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Origin of the word Clue - Little Surprise
5100    Dibyendu Banerjee    14/08/2017

Origin of the Word Clue

A clue is an insight or idea that points us towards a solution. However, originally it had a different spelling and a different meaning. ’Clew’ was the word and it meant, a ball of thread.

In Greek mythology, Poseidon, the god of the sea, gifted the Cretan Bull to Minos, son of Zeus and Europa, to support him in his struggle to become the ruler of Crete. Ultimately, Minos became the king of Crete, but did not sacrifice the bull as he was meant to. Poseidon was enraged and made Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, fall in love with the bull and Minotaur was born. Minotaur was a half bull and half human creature, who eats only humans. The helpless King asked for advice from the Oracle of Delphi and was told to create a labyrinth underneath his palace and put the Minotaur there.


One day, Androgeus, the son of Minos, decided to participate in some games in Athens, where he was unfortunately killed by mistake.Infuriated Minos attacked Athens and as per the consequent terms of the truce, the Athenians agreed to send seven young men and seven maidens annually to Crete as a sacrifice to the Minotaur. 

In the following year, Theseus, son of Aegeus, the King of Athens, volunteered to go to Crete and kill the monster. When he arrived Crete, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, fell in love with him, and offered him a sword, and a “clew”, a ball of thread. She told him to tie the thread near the entrance of the labyrinth and unroll it as he goes deeper inside, so that he could retrace his steps and come out of the labyrinth after the completion of his mission. Theseus went into the abyss of the labyrinth, managed to kill the Minotaur and then found the way out with the help of the clew.


Gradually,‘clew’ took on the metaphorical meaning of something that leads to a solution. Pretty soon, the spelling was changed to ‘clue.’

Theseus And The Thread Of Ariadne
Origin of the word Paparazzi Origin of the word Panic
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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