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kelh₁- (to parch, wither); compare Ancient Greek σκληρός (sklērós, hard).

Alternative forms[edit]


skeleton (plural skeletons or skeleta)

  1. (anatomy) The system that provides support to an organism, internal and made up of bones and cartilage in vertebrates, external in some other animals.
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Treasure Hunt—Flint’s Pointer”, in Treasure Island, London; Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, OCLC 702939134, part VI (Captain Silver), page 263:
      At the foot of a pretty big pine, and involved in a green creeper, which had even partly lifted some of the smaller bones, a human skeleton lay, with a few shreds of clothing, on the ground.
  2. An anthropomorphic representation of a skeleton.
    She dressed up as a skeleton for Halloween.
    • 1724, Charles Johnson, “Of Captain Spriggs and His Crew”, in A General History of the Pyrates, [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for, and sold by T. Warner, [], OCLC 2276353, pages 411–412:
      A Day or two after they parted, [Francis] Spriggs was choſe Captain by the reſt, and a black Enſign was made, which they called Jolly Roger, with the ſame Device that Captain [Edward] Low carried, viz. a white Skeliton in the Middle of it, with a Dart in one Hand ſtriking a bleeding Heart, and in the other, an Hour Glaſs; when this was finiſhed and hoiſted, they fired all their Guns to ſalute their Captain and themſelves, and then looked out for Prey.
  3. (figuratively) A very thin person.
    She lost so much weight while she was ill that she became a skeleton.
  4. (figuratively) The central core of something that gives shape to the entire structure.
    The skeleton of the organisation is essentially the same as it was ten years ago, but many new faces have come and gone.
  5. (architecture) A frame that provides support to a building or other construction.
  6. (computing) A client-helper procedure that communicates with a stub.
    In remote method invocation, the client helper is a ‘stub’ and the service helper is a ‘skeleton’.
  7. (geometry) The vertices and edges of a polyhedron, taken collectively.
  8. (printing) A very thin form of light-faced type.
  9. (especially attributive) Reduced to a minimum or bare essentials.
    • 1960 August, L. Hyland, “The Irish Scene”, in Trains Illustrated, page 468:
      At the time of writing the halts have been reprieved due to doubts as to the legality of the withdrawal of services. It is feared that this reprieve may not outlast the summer timetable which, on the section in question, provides only a skeleton of the former service.
    • 2020 April 8, Matt Lovering, “An opportunity for the rail industry to deliver major change”, in Rail, page 46:
      The rail industry has survived the first fortnight of the UK's COVID-19 crisis. Quick intervention from the Department of Transport has ensured that franchise operators will remain solvent during this period; rapid work to replan the timetable has delivered a minimum viable service plan; and the Kitchener-esque appeal for retired signal workers should ensure that the network can continue to operate a skeleton service.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


skeleton (third-person singular simple present skeletons, present participle skeletoning, simple past and past participle skeletoned)

  1. (archaic) to reduce to a skeleton; to skin; to skeletonize
  2. (archaic) to minimize

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

The etymology of the term is disputed between two versions.[1]

  • From the sled used, which originally was a bare frame, like a skeleton.[1]
  • From Norwegian kjaelke (a type of ice sled) through a bad anglicization as "skele".[1]


skeleton (uncountable)

  1. (sports, uncountable) A type of tobogganing in which competitors lie face down, and descend head first.
    Synonym: skeleton tobogganing
    Coordinate terms: luge, bobsled
    • 2020 July 26, Matthew Futterman, “Sledhead”, in New York Times[1]:
      Lugers, who slide feet first and reach the highest speeds, experience some of the same forces, but seem to suffer far fewer concussion-like symptoms than bobsled and skeleton athletes do, probably because a support strap often prevents their heads from banging into the ice.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 IBSF (International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation), "Skeleton history" (2015)

Further reading[edit]




  1. accusative singular of skeleto


French Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia fr



skeleton m (uncountable)

  1. skeleton (winter sport)

Derived terms[edit]



skeleton m (uncountable)

  1. skeleton (type of tobogganing)

Related terms[edit]