American English

Definition of skeleton noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] the structure of bones that supports the body of a person or an animal; a model of this structure The human skeleton consists of 206 bones. a dinosaur skeleton
  2. 2[countable] (informal) a very thin person or animal The disease has reduced her to a skeleton.
  3. 3[countable, usually singular] the main structure that supports a building, etc. synonym framework Only the concrete skeleton of the factory remained.
  4. 4[countable, usually singular] the basic outline of a plan, piece of writing, etc. to which more details can be added later Examples were used to flesh out the skeleton of the argument.
  5. 5[countable] skeleton staff, crew, etc. the smallest number of people, etc. that you need to do something There will only be a skeleton staff on duty over the holiday. We managed to operate a skeleton bus service during the strike.
  6. 6[countable] (sport) a type of sled (= a vehicle for sliding over ice) for racing, used by one person lying on their front with their feet pointing backward It's just like the skeletons they use in the Olympics. The skeleton slider broke his back in the race.
  7. 7[uncountable] the sport or event of racing down a special track of ice on a skeleton Canada won gold and silver in the skeleton. Skeleton returned to the Winter Olympics in 2002. skeleton events at the Winter Olympics
  8. Idioms
    a skeleton in the closet (informal)
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    something shocking, embarrassing, etc. that has happened to you or your family in the past that you want to keep secret
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: skeleton