a. A length of thread or yarn wound in a loose long coil.
b. Something suggesting the coil of a skein; a complex tangle: a twisted skein of lies.
2. A flock of geese or similar birds in flight.
[Middle English skeine, of Old North French origin (compare Middle French escaigne and modern Picard écaigne), from Vulgar Latin *scamnium, reel (which resembles a stool with multiple legs), from Latin scamnum, bench, stool.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.