One thing every person (and most animals) in the world has in common is a skeleton: we all have a connected group of bones that help shape and support our bodies.

You probably see a lot of skeletons at Halloween, because they look a little spooky. They shouldn't scare you too much, because we all have skeletons under our skin and muscles. Skeletons give our body shape, and parts of the skeleton (like the skull) protect important organs (like the brain). Sometimes, the word skeleton is used to mean the "bare bones" of other things: the skeleton of a financial plan is a basic outline of that plan. If you said someone has a "skeleton in their closet," it means they're hiding something embarrassing or incriminating.

Definitions of skeleton
  1. noun
    the hard structure (bones and cartilages) that provides a frame for the body of an animal
    synonyms: frame, skeletal system, systema skeletale
    see moresee less
    the internal skeleton; bony and cartilaginous structure (especially of vertebrates)
    the exterior protective or supporting structure or shell of many animals (especially invertebrates) including bony or horny parts such as nails or scales or hoofs
    (zoology) the part of a turtle's shell forming its underside
    type of:
    a group of physiologically or anatomically related organs or parts
  2. noun
    the internal supporting structure that gives an artifact its shape
    “the building has a steel skeleton
    synonyms: frame, skeletal frame, underframe
    see moresee less
    show 4 types...
    hide 4 types...
    the skeleton of a motor vehicle consisting of a steel frame supported on springs that holds the body and motor
    a light curved skeleton to spread out a skirt
    a hoop worn beneath a skirt to extend it horizontally; worn by European women in the 16th and 17th centuries
    set of small hoops used to add fullness over the hips
    type of:
    supporting structure
    a structure that serves to support something
  3. noun
    something reduced to its minimal form
    “the battalion was a mere skeleton of its former self”
    “the bare skeleton of a novel”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    lower limit, minimum
    the smallest possible quantity
  4. noun
    a scandal that is kept secret
    “there must be a skeleton somewhere in that family's closet”
    synonyms: skeleton in the closet, skeleton in the cupboard
    see moresee less
    type of:
    outrage, scandal
    a disgraceful event
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week