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

n the hard structure (bones and cartilages) that provides a frame for the body of an animal

frame, skeletal system, systema skeletale
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

n the internal supporting structure that gives an artifact its shape

“the building has a steel skeleton
frame, skeletal frame, underframe
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

n something reduced to its minimal form

“the battalion was a mere skeleton of its former self”
“the bare skeleton of a novel”
Type of:
lower limit, minimum
the smallest possible quantity

n a scandal that is kept secret

“there must be a skeleton somewhere in that family's closet”
skeleton in the closet, skeleton in the cupboard
Type of:
outrage, scandal
a disgraceful event

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.