English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Does anybody know the origin of the phrase 'clued up'?

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

etymonline has this hint about "to clue" as a verb

1590s, phonetic variant of clew "a ball of thread or yarn," with reference to the one Theseus used as a guide out of the Labyrinth. The purely figurative sense of "that which points the way" is from 1620s. The verb meaning "to inform someone of the important facts" is attested by 1934.

So the etymological "thread" is a follows

"clew" (Theseus thread provided by Ariadne) => "clue" => "to clue (someone)" => "to be clued".

There is also a different, but related, meaning in the nautical domain: [OED]

to draw the lower ends or clews (of sails) up to the upper yard or the mast in preparation for furling or for making ‘goose-wings’

but in this case, the preferred spelling is "clew up".

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.