Definition of clue in English:



  • 1A piece of evidence or information used in the detection of a crime or solving of a mystery.

    ‘police officers are still searching for clues’
    • ‘Detectives piecing together clues in the inquiry remain confident they will catch the attacker.’
    • ‘It took five months, but she was given a clue that finally led to the arrest of the man responsible.’
    • ‘Police are studying security camera footage, which may give a clue to the identity of the attackers.’
    • ‘The intelligence services have already been heavily criticised for failing to act on a series of clues that might have led them to the hijackers.’
    • ‘Shouldn't he be collecting clues to help solve this inhuman act of animal slaughter?’
    • ‘DNA gathered from one attack could provide a clue to the man's origins.’
    • ‘A mobile phone found under a Blackpool pier could hold a clue to the whereabouts of a missing man.’
    • ‘But before he died he left a clue, a complicated code, which police believe they may be able to crack.’
    • ‘I think the writer did a good job describing how everyone worked together to build up clues and solve the case.’
    • ‘The only clues were tiny marks round his neck, too small to have been made by an adult.’
    • ‘I reviewed all my efforts to make sure I hadn't missed even the slightest clue or piece of evidence.’
    • ‘A team of detectives are trying to piece together clues to find a man who subjected a woman to a terrifying attack in the town centre.’
    • ‘Forensic examinations had revealed clues to the bombers' identities.’
    • ‘So could the details of his business life provide a clue to the killing?’
    • ‘From Lestrade's demeanour, I could tell it was a murder case and this paper could hold the clue to solving it.’
    • ‘The only clue to the crime was an ordinary-looking piece of plastic - but within four hours John had his man.’
    • ‘But he said none of them could offer clues that would help the police in their investigations.’
    • ‘London's police chief said forensic material had been gathered that could provide key clues to solving the case.’
    • ‘Police hope it will jog the memory of a new witness who may hold a clue to the identity of her killer.’
    • ‘Police need clues as to which direction the robber fled in.’
    hint, indication, sign, signal, pointer, guide, suggestion, intimation, trace, indicator
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    1. 1.1A fact or idea that serves as a guide or aid in a task or problem.
      ‘archaeological evidence can give clues about the past’
      • ‘This was the only clue to his past that he could think of, a watch that he had worn since he could remember.’
      • ‘Examining her eyes for thyroid associated ophthalmopathy may give a clue to the underlying cause.’
      • ‘The stunning cover of this mysterious novel provides a clue to its structure.’
      • ‘Layers within the ice caps could someday reveal clues to Mars's climactic history.’
      • ‘Every item people leave around the house is assumed to be a clue to what sort of person they are.’
      • ‘Scientists think the findings may provide a clue to why moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart.’
      • ‘The site does not publish contact details for the creators or reveal any other clues to the identity of the organisation.’
      • ‘This deserves investigation as a clue to early developmental influences on asthma.’
      • ‘But it also gives a clue to why there is such a paucity of women at the top in car sales.’
      • ‘A trawl of all her friends has revealed no clues as to where she has gone.’
      • ‘She could feel his gaze on her, watching her, searching her for a clue to her earlier behaviour.’
      • ‘Could it be a clue to how the Ancient Greeks produced those massive bronze statues?’
      • ‘His account of Defoe's popular success is a clue to his own writerly ambitions.’
      • ‘She looked around the room, searching for a clue to the whereabouts of this person.’
      • ‘I looked back at her, searching her face for a clue to her sudden distress.’
      • ‘She looked at the other woman, searching the tatters of her memory for a clue to the stranger's identity, but there were none.’
      • ‘Painstaking scientific analysis of the picture has now revealed crucial clues about the image.’
      • ‘She stared at the little card looking for clues that would reveal the identity of the sender.’
      • ‘Some harsh economic facts, meanwhile, provide sufficient clues to the state of affairs.’
      • ‘The title of his exhibition provides a clue to the meaning of his work.’
      hint, indication, sign, signal, pointer, guide, suggestion, intimation, trace, indicator
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  • 2A verbal formula giving an indication as to what is to be inserted in a particular space in a crossword or other puzzle.

    • ‘A crossword is just a set of blank spaces, so how did he know the clue referred to him?’
    • ‘Players win cards and answer clues as they move round the board and try to collect all the right letters to make up their secret word.’
    • ‘This is as near as anyone gets to talking in crossword clues.’
    • ‘Here are twenty cryptic clues, the answers to which are the numbers from one to twenty.’
    • ‘I love crosswords - I love the cryptic clues and the obscure quotes from Shakespeare and all the rest.’
    • ‘I still prefer the uncertainty and randomness of crossword clues.’
    • ‘In the second round cryptic clues will be provided and a crossword puzzle will have to be cracked.’
    • ‘He would even interrupt classes to ask teachers to solve the crossword clues that he could not solve.’
    • ‘He ran the words through his mind, almost like a crossword clue.’
    • ‘Each of the clues below spells out a different word, but can you work out what each word is?’
    • ‘He also taught him the knack of solving cryptic clues in crossword puzzles.’
    • ‘It's not even a good pun, which, like a good crossword clue, should work on both the superficial and the cryptic levels.’
    • ‘Cryptic clues in the crossword may be stand-alone or a combination of any of the following nine types.’
    question, problem, puzzle, riddle, poser, conundrum
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[WITH OBJECT]informal
  • Inform someone about a particular matter.

    ‘Stella had clued her in about Peter’
    • ‘I guess that education you're so proud of didn't clue you in on that one.’
    • ‘As a handbook it clues us in to those criteria by which the guild of artists judge their works, thereby helping us all appreciate art better.’
    • ‘Perhaps someone should also clue her in that that if you're going to be dishonest you don't want to leave a paper trail behind.’
    • ‘Another reader clues me in to the origins.’
    • ‘He clued me in to this local story with perhaps an international angle.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, labels at this time do not tell us the content of trans-fats in the product, but the words ‘partially hydrogenated ‘will clue you in.’’
    • ‘Someone clue me in, what is the man talking about?’
    • ‘Here's your chance to tap into the inner-workings of Congress by clicking onto this fun, interactive, and irreverent site that clues you in to everything you ever wanted to know about Congress.’
    • ‘But the fact that she was with another man and quite plainly ignoring him should have clued him in a little.’
    • ‘From the opening line of the film he has a twinkle in his eye that clues you in that this movie is going to be fun.’
    • ‘Let me clue you in on something: We're not idiots.’
    • ‘Sure, I'll clue you in, I'll tell you where the real magic lies.’
    • ‘That probably should have clued me in that something was going on, or that something was going to go on.’
    • ‘I just clue him in every Friday with what's going on with me.’
    • ‘Thus, early on in my youth he clued me in to what the secret of success is: networking.’
    • ‘The opening sequence clues you in to the film's subversive stance.’
    • ‘For that matter, only the changing seasons clue us in to our geography.’
    • ‘Which pretty much clues you in to her point of view.’
    • ‘Can anyone at least clue me in to what language these are in?’
    • ‘And you can spot little things that clue you in to the way people really feel.’
    inform, let know, notify, make aware, give information, prime
    familiarize with, make familiar with, acquaint with
    keep up to date, keep posted
    tip off, give the gen, give the low-down on, give a rundown of, give a rundown on, fill in on, gen up on, clue up, put in the picture, put wise, keep up to speed
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  • not have a clue

    • informal Know nothing about something or about how to do something.

      • ‘Our nice, but inexperienced, waiter explains to us that he is new and doesn't have a clue about the wine list, so we are left to peruse it whilst he fetches the aperitifs and the manageress.’
      • ‘I don't have a clue as to what that new resolution will actually say.’
      • ‘His heart may be in the right place, but he really doesn't have a clue about rugby league.’
      • ‘But he admits he doesn't have a clue what terms like ‘world music’ and ‘global music’ mean.’
      • ‘Some mornings I get up to write and don't have a clue what I'm going to say.’
      • ‘The sad fact is that the party doesn't have a clue on how to govern.’
      • ‘‘They don't have a clue what's going on down here,’ he added, referring to the federal government.’
      • ‘They don't have a clue about psychological damage.’
      • ‘This crowd literally doesn't have a clue when it comes to fiscal matters.’
      • ‘Eight hundred stations are controlled by some guy that doesn't have a clue as to what to do about music.’
      • ‘Other friends don't have a clue what the game's about.’
      • ‘We don't have a clue what he is saying but he looks angry.’
      • ‘I don't have a clue what she's talking about, so I'm trusting her on this one.’
      • ‘Poor thing, he doesn't have a clue what it's like for us mere mortals.’
      • ‘Because many bright college students don't have a clue about the incredible variety of career paths that await them.’
      • ‘When he arrives for their prearranged breakfast date the next day, she doesn't have a clue who he is.’
      • ‘She doesn't have a clue how the world works, how her friends think, how her family thinks.’
      • ‘It's just that when it comes to seeing how his policies affect people, he doesn't have a clue.’
      • ‘It shows he doesn't have a clue about what's going on with our trade problem.’
      • ‘I get the impression her daughter doesn't have a clue what she does.’
      have no idea, not have any idea, be ignorant, not have an inkling
      be puzzled, be perplexed, be bewildered, be baffled, be mystified, be at a loss, be at sea, be all at sea
      be clueless, not have the faintest
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Late Middle English: variant of clew. The original sense was a ball of thread; hence one used to guide a person out of a labyrinth (literally or figuratively). clue dates from the early 17th century.