Definition of clue in US English:

clue

noun

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

[with object]clue someone in
informal
  • Inform someone about a particular matter.

    ‘Stella had clued her in about Peter’
    • ‘And you can spot little things that clue you in to the way people really feel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Which pretty much clues you in to her point of view.’
    • ‘Thus, early on in my youth he clued me in to what the secret of success is: networking.’
    • ‘Sure, I'll clue you in, I'll tell you where the real magic lies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That probably should have clued me in that something was going on, or that something was going to go on.’
    • ‘But the fact that she was with another man and quite plainly ignoring him should have clued him in a little.’
    • ‘Can anyone at least clue me in to what language these are in?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I guess that education you're so proud of didn't clue you in on that one.’
    • ‘For that matter, only the changing seasons clue us in to our geography.’
    • ‘I just clue him in every Friday with what's going on with me.’
    • ‘The opening sequence clues you in to the film's subversive stance.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘Let me clue you in on something: We're not idiots.’
    • ‘Someone clue me in, what is the man talking about?’
    • ‘He clued me in to this local story with perhaps an international angle.’
    • ‘Another reader clues me in to the origins.’
    inform, let know, notify, make aware, give information, prime
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Phrases

  • not have a clue

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

      • ‘I don't have a clue what she's talking about, so I'm trusting her on this one.’
      • ‘I get the impression her daughter doesn't have a clue what she does.’
      • ‘They don't have a clue about psychological damage.’
      • ‘But he admits he doesn't have a clue what terms like ‘world music’ and ‘global music’ mean.’
      • ‘Other friends don't have a clue what the game's about.’
      • ‘His heart may be in the right place, but he really doesn't have a clue about rugby league.’
      • ‘Eight hundred stations are controlled by some guy that doesn't have a clue as to what to do about music.’
      • ‘The sad fact is that the party doesn't have a clue on how to govern.’
      • ‘It shows he doesn't have a clue about what's going on with our trade problem.’
      • ‘We don't have a clue what he is saying but he looks angry.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This crowd literally doesn't have a clue when it comes to fiscal matters.’
      • ‘‘They don't have a clue what's going on down here,’ he added, referring to the federal government.’
      • ‘Some mornings I get up to write and don't have a clue what I'm going to say.’
      • ‘I don't have a clue as to what that new resolution will actually say.’
      • ‘It's just that when it comes to seeing how his policies affect people, he doesn't have a clue.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      have no idea, not have any idea, be ignorant, not have an inkling
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Origin

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. clue (sense 1 of the noun) dates from the early 17th century.

Pronunciation

clue

/klu//klo͞o/